All Manner of Things Will Be Well

The room was nice enough, at least as far as sterile rooms go–bright and spacious with a comfortable recliner juxtaposed against the exam table. But the buttery walls were no comfort when I’d been left alone yet again to wait for The Next Step.

I have to get out of here, I panicked. Why did I come here alone? Why did I come here at all? This can’t be happening! Stunned and frantic, my insides churned while my mind darted from one bad scenario to another.

Several weeks ago, my doctor sent me to a breast surgeon for an evaluation for some unexpected and unexplained lactation. Usually it’s nothing, she told me, or maybe a benign ductal papilloma. But let’s get it checked to be sure.

Which is how I found myself being shuffled from mammogram to ultrasound, alone and coming apart while waiting for second looks and lymph node assessments and instructions on what would happen next.

Papilloma? Ectasia? Ductal Carcinoma? Surgery? Nothing?

Freeze.

 

Is it not the most millennial thing ever to take a selfie while waiting for the surgeon? lol

I walked out of the hospital that afternoon with orders for a biopsy and more questions than answers, a fact I found terribly disquieting because I went into the appointment expecting answers, expecting reassurance. The entire world felt like someone had shaken it and swirled it upside down for a while and now I had to wait for a biopsy as well as the debris to settle to know which end was up.

That’s where I’ve been. Waiting–rather inelegantly, I might add, but also terribly stifled in my emotions because I. Am. Never. Alone. Not during the day because I homeschool my kiddos, not in the evenings because I have a 14 year old who stays up later than me. Not when I go out in public because…hello. Public. There is no space to cry without it being awkward.

The evening of the first tests, I loaded myself, some books, and my emotional baggage into the van and trekked to the bookstore, my favorite place for retail therapy. Sure, it was public, but at least it would get me into reality and out of my head, or so I hoped. The gusty winds whistled eerily and rocked my old, arthritic van, the atmosphere heavy with impending rain. Everything about me felt unsettled–finally being alone, the weather, the surreal situation, and I found I couldn’t tolerate the quiet of the van, so I flipped the radio to NPR. Impeachment news has a lovely way of distracting me from my anxieties. But instead of news, it a rather unpleasant mixture of music and static. No news at all.

 

I went about my errands and stops, all the while tuned to the NPR-turned-static station. I kept twiddling with the knob like we did in the 80s to see if I could adjust it up or down a bit to get a clearer signal, but I think I was mostly on autopilot because even though nothing cleared the signal, I kept going right back to the station and listening to the jumble.

Quite suddenly, the static gave way to these crystal-clear lyrics that pierced my numb anxiety:

You are not hidden
There’s never been a moment
You were forgotten
You are not hopeless
Though you have been broken
Your innocence stolen
I hear you whisper underneath your breath
I hear your SOS, your SOS
I will send out an army to find you
In the middle of the darkest night
It’s true, I will rescue you
There is no distance
That cannot be covered
Over and over
You’re not defenseless
I’ll be your shelter
I’ll be your armor

During our saga with infertility, I often found myself looking for “signs” that God would give us a happy ending, a baby to love and care for and raise. When desperation took hold, everything seemed like it could be a sign–the words said to me by a stranger at the post office, a maternity dress mis-stocked amidst the racks at Target, the verse to which my Bible fell open. To be sure, there were some real “signs.” It’s easier to identify them in retrospect, and they were much rarer than I hoped they’d be.

But the longer our journey progressed, the more I began to realize that most of my fortune-seeking and signs were just a coping strategy, an unhealthy one at that, a form of magical thinking to give me the illusion of control, hope, and fulfillment in a situation where uncertainty and despair were the norm. Instead, what was happening just beneath the surface, what I miss while I fixated on the magical surface and knowing the future, was the real work of God. I’m here, Heidi. I know this is hard. Hide here, under my wing, where I can wrap you in the comfort of the infinite, the softness of my tender love for you. Tomorrow is not your guarantee, but moving gently with me through what comes is. I have set a path that rescues your heart and soul to me. This is my covenant with you.

This new situation had different details, but the desperation felt similar. God, I begged, please let me be well. I can’t bear the thought of making my babies suffer fear and grief, of leaving my babies behind. Who will remember to put lavender on their skinned knees, tell them the stories of their squishy baby days, remember to tell the hairstylist about the little cowlicks here and there? Their father will take care of them, but it won’t be the same, God! Please don’t let this come to be! These were the constant tracks playing in the background of my moments while I waited for tests and results.

Some might argue that the song on the radio was nothing more than coincidence, but I’m certain it was a message for me. Not a “magical fortune telling sign” that I didn’t have cancer, but a sign and reminder of sorts of the things God taught me the last time I was desperate and had reached the end of myself.

I’m here, Heidi. I know this is hard. Hide here, under my wing, where I can wrap you in the comfort of the infinite, the softeness of my tender love for you. Tomorrow is not your guarantee, but moving gently with me through what comes is. I have set a path that rescues your heart and soul to me. And I am now and will always be the same God to your children as I am to you. This is my covenant with you.

I tried hard to live in that truth during the interminable interim. I can’t say I was very successful, but just as the meditations teachers teach you to keep coming back to your breath if your mind wanders, I kept coming back to this truth.

But I’m not lucky! I’m often on the wrong side of the good statistics!

— I am with you.

This is too hard! I can hardly breathe!

— Your soul is safe with me.

How will I ever care for my babies in their trauma if I’m facing trauma myself?

— You only need to move gently with me through this moment.

I’m not ready to die. There’s so much more I want to do.

— You are with me on a path to rescue.

And then, eventually, the call.

Benign.

I trembled and cried and Tahd held me and I felt scared and joyful and relieved and exhausted all at once. There are too many of “ands” in that sentence, but they’re there because it was a simultaneous having of #allthefeelings, with relief topping them all.

A handful of moments in my life serve as markers, stakes in the ground significant “befores” and “afters.” This experience is one that has been added to the few. It will take me more time to unpack it’s implications, but I want to be sure to wring out all the clarification and significance so that my life is better aligned. If there is any gift nestled in stressful situations like these, it is definitely their fire of refining, allowing what’s valuable and important to shine through the fog that builds up during thee monotony and busyness of regular days.

I want to write more about this but I’m still processing all the feelings as well as some changes I want to make, so that will have to wait a little while longer. I do want to tell you more about the nuts and bolts of the biopsy, though, because a few quick google searches didn’t turn up many of the real-life accounts I wanted to read. It’s more likely that my search terms were faulty than that the blog posts just aren’t out there, but I want to contribute mine to the mix nonetheless.

It is not lost on me that others who go though this experience don’t always enjoy the same outcome. I’m carrying them in my heart a little more closely these days and am wishing them strength and complete healing. ?

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Comments

  1. Thank you for opening the window of this experience so others can “see and hear” and be incredibly blessed!! Always love you!!

  2. Dawn Pachniak says:

    “I’m here, Heidi. I know this is hard. Hide here, under my wing, where I can wrap you in the comfort of the infinite, the softness of my tender love for you. Tomorrow is not your guarantee, but moving gently with me through what comes is. I have set a path that rescues your heart and soul to me. This is my covenant with you.”

    This is so so so beautiful – a proclamation and worshipful Good News in the midst of uncertainty. (Luke 13:34…How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…) Your surrender to His comfort and peace is my hope in Christ.

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