Tumors, butterflies and my hand-built eternal home
A heart attack and the removal of two tumors were the lowlights of the holidays and the reason for going dark. When I stop posting, you know something’s up. The Internet rule of thumb is good news gets posted, bad news doesn’t. My family has dealt with, and complained, about this tendency of mine for decades now, starting in college. But what’s a girl to do? Times get tough, I bury my head in work, endure through the challenge, and like the ground hog, pop out when the sky is warm and the coast is clear.
The heart attack
No, it wasn’t me, but my younger brother. This just about devastated my mother, who still hasn’t recovered from my older bro dropping dead in the ER, his wife having a sixth sense something was amiss after a hot yoga class. Two things saved his life: the cardiovascular doc literally being in the ER when he fell over, jolted him back to life, and subsequently put in 7–count them seven-stints. The lesson learned from this: stress creates a toxin which turns into artery-lining (name). Not good.
That was a year ago, so it was just DeJa’Vu when it occurred the week of Christmas. Once again, the life-saving jolting was used and he’s alive to eat healthier, work out and see his children graduate.
Mom was to have left us after Christmas, but that changed Dec 26th when I learned that the small, unsightly lumps I’d thought were balls of fat turned out to be golf-ball sized tumors. Half-way through the exam, the surgeon (who was in fact, standing in for a different physician who was stuck in a snowstorm) said he was scheduling immediate surgery for the 28th. So it was that instead of skiing, two, massive tumors taken out of my leg, leaving me with three layers of stiches and the inability to do much for the entirety of January.
Seriously, the woman’s 83. Can she get a break in life already? It’s not about me or my siblings, what about her emotional health? I tease her that God isn’t ready to have her back quite yet, because she needs to have a bit more faith it’s all going to be okay. Worrying doesn’t help, praying for peace does, and we experience testimony-building situations to increase our own faith, broaden our perspective and give us courage we can use and share with others.
She doesn’t get that, not really. Mom gets angry. She’s prayed. Pled. Cried. Cursed. She’s experienced the emotional cycles dozens (hundreds?) of times throughout the decades on behalf of her children and grandchildren, each time with the fear, worry, concern, dread and doubt.
I don’t have that kind of stamina. It’s more like: challenge, solution, faith endure and find joy where you can, when you can. Then boom, I’m out the other side. Sometimes that journey takes days, other times it’s years, but looking back, the time it took was required for the lesson to be learned.
In the case of the heart attack, it was the reality check required for my brother to examine his own life and the way he was living it. As to the tumors, part of me said: “Really? Didn’t I just have this experience three years ago? Wasn’t that enough?” That pity party lasted about a day; then it was – well, that’s my present challenge. The solution is surgery, and in the meantime, I’m gonna give it to God, because i havee to ready the kids for school, get to work, get writing my next novel, do the laundry and handle the myriad of life activities that squeeze personal pity-party thoughts. That’s the endurance part, where the tumors get folded in as just another thing to deal with on this journey of life.
Butterflies have it easy. They come out of the cocoon, fly around and have a great life then it’s over. Us humans have the altered life wherein every challenge can be viewed as a rebirth of sorts, each time affording us the opportunity to be enveloped by God’s embrace, His loving arms around us, holding us tight, keeping warmth in while repelling the evil that seeks to attack and poison us. Then we emerge, strong and beautiful, ready once again to fly into the world.
In my situation, I’d been mentally stuck for months, caught between the reluctance of starting another novel, supporting a new high-technology venture and balancing family. Strangely, I struggled, and it wasn’t clear to me why. I’ve had to deal with these fighting priorities for years, always adjusting and balancing the three legs of the stool on which my life sits. Constantly, I prayed, wondering and asking what I could be doing differently, what was I missing, where was I to put my efforts?
Nothing. That was my answer, which I interpreted as–just endure. Keep your head down, stay the course, have faith, and ultimately, “I got you.”
Now, as I’ve looked back, the Lord did answer my prayer, it just came in the form of two, disconnected events which snapped my reality of mortality back into place. Nothing is more clarifying than when you have to ask hard questions:
Will I ever walk again? Has this spread to my bone? Will I lose a leg over this? Will my husband and I be able to resume intimate activities if I’m permanently altered? How hard will it to learn to ski with one leg? When one has been so damaged from internal issues, and loses the ability to walk for months, then endures years of pain, 24×7, until finally…and recently…achieving 24 hours without a pain pill…the notion of going back to it all, and living that life again is in itself, overwhelming.
Yet, that’s what the Lord wanted me to experience; the diagnosis, along with the resulting processing of the news. That examination led to appreciation which allowed me to face (yet another) new challenge with a deeper faith. With my family and lots of sustaining prayers, I got through it.
Then the gifts began. Clarity returned, priorities crystalized, gratitude shot through the roof. I can walk (after JUST two weeks). The pain is mild (only periodic pills). I’m not completely deformed (and really, who should be looking at my inner thigh anyway??). The writing has come rushing back, the breakthrough complete. And even this blog, a place that has been largely absent of expressions other than book updates, recipes and travel-logs is now being used as a communication tool to help others who may need a bit of faith-building comraderies.
I’ve not been allowed to do much of anything for six weeks, so yoga is on the schedule in the next few days. The underlying tissue is tender, but I’m not experiencing the “don’t-do-it” impressions I’ve had in the past, what I call God’s little warning signals. Skiing is up next, which will be another milestone
…the “don’t-do-it” impressions, what I call God’s little warning signals.
The best part, which I’m so thankful for, is that these life-challenges, experiences, whatever one calls them, can be more than something to ‘endure,’ but to be embraced. Increased love, tenderness and compassion are like cement between the bricks of faith I’m personally creating and using to build my eternal home. Do I yearn or pray for physical pain? No, but I don’t fear it. I look at these growth opportunities as the straw and mud required to create additional blocks. My vision is that each issue/challenge helps me build another…and another. All the way, my Father in Heaven is cheering me on, giving me coaching, conveying to me He knows me and wants me there. He also knows I can do more than endure. I can be thankful and find joy in tough circumstances. Over the years, instead of asking why, challenging or being belligerence has given way to praising His name as He helps me build each brick better than the one before. Ultimately….and hopefully….the house will be ready, built strong and sure, until the day comes that I will enter it and find Him on the other side.