Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Powers that Be

The first time I walked into the doctor's office when I was pregnant with my first baby, the nurse handed me a cup and motioned me toward the bathroom. “Fill 'er up,” she said.

I hated that part of the routine. But – fill 'er up I did. Because even if the process disgusted me, I wanted to do everything I could to make sure that the baby growing inside me would be healthy and well-cared for.

When my second pregnancy rolled around and I scheduled that first prenatal checkup, I went in dreading the cup test. As I pulled my van up to the door, I prepared myself for the worst. I checked in, settled myself into the uncomfortable lobby chair and tried to think of anything else.

The nurse came out the door, cheerfully called my name and led me back. We passed right by the bathroom and went into the patient room.

“Don't you need me to... fill up a cup?” I asked, thinking desperately of my overly full bladder that I had kept intentionally full just so I could release its contents when asked.

“Oh, we don't do that anymore.” The nurse shook her head and shrugged. “The Powers that Be decided that we could find out everything we needed to know from the blood tests.”

Great. I loved the blood tests just about as well as the cup test. But I would have had to do the blood test anyway – at least this way, I only had to do one embarrassing test.

See, this is the thing about the Powers that Be. I don't like change. Sure, I hated the cup test, but that was how it had been done for years and now this mysterious Group goes and changes the system on me. What if they only thought they could figure out everything from the blood tests. What if they were risking the life of my baby by doing so? I had a few harsh mental words for the Powers that Be – as I stared at the nurse, I warned them in my head that they may just become the first group of Someone's that would change their title to the Powers that Used to Be Back Before They Messed With My Baby.

Fast forward a few years. I had just delivered my third baby in the hospital and the nurse came in to “instruct” us on newborn care. My husband and I snickered behind our hands at the thought that we needed instruction for newborns. We had just been mulling over shared memories of scads of all-nighters and colicky babies and explosions from diapers and teething screaming sobbing creatures hanging onto crib railings. Desitin, Balmex, Butt Paste, Greer's Goo. Johnson & Johnson. Gerber. YoBaby. We could name them all.

The nurse pointed to the cord stump on our new sleeping darling. I nodded, knowing I should save this poor woman the trouble of explaining to what she thought were inexperienced parents how to clean the area.

“I know, we just clean it with a q-tip and rubbing alcohol,” I said. My husband had made a special trip to the store last week just for the rubbing alcohol because I had sat straight up in bed in the middle of the night and gasped, “We forgot to get rubbing alcohol for the cord stump!”

“Actually, no,” the nurse said, making us swing our eyes to her face in surprise. “The powers that be decided a year or so ago that rubbing alcohol actually acts as a 'pickling agent.' Meaning that the stump will fall off much sooner if you don't use alcohol on it.”

Oh. Okay. Hm. So we took our brand new baby girl home and put away our ginormous bottle of rubbing alcohol. We didn't clean the stump and boy did it smell like rotten potatoes after a couple of days.

But if fell off after 4 days. It took two to three weeks for the baby's older siblings' to fall off. Guess the Powers that Be knew what they were talking about after all – at least that time.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Beauty in Ashes

I've spent the last week or two in a state of depression that doesn't often visit me. Several issues had cropped up that were crowned by the bad news of two masses on my thyroid last week.  I've been struggling to maintain the joy that I know I should have as a daughter of the King. 

Today, I decided I needed a few reminders of my blessings. Below is a list of twenty things that make me happy - not just outwardly happy, but cut right to my heart and fill it up with the deep inner sense of well-being. Of course, there are far more than twenty, but these are the small things that I thought of first.

1.) The soundtrack to Keira Knightley's Pride and Prejudice.
2.) The smell of fresh cut grass.
3.) Cinnamon sprinkle freckles scattered across my oldest daughter's nose and cheeks.
4.) My husband's corny sense of humor.
5.) A piece of imaginative fiction well written.
6.) The hard-earned sweat after an intense workout.
7.) Playing Clare de Lune on the piano on a rainy day with the windows open.
8.) Sleepy little heads cuddled up against me as I read bedtime stories out loud.
9.) The sound of water rushing over a rocky streambed.
10.) Purple blue mountain ranges stretching forever away into the distance.
11.) The ache in my stomach after a good belly laugh.
12.) The scent of cinnamon.
13.) Coloring a picture with new crayons.
14.) Wood smoke on a cold day.
15.) The first night sleeping on a set of line-dried sheets. 
16.) The silence of a morning before anyone else is awake.
17.) My sleeping children, curled up in bed, so peaceful and still.
18.) The first lilac blossoms of spring.
19.) Hot chocolate and Jane Eyre at the same time.
20.) The softness of a new sweatshirt against my skin.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

When the C Stands for Cancer

Two years ago, the doctor told me I had a nodule on my thyroid.  He said it was mobile, so he wasn't too worried about it.  So naturally, I wasn't too worried either.  He's the doctor, he knows what he's talking about.

Two weeks ago, I had another physical, and the doctor, just to be on the safe side, scheduled me for an ultrasound.  The nodule was still mobile, but he wanted to make sure.

So I dragged myself out of bed in the wee hours of the morning that Thursday and arrived at the hospital at 6:30 a.m. for my 7 a.m. ultrasound appointment.  It wasn't quite as exciting as the ultrasounds I got when I was pregnant - no kicking cute babies sleeping inside me - just lots of inexplicable images on the screen.  After the uneventful ultrasound, I drove home.  

Days passed - I figured if anything was wrong, they probably would have let me know right away.

And then the call came.  "We've found something.  We need to schedule you for a biopsy."

In a matter of seconds, my world came crashing down.  I had started out the morning flying high.  My book had just made it to #1 on the bestseller list for Christian mysteries on Amazon.  My career was bright, nothing could stand in my way.

Except for this.

The thing is, I don't know that it's cancer.  It might be benign.  I don't know that it's not cancer.  I have a lot of unanswered questions.  But when the C word happens to you, statistics don't matter.  Sure, thyroid cancer is known to be highly curable.  But the big WHAT IF hangs over your head like a sword on a thread, waiting to drop any second.  What if it doesn't work out?  What if I have to do chemo, radiation, hormone replacement medication?  How will that affect me, my daily life?  

And then the big ones...

What if my husband is left alone with my three very young children?

What if God decides not to heal me?

My doctor (bless the dear man) called me himself to put some of my anxiety to rest.  He went over all the reasons why, if you're going to get cancer, thyroid cancer is the one to get.  And it might not even come to that. Everything might show up perfectly clear and I'll go on my merry way.  For right now, the next thing to do on the list is an ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration.  After that, we wait.

I've always liked the idea of walking with Jesus one day at a time.  I'd sing the old song and imagine my journey hand in hand with Jesus, usually along a beach somewhere, one step by one step.  But suddenly, I see that scene in a whole new light.  

It gives me a whole new appreciation for every single day, every smile my kids send my way, every little prayer lisped by my three-year-old, every time I enter the girls' bedroom at night and watch my baby sleeping in her crib, her lashes sweeping across chubby cheeks.

At any rate, I'm going to walk with Jesus today and enjoy today and seize today.  Tomorrow?  We'll see.  Either way, I know Jesus is right here.  And that's enough for me.