Friday, August 23, 2013

The "C" Word, Part 3

 The door opened. Three blue and white mummies entered the room and encircled me. A masculine voice spoke. His accent indicated a mixture of Asian and Southern accents. I cracked a joke about the tray of instruments he had just uncovered. He didn’t have a sense of humor. So, I cracked another joke. No response. My blood vibrated through my body.

The Southern Asian popped several images onto white light screens. My thyroid and the questionable nodule glowed beside me.

“This,” he said as he pointed to a black spot, “is where I will be aiming. We’ll start by numbing your neck. But, just so you know, we cannot numb the thyroid gland itself. So you will feel that.”

Oh, joy, I thought. I’m going to feel him stab me in the neck with a needle. I glanced at the tray nearby. A big needle. I thought about running away again. However, I realized an old, overweight woman with a cane hobbling down the hall in a one-size-fits-all gown that is flapping in the breeze would not be a challenge to retrieve. I closed my eyes and gave up.

First came the needles to numb the flesh. I flinched. The pain made me doubt I could lie still for the next phase. We waited for the effect. My head ached.

First, he squeezed gooey warm jell onto my throat and took a scanning device. I couldn't breathe as he pushed harder into my neck.  He stared at the screen next to my head and pressed harder. Just as I thought about how ready I was for this to be over, he picked up a large (as in huge) needle and approached. I wanted to scream. Instead, I squeezed my eyes shut, hoping that would ease the pain.

“This will take some effort. It’s not easy to break up the nodule so it will fit into the needle.”

 PANIC! No joking now. I was beyond laughing. My neck, positioned on a pillow so that my throat gave him easy access, throbbed. He jabbed and jabbed and jabbed repeatedly. I prayed for God to help me bear the pain. A tear trickled toward my ear.

After what seemed to be hours, he removed the needle from my neck. Relief. I survived.

“Okay, rest a moment before I do the next one.”

Next one? Next one? Nobody told me there would be two of them. He couldn’t hear my scream. It echoed inside my head.

The second one was worse than the first. Perhaps it was because I knew what to expect. More tears flowed. My ears were soggy like when you have a new hairstylist who sprays the water inside your ear and doesn’t dry it out for you.

He removed the second needle and said, “We’re almost done. Hang in there.”
Almost done? How much more of this must I endure? I can’t take any more, God. Help me!

I should have known better. Whenever I tell God I can’t take anymore, He proves to me that I indeed can take more. I took four needles that day--four needles that felt like the doctor was a construction worker digging into my neck with a jackhammer.  

In the end, my neck felt like tenderized meat.

The evidence? A small bandage.

And then, I waited for the result.

The procedure frightened me more than the question about the result. I felt content. God always walks beside me during my trials. I understand the scripture that tells us for me to live is Christ and to die is gain. By the time I received the result (through an email on a Sunday morning), I was at peace.

The result? Negative.

For me, I received the best possible result. For far too many of my family and friends, their result was devastating.I know I am fortunate.

No matter what challenges we experience in our lives, there is always something to learn from it. I learned that I could trust God in any situation to be beside me, no matter the outcome. For you, it may be something entirely different. It may be to draw you closer to Him, open your eyes to the struggles of those around you, encourage empathy for others, or provide proof of your strength.

 What have you learned from your scares? Do you laugh? Cry? Get grumpy? How do you survive? What gives you comfort?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The "C" Word, Part 2

When I’m scared, I laugh. I remember the first time I rode The Racer at Kings Island outside Cincinnati. I laughed like a drunken fool. I was scared out of my mind. The faster we went, the louder I laughed. When we dropped from the highest point, I was near hysteria. Tears streamed down my face. Relief flooded my body when the coaster finally came to a stop. Short-live relief. With a jolt, the coaster started moving again--in reverse! The only thing worse than watching as you drop from the top hill is NOT watching. I laughed until I thought I would throw up. Finally, we came to a stop.

My legs barely held my weight as I climbed out of the car. My friends thought I enjoyed the ride. After all, I laughed the entire time. They encouraged me to get back in line and go again.

I made a personal vow NEVER to ride another roller coaster as long as I lived.

Unfortunately, that day at the hospital I felt I was on the roller coaster ride from hell.

Waiting rooms are aptly named. It seems we spend excessively too much time sitting in uncomfortable chairs, surrounded by strangers, and with nothing to occupy us until our name is called. At least this day my nuclear physicist husband accompanied me. Of course, he disappeared during the interminable waiting period to find a private place to Skype into the business meeting he missed because of me.

I was alone—and scared. My toes incessantly tapped a rhythm on the carpeted floor. Chill bumps decorated my arms. Why didn’t I bring a sweater? A symphony of tapping feet, drumming fingers, sighs, texting, and undulating bodies filled the chairs around me.

To break the tension, I caught the eyes of another patient and cracked a joke. I received a half-hearted twitch of the lip in return. The game was on. Another joke, another twitch. Finally, one person returned the serve and shared a one-liner. Before long, several people joined me in an attempt to distract ourselves from what would soon come.

A nurse, dressed in fushcia scrubs, opened the door and called my name.

My stomach leapt into my throat. I felt hot and cold. A bug buzzed inside my head. I rose from my chair and made one last joke as she led me away. Sneakers squeaked on the shined tiles, announcing my progress.

            The hallway seemed to whirl around me, leaving me in a fog. I wanted to turn around and run from the hospital. Let’s just forget this. It’s a mistake.

The nurse led me into a room, too brightly lit, and gave directions to change into the gown waiting for me on the table. I prayed it was not “one size fits all” and would cover everything I wanted it to cover.

She returned moments later and led me to a more sterile room with stainless steel, bright lights, and trays covered with white cloths. I could see hypodermics, scalpels, and other objects peeking from under the cloths. My breathing deepened. The irregular heartbeats pumped the blood through my veins with such intensity that I could hear it in my head. My hands vibrated.

 I took my place on the steel table, my back aching from the hard metal. My sinuses drained into my brain. At least that’s how it felt. And I waited—and waited. It’s the waiting that becomes intolerable.

Come back on Friday to hear the rest of the story.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The "C" Word

The “C” word. You hear that one word and the room grows silent. You see the doctor’s mouth move, but you hear nothing. Your body feels cold except for the back of your neck. Beads of sweat pop up like chill bumps, only they are hot.
You don’t hear the words “just to be sure” and “it’s probably nothing.” The only thing you hear is the “C” word. Your mind races with what could happen. You think about your friends who have struggled for years. Some have died. You wonder if you will be one of the unfortunates. Images of torturous procedures make you want to run away. Ignore it; it will go away. In your mind, you see your reflection in a mirror without the hair you complain about having to spend precious moments making presentable every morning. You mourn your imperfect life that may soon become your dream life.
You check out, pay your bill. To the lady at the desk it’s just another appointment. She looks at you, tilts her head and asks, “Are you okay, honey?”
No words come in response, especially honest words. So, you nod your head and roll your lips inward as tears build up in your eyes. A breath vibrates inside your chest and you want to scream. Instead, you fight to retain control.
You hear the words, “It’s probably nothing,” come from different lips than before. It doesn’t change how you feel. You walk away.

The elevator doors close in your face. You are alone. The tears flow, hot on your face. You grab a tissue from your purse to wipe away any remnants of your despair. You land with a jolt. The doors open. You walk to your car in the dim light of the parking garage and sit in your car.

Release. Sweet release. You pour your heart out in prayer, begging for mercy and yet not feeling worthy of it as you think of loved ones who received only eternal mercy.

After “amen,” you wipe away the tears mixed with streaks of mascara that stripe your face. Blow your nose. Breathe, deeply and slowly. The engine roars. Music blares from the speakers and you push the button to quell the noise. You want silence.

From the top floor of the parking structure, you weave a circular descent, around and around, thinking it will never end.

But it does end. Everything ends in its own time.

Sunshine awaits you as you drive through the exit and weave your way through heavy Atlanta traffic to a life that is familiar and yet changed forever.

“It may be nothing.” Oh, but it is never nothing. Just the possibility changes everything. You remind yourself you are never alone. He is always there. You picture Him next to you in the passenger seat. If only He would wrap you in His arms and hold you. “There, there, Karen. Everything is going to be just fine.”

Come back on Wednesday for Part 2 of this adventure.