Saturday, December 22, 2012

Yes, Anna, Miracles Still Happen...Big and Small

The steps that seemed so simple evolved into a journey unexpected.  In October, I participated in our school wellness program. No big deal, just a blood draw. I do it every year. This year, I was to discover, would be dramatically different.

My blood work came back fairly benign (a word that would soon be a constant part of my prayers). I learned I had high calcium and low vitamin D levels. I began my search for what causes that combination. As I entered my phrases into the search engine, I realized that I would probably get many different possible causes, but that wasn't what happened at all. All research pointed to one cause, a hyperparathyroidism. This is caused by a tumor on a parathyroid gland. They are fairly rare and have one treatment --surgery. The surgery, while complicated, is straightforward and leads to an immediate, permanent cure. A small little scar on my neck and I would be good to go! My mind could absorb that. I really wasn't afraid.

I went to my doctor with my results. Because it is rare, many doctors are not well-versed in hyperparathyroidism. Through my research I had been warned of this. I went to my appointment armed with information and feeling very in control of my health. She said exactly what the resources had warned. I shared with her eight pages from my research. She sat and read each page as I waited. (Miracle 1). She said it was a great resource and that I had peaked her curiosity. Without my research, the problem would have been missed. There would be not story to be told. But I was driven to research and she was willing to hear. She quickly began to plot our course. We would run another blood test to confirm high parathyroid hormone levels (PTH). She referred me to an endocrinologist and we were off.

Within hours of setting up the endocrinologist appointment I received a callback from the doctor. My blood work came back and revealed high PTH levels. Change of plans, now I was being sent directly to a surgeon. This was the first of many forks in the road.

Still feeling quite in control of my life, I went alone for my first appointment with the surgeon. He confirmed what I knew about parathyroids and referred me for a scan (sestamibi) to see if we could locate the bad gland. Each person has four of the glands. They are the only part of the body that can be in various locations. Locating the bad one before surgery would make the operation much easier. I knew the scan did not always show the glands, but when it did it was helpful. I had no fear.

On November 21, I had the scan. I was frustrated to realize I would have to wait over the Thanksgiving holiday to get my results. I pushed to get the results faster. I called daily, but could get no answers. I couldn't control the pace. Impatiently I waited. This would become a familiar feeling.

After the holidays, I returned to the doctor, alone once again. Armed with a list of questions, I was eager to learn my results and schedule surgery. Maybe I could get it done before the end of the year and be done! The doctor walked in, sat down on a stool and began to tell me the results of the test. The scan showed a hotspot, which was good, but he was a little uncertain because it showed the spot in my chest. Now, this is not unheard of. These silly little glands can migrate to your chest in 1% of the population. I was not too alarmed. I knew that was possible. I had researched it. I was in control. Until he told me that in order to reach this one there was a good chance they will have to crack my chest to get to it. What?! Like open-heart surgery? For this? He wanted to do a CAT scan to confirm what we were dealing with. I made it to my car and fell apart. I wasn't in control after all. I cried anytime I spoke of it for the next day. Fear creeped in. I forged through work and tried to be normal. Begin Miracle 2. My boss shared her story with me of her open heart surgery. She is my age and knew firsthand about the surgery. Talking to her eased my tension. The miracle that she had been put on my path for such a time as this was noted. I found my feet again, grateful that she was in my life. Through her God whispered I could handle this.

A week later I went for my CAT scan. As I was being prepared for the test, I asked the radiologist what this would tell us. He said that it would show anything that was going on with the tissue like cancer, infection, etc. I flinched a little and asked, "Should I be prepared to hear something bad from this test?" He replied that I shouldn't. The location didn't seem to be too worriesome. It would probably be fine.
On December 5th, my husband with me (lesson learned after the chest-cracking shock), I went to get my results. The scan confirmed the tumor we suspected, but also revealed a tumor on the other side. Suddenly the words lymphoma, teratoma, thymoma, chemo began to enter the conversation. Another scan was needed. As I sat and cried, I was told I needed a PET scan to check my lymph nodes to see if it had spread. How did this happen? I had a plan! I knew what was going to happen. I couldn't breathe...what would I tell my kids? How could I put Rodney, who had already lost his parents to cancer, through this? It was too much to handle. I couldn't talk to anyone for a day without choking up. Full blown fear took root. My scan was set for December 10. Breathe, Anna, Breathe.

Time moved slowly, but the scan was finally done. On December 14, Rodney and I returned to the doctor. I have now learned I am not in control. I know to expect the unexpected. I no longer bring a list of questions with me because experience has taught me they will crumble in my hands only to be stained with tears. Shaking, we wait. My doctor came in and out of the room telling us he was trying to gather all the facts before he talked to us. My blood pressure rose as we waited. When he entered he told us I still had him scratching his head. He took us to look at the scans. Thankfully there were no signs that whatever it was had entered my lymph system. Thank you, Father. We celebrated, but still needed more information. A biopsy had to be done. The good news was that second tumor, the one we didn't know about, would be much easier to biopsy than the original tumor. Something good came from something bad. The sweet nurse worked to get me the earliest appointment possible so I would know something before Christmas. I was to have a biopsy on the following Tuesday. Malignant or benign? My mind was constantly working with those two words. I felt numb and oh so tired.

The day before the biopsy I received a call to do intake for my biopsy. A nurse I had never met, and never will, took my health history. In the midst of her routine questions she asked, "Mrs. Jackson, do you mind if I ask what is going on with you?" I told her my story. She took a deep breath and said, "Mrs. Jackson, I am going to be praying for you". I was deeply touched. As we continued with her routine questions, she realized that I had taken an aspirin product. She told me that they might not be able to do the procedure the following day after all. She would have to check with the radiologist and told me she would call me back soon. I sent out a prayer text and began to beg God to let the biopsy happen on time. She soon called back to confirm I would have to wait. It was the straw that broke the camel's back. I fell to pieces. If we had to put it off I might have to wait through another holiday not knowing. I couldn't do it! I didn't have the strength! Of all I had been through, this seemed to be too much to bear! As I sobbed, the nurse took control. She told me she was going to make some calls. I put my head on my desk and cried. I couldn't lift my head. The last reserve of strength was gone. A minor setback became an obstacle I didn't think I could overcome. I was devastated.

Soon she called back. This nurse, whose only job was to do intake, had called my doctor and the radiologist to tell them that I MUST HAVE results by the end of the week. She told them, in no uncertain terms, that I needed answers. This angel, who I would never even see, fought for me. Miracle 3. I am moved and can now stumble from my desk. As I made it to the bathroom to wash my face, I saw that it was beyond repair. I told my office that I was going home for lunch and would be back soon. I cried as I drove myself home. Begin miracle 4. When I arrived home the surgeon's office had called. Had I not been so upset that I had to come home, I wouldn't have received her message until 7:00 that evening. I would have missed peace. When I returned her call she told me the nurse had called her. She said they all knew how scared I was and that they were praying for me. She promised to keep watch all day Thursday to get results. She said, "I will think of you all day long. We will take care of you!" As I realize how these women ministered to me, my strength returned. God ministers to me even when I think it is hopeless. Their compassion was a boost. I could go on.

Yesterday I went for my biopsy. When the prep team came for me, Miracle 5 began. The lead nurse was the sister-in-law of a lifelong friend. This friend and I have been through some challenging times. She is a prayer warrior. I am in the best hands. The nurse whispered to me, "I am rushing this a little". They were trying to move things along. I heard God in her words. She went out of her way to make me comfortable. She answered each question with precision. She was straightforward and honest. She reassured me with her confidence. The biopsy was completed. Now we would wait.

The surgeon's office called twice that afternoon to tell me they were watching for results and hadn't forgotten me. The final message of the day was that the report was in, but hadn't been read yet by the doctor who performed the biopsy. They were told to call back in the morning. I would hear from them then.

As I type this I await that call. I am filled with peace. I have learned some valuable lessons. When I think I can't go on, I can. When it seems impossible, it will look differently tomorrow. God uses people to minister to his children just when they need it most. I am not in control, but God is. My timing and his are not the same. His is better. God speaks to his children through the friends who pray, the family members who encourage, the people who show kindness when they don't have to.

Whatever the news, I know I will be okay. I know my journey will continue to be filled with miracles and angels. My brother-in-law told me that his grandfather always said, "In troubling times God's children have his full attention." I find that to be true! Thank you, Immanuel!
December 21

The day was a roller coaster as I awaited the call. The first one came. Anxiously, I answered on the first ring. The nurse called to tell me they were watching for my results, but nothing was available yet. More waiting.

Every time the phone rang, I jumped to answer it. When it wasn't "the call", I quickly ended the conversation to free the line. As morning turned to afternoon, and afternoon to evening, I felt as if I were watching my hopes of an answer slip through a sand timer. When the sand was almost gone, the phone rang again. The nurse was on the line. She said the doctor had taken my number and was planning on calling me, but it might be Monday. The last sand dropped. I hung up the phone. A tear fell.

Within the next few minutes, the phone rang again. Deflated, I didn't even look at the caller ID this time. The doctor's voice greeted me. "The biopsy is inconclusive. We still do not know what we're fighting. “The only thing the doctor, and those he has consulted, could agree upon is that the tumors must come out. He said I had become a very interesting and challenging case and that you never wanted to be an interesting and challenging case. In the midst of the confusion of the news Miracle 6 evolved-- what originally looked like two very difficult surgeries may turn in to one. A sternotomy and VATS and both tumors can be removed. Not an easy surgery, but much better than our original fear. Pathology will determine if further treatment is needed.
A plan has been made. I feel peaceful. I have a solution.

I began my morning reading my devotion from Jesus Calling. This is what it said:
December 21
My plan for your life is unfolding before you. Sometimes the road you are traveling seems blocked, or it opens up so painfully slowly that you must hold yourself back. Then, when time is right, the way before you suddenly clears—through no effort of your own. What you have longed for and worked for I present to you freely, as pure gift. You feel awed by the ease with which I operate in the world, and you glimpse My Power and My Glory.

Do not fear your weakness, for it is the stage on which My Power and Glory perform most brilliantly. As you persevere along the path I have prepared for you, depending on My strength to sustain you, expect to see miracles—and you will. Miracles are not always visible to the naked eye, but those who live by faith can see them clearly. Living by faith, rather than sight, enables you to see My Glory
I think that message was just for me! God's plan is still unfolding. I do not know what lies ahead. The road has certainly seemed blocked and slow moving at times, but along the way I see glimpses that remind me that this isn't about my weakness, but about His strength. I expect a few more tears will fall, but good things lie ahead!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Mine...Not Mine

I am not sure when it changed. It was so subtle that I didn't notice it happening. For years my ears had grown accustomed to the sound of, "Mine!"

As the mother of twins, it was an all too familiar expression. Before the boys could speak they had their own preferences for which of two identical items belonged to them. It began with teething toys. They wordlessly struggled to get, "Mine!".

Then the words came. Now they "knew" which of the identical bikes were "Mine!". This identical scooter is "Mine!" This identical wii controller is "Mine!". This identical shirts is, "Mine!". This mommy is "Mine!".

But something has shifted. Some of the items are not identical as they have developed their own preferences, but that is not the change that snuck up on me. The one I can't explain is how "Mine!" has morphed into "Not mine!"

I enter the living room and pick up the basketball cards on the couch. When I ask who's they are I am quickly told (by both voices) "Not mine!"
"Who's shoes? "
"Not mine!"
"Who's book?"
Well, course, "Not mine!"

Isn't it funny. ..before everything was "Mine!" even when it wasn't. Now everything is "Not mine" even when it is! There is bound to be a spiritual lesson in there somewhere, but it is "Not mine!" (spoken with my tongue in cheek).

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Summer House

My mother and aunts playing by the summerhouse.
My grandmother made their skirts and leis just for fun.
Many a generation passed the days away in this spot!
Today I took a walk
through the corners of my mind.
I returned to a little summer house
that I'd left far behind.
It is hidden beneath the shade
of my Mimi and Grandad's trees
cooled by the whispering freshness
of a summer afternoon's breeze.
The walls are made of white lattice
covered by heavy vine.
The floors are of cool packed dirt
smoothed by the winds of time.
Many an afternoon
was spent in this shady spot
naking mudpies with sisters and cousins
in a place of forget-me-not.
Our crowns were made of lantana,
our bonds were made of love,
our music was the cooing
of a lonesome turtle dove.
Oh, to get to stay there
for just an afternoon
for childhood is just a memory,
that ended way too soon.

Last night this poem came flooding into my mind. I had to get out of bed to go type it out before it slipped away. I had been reading a book on the history of my family and their lives in O'Donnell, Tx. It brought back so many memories of the wonderful times we spent there. My childhood was so very blessed. The backyard that held this summer house was filled with all types of shade trees. It had a treehouse and a beautiful old rock fireplace/bar-b-que pit. We had so many wonderful hours of make-believe and magic. I'd love to be able to go back in time to grab one more scoop of those precious memories--to get one more hug from my grandparents; to have one more hotdog cookout; to climb up the old pear tree one more time; to be cool in the shade on a hot summer day. Nowadays the memories serve as shade for a mind that is hot with the stress of adult life. I am so grateful for the little summerhouse that stands waiting for my mind to run and hide inside---if only for a moment!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

How Did It Get So Late So Soon?

“How did it get so late so soon?It's night before its afternoon.
December is here before its June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?”

Dr. Seuss sure captured my thoughts with that quote. It is so hard for me to believe that it is March! Time feels like it is rushing past with the speed of a West Texas wind. My babies are suddenly almost as tall as me--how did that happen? January and February are a blur.
Do you ever find yourself planning ahead and missing the present? Sometimes I don't know if it is yesterday or tomorrow and I get so busy that I forget that it is today. It sure has gotten late so soon! I need some time to be still, to slow down the hands of time. I suppose changing time is impossible, so maybe rather than trying to change time, I should try and change me. I can't afford to miss another minute, how about you?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Finally Friday---Fabulous!

Is there anything better than Friday?!?! How about a Friday when it is a little cold and drizzly outside and all you have on your agenda is to put on your cozy sweats and hangout out with your favorite people? That is a fabulous Friday in my book!
Friday is fantastic because you can look back on all you have finally finished during the week and look forward to a fun time with your family and friends!  Fridays make me happy!

May your fabulous Friday be fantastically filled with family, friends and fun!

(PS--If you like the graphic you need to visit . You can enter your shape, your colors, your words, your font and it puts together  
a fun little cloud for you. Check it out!)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hugs and Kisses this Valentine's Day!
I love...

my husband who lets me be me and loves me anyway

boys who giggle at night when they're supposed to be sleeping

my mother and father who live their lives generously and with great faith

my sisters who shared the magic of childhood and the reality of adulthood

my brothers-in-law who make up for the brothers I always wanted---without beating me up

my family of in-laws that spoil my children and love them to pieces

messing with my nieces and nephews (yes, I am that crazy aunt)

friends who make me laugh until my side hurts

my community that surrounds my family with positive values

my country where I am free

a career that makes a difference in the world (and in my life) and co-workers who make it fun

my God who is the giver of every good and perfect gift!

Happy Valentine's Day. Hope it is filled with love!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Snow Days

Don't you love days when God says, "Slow down and relax. This one is on me."? Snow days are just those kinds of days. It is as if everything is forced to come to a screeching halt and all your obligations are set aside to be replaced by rest, laughter, playing, reading and all those other things that you have pushed aside for too long. Suddenly your To Do list becomes reorganized and priorities shift from what you have to do to what you get to do.
Just the physical beauty of such days makes me stop for a moment and take notice of the blessings around me. Each snowflake, so intricate, falls slowly to the ground. It is peaceful to watch and I begin to relax. As I think of the detail of each flake it is amazing to me that the creator takes time to manufacture each one individually even though they will only last such a brief time. I consider my life. He took that kind of care and more in the creation and design of my life, yet unlike the snowflake I am pressured to rush through life before it all melts away. I think I'll use some of this snow day to slow down and remember the things that matter. I will be grateful for my amazing family, be thankful for some time to be still, and curl up and relax. This one is on God!