Sometimes the butterflies in my stomach feel more like an ache in my soul. I look and I see it all. I see the notes stamped ‘High Risk’; I hear the concern in their voices. I know the tender touch of the nurse isn’t because she likes me but rather because they have all been told.
Is faith really faith before it is tested? Or does the certainty of fire cause it to rise? Is faith foolish? Do miracles really happen?
I’ve had my hand squeezed enough times now through the bone marrow biopsies to know that this is not a game we are playing. But still Hope holds me. I am warm in His embrace. Each day I discover more about God’s character. Hope, Faith and Love are not just words, they are who He is. And everyday, He is who I need Him to be.
I consider Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 13:12-13, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Surely the poor reflection is caused by our inability to grasp His capacity. He is not distant, He is not far off. No, the God I serve is there to ‘help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it].’ Hebrews 4:16
I am not walking in Fear. When I go there it paralyses the very breath in my lungs. Where else did the saying, “Remember to breathe” come from? Yet it is Him who gives us that breath and without Him we would surely not breathe at all.
In the unconsciousness of night, it is Fear that wakes me. Sneaking in with uninvited thoughts. He is not welcome and commanded to leave. Fear is not just a word but rather the character of the enemy. He doesn’t leave without a fight. He tries another angle. Uses Mother Guilt to convince me that Fear would be more responsible than Faith. Sometimes we converse together, Fear and I. I see he has built his argument and at times I am tempted to agree. He lays out ‘facts’ before me to prove his point. Yes, he has his examples. But like I did on the school debating team many years ago, I reach for my own evidence (my beloved Amplified Bible) and I scrawl ‘Phil Pringle’ style on its pages. (See Pastor Phil’s amazing Blog in my Blog Roll)
I am on the affirmative team for Faith. I’ve made my stand and I will not back down. I pass my pages to all who will read them, just so long as they agree, just so long as they, like me, are on the team for Faith. It isn’t just adrenaline that runs through my veins. No, it’s a lifelong conviction. I will not be moved.
It’s too late for me now to back down. I am a bond servant. I have given up my right to walk away. I know the price of my freedom has been paid in full. I choose to lay down my life and live the one He has called me to. Right now that calling is full of challenge. Yet to Him who called me I am “fully known”. That is enough.
“Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 And in the shadow He is there. Though it is dark, He is there. Though I can not see His glory, I know He passes over me. He protects, He holds, He comforts. He makes me laugh. “My cup runneth over.”
He sends me friends, new and old. I find them on FACEBOOK and Twitter. I spend my days ‘listening, observing, storing things away, making my isolation pay off.’ Anne Lamott (author of Bird by Bird) says this is the way of a writer. I record these things in my blog. Every now and then a comment comes back. Like the bird sent out from the Ark returning with a leaf, reminding me there is dry land. Life continues to exist the way I once knew it. I will return from these forty days and forty nights.
I admire the tremendous focus of my daughter. She is like her dad. She chooses her thoughts. She doesn’t let them wander to trivial or useless things. She is calm, using the silence to her advantage. I am learning to be still and talk less. I pray gentle prayers, asking her first if its okay. Yesterday I read to her from John 14:1 & 27,“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” These were the words that hovered over my sleep protecting me when Fear came to visit. These were the words that returned to me as I held her hand waiting for the doctor and the nurse to prep her for the bone marrow biopsy.
The room wasn’t really silent but somehow Sam made it so. Three other patients have been admitted. Two of them talk loudly in thick Aussie accents. One is from the country, “lived on the land, sheep mainly.” The other is 65 and tells her new room mates she’s had “breast cancer three times, a nervous breakdown and now this!” I watch Sam’s tiny face, her soft lashes on her checks. “Are you okay?” “A huh, just thinking about other things,” she responds. Where does she go I wonder?
By the time the first 2mls of sedation had entered the drip she looked like she was fast asleep. The doctor proceeds with the biopsy, commenting on the beautiful ‘Dimples of Venus’ on her back. She marks the spot where the needle will enter her bone. The nurse is ready to pass the tools. I make a mental note not to look. I can’t watch this like I did previously. I know I will regret it.
The pain of the procedure is too much to bear and the beautiful doctor is so compassionate. She increases the dose of madazalan and waits. With each dose she tries again but the pain is excruciating and I am so thankful Sam has her voice back to cry out. My eyes well up with tears as she squeezes my hand and I wish more than anything that I could put a stop to it all. Instead I whisper prayers of peace over her and the doctor and the nurse show their respect by waiting. I am so grateful for this doctor who waits. She is in no hurry to complete the procedure. I feel like a person for once, that my daughter’s pain matters. Even through the afternoon she returns as Sam sleeps off the sedation, to check on her. To tell me she thinks it’s barbaric that this procedure is done without a general anesthetic because the theatres are too full at RNSH. She is horrified that the first few biopsies were done with only gas and no sedation at all. Her care for us is overwhelming. I soak it in.
I am so grateful for the little kindnesses of people.
The plan had been to: Arrive at 8.30am. Have blood tests. Go to admissions Unpack bags Do the bone marrow biopsy. Go to radiology have a lumber puncture. Go to Nuclear medicine for gated heart pool scan Start fluids via drip Then start 6 days of chemotherapy I am wiser now and know things don’t run to plan.
Yvonne insisted, “I’ll look after Sam, you get the bags from the car and go to admissions.” I was doubtful, wanting to check the bloods and to check again with Dr Greenwood. So Yvonne checked the bloods and the high risk protocol and assured me it would go ahead. Vicki at the desk called for Raj to lend me his trolley to help with the bags. “It’s like five star treatment.” I joked with all the friendly staff at the desk. Evil nurse wondered what all the fuss was about looking at me under her glasses and down her nose. I caught her staring and greeted her by name. “Oh, hello,” she said (busted)!
Before the biopsy I had unpacked her bags, Sam had chosen her bed (first in best dressed) and I’d labeled her food for the fridge. We were ready for the massive week to begin. Sometime in the afternoon a registrar came to tell me she had spoken to Dr Greenwood and he was sending us home. The counts were too low. I tried to wake Sam but she was groggy all day. “What’s wrong?” “Why?” “Didn’t the bone marrow work?” Eventually she understood and by 5pm the bags were packed again, the bed deserted, the fridge emptied. We made our way to the car, Sam leaning on me, drunk with sedation. She almost slept through ‘Master Chef’ when we got home as well.
Now we wait. And pray. The fluid is at the lab. My daughter’s life is under the microscope. On Sunday I had a vision. I saw the women going to the tomb to visit Jesus and heard the voice of an angel. “That which you seek isn’t here.” It isn’t recorded that way in my Bible. But I’m praying it anyway. I am praying it over the fluid they’ve extracted from the bone marrow. I am praying that which they seek isn’t there. No blast cells. The chemotherapy has done its work. There is no need for a transplant.
That is my prayer. That is my prayer.