Now that I can at last stay awake and concentrate for long periods, I thought I’d try to share a little more details about the surgery and recovery process so you can all hear more how your prayers were and are being answered :)
First, though, I have to thank you for the huge blessing you have been. I have been and continue to be overwhelmed by the outpouring of care—the texts, phone calls, posts, letters, gifts, visits—each one has been such a blessing to me and provided encouragement over and over again! Tears come to my eyes just thinking about all the people who have been praying and encouraging me, and how amazingly God has used you to give me exactly what I need just when I need it. I am so thankful.
Okay, now to back up a little and document the story of this last week (if all you want is the recovery update, feel free to skip down to the bottom).
Last Friday started rocky. Fears and worries seemed pressing in on all sides. Completing the pre-surgery steps nearly had me in tears (or would have, had I not been too dehydrated to actually cry—I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink since midnight, and with how the mass had been keeping me from properly processing food and water, that left me pretty dehydrated and weak). Silly simple things caused me to panic.
I finally hid myself in my room and desperately read the Word, begging God to help me. I knew I wasn’t walking in God’s victory. I was frustrated with myself. But I wasn’t sure how to chase away the fears and worries. As I read, I became convicted that I was to praise God. Whether I felt like it or not, praise was my marching order.
We got in the car, running a little late. The tire was flat, but—a praise!—we had another car we could take.
It’s amazing how praise dispels worry and fear. As I began praising, peace came. So many of your texts and reminders of truth poured in as well, giving me further encouragement.
The hospital surgery area was rather deserted. But still the rules were that only two people were allowed back in the pre-op area. Another praise—the nurse made an exception when she realized that a friend had come to pray with us. They let her back, and we had a sweet time in prayer, praise, and Scripture reading. As odd as it sounds, we had an amazingly fun time awaiting the surgery. I think they especially enjoyed laughing at my goofiness after they gave me a relaxant to relax my body before the procedure—I was a bit on the loopy side (pun intended :) ).
Then came the blood work. The blood work from a week prior to surgery had all come back great, but they had to double check once more before surgery. After having a needle malfunction, the nurse managed to draw the blood. My body turned cold and clammy. Despite numerous warm blankets, I couldn’t stop shaking.
The results came back quite concerning. Apparently, my blood was anemic—so anemic, in fact, that they couldn’t do the surgery without starting with a blood transfusion. Hearing all the things that could go wrong with a transfusion and seeing the obvious concern and alarm on the staff’s face at the blood work results wasn’t reassuring.
It was a scary couple of minutes as they prepared to wheel me away on the heels of that news (and while still unable to stop chattering), but my mom reminded me that this hadn’t surprised God. We prayed, and I said an emotional goodbye to my parents, telling them I loved them and hoping I’d be able to say the words again this side of Heaven and that if I didn’t they would know how much I loved them and be okay.
Then I was in the operation room. My, what a room it was! I got so lost taking in all the machinery that I found myself put to sleep before I realized what was happening.
I awoke as from a deep, peaceful dream. Where was I? What had happened? Why was there such pain in my abdomen?
Slowly, it all came back to me. And gradually I learned what God had done while I’d been asleep.
The surgeon had decided to draw my blood one more time before beginning…and somehow, my blood wasn’t anemic anymore!
Not only did I not need a transfusion at all, but the quick tests on the mass indicated that the mass was benign. And not only that, but rather than a foot or larger incision they had planned, I was only cut about 3 inches.
They’d been able to drain the mass, which resulted in taking out 3 liters (about 12 ½ cups) of liquid. Apparently, the mass had wrapped around my intestines, inhibiting digestion (which would explain the malnutrition and dehydration I’d been experiencing prior to surgery). They were also able to fix another issue that, while not serious, had been causing some discomfort (and that I didn’t even know I had). I’m hopeful to find out more details at my post-operation appointment this upcoming Tuesday, but for now I’m basking in the good news.
Not only did God take care of the surgery itself, but I watched Him answer many other desires and prayers I’d had going in. Here’s a brief recap of some:
- Many of you had been praying along with me about getting to share with others about God's salvation offered in Jesus as I went. I’m happy to report that while I’m sure I made a comical job of it in my half-coherent state, between my attempts and the tracts my partner in crime (i.e., my mom) was able to grab out of my bag for me, I got to share a little anyway with the nurse in recovery and the person who wheeled me up to my room. Knowing you all were praying particularly about that helped give me courage.
My favorite conversation was later that first night. My nurse woke me up in the middle of the night, insistent that I walk. She assured me it would help me. I couldn’t see how it possibly could as it hurt so badly, but since I had to, I figured I might as well try to have a productive conversation. I asked her if she was ready for Christmas, and discovered she didn’t celebrate it. That launched into a discussion about what she believed and what she thought would happen to her after she died. Which in turn led to sharing the beautiful truth of Christmas—that Jesus came to take the punishment for our sins and buy for us eternal life, and that through Him I knew for certain Heaven was mine and that He was with me right there, in life’s sorrows and joys.
- God blessed me so through that middle-of-the-night conversation, both by encouraging my heart, taking my eyes off myself, and helping my body heal. I never would have pushed myself to walk as long as I did despite the pain were it not that I wanted to finish the conversation :). As it was, since I had pushed so far, the doctors and nurses were all amazed at how quickly I was healing and told me I could leave the hospital early if I wanted. I was hesitant, as by then I was super tired (I am convinced there was a general conspiracy against sleeping at the hospital :)), but agreed. Thankfully (another praise!) my parents had forgotten to bring my clothing bag, so I ended up staying a few extra hours while they figured out how to get it—long enough for a quick nap and to see that night nurse again, giving her a thank you card and a Gospel of John, encouraging her to see what Jesus said and did for herself.
- I didn’t experience the reactions to the painkillers I’d feared until after I was home, and then the pain had lessened to the point where I could stop them.
Surprisingly, I struggled much more the first couple of days after coming home. The painkillers gave me intense motion sickness, and the ride home was torturous. And I’m certain my bed had gotten much taller than it used to be in my absence, and that every chair had morphed into an uncomfortable, impossible-to-get-in-and-out-of contraption. (I made many mental notes to send to furniture designers :).) I struggled to breathe from being horizontal for so long and some slight drainage from a cold, and my muscles were beginning to spasm. It hurt so to sneeze or cough—how in the world would I survive if the cold got worse? And was my neck going to spasm and cause those awful headaches again like it had during the concussion?
To make a long story short, Monday was a pretty miserable day, and my poor mom had a grumpy patient on her hands. It took awhile (and a trip to the emergency room to check out the breathing and some other pain, both of which checked out okay) for me to finally realize I needed to go back to praising again. Life’s a whole lot better when we just rest in God’s hands and praise Him :).
I’m happy to report that the rest of the week went uphill from there. I’m feeling better and better. The bed no longer feels like a mountain to climb. The chairs no longer feel hopelessly uncomfortable. The stairs are getting easier. My body systems seem to be waking back up and functioning again. My muscles have relaxed. The cold I so dreaded disappeared. And I’m needing less sleep and able to do more and more during the day. I still haven’t gained any weight to speak of, but hopefully that will come (I’m about 10 pounds under what I’d say is a healthy weight for me). My breathing is still more shallow than normal, but it’s getting there. Lord willing, I’m even hoping to make it to church Sunday.
Whew…that ended up making a longer post than I’d hoped. But I hope some of the details will be an encouragement to read and see how God has been answering your prayers in amazing ways.
I’ve been thinking of the prophet Isaiah’s Words—that the virgin would conceive and bear a son called Immanuel (which means God with us). I’m so thankful for the fulfillment of that in Jesus—that God became a man and suffered and died to pay the price for our sin—and that Jesus rose again and is indeed alive and with His people through life’s ups and downs.
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14 ESV)
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 ESV)
Whatever is happening, I hope you all have a blessed Christmas celebrating the amazing reality of Immanuel, God with us.
In His Grip,