Many of my readers are asking for an update after my recent cancer surgery. I’ve decided to use my journal writings from the days just before and just after my surgery with a few extra observations and notes added in. I’m opening up my journal so you can see the hills and valleys I’ve been traveling through.
July 4, 2021
There is a heaviness I feel that is hard to explain. I still feel joy and contentment, thankfulness and hope. God is with me.
The heaviness is mostly in the knowing. I’ve walked this path before and, for the most part, I know where the scary parts are. I’ve prepared as much as I can for the journey ahead and now I’m just waiting for it to start. I found myself becoming overwhelmed with thoughts about the future.
Some parts are scary because I’ve experienced them before and it was pretty rough. I guess I’m just now admitting to myself that some parts are scary because they are unfamiliar and sound like something uncomfortable – maybe even terribly painful.
So, I’m coaching myself like I coach my clients. I break down large jobs into small ones. Big messes into smaller ones. Overwhelming projects into bite sized pieces.
I advise my clients not to look at the whole picture. Just take one area at a time and clean it out, get rid of the unnecessary, and organize it so it functions. I urge them to start with one area and stay with it until they complete it. There is no need to worry about the next area until they’ve completed their current one.
So, talking to myself now, I’m advising myself to think of these next few months as a journey. It does no good for me to worry about the whole trip – just take one milepost at a time. One hill and one valley at a time. One medical procedure at a time.
The Lord has the map and knows how He will lead me through this. My job is to pay attention and follow – one step at a time.
July 6, 2021
The verse I read this morning while waiting to leave for the hospital brought happy tears to my eyes. An acknowledgement that God is with me and will take care of me.
“Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes.” 1 Samuel 12:16
This is completely out of my hands. There is nothing I can do but, once again, submit my flesh and my spirit into God’s hands.
Note: The cancer surgery was 16 hours long. Hubs and I were able to pray with the surgical team before they rolled me back. We didn’t ask them if they wanted to pray – we just said it was time to pray – and we did. We let the team know they were all being prayed for my hundreds of people all around the world. You should have seen their faces! The surgery was extensive and I came out of surgery missing more body parts and facing the fact that I have a permanent ostomy. An ostomy is a hole in your side where you place a bag to catch all of your fecal matter. I’m completely replumbed. One huge praise is that my transplanted kidney was a rockstar and made it through another rough surgery.
July 14, 2021
The tears are sitting right behind my eyes – ready to spill out at any moment. There is nothing super scary going on right now, but I feel vulnerable and a bit off.
As I slid in and out of the CT scan machine today, I nearly came undone. I’ve had dozen’s of CT scans in the past 10 years.
“Breathe in – Hold – Breathe out”. The machine voice is sterile and uncaring. But just as the tears threatened to slide down my cheek, a hand grabbed mine. The technician explained what was going to happen next. Her voice was kind and reassuring and let me know we were nearing the end.
“Breathe in – Hold – Breathe out”. Sometimes that’s what we need to do. Focus on one simple thing.
Many times, before I pray, I stop to breathe in and out to settle my mind before I approach the throne of God. The simple step of breathing in and out blows out the cobwebs and various thoughts that can interfere with my communion with the Lord.
So today, while plugged into machines and various bags of IV fluid, I will focus on one thing – my Creator, my Savior, my Sustainer, my Lord. He will carry me through.
Note: During my entire stay in the hospital, my room was constantly filled with people. Not visitors, but medical personnel. Doctors, residents, nurses, care partners, physical therapists, occupational therapists, coordinators, directors, students, housekeeping, food services, and even the president of the hospital. One way or another, God sent people into my room. Some were there to take care of me, some were there to check on me, but some were there to be ministered to. They didn’t know it, but I did. I was waiting for them.
Due to the thoughtfulness of friends and family, my room was stocked with color and messages of love and hope. Medical personnel would come into my room, expecting to do “medical stuff” but their eyes would brighten when they came around the corner and spotted the décor. God used those items to speak to people without me having to say a word. Lives were touched. Seeds were planted.
July 15, 2021
There is talk of me going home today. All of the extra tubes, drains, ports, and bags are slowly disappearing. I’m up to walking 1/4 of a mile around the hospital floor – without a walker. I’m eager to get home and back to my regular life.
There is still talk of me going home today but I’m not as excited as I was earlier today. The nurse came in and has to change my ostomy bag. I’m supposed to learn how to do this myself. I don’t want to. Surely this is not happening to me. I’ve had the bag safely hidden under my hospital gown where only medical staff actually care about it – not me.
The nurse is gentle and kind. The nursing student is encouraging and cheering me on. They say I can handle it – but I can’t handle it.
I’m crying about poop. People have been calling me a warrior telling me how strong I am. Well, this is proof that I am not. Apparently, I can make it through painful surgeries and learn to walk again after nerve damage, but I can’t handle fecal matter.
Note: I really am not surprised. Ask our children! It was their daddy who handled all of the loose teeth. And throw up. And diaper blow-outs. He had to because I would be retching in the bathroom. In college I nearly failed Anatomy and Physiology because while everyone else was cutting up cats and diagraming muscles and bones, I was throwing up in the hallway bathroom. If it hadn’t been for the classroom portion with a nice, safe 3 inch book and regular quizzes about what we read, I wouldn’t have barely passed with a D.
But, this is my new normal. My new life. God has allowed this to happen and when I ask Him “why?”, He answers me. He reminds me that I am alive because of this. I’m not attached to any machines. This is now part of my story. He will use it. I’m not sure how, but He will use it.
The past few days have been rough. I’m making physical gains and getting stronger but emotionally, I’m a mess. I’m learning just how weak I am. I’m having to lean on Jesus like I’ve never had to before.
I’m sure my body is dealing with anesthesia side effects and other metabolic changes due to my surgery but the feelings are very real. I have to make a concerted effort to look to Him. Sometimes I can’t say anything. Sometimes I just say, “Help me”. Sometimes I simply just say His name, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus”.
Nothing miraculous happens but leaning on Him takes the weight off of my own ability. I’ve got nothing to offer but my need. Jesus just says, “Lean on me”.
Note: I’m only opening up my journal for everyone to read so that people can know what some struggles look like. I’m certainly not the only person going through something rough right now. I’m sure you know at least one person going through a hard time right now. They might not want you to help with anything right now, but please pray for them. And, if you are going through something right now, please know that grief is real and necessary. If I continue to feel this way, I promise I will talk to someone. Hubs has a good eye on me and won’t let it go unchecked.
July 25, 2021
I’m gaining more strength every day and I’ve even been able to enjoy some time in my garden. My trusty stool is with me so I can sit when I feel weak.
I recognize that part of my emotional weakness has been the feeling that I have lost my purpose. When I was in the hospital, I felt like I was partnering with God. There were people to minister to. A testimony to share.
But now at home, I’m too weak to be of much good. I don’t have people in and out of our home – doctor’s orders. I can’t go anywhere, minister to anyone, help anyone.
As the brain fog starts to lift, I can see some light ahead. I see a stronger body, hopefully a stronger stomach (see above), and a stronger relationship with Jesus since we’ve been spending so much time together.
The hills and valleys have been hard on me and worn me out a bit. I’ve seen quite a few mileposts in the past few weeks and there are more to come. Thank goodness I have an amazing guide and map.