Sunday, May 6, 2012

Lump Lessons Continued

So, after that last post, I probably left a few of you worrying about my health. I should have reassured you all that I am alright and that there is an interesting end to this story. Read on for something amazing.

A few weeks ago, I was walking home, and thinking about some of the problems in my life. When suddenly, I heard this very clear and loud word, "endure". It was so distinct from what I was thinking about, and the attitude with which I was thinking, that it took me off guard. Immediately, I felt that it was from God, and that I needed to dwell on this concept. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to endure, there are many situations I could apply that word to. Little was I to know that in a few short days, my endurance would be tested.

After discovering the lump, I made a doctor appointment. Then the worry started. It was difficult to suppress the dark thoughts that were beginning to form. The what-ifs, the worries, the bucket lists, the regrets. I kept reminding myself that it could be a mere nursing related problem, that it didn't do any good to worry about the unknown, that I should take things one step at a time. Of course, one of the most pressing thoughts was the logistics that might be involved. Possibly having surgery in China or in America. Possibly going to America before the school year was over. Perhaps Adam would miss his grad school classes in Beijing--either that, or I would have to return on my own. What if I needed chemo? Would we come back to Shenyang at all? These were anxieties, but they were also extremely practical questions. I had to remind myself one hundred times a day to not even go down that mental path. If I avoided the first what-if question, I could avoid the whole thought process altogether.

It feels so long ago now, so it's hard to remember all the events that took place, and the feelings that went along with them. I do remember, on a Saturday night, four days before my appointment, breaking down in Willow's room. I was nursing her before bed time, a sweet time of my day, and I just couldn't take the unknowns anymore. I thought of the possibility of dying before she could remember me. I started wishing that I could love her so much in the present, that all the love would last a life time for her. I started to pray about my worries, my heartache, my torn up emotions. It was a very good time because I was able to spend a few hours in conversation with God. I cried a lot as God pried opened my hands and took some pretty specific desires from me. It wasn't like he was saying 'no' or 'never'. But He was saying, 'surrender'. I was reminded that being a mom is not about my needs or happiness. There were so many moments that I wanted to see and be a part of. I could barely even grasp the concept of attending Willow's wedding someday, but certainly that thought crossed my mind too. I was surrendering these moments one by one. First steps, first pony-tail, learning to read...lots of milestones down the road. I thought, there's no guarantee that I'll see any of those things. I could get hit by a car tomorrow, never mind the suspicious lump! It sounds kind of morbid, but I want to be able to die at any given moment and be happy about it. Because for believers, dying is essentially a happy thing. Its what allows us to move on to the fulfillment of our salvation, when the promise of things hoped for, our sanctification, is brought to completion. As much as I love bits and pieces of this world, I don't want them to hold me back. I don't want the material to get in the way of the eternal. As wonderful and blessed as moments with my daughter are, I don't want them to be a stumbling block between me and Jesus. That's really hard to accept sometimes. I dwelt on the passage about storing our treasures in heaven. I wondered how that could be done. What were my treasures and how was I to put them in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy? What were the treasures of my heart?

Now my memory is a bit hazy. I can't remember exactly when I had this dream, but it was right around the time of my first appointment. It was an incredibly vivid dream. Like the word, "endure" that I heard so clearly and distinctly, this dream was bright and almost tangible. I was sitting next to Adam, with Willow on my lap. One of our friends was speaking in a fellowship type setting. He came over to use and said to me, "You know Willow is not here for your happiness, right?" I thought about it and said, "Yes". Then he spoke again, "You know Adam is not here for your happiness either, right?" I paused for a moment and then said, "Yes, I do". And I really meant it. I woke up instantly, and felt amazed to my very core. My soul felt the reverberations from these thoughts, and they sank in to take root. Since I hadn't been thinking about this earlier that day, it seemed so 'random'. I felt like surely, this vivid dream, could possibly have been from the Holy Spirit. Perhaps to teach me, or to remind me of something. Perhaps to encourage me forward. I don't know. But I definitely found strength in the reminder that if something terribly life-changing were to happen, I needed to rely on God and not my family. I'm not one to normally claim hearing words from God, and have never felt like a dream was sent specifically to me--but for some reason these two happenings were a strong reminder to me of God's faithfulness.

Finally Tuesday came. Adam took a day off of work so that he could watch Willow while I went to the foreign clinic. When I got there, I had no idea what to expect. It felt surreal, however. I knew that I was probably going to get some answers, and probably going to get some tests. I also expected that my biggest questions would have to wait, as we waited for results. I didn't know what to expect, and so I sort of separated from reality for a bit. I was in a haze, and perhaps you could call it peace. I was prepared to hear the worst, but hoping for the best. I knew that God had a plan--and Adam kept reminding me that everything would be ok, no matter what the situation was. There were going to be no unhappy endings for us. I envied Adam's peace of mind, and sort of resented him for it as well. I felt like this was no laughing matter, and the gravity of the situation really weighed down on me. But Adam had assurance that everything was going to be fine.

While I was sitting in the waiting room, I was doing homework for a study that I am in. I came across the verse in Psalm 119--"God is good. He does good". This was another beacon of light to me. Whatever happened, whatever the answers were, God was unchanging in His goodness. Who was I to cry foul and question the goodness of His plan? How was I to know what would happen, and if the 'worst' happened, how it could be used for His glory. Isn't that why I am here, anyway? To give Him glory in all things? So I waited.

During this first appointment, several doctors saw me. The lump confused the doctors during the physical exam. It carried some traits of a tumor, some for a cancerous one and some for a benign one. It was hard, round, as large as a golf ball, and showed some irregularities in shape. There was also some discoloration of my skin near the lump that indicated bleeding, which puzzled them. There was no pulling in of the skin or dimpling around the mass, which is common with cancerous tumors. It was puzzling! The general consensus was that I needed further testing and that it was quite possibly a tumor. If it was a cyst, they would be able to drain it.

So, they sent me upstairs for an ultra sound. It was so surreal getting the ultra sound, because it was the same room where I had my ultra sounds during my pregnancy. It was also the same technician. I used to be annoyed with the older woman because she would never tell me if the baby was a boy or a girl. She would also tell Adam to leave the room, because generally, parents aren't allowed to see the ultrasounds here. Now, I felt sorry for her. I realized that she doesn't just give news of healthy babies, she gives news of life threatening conditions. I was looking up at the dirty ceiling, and having these weird moments of "I've been here before...but it's so different now". The first time I had an ultra sound in that room I was six weeks pregnant and dreading the possibility of it. Now, I couldn't be more happy as a stay-at-home mom, and I was laying there with a tumor in my breast, pondering the possibility of cancer. I couldn't be dreading it more. I waited for the ultra sound to be over. I saw the grimness on everyone's faces, but I didn't want to understand what they were saying in Chinese. So I tuned out. Finally, the woman stood up and looked at me sadly. I said thank you and went back downstairs. My group of foreign doctors looked at the report and said I needed a mammogram. They informed me that it was not a cyst. The ultra sound showed no indication of the mass being a liquid that could be easily drained.

If it was a tumor, especially a malignant one, I needed to take action quickly. They told me that if I wanted to have surgery and possible treatment in America, I needed to leave no later than the following week. My heart sank at those words. There was so much that would have to change, based on this news, but this was my life they were talking about! The air was very heavy in that room, and the doctor prayed for me. I cried a little while he was praying because I was so touched by the action. Doctors wouldn't do that for me in America. Because the doctor knew me a little, he was able to pray for very specifically.

A few other doctors took a look at the lump, discussed their opinions, and recommended that I get the mammogram the same day. I called Adam so that he could bring Willow to the doctor's office. I needed to nurse her before going to the Chinese hospital, which was a few miles away, to get the mammogram. While I was waiting for Willow and Adam to arrive, I took a long walk. I didn't feel like sitting in the doctor's office for an hour, waiting for Adam. It was a beautifully warm spring day, and I walked a few miles which was therapeutic. Fortunately I had a copy of the Word with me and was able to soak in some more comfort. I was a little upset by how the morning had gone so far.

I might have a tumor.
It's possible cancer.
You have to go back to America. Now.
That means you'll miss the play.
That means Adam' will miss his graduate classes.

A new list of what-ifs started.

What if the play can't go on without you? What if you have to cancel it?
What if Adam has to drop out of classes? Will he ever finish?
What if you never come back to China? Should I pack up what we want and sell the rest?
What if you have cancer and need chemo?
What if we have to resign from our positions here?
What if you can't afford the bills because we won't have insurance?

After an hour of battling those new sets of questions, I walked back to the clinic where Willow was waiting for me. She nursed, I ate the sandwich Adam brought for me. And then we left for the Chinese hospital.

Hospitals are so different here. Infinitely different. The system is convoluted, meaning that it is nearly impossible to navigate it by yourself. You need a medical professional with you, if you are a foreigner, to help guide and translate. Everything is like an assembly line. The buildings are dirty. You supply your own band-aides, gauze, linens, and everything else you might need while staying in a hospital (including towels, toilet paper, and food). People are literally dying in the hallways. Sometimes on beds, sometimes on the floor. It's a bleak picture of humanity. There are definitely better hospitals than others, and even within those buildings some wings are better than others. Where a lot of common place tests are done, there's a lot more people and chaos. It was also about 90 degrees in the hall where we waited for the mammogram. It was loud and people were smoking. I found myself wondering how a movie set would be constructed if it was to look like a Chinese hospital.

Adam and Willow eventually left because I had to wait so long. It was hot and Willow was tired. Plus, the stressful environment was overwhelming to her. People kept coming up to her, in the usual fashion, and asking questions. But they were particularly aggressive at this place. A few cleaning ladies kept gathering people to come stand around us. They were loud and dirty and kept trying to touch/hold Willow. No manner of communication could get them to stop. I told them in clear Chinese to stop it, don't touch, she doesn't want you to touch or hold her. But they kept being very physical--so then I started hitting their hands away. Desperation! Once Adam and Willow left, my stress level decreased a lot.

It was very confusing getting the mammogram. First we had to go register. That meant going to two different desks, which were on different floors, and paying fees. Then we went to another wing of the hospital. We had to pay again and wait. The hospital desk workers sent the nurse who was with me all over the place to register here/pay there/sign up somewhere else. It's like a maze. Finally, it was my turn. I got the mammogram, was examined by a few doctors, and then sent up to another floor to speak to even more doctors. These doctors, maybe about four women, kept asking questions about my nursing. It made me feel like they weren't understanding the problem. They thought the lump was from Willow biting me.

Afterwards, I went back to the clinic. Doctors looked at the results/report and said that the lump definitely looked solid, but on was only a RAD-3. This means that it was probably benign. However, they wanted to rule out any possibility of it being cancerous. They suggested that I make an appointment with a specialist and get a biopsy. Although I felt a lot better about the situation at this point, several doctors having told me that it was probably benign, I was still anxious to know what this lump was! I was also told that regardless I would need surgery to remove the tumor. Because although it was most likely benign, a tumor that size left unattended could turn malignant. The recommendation was that I return to America sometime in May to have it removed surgically.

The possibility of staying in China for this operation was out of the question for Adam. Even though I was considering it as an option because it would allow me to finish Little Women, or at least see the performances.

To be continued.....

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