No. 4

If you’ve ever seen The Shining, you’ll have no problem imagining the scene in my head right now. If you haven’t, you might recognize it all the same:

Jack Torrance, ax in hand, laughing and hacking at a bathroom door as his wife screams on the other side. Then his crazy eyes glinting through the  new face-sized hole as he sings, “Heeere’s Johnny!”

For whatever reason, I feel like my endometriosis is much like Jack Torrace. Maybe it’s the crazy eyes or maybe it’s because he’s bent on chopping things up.

Anyway, my endometriosis is back (I think) and I’m one sleep away from my fourth surgery in less than two years. This time we’re removing my right ovary. But I’ll get to that in a second.

Round four has been a special one. And I don’t say that sarcastically, I really mean it has been special. Between my last surgery and this next one, God has been doing serious work, sifting through and weeding out some pretty big fears of mine and teeing up some incredible things.

I first noticed something was wrong about 4 weeks out from my last surgery. When you deal with chronic pain, I think it becomes easy to differentiate between different kinds of pain and where they come from and what to do if something can be done. But often that means sitting in the pain for a while, analyzing and eliminating possibilities before taking action.

For me, that process takes about three months. But I hate sitting still (I’m working on it) so at that four week point when I started feeling endo pain again separate from surgery pain, I prayed that God would intervene.

Prayer # 1: “Alright, Jesus. If this is happening again, please let it hit me fast. And let it be terrible.”

There are few things more stressful to me than trying to decide whether or not to see the doctor. I never cry wolf and I’ve never been wrong about this disease when it comes around. But the reality is endometriosis can’t always be seen on an ultrasound and the worst feeling in the world is hearing “you look healthy” when you’re doubled over in pain. You start to think you’re crazy.

So I prayed when the time came, that I would be able to go into that exam room without a trace of doubt.

In only 3 weeks, my pain doubled. The stabbing pain inside my right hip bone came in waves on a daily basis. I started going to bed in pain and waking up in pain. I started losing sleep. It was looking like it used to and it was escalating fast.

When I started needing Norco again, I called my doctor.

Prayer #1 – check.

One week later, my mom and I were on our way to my exam. As we coasted down the 84 towards Los Gatos, she asked me what I would do if they didn’t find anything. My response was a simple, “That would really suck,” and I closed my eyes and leaned my head back against the seat. My mom told me I should prepare for that possibility–for a few more months of pain and a few more “things to try” before we resorted to surgery again.

I had been praying from the moment I got my appointment that this wouldn’t be the case. I hate the waiting game.

On top of that, I had a gut feeling my right ovary needed to go. It had almost died on me a couple of times now and I was pretty convinced it was trying to jump ship. And I have to be honest with you, I was feeling really ready for this to be done. Endometriosis is a bully and chronic pain is exhausting. I felt it was time to push back and this was a good way to do it. So I prayed out loud on the freeway.

Prayer #2: “Jesus, please let my doctor see what I feel. And let it be enough for him to suggest taking it out.

*                                              *                                              *

After my ultrasound and exam, we met my doctor in a small room down the hall. He sat down in a chair across from me and scratched at his head.

“Well,” he began, “that ovary is screaming for trouble.”

(Fun fact: I have always prayed for doctors with a sense of humor. Jesus delivered.)

Dr. Cook went on to explain his findings. In just shy of three months my ovary had grown to 4 times its normal size, sprouted two cysts, and wrapped itself in scar tissue. He told me I had two options: (1) try birth control to see if it might reverse some of the new developments or (2) a more aggressive approach–remove the ovary.

I tried to read him. I wanted to know what he thought was best. No luck. So I told him I didn’t see any reason to keep my ovary–that I wanted to take whatever route would give me the best chance at stopping the pain. He said me he supported me and that, if he were being honest, he thought this was the way to go.

“Any other route is sort of prolonging the inevitable,” he concluded, “it’s a sick ovary.”

We all sort of gave a nod and sat quiet for a second. I could tell my mom was hurting for me. She hated that it had come to this. But I was doused in a flood of relief. I’m not crazy. And I have a chance. 

Dr. Cook stood up and extended his hand and smiled, “Well, third time’s a charm.”

Prayer #2 – check.

I couldn’t stop saying “Thank You, Jesus,” after Dr. Cook left the room. A massive weight had been lifted and I had been validated. I knew the future held another grasp at relief and that chance couldn’t arrive sooner. Like I said, the pain would go to bed with me and wake up with me. It threw a wrench in my ability to concentrate at work. It exhausted me. So prompted the next prayer.

Prayer #3: “Here we go, Jesus. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Please Jesus, let them get me in and get this out soon.”

The fastest I have ever gotten into surgery was about three and a half weeks. My specialist comes well-recommended and is consequently busy. And a lot goes in to these things anyway–pre-ops and paper work and the whole nine yards. It takes time.

A woman named Margaret stepped into the room after a few minutes had passed. She carried a clipboard and stared through her glasses at what I assumed was a calendar, flipping back and forth between the months at her fingers.

“What’s your timing look like?” she glanced up at me, pausing between page flips.

“As soon as possible would be great.”

“How about one week from today?”

Prayer #3 – check.

*                                              *                                              *

I left the doctor’s office that day on cloud nine. Yes, this being my fourth surgery in less than two years is no party. Yes, the reality is this disease has officially wiped out one of my ovaries. Yes, that makes the stakes a little higher now. Yes, all of my vacation hours are about to be spent hobbling around my house, clutching my stomach and trying not to laugh or sneeze. Yes, this has been a really tough journey.

But God.

God has shown up more radically and obviously though this disease than I could have ever hoped for. Round 4 and He is still at work. I mean, look! Look how He so specifically answered those prayers. (And I haven’t even gotten into the crazy parts of this story yet.) This Love is real and all-encompassing. It stretches into eternity and reaches down into the smallest details. And I’m sitting here chalk-full of this punk disease and completely in awe.

He has never once been content to leave me alone and He won’t let me forget it.

“You have been my constant helper;
    therefore, I sing for joy under the protection of Your wings.
My soul clings to You;
    Your right hand reaches down and holds me up.” (Ps. 63:7-8)

 

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