The past 13 days have been been some of the heaviest I’ve carried.
Six weeks ago I started having ear pain. Long story short my primary care was concerned enough she wanted to refer me to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Two weeks ago Wednesday I was gently cleaning my ear and found blood. I immediately called the doctor and they asked me to come in that day.
When my doctor was conducting his exam he found a lump in my lymph node. There’s a fairly extensive history of lymphoma in my family so there was quite a bit concern. He ordered a CT as soon as I could get in. I walked out of his office and started weeping. This new life, my new adventures, my hope of a fresh start felt stolen. It took about 10 days for the CT to get scheduled. And every day I carried the weight of the what if’s.
Last Friday I went to the imaging center. I have terrible veins so the thought of getting an IV was already causing me anxiety. After the third attempt at an IV I really started to panic. On the 5th? attempt they hit a ligament and I cried out in pain. Once the tears started I couldn’t stop them.
It took three hours and literally 10 attempts but the nurse finally found a vein that would hold. At one point she told me she may have to send me out to the hospital to have them find the IV. The thought of not having the test done that day and having to wait even longer was excruciating. By this point I was resolved to the fact that I probably had lymphoma. I processed through what it would look like to support myself through it. If I’d be able to keep up with school work. What it would be like to lose my hair. I truly had prepared myself for the worst.
I vacillated all weekend between peace and despair. Knowing at some point in the next week I would probably have a conversation that could change the entire course of my life. The tech told me I’d probably have some sort of answer early this week. All day I anxiously awaited a phone call. Knots in my stomach. Remembering that I would be okay regardless.
I finally caved and called the doctor’s office. The receptionist told me she was unable to give me any information and I’d need the doctor to call me back. My heart sank. Usually a conversation with the doctor is not good. I sat on pins and needles for an hour and a half before I saw my phone light up.
I answered breathless with sweaty palms.
“Hi Rachel. I heard you were wanting to the know the results of your CT. It looks like everything is normal. It’s great news. The doctor looked at everything and it is normal, normal, normal.” I nearly wept with relief. There was no infection in my blood but even better there was NO CANCER.
I hung up the phone and released the breath I had been holding for 12 days.
I don’t think we feel the weight of the things we carry until we set them down.
I knew I was hanging together by a thread and a prayer. I was unsettled and on edge. I walked on eggshells in my own life, waiting on this news before I let myself hope or dream. I just needed to know this outcome before I could process anything else.
I took a deep deep breath and let my shoulders relax. I called my family, I texted those closest to me, I hugged my co-workers who have been in the moment by moment trenches with me. I rejoiced at the goodness of the Lord through His mercy of being cancer-free. All the while knowing His goodness would not have been any less good if there had been a different outcome. And I truly had become settled in that.
So what is going on? It’s still the million dollar question. I’ve still got swelling in my lymph node and pain. But I see the doctor in a week and we’ll talk through more ideas. But for now I know there is nothing concerning looming.
I’ve had alot of time to process and reflect the past 12 days. I’ve thought about who I am and what I bring to this world. I’ve thought about the people in my life, both good and bad. I’ve thought about my hesitancy to try things or my insecurities at being seen. I’ve thought about it all. And I’ve truly realized how our lives can change in an instant. One moment we think we have an ear infection and the next we’re waiting to find out if we have cancer.
So life is precious. And fleeting. And wonderful. And messy. And it isn’t worth holding the heavy things that don’t need to be held. Because there will be enough heavy things we carry for ourselves and each other. If you see me around and I’ve dyed my hair or gotten a tattoo, it’s only because we’ve got one shot to do all the things and love all the people.
Hug your people tight today, dear ones. Make that phone call, send that text, write that email. All we’ve got is today. And it’s time to start living fearless and without regrets.