It was October 7. A text came through early in the morning from a dear friend that read: “One year ago today. I have it in my prayer journal – you told me, thyroid cancer.”
A whole year. I’m glad I didn’t miss it because I love remembering days on the calendar. Like the birthdays of my childhood friends. The due dates and actual birth dates of my babies. The day when my now husband asked me to be his then girlfriend. You get the picture.
I feel like even the hard dates hold significance in the story of my life, and I like taking a minute to remember them too. I mentioned that morning to my family that maybe we should do something fun to celebrate – to counteract the heaviness of the day last year with some good old fashioned levity this year.
Sometimes though, you have to leave space for a few interrupting storylines, like my phone ringing soon after that text. It was the urgent eye care center, and they wanted to see me that afternoon. What’s the deal with October 7 and phone calls you might ask? I literally don’t know.
Let’s back up for a second though.
A few weeks ago I took my boys to the eye doctor, two at a time, two days apart, two eyeballs each. If you behaved, you got to pick a snack from the grocery store on the walk home. On the first visit we came home with a whole pumpkin cake that did not disappoint.
On October 6 I went in for my turn, a few months before I was even meant to.
Filling out the forms at all of these places is different now. I check off the cancer box which adds a tiny bit of drama when first meeting any and all health professionals. And as the eye doctor quickly scanned my filled out forms he said in one of those reflective voices, “My mom had thyroid cancer years back too… probably when she was around 40.”
Well, that sounded familiar. Also, in case you were wondering how the Holy Spirit leads and guides us to moments and people and places… this. This is how.
That little checked off box led to more conversation, how his mom is doing now, how his entire family is, how dumb cancer is, but also how this earthly decay and struggle won’t follow us into heaven.
Somehow along this last year’s journey I’ve gotten into the habit of talking to people like they believe in Jesus too, even if they don’t, yet.
I feel like it should be mentioned that I’m usually pretty steady about this whole journey, but earlier that morning I’d had a brief doubt filled health complex that my oldest son kindly talked me through. He sounded just like his father. Wise, practical, encouraging. Just what I needed at that moment. In my defense we were in the midst of waiting on ‘the recent ultrasound of my neck report,’ so I blame my ‘tenser than usual demeanor’ on that. But… I’ve also learned this year that God’s grace consistently seems to grow louder at exactly the times when I feel weaker. It’s like it walks along beside me counteracting doubt and fear. Like my son speaking truth to me when I’d misplaced it for a moment. Or, like finding an understanding soul in the eye doctor’s office.
An understanding soul who suddenly said, with an obnoxiously bright light shining in my eyeball, “I think your retina is torn, you need to see the specialist… like, tomorrow.” Tomorrow? The last time I was told to see a specialist, I definitely didn’t get in to see him within 24 hours. Wow. (But, here’s a fun fact, torn retinas can lead to detached retinas, which can lead to permanent vision loss which is kind of an emergency in the eye world, which I think is great.)
So now that you’re caught up, we’re back to the afternoon of October 7. Obviously this wasn’t the rewrite of the day I was expecting, but it did have some mysterious charm to it. It did involve a 3 hour date with my very best friend in a waiting room without our kids for the first time ever, because they’re old enough to stay at home now. Goodness. I never would have imagined that a few years back when we were surrounded by diapers and sippy cups.
It turned out I had 2 tears in my retina that they cauterized in a secretive room with a laser, within a matter of minutes. Next week I’ll find out if it worked.
We’ve been reading Little House on the Prairie while we eat lunch most days. Classic homeschoolers, right? In an early chapter the mom gets a huge log (think, log cabin construction sized) dropped on her ankle while she’s trying to help build the house in between cooking lunch, dinner, and taking care of the baby. Obviously. FYI, she doesn’t hop in the wagon and travel to the nearest town to get an x-ray (which is 2 days away) because they weren’t invented YET. What a difference 150 years makes. I’d be so embarrassed to ever tell her over a cup of tea about the speedy futuristic lasering of my eye.
I’ll tell you though, because like me, you’re probably used to the wonders of modern medicine too. It was just such a blessing that I happened to book that first appointment, that I could then get into an emergency eye care center so quickly, and that it all happened before I had even a single symptom. And I was thrilled to come home to my children with really crazy large dilated pupils two days in a row. A fun side effect of the whole experience which freaks kids out just the right amount.
A few days later I was back to looking at books, screens, and bright lights again. What a miracle. I think it’s fair to say that I rewrote the day. This year I was given a super quick medical experience, to hold up next to the one from last year.
I texted my parents an update:
Here’s a good one for you…
October 7 last year I got, ‘You have cancer.’
October 7 this year I got, ‘You have a torn retina.’
October 7 next year: ‘Hawaii. No drama?’
That would be fun.
But, Hawaii or not, October 7 will continue to remind me that God always has perfect timing, even if it sometimes feels accidental or different from what I would choose. And His hand is ALWAYS on my life, no matter what the appointment, phone call, or events of the day may hold.
To top it all off, that ultrasound report I was waiting for did come in. It’s always nice to get some evidence of what’s going on inside. All of my thyroid seems to be gone (that means the radioactive iodine did its work, which is GREAT because leftover thyroid is like an invitation for cancer regrowth.) But just to keep me on my toes, there is a little marble sized mystery mass on the right side of my neck that we’re going to check on again in December.
Maybe it’s something.
Maybe it’s nothing.
Those are always the two options. I’m obviously hoping and praying for the second one.
So yes, it’s been a year.
It’s had some dramatic storylines for sure, but plenty of grace filled good storylines too. And it’s certainly been a year where we learned to go to the appointments, but then to LIVE the life in between them, with joy, peace, and settled souls.