Three weeks ago I received one of those “suddenly” phone calls. The kind where when you hang up your day has “suddenly” changed. The kind that leaves you feeling sick and deflated. The phone call that started with, “Please don’t worry” and continued with, “but we need to do diagnostic testing and an ultrasound because we found something in your mammogram.” PLEASE DON’T WORRY? Shall I remind you dear nurse of where I have been and what I have gone through for the past four years? Shall I attempt to tell my brain and my heart to NOT WORRY? Shall I attempt to have uninterrupted sleep and pleasant dreams? Shall I NOT WORRY when every worst case scenario runs through my crazed mind?
Yes, I know the Bible says DO NOT WORRY. I know the Bible says DO NOT FEAR. I know the Bible says to give my anxious thoughts to God. I know God’s promises. But every part of me trembled with fear and anxiety. I immediately called to make the appointment. Of course I had to wait TEN days for the first available one. I wanted to scream to the scheduling lady, “Oh no, you don’t get it. You just don’t get it! I have had stage four cancer that has traveled to three organs of my body—I really cannot wait TEN FREAKING DAYS.”
And then, the phone call that came SEVEN DAYS later, “Please call us; we need to reschedule your exam……your insurance has not yet authorized this visit.” WHAT? I need to WAIT? AGAIN? (Yes, I am obsessing over using capital letters so you can really HEAR me!!). Pit in stomach. Shallow breaths. Thoughts scrambling: “I am freaking dying here. I am not sleeping, I am numb inside. I am panicked and agitated and I am trying my best to merely survive each day.” I began the calls to deal with insurance and rescheduling. I screamed out to God—“I really cannot handle this God. I cannot do this again God. Why insurance issues? Why waiting? Let me repeat, I cannot do this!” I called the scheduling office again. I could barely speak. My strength was gone. I had nothing left in me to deal with scheduling and insurance and waiting. The appointment was moved out two more days….and insurance was still PENDING.
I prayed. I journaled. I kept telling God I was surrendering it all to Him. I read scripture. I did all the things I know I am SUPPOSED to do. I was still scared, anxious and agitated. I still felt the pit in my stomach. It still took all I had to get out of bed and face the day. I was spiraling into a deep depression. I felt powerless, out of control, unable to rid my anxious thoughts. I did not feel God’s peace or comfort or strength. I felt utterly void. I shamed and blamed myself for not trusting God, for not feeling His peace, for lacking faith.
The day of the new appointment came. The technician had read my cancer history and was so loving and kind. She gave me lots of hugs and assured me that we women have to stick together through these hard things. She put my chart in as STAT and told me I should hear back from my doctors that afternoon. I went home and dumped French Onion soup mix into sour cream and pulled out potato chips and I watched Chopped on the Food Network. I simply sat, mind numb, waiting for the phone call. It came at 4:15—my nurse who knows my whole story and who has prayed through this with me. Her first words were, “It’s good news.” She went on to tell me that it appeared to be a “cyst cluster” but was not cancerous and that I needed to get another mammogram in six months. I wish I could say that I felt incredible, but I was still numb. My body and my mind were still in a fugue state. I called my husband to share the news and then texted the handful of friends who knew and had been texting and praying for me all day.
Why do I share this experience in my blog? Reading it to myself, it sounds like I threw myself a big pity party and wallowed in my own crappy attitude. (Which I did). It sounds like I am super ungrateful and inward focused and unaware of all the pain in the world. It sounds like I am one BIG whiner baby. (All true). When I started this blog, I vowed to be real and raw with every part of my journey and that includes the times when I feel hurt, scared, desperate and in absolute despair. I wouldn’t be helping anybody, including myself, if I tried to sugarcoat this and make some life lesson out of it, and pull out the nuggets of hope. Because the reality is that I didn’t feel hope, just despair.
Of course I am so incredibly grateful and thankful that I got that good news. But I am wiped out. I am still reeling. Because every day I live with the fact that I could hear those words again. And each one of us has been or could be turned upside down because of a “suddenly” phone call. I settled into my pain and anguish and I was stuck. In my laments and my sorrow and my depression, God was with me, even if I didn’t hear or feel him. ( a friend had to remind of that because I couldn’t get to that place on my own). He is here, even though I am still numb and scared and anxious. Jesus doesn’t reward me with a spiritual report card for praying, reading my Bible and going to church. I can’t earn his love by trying to be a spiritual giant. He doesn’t punish me for my doubt and my fears. He knows my deepest pains and my biggest fears. He loves me where I am and for who I am, because I am His and His grace covers me. In times of joy. And in times of despair.
I wish I could pull this into a concise conclusion with something inspiring to leave you with. But I can’t, because I am still in it. That is where I am, right now, in this moment. And maybe, just maybe that is the conclusion. And maybe, just maybe I can be okay with that.