Today is eight weeks since surgery and six months since learning about the mass on my liver. My heart was heavy this morning. I went to mass without previewing the readings. The Gospel today from Matthew 8 is a recent repeat. When the deacon proclaimed the word the phrase dead calm resonated. I tend to listen without reading along but I had to pick up the book and see if I had heard correctly. Jesus had rebuked the winds and the sea and invoked a dead calm.
I had woken up at 5:00 am and was unable to fall back asleep. This was D-Day for me and somehow I had lost my focus. I was sure that the news I would finally receive from the oncologist would be ominous. I could not fall back asleep. I was far from a dead calm. I was caught in a tornado. Where had my peace disappeared to?
At 5:15 I grab my iPad and start consulting Dr. Google: Survival rates for my kind of cancer, stages of my cancer, success stories. I was out of control. All the calmness I had held these past six months was spiraling downwards and I was certain I was perishing. Jesus was sound asleep and my irrational fears were smashing the boat to smithereens. It is now 5:45 and I am back to tossing and turning, willing myself to sleep for at least an hour. I turn to prayer and start my morning offering several times but never get through it.
I am one of those disciples in the boat. I cannot really feel God’s presence and I know I am in desolation Ignatian-style but I cannot shake it. I start answering encouraging emails and confide in a few people my fear. Pray, pray, pray. I need prayer. Jesus is shaking off the sleep in the boat. Despite being up that early, I find no time for my morning readings of the day or the Padre Pio novena I have been doing for the month of June to the Sacred Heart of Jesus before I leave for mass. I cannot shake the fear or the tears.
I am almost out the door for mass when the phone rings. A parishioner is calling me on my cell which is not on but I miraculously see it flash on and I pick it up. He is kindly calling to reach out and check in. I miss that Jesus is sitting up in the boat now. We talk for a bit and I do not even notice that I am calmer. I am so aware that talking with him makes me want to cry and I ask him to pray which he of course agrees to do for me.
I go to mass and I sit through the First Reading about Lot and his wife. Don’t look back, Suzanne. Keep moving forward. I know this reading but today I am impatient at the length of it. Lot is in Zoar but how come his wife did not turn into a pillar of salt yet? I take up the missal and see it is coming. There are the words. She looked back. I feel the fear rise within me. Will I be a pillar of salt too? Can I keep my eyes on Christ? God, help me!! The boat is bucking the winds.
At the end of mass, the lovely folks who have been so faithful in carrying me these past six months greet me with beautiful hugs and compassion. As I am talking with one, another apologizes as she interrupts to let me know that all is going to be well today. I hear her but the storm is raging at its worst right now and I do not see that Jesus is standing with his arms stretched out, ready to rebuke it. I am missing God in all things thus far.
My faithful friend picks me up and we go to CancerCare. My spirits are sinking. I buoy my strength and try to find solid ground. The nurse sees me first. She asks a simple question a few minutes into the interview and I start to cry. There is no tissue in the room. We make jokes and I compose myself. The physician’s assistant comes in next and discusses the pathology report with me. I am not sure if I am hearing correctly. The lymph nodes are clean. The margins are clear. There are no known metastases. Chemotherapy is unnecessary. He will double check the blood work but nothing has been flagged. I cannot breathe. I do not trust my hearing. I look at my friend and I am dumbstruck. I see she is too. We had not expected such amazing news. In my mind, I am jumping up and down, saying thank you, Jesus!
She leaves the room while the physician assistant examines me. At the end of it, he stands up and he says that I am a lucky woman. He seems surprised at this miracle before him. I do not feel lucky; I feel so much more than mere luck. I am blessed beyond measure. I sit there grateful and joyful.
The oncologist enters. She is a lovely, down-to-earth woman who reiterates everything that has been said and mentions radiation as a possible option. This cancer is aggressive and she hesitates to leave any stone unturned. She tells me that my blood work is fine. Any anomaly is because of the recent surgery. Nothing she sees concerns her. She recommends allowing the team to meet to discuss radiation and then follow up scans in a few months.
I am so busy thanking Jesus in my head that I cannot see him, snuggling back down to sleep again. Praise be to God.