Hills, Valleys and Cliffs
God is the God of both the hills and the valleys of life. Sometimes, the descent from a hill to a valley looks more like a cliff than a gentle slope. Last Friday was our cliff. Coming off the high of our wonderful news a few days before, Friday started like Friday’s would normally start. My sister was in town and Rachel and her spent the day together. By 6 pm, Rachel started having pain on the left side of her abdomen. She hadn’t slept much the night before so she decided to lay down. Three hours later the pain had radiated from the left side across her entire abdomen and was getting worse and we headed into the ER. By the time we got there, the pain had increased to a 9 on the pain scale (we’ve gotten pretty good at measuring pain on “the” scale). It was a busy night in the ER and took an hour before we got a room and another hour before a nurse was available to see us.
I can’t tell you how many times we said “Stage IV colon cancer, yeah, I know, crazy. Yeah, she ran five miles the day before. Anyways, chemo ended two weeks ago, just got the all clear scan…thanks!…yeah it’s great…so…what is happening?!” The fear at the time was that her colon may have perforated or scar tissue from her surgery may have fused the wall of the intestinal wall together. Thankfully, both those were ruled out by the end of our trip. Two CT scans, blood work, three doses of opiates, a liter of fluid, and eight hours later we were sent home with no answers. No ideas and no indication of what brought on this episode. Another lesson in patience as we try to learn how to navigate the physical consequences of the past five months for Rachel.
Our visit to the ER did allow me to run into the first nurse that helped us five months ago in another lifetime before cancer was a part of our household vocabulary. He recognized me and recalled the “27 year old with a large bowel obstruction”. He said the only reason he remembered us so well was because of how gracious and kind Rachel was despite the pain she was in (that was a proud husband moment). We remember him because he was the one who recognized something was not right and advocated for us with the doctor to do more diagnostics than just send us home as “constipated” like we had gotten the night before. We were so thankful for his help, Rachel wrote a letter to the hospital to commend him before we had even been discharged after surgery. It was a surreal experience to update him on where life had come since then. The recovery, diagnosis, chemo, and recent scan results. We’ve been through so much since then, we feel…aged.
For now, we prepare for six more weeks of chemo and enjoy this time we have for Rachel to recover her strength and enjoy the holidays. We might be a little head-shy and twitchy, but all in all we still feel blessed. Oddly enough, we’re getting used to the unknown…having our plans thrown out the window and never really knowing what’s next. Friday’s could be playing Mexican train with friends or a quick trip to the Emergency Room, who knows! We’ve always enjoyed spontaneity but never quite thought it would look like this.
What we do know is that what felt like a cliff in the moment now seems more like a pot hole. We might be a little worse for wear but we’re moving forward in the grace of our good Lord and the prayers of our tribe.