Friday, August 26, 2005

Part VIII

Rick and I are leaving in the morning (bright and early! Our flight leaves at 6:15) for our much needed cruise to Mexico. I'll be back Thursday evening, and hopefully will be able to post again that Friday. I'm posting this one late on Friday so that maybe this will give you guys something to read next week.
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My mom and sister got in a few hours later. They had called a million people on the way down to let them know what was going on. My dad didn't want them calling anyone until we knew for sure what it was, but my mom knew that prayer for the unknown is better than no prayer at all.

The next morning we got up early and headed to the hospital. I had never had a CT scan before, so I had no idea what to expect. I learned pretty instantly to hate them. The chalky stuff I had to drink was bad enough, and my stomach didn't appreciate what I was doing to it. It was mad at me, and it let me know by giving me that "I'm going to vomit any second" feeling. The nurses kept trying to talk me out of it because if I did happen to vomit, I would have to start all over again. It took me close to an hour just to drink the nasty mess.

Finally, they called me back to the CT room. At the time, I was scared to death of needles, and the CT-runner person wasn't smart enough to put the line into the bend of my arm.....no, she put it into the top of my hand. I thought that there was nothing that would hurt worse than that. I was wrong. Pouring molten hot lava into the vein in the back of your hand is worse. Much worse. (Okay, so it wasn't molten hot lava, but the Xray dye sure feels like it when it's pulsing through the vein the in the back of your hand). I instantly curled up into a little ball on the table to screams of, "No! No!" by the staff. I guess that ruins the pictures they're trying to take of your abdomen. It would have helped if she had at least warned me that the xray dye could be so painful. The remainder of the CT went smoothly. I was so glad to be out of there.

That afternoon, we headed back to my general doctor's office, hoping he had the results of my CT. They were supposed to be faxed to him by that afternoon, but they weren't there. We waited around the office for at least an hour when my stomach started yelling at me again. It was the gallbladder-like pains that I had previously. Luckily, I was at the doc's office and he was able to give me some phenergan right then and there. Later, he called us back with the news that the results had arrived. He kept talking about all of these "-noma" words. I didn't know what those words meant, except that usually words that end in those letters mean cancer. I feared the worse. He said that he was going to have to refer me to someone else--that he had done all he had the power to do, so I gave him The Family's dad's phone number. I knew he would take care of me, and he did. Within just a few minutes, I was set up to have a visit with a woman at Vanderbilt who specialized in what they thought I had.

The remainder of the health story flies by pretty quickly with no extravagant detail needed. I met this woman doctor, liked her a lot, and she set me up to have another CT scan and a biopsy to find out exactly what I had. It was not cancerous, but I did learn that it could become that way one day. That's when I found out about the "no kids" rule. These tumors were growing off of my hormones. Because the hormone levels in a woman's body increases so much during her third trimester, it would be just plain stupid of me to try to have kids. Not that I was in any huge hurry at the time, anyway. But it is pretty sad to find out at the age of 18 that you may never be able to have children. Who is going to want to marry me now? That is also when I found out what was really wrong with my stomach and all of my stomach problems. The tumors I had did not have any symptoms. I couldn't understand it. I asked my new doctor if she had any idea what was causing my other problems and the she said: I have no idea. It could be a fiber deficency. Try some Metamucil for a while and see if that helps. I went home, bought some Metamucil, and my other problems instantly disappeared. Once everything was under control, I stopped the Metamucil completely and have not had any in about 5 years. Tell me that wasn't a God Thing. I cannot believe that something so simple caused me so much pain and suffering over and over and over again until He lead me to the right people and the right doctors to find out that I had these tumors on my liver that could have killed me if they had not been found so early on.

From this point on, I was scheduled to have CT scans every 3 months to make sure that the tumors weren't growing. That was eventually decreased to every 6 months, and then once a year. During that first year, my doctor left and I got a new doctor, the one that I still have this day that monitors me through my entire transplant experience, and the doctor that I hope I have until the day he retires (many, many, many, many years from now, I hope!). He is the one I wrote about a while back, whom I believe is what it looks like to be such a man of God.

This really nears the end of my faith walk when it comes to my health. You all know the rest of the story. It was in September of 2003, just 3 months after Rick and I married, that I found out by Dr. Raiford that my tumors were growing. He did not call me on the phone or have his nurse make me a follow-up appointment, he tracked me down to my lab, sat down with me, and talked with me for 30 minutes about what was going on. He was genuinely concerned for me. It was in November of 2003 that I had another biopsy, a much more in-depth one, to make sure none of the tumors were cancerous. In February of 2004 I went through my pre-transplant evaluation (all 3 days of it!) and in April of 2004 I was officially placed on the UNOS list for people needing liver transplants. The transplant occured only 3 months later, in June of 2004.

This is not, however, the end of my faith walk. My junior year of college was so significant in the way I relate to God that I must tell it. Nothing health-related happened, but I was again able to see God work in ways that I had never imagined He would.

But that, my friends, will have to wait. *wink*

God Thing #7: All of those stomach problems that I had for so long was a simple fiber deficency. And no one even thought about it until I had this doctor that The Dad found for me.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I've Got 30 Seconds

To let off a little steam:


AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



There. I feel better.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Crisis Prevention

We talked a little bit in my counselling session on Tuesday about putting a "beginning" and "end" point on our troubled times. This made me think, because, although my real trouble didn't start until about two years ago, I have been dealing with sickness for about the last 6 years. I had to put my "beginning" point at my freshman year of college. In relation to this, someone asked me on Sunday when the last time was that I felt really good. Not in relative terms of "for having a transplant, I'm feeling pretty good today!" But in terms of not being sick. Not being tired. Not having any worries of what's wrong with me. I, in fact, could not remember. I have good days and bad days, both emotional and physical, but I honestly do not remember the last time that I was not dealing with some sort of sickness or fatigue or even the faint feeling that something was wrong with me physically. It had to have been the very beginning of my freshman year of college, but I don't remember what that feels like.

Anyway, to move along, we were asked what our lives looked like before times of crisis, when things are going well. What does your life look like? Do you do the normal things of going to church, tithing, praying, reading your Bible, and being an overall "good" person? I did. And the more I think about it, the more I'm realizing that it was a sort of "bargain" I had going with God. I'll be a good person, and you hold up your end of the deal, God. Protect me. Keep me safe. Keep my family safe. As long as I don't rock the boat, everything will be fine. He owes that to me if I decide to follow Him and keep His rules. Turns out, most of the women in my counselling session said that they, too, felt as if they had some kind of unspoken bargain with Him.

Now, to move in a bit of a different direction along the same thread, how much do we really, really trust Him? How many Christians are too afraid to pray the prayer, "God, remove everything in my life that is keeping me from you." I can't do it. I'm too afraid that God will take away my husband, my parents, my little sister, my plush lifestyle, heck, even my dog. What if He wants to send me to Siberia! Rick will NEVER go for that! I don't have children, but the other women in my group do. They said that are afraid to pray that type of prayer or to get too close to God because they don't want God to hurt their children. Some may argue with me that they don't think this has anything to do with trust. I completely disagree. We (I) don't trust God enough to pray that prayer....especially after everything I have been through in the last 6 years. He scares me...and not in a good way.

Now, we've all heard of the Health and Wealth Gospel. About how dangerous that can be. About how so many thousands of people have been seriously hurt by this theology. I want to propose that even in the churches of Christ the Health and Wealth Gospel is preached. It isn't preached from the pulpit, but it's spoken quietly between members in the hallways between class and worship. It is, in fact, this "bargain" that we try to keep with Him.

How are you doing today, Bill?
Great! God is blessing my business! Money is good!

This form of preaching is heard more loudly than the Sunday sermon. It permiates our lives. When things are going great, money is good, everyone is healthy, we thank God. We thank God because He owes it to us. We're good people. We tithe. We read our Bibles and pray. God said He would protect us from sickness! God said He would protect our children if we raise them to love Him!

Good morning, Susan! How's the family?
We're doing great! None of the kids have been sick all winter!

This, in fact, is a very, very small subset of the Health and Wealth Gospel. We aren't asking God to give us millions of dollars, just to keep us comfortable. To be able to afford that new bike when little Tommy asks for it. But it is still just as painful when things go wrong.

I am personally getting to the point where, when I hear these similar conversations, I get sick at my stomach. If God is supposed to protect us from sickness if we're good to Him, why didn't He protect me? Why didn't He protect the children of some of the women in my counselling group? Why doesn't He offer the ability to live comfortably to the Christians in Africa? In Peru? In China? It angers me. I'm upset that this theology has infiltrated our churches, but I don't know how to fix it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Blog Hiatus and Other Things

I apologize that I disappeared without explanation. I'm sure you can tell by my last post that I had a lot of things I needed to think through, so, among other things, I have spent the last week doing just that. We are also counting down the days until our lab move, so things at work have been all-consuming for the past week. And school started....kindof. I had a one-day class on Monday that lasted for 10 hours. Needless to say there was no posting that day.

I do want to thank all of you who responded to that last post. I suspect that if more Christians knew that the kind of response they would receive from other Christians would be so full of love, kindess, and encouragement, more of us would start to share more of our "shit." You guys really do mean a lot to me, even if I don't know all of you "in person." It means so much that I am able to come into the blogosphere and vomit all of that stuff out without condemnation. I can't think of a better outlet.

I do have a lot of things that I want to post about. Some of it in regards to yesterday's counselling session (no worries....nothing so traumatic this time), and I really, really want to finish up my testimony. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel on that one, and I assume it will only take another 2-4 posts to finish it up (or at least to get it up-to-date). Sing with me now, He's still workin' on me, to make me what I ought to be......

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

My S@*#

I bleeped out the title as not to startle anyone, but I won't be so kind to do so in the following text.

Let me preface this by saying that I'm doing this for me. And for some reason I have an incredible desire to put this on my blog. I don't know why, but I need to do it. If any of you are offended or whatever, tough. This is my blog. If you don't want to read it, no one is forcing you to do so. Also, I am not asking you to rationalize or try to talk me out of anything that I list below. Actually, please don't. These are my feelings. There is nothing "wrong" or "right" about how I feel. It's simply that: how I feel.

I had a pretty intense counselling session today at church. My minister started a group for women who have been going through some tough things in their life recently. I am very thankful that he thought to invite me. Today was the first "real" meeting day, and I think this group is going to be incredible for me. So far, I have realized that I've got a lot of stuff. My minister today said that he's sick of us Christians not sharing our stuff with each other, and that he believes that it's high time that we started talking about our shit. This is tough for me considering that I will see a lot of you guys in person soon, but, you know what, you are my brothers and sisters. If I can't share this with you, who can I share it with?

So, with all of that said, here's what realizations I had about my emotions and my faith today, my "shit":

Pain changes people. Pain has changed me. I am not the same person that I was a year ago. This is tough, especially being married. Now, not only do I have to deal with my shit, my husband does, too. I don't even know who I am right now, how in the world should I expect my husband to know?

I am upset that people think my pain is more intense than theirs. It upsets me that I've got friends who preface the story of their crappy day with, "I didn't have a liver transplant, but..." Pain is pain. Pain is relative. Your pain is no worse or better than mine. It's still pain, and it's still valid. You're my friend. I want to be there for you.

I don't want people to trivialize what I've been through. People saying, I know how you feel...I had my gallbladder removed a million years ago. Trust me, you don't know how I feel. I also get sick and tired of conversations like this (this actually happened last week):
Group: Why didn't you start your master's degree last year?
Me: I had some health stuff I was working through. I needed to hold off for a year.
Girl in Group: Oh, yeah! I had health problems, too! I cut my hand!

In addition to that last one, I have very little sympathy/empathy for people right now. I want this to change. I want this to change now.

I can't believe that people see Christ most in us when we're at our lowest point. I am for sure at the lowest point that I've been at in a really, really long time, and I'm doing a really shitty job of showing Him to people right now.

My pain better have purpose. If it doesn't, I have spent the last 7 or 8 years of my life intensly searching out a God who is cruel and mean and spiteful. I am willing to take time to search out this purpose, but it had better be there.

I feel abandoned by God right now. I have been writing that series about how God has brought me here because I need to see it. Everyday. I do not deny what God has done in my life thus far, but now I feel as if He has brought me here, dropped me off, and is saying, I've brought you this far, now I'm done. You're on your own.

My minister said today that he believes that there is one thing at the core of people who have been through such tramatic events in their lives and are dealing with it like we are. One fundamental truth: we don't believe that God really loves us. I need to think about this one some more, but maybe he's right. Maybe I don't believe that God really loves me. Maybe I believe that He's up there, using my life for His ultimate purpose at my expense. Not because He really loves me, but because He can use me.

I'll probably regret posting this tomorrow. I may delete it.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Part VII

I told Rick a few minutes ago that I needed a break from my proposal. The quality of my writing for that blasted thing has gone drastically down-hill since I started it this morning around 11:00. I'm still not done, but a break is past due, so I thought I'd come write here for a few minutes instead. At least this is writing that I enjoy!
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Sophomore Year

Nothing much had changed about school. I had my same roommate, my same friends, just different classes. Classes that I really enjoyed. Because I was majoring in both Bible and Biology, I made the decision that I was going to work really hard to graduate in 4 years, which ultimately meant that I would be taking a lot of hours each semester and during the summer from here on out. The first semester my sophomore year was no different. I was registered for 17 or 18 hours of very difficult classes: calculus I, cell biology, organic chemistry I, organic chemistry I lab, and about 6 hours of other classes. One of my professors from my freshman year asked me if I was nuts for taking such a load. Nah. I knew I could do it. I just had to work hard.

I started nannying for the family twice a week. I was making great money and I was getting to know the family pretty well. I found out that the dad was a gastroenterologist at Vanderbilt. Cool. If I ever needed anyone, I knew who to call.

So, classes started. And just a week or two into the semester I came down with Strept throat. It just so happens that our health insurance had changed, and I had to do some phone work to find a place that would accept it. The doctor that I had went to my freshman year wouldn't. Turns out, there was only one doctor in the middle TN area that would take it, and he just-so-happened to be less than one-half mile from my dorm. Sheer coincidence (yeah, right). I went in to see him and I liked him instantly. He was getting to know me a little when he asked me about my health history. I told him of my GI symptoms (without mentioning what all of the other doctors had said) and he quickly said, "Oh. Sounds like your gallbladder. We do ultrasounds in this office twice a week. Come in on Thursday and we'll check it out."

FINALLY!!!!!!

I went in for the ultrasound that Thursday afternoon before I was supposed to go pick up the kids from school. That's when she found it. My gallbladder was fine, but there were weird spots all over my liver. I was freaked out. The doctor told me that he needed to schedule a CT to be done sometime next week. I shouldn't put it off. He left and the nurse came in. She whispered, "I'd do it in the morning." I knew it was serious. I was very upset. I called the mom of the family right away and told her what was going on. She said that everything is okay. She'd call her husband to pick up the kids.

Not five minutes later, the dad called.

Him: Are you okay?
Me: (crying) I don't know. I'm scared and I can't get a hold of my mom or dad to tell them...
Him: What is going on?
I told him the whole story.
Him: There are a million different things it could be. Don't worry too much just yet. Have your CT in the morning and if you need a specialist, have your doctor call me. Don't worry about the kids. I'll get them today. Take as much time as you need.

I still couldn't get in touch with my mom, but my first organic chemistry test was supposed to be the next morning. I didn't want to just not show up, so I went to LU to hunt my professor down. He was in the middle of a study session for the test when I pulled him out into the hall.

Me: (still crying) I'm not going to be able to take the test in the morning. The doctors have just found spots on my liver and I have to have a CT done.
Dr. Boone: (grunts, humphs) Well (grunts, humphs, arms crossed on chest), just do what you gotta do. I hate that (grunt, humph). We'll work it out later (grunt, humph).
Me: Thanks. I've got to go find my parents.

I finally was able to get a hold of my mom. She and my sister left for Nashville immediately. They wouldn't have missed being there for me for anything.

God Things #4, 5, and 6: Nannying job for gastroenterologist, health insurance led me to good doctor, and good doctor finds liver spots.

Busy, Busy, Busy

I know I said I would try to post more of my testimony yesterday, and it didn't happen. It turns out that I have a 5 page research proposal due on Monday afternoon that I just found out about. My boss is helping me write it, but it's still a lot of work. I have to sift through a 33 page grant in order to figure out what needs to go into my proposal.

And on top of that, I have work to do and I have some people to contact about moving our equipment for our lab move at the end of this month. Even worse, I'm not going to be here for the move, so all of my move responsibilities have to be completed in the next week.

I really, really hope that I can find 15 minutes to write the next portion soon. Please bear with me! Things will get better!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

New Link

I plan on posting the next portion of my story later today, but for now, I've got a new link for ya.
It's One Body Ministries. They have a lot of fun stuff like quizes to test your Bible knowledge, clean jokes, articles, and there is a forum that I post on with some cyber-friends.

A portion of their mission statement:
"The mission of One Body Ministries is the unite of believers in Christ into one body. We aim to tear down the walls of sectarianism and love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. We do this in order to work together to reach lost and further the cause of the Kingdom of Christ. If Christians used just a tenth of the energy we expend in fighting each other to reach the lost, Heaven would be standing room only!"

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

It's an iPod World

I was driving to meet my dad for lunch today and I saw a sign out in front of a church advertising the sermon for this coming Sunday: "Hearing a small voice in an iPod world." It made me think.

I own an iPod mini. I use it at work a lot when I'm either here by myself or if it's too quiet and I need some noise, but I know other people who I see walking around all the time with those little white cords hanging from their ears: in the grocery store, at the doctor's office, walking across campus, etc, etc, etc.

I wonder how many of those people are Christians. It makes me wonder if I wear mine around too much.

The reasoning behind my thinking is simple: How can one expect to hear God when s/he has constant noise plugging directly into his/her ears?

If it's not an iPod, it's the radio. And if it's not the radio, it's a cell phone. And if it's not a cell phone, it's the internet. And if it's not the internet, it's work. And if it's not work......

Well, you get the picture.

And we could get into the debate about whether or not God still speaks to people today. I believe He does. I've experienced it.

In the last year and a half or so, though, I haven't heard Him. At least I haven't noticed hearing Him. Part of my problem, as I've mentioned before, is that I can't pray. I'm too distracted and my words come out empty and void of meaning. So, instead of praying, I ask others to pray for me. They may not know why I ask them, but this is the reason. I need prayer. I know I do. I need to pray, but it just isn't happening for me right now, so I think the next best thing is to ask others to pray for me. And not just for me, but I am sure to let them know of people who I know that need prayer.

Maybe it's because there's too much noise in my life. I mean, maybe, just maybe, if I turned off the iPod for a while, the cell phone, and the radio in my car I could actually communicate with God for the first time in a long time. Maybe that's what He wants from me right now. Maybe He doesn't want to hear from me, maybe He wants me to hear from Him.

Monday, August 01, 2005

New Link

Just wanted everyone to know that I posted another blog on my sidebar. It's Preston's Thoughts.

I'm enjoying his blog because, even though I don't agree with everything he says, he makes me think.