Healer in the House

(more of my cancer story…)

"There's a healer in the house tonight." the speaker was shouting.  "What's his name?"  The crowd began to exuberantly reply with the name of the special guest when they seemed to catch themselves and quickly change their answer to, "Jesus."  We began to giggle about all the unintended hype going on around us while growing in our own anticipation of what God might do in us this evening.

Eddie and I along with some very special friends were attending a miracle service of a well known evangelist.  We were all there with great expectations of encountering God and His healing power.  The theme of the night was to pursue your miracle, to fight for it, and faith is how you do that.  I found myself crying out to God, expressing my faith and hounding Him for my miracle.  It was a great evening, though I had no explosive, confirming moment that God had touched me.  

The next morning at church I was in my usual spot at the keyboard as a pastor was leading out in prayer.  I began praying, pursuing my miracle, saying to God, "Don't forget me."  I had seen so many people touched the night before that I wanted to remind God – I need that touch, too.  It was a moment of "yoo-hoo…remember me?"

Just then, and I mean, just then – two hands were placed on my shoulders.  Someone was crying out to God for me and I became completely overwhelmed with His presence.  The tears were flowing and God was personally ministering to me.  Prayer time ended and I had just a moment to quickly glance at my personal angel before the service continued.  

Later that day I had a chance to talk with my friend who had been Jesus to me.  She said that even though it was somewhat embarrassing to her to leave the choir loft and walk over to me at my instrument, she knew she had to obey God.  Now remember, my prayer had been simply, "Don't forget me."  With that in mind, she went on to say that God wants me to know He is here with me and He loves me so much.

"But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength."  2 Timothy 4:17

I am not forgotten.  God is working in my life.  There IS a healer in the house and He's standing right beside me.

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Chemo What?

(continuing with my story…)

What is the first thing you do when the possibility of chemotherapy is looming over you?  Schedule a hair appointment of course!  The works- highlights (2 different colors) cut and style.  I don't know if it was a feeling of wanting to still be in control of the destiny of my hair or just pure vanity.  Whatever the reason, my hair was ready for anything.  If it was doomed to be lost, it would gracefully accept the sentence all the while looking quite stunning as it left my head.

Because of the quick return of the uterine cancer, all kinds of treatments were being discussed.  This was the first time serious talk of chemo was happening.  For now, I had to get through the next surgery of removing the cancer from my colon.  After that, my doctors would reconvene and begin making decisions on follow-up treatment.

Chemotherapy is a word that strikes sheer terror in me.  I have watched it, up close and personal, slowly take the life of one close to me.  My mom did not survive the power of it and very emphatically stated that if she had it to do all over again, she would not have chemo.

Fear is a force to be reckoned with.  It can stalk you silently for awhile – almost undetected at times, then at a moment of weakness- pounce on your mind, leaving you strangled in its clutches.  Psalm 46:1-2a states that "God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.  therefore we will not fear…"  The passage goes on to list horrible things that could happen.  To sum it up, God is… therefore, …period.  God is.  What a powerful statement.  God is.  Do you believe it or not?  No matter the issue, God is.  I feel like shouting, "Get thee behind me fear.  My God is."

As my family and I walk through this decision, I know God will direct us.  Psalm 46 ends by stating, "The Lord Almighty is with us." 

Fear is not invited on this leg of the race.  God is.

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(the story continued)

My appointment was scheduled for the next day.  The cancer had returned in only three short months.  My surgeon and I were a bit floored at how quickly things had turned.  It seemed like every time I was given a clean bill of health something would happen to put me right back on the medical treadmill.  It became this eerie feeling of when will the other shoe drop.  Since this whole thing started, I never had just plain old good news.  It was always followed-up with something else being found.

I hate to say it, but I was again reliving what had happened to my mom.  After her initial surgery the doctor had used the phrase, "You are considered cured."  That statement held true for only one year.  I had cringed when my physician delivered the exact same phrase following my hysterectomy.  I literally shuddered as he said, "You are considered cured."  I remember hoping and praying it was true.

The procedure went fine and all visible traces of cancer were removed… again.  A cat-scan was needed immediately. Unbeknownst to me a red flag had gone up on my previous scan concerning my colon.  My doctors had not reacted to it, deciding it was most likely scar tissue from surgery.  On the second CT scan the same thing occurred and it was determined I needed a colonoscopy.  No-one was really thinking it would be anything of significance, just wanted to be thorough and send me on my healthy way.

I struggled through the prep for the colonoscopy.  What a nightmare to drink the volumes of liquid required for the procedure to be effective.  At one point (okay, several points) Eddie had to get in my face and scream, "Drink it.  You really want to do this again because you didn't prep right? DRINK IT!"  It was so hard!

Well, the "other shoe dropped" … again.  Cancer had been found in my colon.  Unbelievable.  What was happening?  All the medical chatter of surgery and treatments began… again.  My excursion through the cancer world, it seemed, would continue.  I knew God would venture there with me… again.  Scriptures full of hope and promise would guide me.

Lamentations 3:22-24  "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I (Lori) say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him."      …Again.

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(…more of my story…)

It felt like I was having an out of body experience.  I heard myself saying…"In a way, facing such a difficult time with surgeries and scary diagnoses was a blessing because it produced such a dependency on God.  I miss that vibrancy it brought to my spiritual life."

Surely I didn't just say that.  That's like inviting God to let me have it so my prayer life will ignite again.  I began silently promising God that I would get back on track with my devotions.  No life-threatening trial was needed.  

Several days later I was at my first routine appointment with the surgeon.  He had put me on a schedule of meeting with him every 3 months.  I had no anticipation of anything being wrong even though some spotting had occurred.  As the Dr. wheeled back from the table he began matter of factly discussing treatment options.  I interrupted him to clarify what he was saying.  "Are you telling me the cancer is back?"

"Yes," he said and went on to ask if I was available that evening to have surgery to remove it.  He was 90% sure it was cancer.  A biopsy was needed immediately.

Stunned and dazed do not even begin to describe what I was feeling.  I couldn't believe God would actually zap me this fast just to get me back on my knees.  Although I clearly know that's not how God operates, it was a point of discussion between Him and me.  

God loves me unconditionally.  Period.  Do I love Him that same way?  What are the conditions I have placed on Him or assumed He has put on me?  I want God to know that I love him so much.  The best way to accomplish this is to spend time with Him and trust Him. 

Psalm 143:8 "Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.  Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul."

So, I am looking forward to a new depth in my relationship with Christ.  And, a far as my previous "out-of-body" moment, I'm reminded that to literally be out of this body is to be present with Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:8   "we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord."

Talk about vibrancy!!

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Steady Eddie

(The story continued…)

I see now why they have you sign all kinds of papers and discuss living wills before surgery.  There is a very real chance you won't make it out of the OR.  Surgery is rough-stuff, not for the faint-hearted.

My second procedure was to remove the left ovary as well as do a complete hysterectomy.  Pre-cancer cells had been found and my doctors were scrambling to stay ahead of them.  Because I had just had my right ovary removed 7 weeks earlier, it was decided to do this next operation with a robotic machine called the Da Vinci.  This would result in less scarring and faster healing.  It also meant that my surgery would take place at the community hospital rather than the plush, new center I had previously experienced.  

On the morning of my surgery, we arrived very early and began the check-in process.  I had to endure some pretty humiliating, unexpected prep work because of the area being operated on.  Right about this time one of our pastors came by which was wonderful, except I lost some of Ed's attention.  I was feeling sorry for myself and very isolated.  The nurse was unable to start the IV (no surprise there) which meant I didn't get those initial drugs that take the edge off.

We began the long trek to the first floor where the operating room is located.  Tension and fear were welling up in me as well as a deep sadness.  As we reached the doors of the OR I was so surprised to see some of my family.  Eddie's mom, Bonnie, along with my Dad and his wife, Sue, were there.  Well, I think I saw my Dad.  He quickly glanced over the top of the gurney and disappeared.  This was all quite tough for him and he was doing his best to handle it.  It's funny because I felt like I really needed him – wanted a bit more connection.

Eddie kissed me and I lost it… the embarrassing kind of "lost it."  While SOBBING, the nurse wheeled me through several sets of doors all the while speaking words of encouragement to me.  My doctor was a bit shocked when he saw how upset I was and asked if I was okay.  The nurse answered for me and they both agreed I needed some drugs ASAP.

The IV was finally started and I was brought in to the operating room.  It is so intimidating in there.  I was too awake for my own good.  Glancing around I noticed the sterile-like environment AND a huge robot positioned over me.  My doctor explained that he would be in the corner running "Steady Eddie" from the computer station.  I had to smile at the nickname of my robotic surgeon… very appropriate.

It was taking awhile to get underway and I was starting to crumble again.  The assisting physician kindly held my hand as the anesthesiologist cranked up the IV and the count backwards from 10 began.

Hours later I was in a hospital room, dazed and sore.  Steady Eddie, in the flesh, was with me.  As the afternoon wore on it was apparent I had some problems.  Something was wrong with my eye.  I couldn't get relief.  About the middle of the night, with the help of an opthamologist, it was determined that my eye had been scratched somehow during surgery.  Very strange, since they weren't supposed to touch my eyes!  I also had quite a bit of pain and a weakening at the top of my left leg.  This would persist for almost a year.  My throat, too, was scratchy and my voice would remain raspy for over 6 months.  And… there was dried blood all around my nose.  What had gone on when I was out??!

Eddie stayed the night with me making sure I was okay.  I was discharged the next afternoon and very grateful to be back home.  This had not been an easy process at all.  I felt quite beat up from my hospital experience.

As I began recovering over the following weeks, there was a sense of relief that the worst was behind me, or so I thought.  I'm thankful I didn't know at the time what the next year would bring.  "Steady Eddie" and I kept operating on faith, knowing God would be with us, whatever came our way.

Jeremiah 29:11  "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  

(Sept. 19, 2008)


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