Biggest achievement of the day: making stern and sober Dr. Smith finally crack a smile at one of my growing repertoire of tumor jokes. This beats even my surprisingly stoic demeanor during hours of medical testing.
I do not like doctors, I do not like needles, I do not like hospitals. I especially do not like to be sick. And yet, sick I am, seeing doctors and meeting needles, and spending way too much time in a hospital for my liking.
Long story short, a highly alert immediate care doctor in Elgin unexpectedly found a very large but almost certainly benign tumor on my right ovary. That was Thursday. Today is Tuesday. In the last 5 days, I have beaten an infection, calmed a high fever, traveled to Virginia, experienced more medical testing than the rest of my life combined, and prepared for tumor removal surgery tomorrow at 11 a.m. – east coast time.
I have been surprised by several things: I am a lot calmer than I would have imagined myself to be. Tumors do not necessarily make you feel ill. Nurses can take your temperature by basically running a ballpoint pin across your cheek. My coping mechanism is humor. Needles are way less traumatic than I imagined them to be. And good lord, am I loved.
That last one shouldn’t be a surprise, but it humbles me anyway. I can’t begin to name everyone who has cared for me or prayed for me or laughed with me in the last five days, from Momma Kim driving me to the doctor to Bekah sharing her anointing with me by rubbing her forehead against mine, from care packages and phone calls and John immediately jumping in his car and driving over from St. Louis as soon as I told him what was going on. And that, my friends, was all before I even arrived home in Virginia.
Part of the shock and grief of this tumor is that it feels like some sort of set-back or handicap. My friends are getting married and having babies, buying houses and fielding job offers. I, on the other hand, live on a small stipend in a community house with no family unit of my own and no remote possibility of home ownership or children anytime soon. And most of the time, that’s okay. But when something like this happens, and I realize that flying across the country is the best option for being cared for, I can’t help but remember how transient and temporary my life has been and continues to be. And inevitably, as a root-oriented person, that makes me sad.
Except. It also means that my network expands across the country – and the world. It also means that I have not one, not two, not five church prayer chains praying tomorrow for my surgery, but somewhere more in the vicinity of 12-15. It means that I’m getting not only to spend a month with my fam in the mountains of Virginia, but that my friends who happen to be passing through for ordination interviews or for no reason at all are coming to see me in my convalescence. It means that not only do I get hospital visits from people in Roanoke, but that I also get flowers from friends in El Paso.
And so, I am well reminded tonight and tomorrow and in all these coming days of recovery and healing, reminded of the gifts and graces of a transient life. Reminded that love is not finite and friendship is not a zero-sum game, reminded that our networks are powerful and that being held in prayer is an incredible comfort.
I have trouble imagining God as immediate and actively intervening in our human life – I can’t honestly pray that God would take away my tumor or heal me instantaneously. My faith doesn’t work that way. But I can honestly say that I am being held in the light, that I am enfolded by the Spirit, and that I have been and will continue to be embraced by my sisters and brothers in this, the Body of Christ. And for that, I am incredibly, incredibly grateful.