A Cancer Story: Waiting for the Hammer to Fall and Learning to Trust
March 16, 2016
[This entire week I'm posting snapshots of my cancer story. The entire story, along with thoughts, insights, devotionals, and all the honest-to-goodness truth about dealing with cancer can be found in my memoir, Finding My Way.]
Immediately after seeing the surgeon I was sent for a CAT scan. This would show if the cancer had metastasized to any other organs. The scan was no big deal, a lot of "hold your breath, now breathe, hold your breathe, breathe." The hard part was waiting for the results.
It seemed like an eternity. The results would determine the final course we would take for treatment. They would also be the messengers of hope or doom.
A couple of days later I got the results and they showed there was no visible metastasis.
But it was only the beginning. More tests would follow--x-rays, ultrasounds, internal ultrasounds, scopes, blood work--and more waiting for results. Waiting for the hammer to fall.
By the time I was diagnosed I'd worked in the medical field for ten years and now I knew what it was like to be the person whose life revolved around the next test, the next result. The waiting became almost unbearable, one day ran into another, but each test brought the surgery that much closer.
Through that jungle of tests and results and interpretations and explanations one truth pointed the way and guided my course.
Be still and know that I am God.
I'd repeat it to myself constantly. Frankly, the being still part was difficult. That peace that surpasses all understanding was hard to find. My worry meter was stuck on maximum. But the know that I am God part? Ah, now there was something tangible I could grab onto.
I knew that no matter how I felt about the situation, how I worried, how I fretted, how I impatiently waited for the next result, God was still God, He was still on the throne, He was still calling the shots, He still had me in the palm of his hand.
We spent the night before the big surgery at my parents' home. They live twenty minutes from the hospital and since we had to be there so early it allowed the kids to go back to bed once we left in the morning. When I said my goodbyes to my darling daughters and my parents I honestly didn't know if I'd ever see them again. The surgery, which would consist of removing a portion of my colon and giving me an ileostomy, is something the surgeon had done many, many times but it was still major surgery and anything can go wrong.
I was also told they wouldn't know the true extent of the cancer until after the surgery when they biopsied the lymph nodes around the site. I had no idea what kind of news I'd wake up to.
I still have very vivid memories of the hour leading up to surgery but they're sporadic. I remember the nurse shaving the surgical site and being careful to maintain my modesty. I remember her getting me a blanket from the warmer. The anesthesiologist came in, explained everything, and asked me if I had any questions. I told him to make sure I stayed asleep; I didn't want to wake up with my guts all hanging out. He assured me he'd put me way under and keep me there.
But the most vivid memory I have is when they rolled me down the hallway to the operating room. Jen walked beside the gurney and held my hand. I remember them wheeling me into the room and watching Jen in the hallway, staring at her, wanting to take in all I could. She forced a smile but I could see the fear in her eyes. Then the double doors swung shut and she was gone. Less than a minute later I was asleep.
And fortunately I didn't wake up and see my guts all over the bed.
I woke up less a man than when I went in. Over a foot of my colon had been removed and I think I lost several pounds just in those few hours in the operating room. Jen said I was gray, emaciated, and cold and limp as a dead fish. She stroked my hair and asked me how I felt. I said I felt like s**t. It was one of the only times in my life that I've cussed in public and I'm not ashamed of it because that's exactly how I did feel. I felt like someone dragged me to the edge of death, cut me open, fiddled with my guts, sewed me up, and brought me back to the land of the living.
But little did I know at that moment that my hospital stay would push me to the limits of my faith, that I would cry out to God like I never had before. It would be my moment of truth, where I decided if I trust Him or not, where I run from Him or turn and fall into His arms.
All this month my memoir, Finding My Way, is on sale. The ebook is only 99 cents and the paperback is $7.70. It's so much more than a story about cancer. It's a story about life, about trials and struggles and finding hope in the midst of ever storm.