Way back when kids actually went to school, I won the award for perfect attendance for not missing any school days in a year. My mom always told me I was her healthiest kid. I think she appreciated that I didn’t get sick on road trips or require multiple trips to the ER to be sewn back together from running into walls. Discounting late-night runs to the border for Taco Bell’s Nacho Bell Grande and a fog of other questionable college choices, I have mostly lived a healthy lifestyle.
So after going through two ultrasounds, an MRI, a cat scan with angiogram, a needle biopsy in my neck, countless blood tests, visits with an internist, endocrinologist, neurosurgeon, vascular surgeon, rheumatologist, and a neurologist – all in the span of three weeks, I considered buying myself a pack of Marlboro Reds to puff on as I rode off into the sunset on a horse that would likely buck, leaving me concussed in some cornfield wondering what became of that little girl’s certificate of good health. (Yes, that’s a long sentence but it’s been a long few weeks friends.)
Still, I can’t help but feel immense gratitude. If I hadn’t noticed a lump in my neck that led to the thyroid biopsy and a diagnosis of a multinodular goiter then I wouldn’t have seen my doctor. I wouldn’t have told her about the chronic headaches and cluster of bizarre symptoms that prompted the MRI. She was as surprised as I was when the results showed severe stenosis in the carotid artery. And on the day that I received the official diagnosis from the cat scan of a dissected carotid artery with greater than 70 percent blockage, I was terrified. I called a nurse practitioner friend to ask for her opinion. She just happened to live across the street from a brilliant and compassionate neurosurgeon who agreed to see me that day to explain the diagnosis and treatment. At the time, none of it felt like a miracle. It was hectic, confusing, sordid, and surreal that this 3-inch space on the right side of my neck had not one but two separate and unrelated diagnoses. Each made more complicated by their proximity to each other.
Yet, now I see the miracle of it – the way it all tied together to keep me here. Most of all, I see the miracle of my life – the one that many days I took for granted. The life I sometimes felt indifferent about. The life that I sometimes lazed away. The life that I was so often impatient with for not being better, or more, or whatever other deficiency I sometimes assigned to it because it didn’t look the way I thought it should look. There were many days that I felt anxious about my situation. I felt like a ticking time bomb that could go at any time – ignoring that this is inherently the nature of life for all of us.
Every time I passed a mirror, I checked my face for signs of a stroke. I would wake up in the night and think, wow, I’m alive. I would speak kinder to others and wonder if they could possibly know how much they mean to me. I would repeat “Jesus I trust in you,” during the scans, before my appointments, and when the fear became suffocating. And with Jesus – because of him, I manage to breathe.
I still have a way to go with these issues. I still have moments of fear. Yet more and more, I realize I can’t waste my life being afraid. I have been given a tremendous gift. Maybe I didn’t always realize it or appreciate it like I should have. Maybe there aren’t any awards or certificates for realizing this now. I’m alive and that’s perfect in itself. More than ever, I don’t want to miss a single day.
I wanted to share these experiences with you because I write about my spirituality. While my health issues have affected me in many ways, more than anything it has given me pause to think about my relationship with God and the meaning and purpose of my life. I could be private about all of it and that would be okay. Yet by sharing this journey with you, maybe we can all grow in our faith together. Please pray for my healing. I have such hope. Jesus, I trust in you. ~ Lara
Read last week’s post