On Thursday, January 2nd, I found myself in the parking lot of the Urgent Care. Conveniently, it's attached the the ER. I walked in, and it was swamped. Crying babies. Frustrated parents. Sick teenagers.
I walked up to the desk. "What's the problem?" The woman asked. A man next to the desk raised his eyebrows as he awaited my answer.
I looked around at all of the people looking at me. "Abdominal pain," I said.
She blinked back at me. "We don't handle that here. Follow those double doors back to the ER, please."
I laughed. Of course. OF COURSE this is my life, I thought. To the ER I went.
In August, we had an in-service. Before the lunch started, I went home. What I thought was ovarian pain, or ovulation pain had me doubled over. I took a nap and felt better. I came back after lunch and continued to work.
In September, I spent a Friday night with a heating pad on my back, praying for relief. If I can just sleep it off, I thought. I'll feel so much better.
October rolled around. I called in sick. "I think it's ... digestive issues? I don't know," I told my principal. I prayed it would end before we flew to San Antonio to surprise my grandparents.
Thanksgiving came. I didn't feel right. I decided to track it with my "life tracker" on my phone. Was it always the right side?
And then, New Years Eve. Craig and I went out for a late dinner and were home and in bed before ten. I didn't feel well, and he had a huge work weekend that weekend. I was tired of feeling like crap once a month. I went home the next night, cleaned up the rest of the Christmas mess, and convinced myself to go to Urgent Care.
"It's REALLY not that big of a deal," I told the nurse in the ER. "Seriously."
It's fine, I texted Craig. I can't call you because I'll cry. I'm in the ER.
Seven p.m. turned in to 8. Eight p.m. turned into 9. I looked at my hospital bracelet. Should I call my boss? I had to work the next day.
The PA came in after my CT scan and pressed on my appendix. I nearly crawled through the roof.
"I've called in the surgical team," she said. Her white coat sleeves were too long for her arms. "They're on their way in. That appendix needs to come out."
There are few things that would've shocked me more.
I just told Craig to stay home.
I hadn't even called my parents.
"Are you SERIOUS?" I started to cry. And by "cry", I do not mean some kind of delicate cry. I mean full on sobs. I did NOT have time for this ... again. [Long-time readers my recall that my gallbladder had to come out, too.]
"Well, doctors in Europe are finding IV antibiotics work in some cases. But not for you." She washed her hands and I sat stunned.
I texted my best friend, Betsy. She responded with researched, valuable questions to ask the doctor. Because that's what friends do for you. They show up.
I texted my boss a picture of my hospital band. "Won't be at work tomorrow," I said. I figured she'd believe me if I had proof that I was actually sick. And then she got in her car and came to my room in the ER. She sat with me. She walked with me to surgery. She made jokes and talked to the nurses and told me it was going to be okay. Because that's what friends do for you. They show up.
Craig wasn't going to make it in time for surgery, but he was on his way. My boss wore my engagement ring until he showed up. I clutched the bed rails and tried to quit crying.
It was just an appendix, right?
My surgeon came in to talk over the procedure. "If I was your wife, what would you do?" I asked him. Kleenex were scattered around me like confetti.
"If you were my wife, you'd already be on the operating table." He didn't blink back when he looked at me. He didn't fidget. Confidence rolled off of his shoulders.
I signed the consent forms.
In pre-op, I tried to remember everyone's name. Bridget. Lisa. I think. I swore up and down that I was going to remember each of them. I was so sure that I would never forget their faces. But now, all I can remember is that they were so compassionate.
In my head, I kept repeating kind and brave, which is the mantra at my house. I tried to remember to say thank you.
(Even when the anesthesiologist said she'd have to put two tubes down my throat - one to help me breathe, and the other to suck out the Mexican food I had eaten for dinner. So gross. I know.)
I shivered and they layered on blanket after blanket. They transferred me to the operating table, and when they put the mask over my mouth, when they told me to count backwards from ten, all I could think of was kind and brave, kind and brave.
They wheeled me into my recovery room and my boss was still there. It had to be like one in the morning by that time, but she was still there. Craig stood next to her and he had on his glasses. I was so confused about time - I thought it was the middle of the day. I wondered why he had on his glasses when he only really wears them at night.
Time was fluid. Was it day? Was it night? There was ice on my abdomen and I had to pee, and Craig was snoring. The nurse was in and out and her hand was in my hair and I cried. I watched the clock and it went hazy - the hands looked like waves.
I called on my people. And my people showed up. Over and over again, I was amazed at how people just. showed. up. for me. I was humbled over and over again by their grace and their love and their prayers and their patience.
The surgeon came in and handed me a picture of my appendix. I looked at it and didn't think it looked like the pictures I had googled the night before.
"Are you sure that's appendicitis?" I asked.
"Your appendix was sick," he said. "It needed to come out."
Eventually, my mom showed up. [She flew back to California on a Tuesday, and then back to Nebraska on a Thursday.]
Eventually, I sat up, walked around, and
eventually, they discharged me.
I recovered all week long. Upstairs. Downstairs. Trying to not pick up Tucker.
Kind and brave.
I went into my doctor's appointment expecting to get cleared to go back to work. I sat up on the table, I told my surgeon that my side still hurt a little, and we joked about having an extended Christmas break.
He told me it wasn't appendicitis casually, like it wasn't a big deal whatsoever.
Instead, he told me it was cancer.
I needed to come back the next week, he said.
I nodded dumbly, carried my paperwork to the desk, and scheduled another appointment.
That afternoon, I got into my car and drove. Somehow, I wound up in the parking lot at Target in the next town over. I didn't get out of my car. My dad researched appendix cancer and sent me a plan of attack. My sister-in-law sent me intelligent, important questions to ask at my next appointment. I took deep, deep breaths.
At my next appointment, the surgeon told me the abdominal biopsies he had taken in surgery were okay, and that I'd need a colonoscopy in six weeks to be doubly sure that it was all gone.
And so we waited. All of us waited. We made jokes about appendix cancer. We went out with friends. We laughed at lunch together. I loved on Tucker. My parents checked in.
"But what if it's everywhere," I would ask Craig.
"It won't be," he would respond. "And if it is, we'll deal with it then."
My colonoscopy was today. Craig's mom drove me to the hospital in the dark. It rained last night, and everything was damp. Bridget - the same girl that checked me in for my emergency appendectomy - was there to check me in today. She remembered me, and as much as I swore I would remember every single person that helped me during those cloudy two days - I just didn't.
I told the anesthesiologist that I get a little panicky before I get taken back, and the last thing I remember thinking was that my face was felt prickly and that I needed to be ...
I didn't even get to kind and brave.
I woke up and the surgeon was standing in front of the curtain with the light shining behind him. And listen - I don't remember getting McDonald's for breakfast this morning, or really even walking to the car, but I don't think I'll forget his words for the rest of my life:
"Her colon is good! It's all good."
And then I cried. all. the. tears. of relief.
I need you to listen to me for a second. My mom had breast cancer at 30. My step-mom had breast cancer. My grandma had breast cancer. My cousin Heather is fighting cancer right now. I am 36, and I have my Master's Degree. I am young, and smart, and I know better.
I know better.
My body was a hot mess for five months. I was sick for five months, and I didn't go to the doctor. So before we put this to bed for good, and before we move on to something new - I want you to hear this hard:
Go to the damn doctor.
Schedule your annual exams. Get your physical done. If you don't feel well, go to the doctor.
I don't even want to think about what would've happened if my appendix would've ruptured. Because it would've, eventually. And that hot mess of "cancer sludge" (as the doctor so eloquently put it) would've just been ... everywhere.
So go. Go to the doctor.
Okay. I'm getting off my soap box now, and I am taking the biggest 2020 deep breath I can because finally - I can focus on something else. I feel like I just took off a 1,000 pound jacket and put it away for good.
As my very good friend Jodie says -
PS - I am so thankful for every single person that showed up for me in the last 8 weeks. You have no idea how loved I have felt, and how lifted I have felt. You guys are the best, best, best. <3
Hey friends. I'm going to kick off a weekly series on my blog (I say "weekly" pretty loosely because #lifehappens). I'm hoping to revive this little space in the coming months. Such exciting things are happening in my life - lots of fun new changes!
So let's get started, okay?
1. Choose Happy Tees - I love the message on these t-shirts. Bonus: They're soft and comfortable!
2. Camo Platform Sneakers - Love, love, love this print! I love slip on sneakers, and these are perfect for spring. Bonus: They literally go with everything.
3. Buffalo Check Weekender Tote - When you're a girl like me that has a boyfriend in another state ... a bag like this is awesome. Bonus: It works as a carry-on, too!
4. Monogrammed Leopard Tee - Sweet Baby Jesus. I'm about to place my order for three different colors because leopard ... I just can't quit it.
5. Yeti Sleeves - Because I work at a school and I need something to distinguish my Yeti from the next Yeti. :)
That's it for this week's roundup! Thanks for supporting my little space. I just love you all so much! <3
Thanks for shopping my blog. For every item purchased, I earn a small commission.
I could tell her about the paper cut hurts - the annoying kind that burn. The ones you notice and can still walk away from.
I could tell her about the oozing hurts. The ones that fester for months. The hurts that are fragile and ugly. The hurts that leave behind pink, uneven scars that you can name after people or places or years.
I could tell her about the broken. The broken hearts and spirits and plans. The broken pieces that won’t fit back together in the perfect way you want.
I could tell her about all of the times she’ll have to start over. I could tell her about how rocky the starting line feels under her toes, and I could tell her about how she’ll never get used to it.
I could tell her about loss. Her dog. Her grandpa. Her husband. Her way.
I could tell her about every single valley and every single fire and every single sleepless night and every single tear. I could show her a map of her heart at 16, 26, and 36 and watch the confusion roll through her blue eyes. I could show her the deserts and watch as she drags her fingers through the sand.
And the rescues.
I could tell her about the times she rescued herself and the times she clung tightly to others. I could tell her about her little boy and I could tell her about Jesus.
I could hand her journal after journal and tell her to read it all. To make notes in the margins - to create her own guide.
Do this, sweet girl, I could tell her.
Turn right on this day, baby.
I could whisper in her ear and tell her about the holes and the rain coming.
She could avoid all of the ugly. And all of the angry. And all of the shattered glass.
But ... if I could tell her everything,
If I could go back to this second grader, and if I could stand next to her at this football game for a second, I would just put my hand on her shoulder.
I would laugh with her and I would tell her without a hint of uncertainty -
It is so good.
It is so good.
It is just so good.
Even with the despair.
Even with the lonely.
Even with the tired.
I would tell her that her tomorrows are even brighter than she could ever even imagine.
Naomi was a widow in the bible. Her husband and her sons died.
Naomi was bereft. The verse specifically uses that word.
Anyway, she was a widow and her children were gone, but she had two daughters-in-law. One was named Ruth.
Some of my most favorite lines in scripture come from Ruth. Naomi tries to tell her daughters-in-law to go on without her. To return to their own homes. Leave her be - in her hurt, in her great sadness. She tried to push them away.
They wept together.
And then Ruth.
My favorite champion Ruth.
She stood in front of her mother-in-law and she said nope. Not today, kid. In some of the most poignant, fierce words, she says, "Don't make me leave you. Wherever you're going, I'm going. Wherever you're living, I'm going to live there, too. Your people will be my people - my tribe. We're going to love the same Jesus, and when you die, well. I'm gonna to die, too."
And so she stayed. Loyal. Firm. Resolved. Unwavering. And Naomi? She believed her.
Bestie Betsy and I - when things are bad ... when life is rough and one of us is in some kind of deep, deep dark place ... we check in with these verses.
Where you go, I go.
Where you live, I'll live.
Your people, they're my people.
It's a hush. A quiet. A warm outstretched hand and a head nod. It's an, "I know it sucks right now, but the good is coming," in a way that each of us seem to understand.
It's a call to the other that we're not alone. Never alone.
You know, I'm not really a relationship expert. I suppose one failed marriage doesn't exactly give you street cred when it comes to telling people how to do it right.
Just ... but.
When I think about more.
When I think about people doing life ... permanently ... forever ... with someone else, I think of Ruth.
Someone that will always bat on your team even if you suck at baseball and don't know what RBI stands for.
Someone that will help you with the hard decisions, that will help you hang the pictures straight, and will help you get over your hurts.
Someone that will be in the same room with you and thirty other people, but will always ... always ... be searching for you.
Someone who hits their knees hard for you - someone that joins you on the floor.
Someone that keeps your secrets safe in their chest. Someone that encourages you, pushes you, makes you want to do better.
Someone that won't leave when it sucks the most. Someone that just ... stays.
Someone that says that you're enough ... worth it.
Worth the more.
Today ... I'm celebrating Ruth. Ruth and her brave heart.
You whiten your teeth, slim your face, enlarge your eyes. Raise your cheekbones, resize your earlobes, erase blemishes. Elongate your nose.
Hide those under-eye bags that never seem to go away. Fix your eyebrows. Don’t forget that frown line that showed up in the middle of the night back in 2004.
Right then - that’s when you post your picture for everyone to see.
And they can’t see the melasma that you’ve had since baby number two, and they can’t see the acne scars. They can’t see the double chin or the volcano that always seems to erupt on your jawline.
All they see is a smiling face and the perfect caption that you’ve curated just for this moment:
The perfect mix of humor and candidness.
The perfect mix of wit.
The perfect mix.
They say that comparison is the thief of joy, and I believe it. They say that couples that don’t use social media are around 11% happier* than the couples that do and for good reason -
It’s easy to compare.
It’s easy to dig your own hole.
It’s easy to feel like you just don’t measure up.
It’s easy to forget they are using the filters and the face altering apps that leave them looking ten years younger. It’s easy to forget that your neighbor has his own crosses to bear and hurts to mend and lonely nights, too - because look at how lovely they look at Christmas dinner! Look how amazing she looks at that birthday party!
It’s also so easy to forget about the way we rise in the face of a challenge, or how we show up for people. It’s easy to forget about how we love hard on our kids and try our very best every day.
It’s easy to forget how *good* we are when we’re looking over the fence.
Let’s take a big, deep breath this week. Let’s remember where we come from -
We come from our grandma’s wrinkled, hard-working hands, and our momma’s hearty laugh. We come from our papa’s good manners, and our daddy’s big heart.
We come from more than a blemish eraser and a face brightener.
Let’s remember that.
* Source: McKinley Irvin Divorce Guide
. About Moi .
I love, love, love flannel sheets and I am really passionate about lists on post it notes and most of the time I'm sad that no one else is as excited as I am about Diet Mountain Dew. I also adore run-on sentences. And if you need an awesome virtual assistant, who is full of personality and really good jokes? Email me. I'm your girl.
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He saw her before he saw
anything else in the room.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
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