(Previously published August 21, 2010)
My feet had travelled these paths before. This was my third time in 3 months walking back through the hospital's Ambulatory Care doors, down the hall and corridor to be greeted for the third time by a nurse, who remembered each of my travels. She welcomed me with a smile as she weighed me, checked all my vitals and moved me into the bed where I would wait to be transported to the operating room.
The sounds were familiar, the nurse's questions were the same, the procedure was one I had grown accustomed to, and many of the faces were like old friends, as we both remembered one another from the previous journey down these halls. But it was a place I didn't want to be. It was a place that reminded me over and over that I have cancer. A reality that encompasses me some days like a heavy blanket. But yet the blanket doesn't keep me warm. Instead, it brings a chill and a heaviness. A reminder that I need a physician. That this port surgery, whereas minor in the whole big cancer picture, is necessary for my further treatment for this disease. I didn't like it, but I knew I needed to walk these familiar roads because in the long run, this surgery, this port, would cause the treatment and journey to be easier.
And it makes me think of the verse in Jeremiah that I have held close to my heart for the last couple of years. The verse that lays across the top of my blog.
"Thus says the LORD, Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls." Jeremiah 6:16
We need to stand and we need to walk in the old paths. The paths that lead to God. The paths of steadfast devotion to God alone. The path that leads to healing, to eternal life, to rest. The path of obedience, of truth, of rest. We need our eyes open to the next step knowing that God has the big picture already taken care of. Eyes open and fixed on Christ, not on the adornments along the path. This surgery, it was an adornment along the path. My eyes went to the surgery and off off God. Only God is the leader of the good way and the old paths. Not the paths that we determine, we mark and we try to navigate ourselves. When we get off on those paths, we have left our trail leader behind. There is no rest and there is no direction. We become wayward and eventually wind up lost. The old path can sometimes be the difficult one because it involves again and again a surrendering of our will and desire to do it ourselves. A constant theme in my life involving a daily, and I mean daily, yielding to His Spirit at work in my life. And God tells us that when we walk the path of obedience and submission to Him, we will find rest. And God desires to give us rest.
I need rest. And I have learned that God's way is the only way of true rest and peace.
On that familiar path, God placed His saints and familiar faces around me. As I entered the OR, my plastic surgeon was the first smiling face that greeted me. He was there operating on another patient, but stopped by my bedside, offered up some humor (as is his way), and moved on. Another nurse stopped by, remembering me from my first travel through those OR doors and then Heather's face was before me. A sister in Christ. A dear friend and nurse from church who has been in the OR with me for my last two procedures. A ray of sunshine amidst the clouds. And then one of the nurses assisting the anesthesiologist stopped by. Her name was Faith. And that was all I needed. As God was saying, "Stacy, stand, see, walk and find rest. Trust Me."
God surrounded me with reminders that He was lighting my path. He had me in the palm of His hand. That these familiar paths are comforting and not travelled alone.
I awoke in the recovery room quite quickly from the surgery feeling well. There was some pain at the incision site, but manageable. As the nurse began talking with me, we soon learned that we were both sisters in the Lord and began encouraging one another on our personal journeys. Her daughter had some health concerns and she was considering schooling option. She asked me about homeschooling and our hearts quickly became as one. Soon after, I saw another familiar face before me. Carol, who had been my transport nurse to the OR for the mastectomy. Carol, who back in July had stood next to us as Barclay had prayed over me before I was wheeled into the OR waiting area. She leaned over me and asked if she could give me a hug and kiss. That she had been told I was back in and just wanted to come over and say hello.
I was surrounded by God's love and His abundant grace being poured out. On this road, I really didn't want to travel, He grabbed my hand and told me to follow. I followed Him that morning and He lead me to to His paths of rest and refreshment, as He always does. Once again, I stood marveling at the God of my life who doesn't leave us abandoned in the wilderness, but leads us beside the still waters.
On the way home from the hospital, the still waters began to ripple and quickly the battle ensued again. Pain and muscle spasms began to grip through my body. The port was put in my left upper chest muscle, so again, my pec muscles were manipulated and moved. They were not too happy. For the last two days, I have been back on valium and Percocet managing the pain. The bed and heating pad have become my friends again. I am not able to lift anything heavy with my left arm for a few days, allowing time for the incision to heal. I am tired and my body is tired.
Yesterday morning, as I sat on the porch having my quiet time, God spoke to my heart as I read Psalm 40 & 41.
"The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive, and he will be blessed on the earth; You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies. The LORD will strengthen him on his bed of illness; You will sustain him on his sickbed." Psalm 41:2-3
God knew all that Friday would entail and He met me in the morning strengthening my heart and spirit once again. He will sustain me.
Throughout the day, my port seemed more and more tender. I had Barclay take off the bandage and this is what we saw.
Most of that was dried from the surgery. But we were a little concerned. And each time I took a deep breath, my chest ached. We ended up calling the doctor's office. I had to go in that afternoon at 2:45 to see my plastic surgeon for a filling, anyway. The surgical office is all connected: Plastic surgeon, breast surgeon and now my general surgeon all see patients in the same suite. The nurse told me to have my plastic surgeon take a look at it that afternoon.
In a nutshell: I ended up being sent down to radiology for an xray to make sure that I didn't have a pneumothorax (where the lung is partially compromised from the surgery site). They saw a very small one, sent me over to the ER across the street. I spent about an hour and a half in the ER as they checked me out, deciding that we were 36 hours past surgery so if my lung would have collapsed it would have done it already. After talk of having me spend the night in the hospital for observation, I was quite relieved when all were in agreement that I could go home and rest at home. Home we went after a long afternoon.
They cleaned up the incision site and here is the lovely bump that will adorn my chest for the next 6 months or so. (the white sterie strips will be removed in the next week). I am assured that over time, I will forget the port is under my skin and won't be able to feel it. I'm not there yet, but hopeful.
And here is a picture of what the port looks like under my skin. It has a long tube that was placed in one of my arteries. This allows the doctors to access my veins without having to go through my arm. All my chemo treatments will go through the port, as will any blood that needs to be drawn. It is basically my access point. Pretty amazing, huh?
We are off this morning to Seth's first football scrimmage. I am so glad to be home and able to go. I awoke this morning in a little less pain, for which I am thankful. This trial has been teaching me over and over that my feet need to be planted firmly in Jesus Christ and on His paths. Even when the path is difficult and doesn't make sense, I know that He has purpose for this path. So I stand, I see, I ask, I walk and I do find rest in Jesus Christ alone, moment by moment as I surrender this cancer and this journey to Him in my frailty, but in His strength.
"The Lord be magnified! But I am poor and needy; yet the LORD thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer, Do not delay, O my God." Psalm 40:17