Hey, You Darling Things! I’ve thought about you a billion times!
I have finally had enough of a break to tackle pulling my thoughts together and telling you a little of the story that led up to surgery. Because, you know your Siesta Mama. There is ALWAYS a story. I don’t do a danged thing without drama.
I was all ready to write you this post several days ago and we got some hard news about the diagnosis of a young, tremendously loved pastor in the DFW area that sent a whole lot of us for a loop. I never could pull it together that day. I would have traded my outcome for his in a heartbeat but that’s not the way it works. I also well know that God has every intention of showing Himself mighty and all glorious in this family’s life and in the lives of all who love them and have committed to sit like watchmen of the wall in their behalf.
There is no way I can emphasize strongly enough that the outcome of the story I am about to share with you has nothing to do with God’s extravagant love for me, the right kind of praying, or the fact that “He’s not finished with me yet.” He loves us all extravagantly, whatever the outcome of medical tests. He does not play favorites. He hears each desperate cry and esteems the groanings of our souls. He doesn’t let our lives be touched or even ravaged by disease because we didn’t get our words exactly right or because we yelped, “Help my unbelief!” He’s not a mean, distant God playing Monopoly with human lives. And He’s not finished with a single one of us or we wouldn’t be drawing terrestrial air into our lungs and coursing our eyes over words on a computer screen. The fact is, He has a sovereign plan that is for good and not evil and He is writing a story of on-going redemption with each of our lives. Our lives are woven together through seasons. It’s one person’s season to experience this. And another person’s season to experience that. Neither is loved more. Neither is more dispensible.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (KJV)
1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 sums up the segment in a few simple, powerful words:
11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time.
His time. His time. His time. HIS TIME.
It was not my season or His time for me to walk the road of cancer treatment. But, make no mistake. God went WAY out of His way to increase my awakenness to that road from a very personal vantage point. Cancer is so widespread that it has not been a stranger to any of us. Many of us are well acquainted with it through the journey of very close loved ones. I never missed one of my mom’s rounds of chemo-therapy and, like each of my brothers and sisters, was right by her side when that journey ended and gave way to eternity. Like you, I’ve also stood alongside good friends in treatment, many of whom God raised back to their feet with a fresh anointing. Countless times I’ve received letters from those I’ve never seen face-to-face who chose to walk faithfully with God through His Word amid an ordeal they could neither understand…nor perhaps survive. In all my years in women’s ministry, these have been the pieces of correspondence I’ve most highly esteemed: women who have studied and sought God faithfully, as much as that day’s condition would allow, all the way Home. OR, unimaginably, to their child’s final Home. Even long before my recent ordeal, I respected no one more than these.
Here is how I happened to brush coattails with a few of them:
Three years ago, amid blood tests for other much less threatening maladies, I had a result come back that raised my regular doctor’s eyebrows. Since that test is notorious for false-positives, he told me not to be alarmed but, nonetheless, to let a specialist check it out. I did and was told, after testing, that I had no coinciding malignancy that they could find and to just have my regular doctor keep an eye on it.
He did. The count remained elevated and then began creeping up. I’d been having my annual women’s exam with his physician’s assistant, a gentle spirited, smart woman I find less unnerving. In August, the doctor overseeing the exams said, “Beth, I still don’t like what those test results are doing. I just want you to be in the hands of a really good OB-GYN.” He sent me to a well-respected woman doctor that I was crazy about. She is my most recent hero. She is a fellow lover of Scripture and seeker of Christ. She determined to approach my situation entirely from scratch, repeating every single test, to see what turned up. Suddenly, in October the blood test indicator they’d been watching more than doubled in number and she called my cell. She was completely calm but I had well-remembered what the specialist had told me three years earlier, “Now, when it starts doubling, we start getting worried.”
Over the next week, I had biopsies, MRI’s, ultrasounds, etc. The end result was abnormalities in the ovaries with relatively small growths on each. One side hosted a simple cyst and they were unalarmed by it. The other side was more suspect. In my new GYN’s wise determination, she sent me straightaway to a highly esteemed gynecological oncologist in Houston’s world famous medical center. She contacted the doctor herself and was kind enough to make my appointment for me, saying, “Beth, this is who I would go to if I were in exactly your same situation.”
Before Keith and I knew it, we were walking through the glass doors of M.D. Anderson’s department of gynecological oncology. (The name of the facility might mean little to you but it speaks scary volumes to anyone familiar with our great medical center.) To say it was sobering for this couple of 31 years is an understatement. You know I’m drawn like a magnet to women, though. In no time at all, I got distracted by the others. I stared at every woman in that waiting room, wondering about her story and wishing I could say something to minister to her. I texted my staff to pray for them. Of course, right about then, I was in their same exact shoes and I don’t doubt some of them were having similar thoughts toward Keith and me.
Finally, my name was called and I got my vitals taken and they needed to make sure I wasn’t pregnant. Lord have mercy. Talk about a scary diagnosis! For just a few seconds it wildly amused me then I got taken to the examining room and left all alone with my thoughts for a while. There I was, on the examining table under a paper sheet and my Scripture spiral. I was shocked by the sight of my new doctor. She was, or at least she looked, slightly under 40, had long brown hair, sparkling blue eyes, and darling. Keith quipped later, “Your surgeon is ten.” We both laughed. “Our surgeon is one of the best in the entire medical center,” I said. “Even if she’s ten.”
While on that examining table, I said, “I feel like all of this is going to be perfectly fine. I think God’s just forcing me to have a much needed ______________________(I still can’t say the word in mixed company. It starts with an “H” and rhymes a tad with tonsillectomy). I’m not looking for trouble here. I’ve got enough drama in my life without this. I’m sure this will be fine. Don’t you think?”
She very graciously replied, “I’ll tell you what I think. I think I’d like for you to get dressed and meet me in my office and let’s talk.”
That was really the first moment I thought something really might be up. I did as she said and sat right at that table in her office with the plastic model of women’s organs on it and a box of Kleenex.
And I thought of all of you. Of so many women who have taken those exact steps. Who have also waited at a doctor’s table with a box of Kleenex on it.
A nurse stuck her head in and asked if I wanted her to call in my husband. I am so embarrassed to tell you that I didn’t. From the look of the plastic model on the table, clearly we were about to talk about unmentionables and I am really modest…and, yes, in front of my husband. What if they ended up asking me if I was having anything that felt like gas pain? I’d be forced to say, “NO! NEVER! NEVER IN MY ENTIRE LIFE! NOT ONCE.”
About 20 minutes later, she and her resident sat down at the table where I’d just been sitting quietly before the Lord and reading every single thing in eyeshot in her office. (I have a terrible habit of doing that. If it’s out in plain sight, it’s game. I can’t even help myself. I’m a rabid reader. And let’s not talk about nosey.) She went through four possible outcomes for me, drawing diagrams with a blue ink pen as she went.
At one point, she put her elbow on the table, leaned across at me, and said, “Mrs. Moore, I think we’re going to come away from this with a good outcome but I will also tell you that you need to be here and you are in the right place.” She told me I’d have to have a complete you-know-what then explained, “While you are under anesthesia, I will literally send each piece of tissue off to pathology and wait on results then proceed accordingly.”
And that’s what we did. On December 7th Keith and Amanda checked me into the world renown M.D. Anderson Cancer Hospital for surgery with an oncology team toward a “Possible Staging for Ovarian Cancer.” While I was on the table, they ran into a few complications and had to call another surgeon in on it to check another part of the body (and if you think I’m going to name it, you are out of your ever-loving mind.) Over the course of the next several hours, one by one, the pathology reports came back benign. There is no possible way I can express my gratitude to God for His purposed will for this time, although He would have been (LISTEN TO THIS CAREFULLY!) just as faithful and just as loving and good if I would have turned out with Stage 4. That could as easily happen the next go-round as it happened to some of you dear Siestas the last go-round. I’m not saying that to make you feel better. It is what I believe to the core of my soul.
I’m 52 years old and called to a life of women’s ministry. God has gone to many lengths to allow and appoint me to experiences common to women. I endured the same kind of troubled childhoods as many of you. I’ve been abused, oppressed, and scared to death. I attended three different high schools and battled the same kinds of adolescent ups and downs as most of you. I’ve been a help and a hypocrite. Smart and almost too stupid to live. I got news just weeks away from marriage that I would not be able to conceive children without medical intervention. I had to tell my Catholic husband-to-be that I might not be able to have children. Then, I experienced what it was like to have a big surprise pregnancy one month into marriage. Then crawl aboard the roller coaster of a lifetime.
I know what it’s like to have severe marital problems and to sink into defeat and despair. I know what it’s like to be told after a terrible ordeal years ago that I was suffering from depression and to be under a doctor’s care for it for a year. (No, I will not get into matters of medication versus no-medication here on the blog. After serious prayer, those conversations should be had with the experts and the course each should take is based on her own unique conditions.) I know what it’s like to have a troubled child and to be on speed dial with the school. I know what it’s like to let a child go. To feel like a total failure. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. God has called me, and so many others in women’s ministry, to experience a broad spectrum of women’s issues so I can grow more equipped to do His will toward those I serve. And it is my privilege.
I had the honor of being in M.D. Anderson Cancer Hospital from Monday to Thursday of that wild week and to meet some of the most honorable people I’ve ever encountered. Those nurses up on that floor feel
to be there in every sense of the word. I couldn’t tell how many of them were Christians since they hold their cards pretty tight and take care of all their patients as if each is the most important one, regardless of belief system. I can tell you, however, that whether or not they believed in Christ, they were His hands. Many of us can’t imagine facing people day in and day out suffering from various stages of cancer yet these nurses testified to being “drawn” to it. They were there because they wanted to be there. As far as I know, I was the only one on our entire wing of the floor with a completely benign report. When my veins collapsed, someone was summoned from the “IV team” of the hospital and the first thing she did when she came in my room was look among the bags hanging from the rod for what kind of chemo I was on. “I’m not on one,” I said.
I began to realize at that time just how unusual my situation was, in that particular hospital or, at the very least, on that floor. I knew – and I know – that God caused me to visit that hospital for specific reasons. It may take me months to discover all of them. This I know: I am not the same. We have been scared, sobered, and shaken out of slumber. I have prayed and cried and interceded for the others multiple times and lifted every doctor’s name and every nurse’s name before the Lord over and over. You will grin to know that, right before I left, I took my spiral index cards from our Scripture memory team and prayed my verses silently outside each room on my wing.
When I went back for my first check up yesterday (still can’t drive, have to ask someone to do something for me constantly!), I went down to the chapel to see if I could speak to the chaplain. I didn’t find her but I did kneel at that altar and pray for the others. And for that hospital. To see it, not as a place for cancer but, as a place of healing. And only God can truly heal. Needless to say, it is a secular institution and everyone is treated with dignity and the best of medical care but God went out of His way to show me that Christ was right there, walking up and down those halls. Several really wild things happened to me as reminders. One was at pre-op on Friday when my blood was taken in a tiny little cubicle with a dentist-type chair in it and a thin shower curtain pulled around it. Right before me on the wall was a simple piece of printer paper taped to the wall with the most powerful prayer for healing in Jesus’ Name I’ve about ever seen in my entire life. I was so astonished, I didn’t know what to do. I tried to talk to the technician about it but she remained silent. Maybe she wasn’t the one who posted it. Or maybe she was, but protocol insisted upon nothing more than that. I have no idea but it was huge to me. Gratitude and hope filled my heart. I knew Christ was there and I knew He loved every person in that facility whether they regarded Him or not.
(That was the morning of Deeper Still in OKC. By the way, you guys had NO IDEA what you were really praying healing over me for on Saturday afternoon. It was for much more than my herniated disk! I was stunned at the way God orchestrated that and I assure you that the moment wasn’t wasted on me).
I could go on and on with this – and have for too long already – but I’ll wrap up with one last thing. After such a great report, Amanda and Keith could not wait to come in and see their healthy patient. They waited for hours after surgery to finally come in and see me and, by the time they got there, I’d been out for five hours. Instead of finding Miss Perky, I was as sick as a dog. I cannot remember ever feeling as badly as I did the first forty-eight hours after surgery. I just had a bad reaction to the general, I suppose. I was so nauseated, I could not lift my head but my system was too empty for any kind of relief. Amanda said it looked like I’d been resuscitated from the dead about five minutes earlier. Anyway, by the time I really began to wake up and have clear thoughts, still sick as a dog, a nurse walked into my hospital room and over to the dry erase marker board across from my bed. She grabbed one of the markers and said, “These are your nurses for today.” And, to Amanda’s and my complete astonishment, this is what she wrote on the board:
Nurse’s assistant: Mercy
At that moment, I knew I wasn’t just there to meet with an oncologist. I was there to meet with God.
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
He’s too much, isn’t He?
Could you use a little comic relief? See all those numbers below the nurses’ names? Those are calculations of my “output.” This is a tad uncomfortable for someone so modest to capitalize on but, in my family, we’re willing to throw ourselves and each other under the bus any old day if it gets a laugh. Leave it to my man to get totally into the numbers. NO, I did NOT let him ever empty the measuring bowl in the tiny bathroom but, much to my embarrassment, had to report it each time so it could be recorded. Keith loved it. You can obvious see that I really had to go the first time and he was so proud of me. What you can’t see on the marker board is his running commentary from then on. He wrote stuff like, “Two measly ounces,” and “Way to go!” and…well, I better stop there. I’ve told you before that he’s the colorful type. Amid throwing up, Amanda, Keith and I had some really funny moments when I nearly laughed my stitches out. Maybe another post. Or MAYBE you’ve just about had it with this one!
OK, I’m finishing up! I’ll shut up after this summation. In the aftermath of our ordeal, people have asked me over and over again how I felt it would come out and I told them what I’ll tell you: I just did not know. One day I’d think my daily Bible reading indicated that I would be spared from a malignancy. The next day I’d think I only had two weeks to live. I quit trying to read Scripture like a crystal ball and, instead, just entrusted myself to God for His perfect will and felt peace either way. I have said to Him over and over in matters concerning my loved ones, “Deliver us from everything but Your glory, Lord.” That’s what I asked this time, too. “Deliver us from evil, Lord, and from temptation but do not deliver us from Your prized glory.”
I have walked with God long enough to know that it may have been as much His will for me to enter into a road of common suffering as to come out of that surgery without cancer. He would choose whatever brought Him the most glory and me and those around me the most good. My family went through so much during the several months leading up to surgery. No matter how you slice it, it was scary. You don’t get handed over to an oncologist and take it lightly even if the doctor tells you that she really does think it will turn out okay. These are sobering matters.
We are the better for this. Easy for us to say, you might be thinking. I won’t be going to chemo next week. But I promise you this: I would if I’d had to and, Lord help me, with my Bible in tow. I won’t just lapse into business as usual. I will not let this experience be wasted on me. And, if, on some future date, my news is very different, so many of you will have been my inspiration.
I love you dearly and thank you for caring.