Recently I have been in a battle, one that was causing me to cancel social engagements, postpone vacations, miss weddings, avoid friends; my life and who I thought of myself as was just crumbling away. Constant physical pain, unstoppable emotional rollercoasters, zero energy or interest, even for the things I love was plaguing me. On a daily basis it literally took everything I had to get up in the morning, and then took more than I had to care for my family, provide for their needs and keep up with the house. Despite all the outward struggles, God's Word was a constant reminder that it is in our weakness that God's strength is shown (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). If it had not been for His promises in Romans 8:28-29 and being able to truly trust His Sovereignty, I am not sure what I would have done, for His Word was a constant companion.
A few months back, I blogged about a question mark, a medical test awaiting results... the results came back... "happily disappointing"... my doctor's words. Happy because there was no cancer or pre-cancer found. Disappointing because we were left with more question marks... more tests to run... structurally speaking everything was "normal" or "unremarkable". But functionally there was an obvious problem, in fact a few different problems. Many hours were spent discussing with my doctor, praying with my husband, seeking counsel, researching options and then talking to my doctor again. During this time, the pain and other symptoms were becoming debilitating and I was down to 4 or 5 "good days" a month. And so, we decided.
The decision was not an easy one. The decision meant putting a lot of things in our life "on hold". The decision meant the absolute and final end to a certain season in our life. The decision meant that for the 3rd time in 12 months and 6 days I would undergo a major abdominal surgery and face a two-month recovery where I would be allowed to do "nothing". The decision meant that I would have to live out my faith and trust in the Lord and His perfect plan for my family, as I signed the 312 places where I agreed to the risk of dying during the surgery. Every day that was "good", I found myself doubting. Even to the very day before surgery, I thought of backing out. Moment by moment, I forced myself to remember the Lord and His good will towards me. I had to remember all He was teaching me about Himself through this trial, and all He would teach me through recovery.
Sunday was "prep day". I missed the opportunity to be with my church family in order to be ready for the surgery, fasting and cleansing, taking every precaution against complications of scar tissue during the surgery. Monday was surgery. We had to be at the hospital at 5:30am. I was all ready to go and my wonderful doctor peeked into my room, cheerful and energetic as always, at 7am. The surgery would normally have lasted 45 minutes... but I am not normal... so, 2 1/2 hours later my doctor came out to tell my family that the surgery was one of the most technically challenging he has faced in 19 years. Scar tissue was stuck to EVERYTHING except my intestines, my bladder was at risk a few times but thankfully was not damaged at all. The prolonged time under anesthesia increased my time in recovery and time I had to be away from my sweet husband and mother, as well as a close friend who had come to sit with them. At 1pm I was rolled into my room, I was still really out of it, and in a lot of pain. Monday was not my best day. I was bad enough that my doctor ordered "no visitors", not even my kids.
I began to feel like I was coming out of it at some point around 3am. I was definitely still in pain but I was no longer groggy or felt so "out of it". All the time I kept rehearsing to myself how blessed I was, thankful that the Lord had chosen to preserve my life to raise my children for His glory! I continued to gain strength and was happy to accept visitors on Tuesday. My doctor stopped in first thing and we were able to discuss how things went, especially now that I was in my "right mind". Not only did the surgery take nearly 4x longer than normal, I also lost a whole lot of blood... normal for the surgery I had is 75cc, but I lost over 750cc. This is when I was told that he would be watching me and deciding whether or not to do a blood transfusion... wait and see. Overall, Tuesday was really wonderful, I could already tell a difference in my chronic pain. And, joy of all joys, my sweet children came to see me, and hug me and kiss me... gently caring for their mommy who now had an "owwie".
Wednesday was a different story all together... as good as Tuesday was, Wednesday was bad. One friend even observed, "I like the perkier Denise better..." ME TOO! I knew something was wrong. My blood levels were going down, I felt like I was slipping away with them. My doctor said he would be deciding on a blood transfusion based on how I felt, but that we could take our time to decide since I was still going to be hospitalized through Friday. I asked a few friends about blood transfusions (helps to have friends who are doctors and nurses), I prayed. Late in the afternoon I had some strange symptoms, my skin hurt, my eyes were seeing "spots" and I felt like a I was sitting in the paint can mixer at the Home Depot. I told my doctor. Turns out, I no longer had a choice, I was being set up for a blood transfusion. Thankfully, a friend of mine had already planned to come up and drink coffee and watch HGTV with me. Elliott had just left the hospital having brought the kids for a visit and would stay at home taking care of them, a sweet comfort.
So, my friend walks in with my latte from Starbucks and it turns out that this very friend has had a transfusion. I made a call to another friend, just to give an update, and within 20 minutes she was there. I will be honest. I was freaking out. I was not scared of dying. I am not even sure what it was that I was worried about, the unknown, maybe? So, we prayed. My sweet friends were graced with God's comfort as they encouraged me in His Sovereignty. I will never forget when my friend thanked God for the blood that I was to receive, giving Him thanks that He has already known of this day and used that other person's body to create the blood cells I would need this very moment. A picture of how truly wonderful our God is, how perfect His care for us is, and the very thing I needed to hear that would put my heart to rest.
Finally, the transfusion started, I needed 3 units, at about 90-120 minutes each... my friends stayed through 1:30am... I was completely at peace when they left, praising the Lord for His goodness and grace. At 4am, as the last transfusion started, I was able to speak to my nurse about the Lord and His goodness, a Gospel opportunity! Finally all done at 6am, I slept and felt like I was a new person!
My doctor came in later than he had the last few days, waiting to see how the transfusion had affected my numbers... things were looking up! I felt AMAZING! I apparently had looked pretty bad the day before and now people were discussing my "color" and noting its improvement. Thursday at lunch it was decided that I could go home. YEA!
So, that is where I am. At home, resting on my couch. I am nearly free of pain, all that remains is "surgical pain" but that is minor in comparison to what I have been living with for months now. I move a lot slower, but I am moving! I don't feel like I am on a roller-coaster of emotions anymore, I have been able to be gentle in my tone and mean in from my heart. There is much recovery left, there are many tough days ahead as I will have to battle the desire to get up and do when I need to be sitting down and resting. I am looking forward to recovery, instead of dreading it, for I know with all my heart, that the Lord brings trials to teach us about Him. I am looking forward to learning how to "be still".
We will start homeschooling this week, with dad at the reigns... many adventures ahead... many opportunities to give praise and glory and honor to the Lord of lord and King of kings!