Tuesday, January 17, 2012

the last thing i expected

"we'll call you with the results," jennifer said, picking up her clipboard and opening the door. she waited patiently for me to grab my bag and coat from the chair.  and then she was gone and i was left standing in the wake of her words. "we'll call you with the results."  that wasn't the phrase i had expected to hear last thursday.  not at all.  i walked out of dr. barber's office kind of shaking as those six words continued to rattle around within me.  caught in the busy elevator, i watched two women laughing together and found myself completely irritated.  how could they be laughing? couldn't they see i was standing there barely breathing?  by the time i moved from crowded elevator to quiet car i was officially a woman all worked up.  and as i sat in the parking garage, i clutched my steering wheel and wanted to scream, "are you kidding me?"  there was a nice little old couple getting out of their car right next to mine and so my sense of decorum, thankfully, kicked in and i refrained from making a scene.  but i have to tell you, i sat there an awful long time before starting my car and heading home.
last thursday was my 6 month checkup with my breast surgeon, dr. barber.  i had completely forgotten about the appointment until i got a reminder phone call earlier in the week.  clearly i had kind of put my cancer up on a shelf.  one of those shelves way up high.  i even wondered to myself, "why in the world am i even going to this appointment? i'm doing so well.  what’s the point?” i certainly had other things to be doing on a thursday morning.  traffic was bad.  i was late.  late enough that while sitting in the midst of the downtown morning mess, i considered calling, canceling and instead doing some shopping in the city.  ha! you must think, now here's a woman who takes her cancer seriously. but really, this was just my breast surgeon.  his work was done.  for obvious reasons i still need to be seeing my oncologist and plastic surgeon.  but this guy, dr. barber, well, he removed what needed to be removed and (at least in my mind) we were all set. somehow, in my muddled way, i was thinking this man's work is done here.  but not so fast jody...
so in came dr. barber, and i could tell he was on the same wave length as me:  let's get in and out of here.  he had been out of town last week and his waiting room was full of patients.  i was supposed to be the easy one of the morning.  quick hello, quick check and back out the door i would go.  except that's not what happened.  while examining me dr. barber found a hard mass again in my left breast.  i could tell he was a little thrown off.  in came the assistant and out came the ultrasound machine and up went my blood pressure.  we would need to look closer and my heart began to beat faster.  what in the world? hello, God, are you there? what the heck is going on here? dr. barber kept assuring me, "i'm sure this is just scar tissue jody," and he'd pat my arm in hopes of a little comfort.  except when you are at this stage in the game, that pat on the arm isn't all that comforting. unfortunately, the ultrasound could show nothing conclusively and so we were on to the next step. all of a sudden there was nothing quick and easy about this appointment, instead we were flying downhill fast and the brakes weren’t working.  dr. barber explained he'd have to do a needle biopsy. and we were going to do it right here and right now.  he could see the mass and it was right up on the implant (um, yeah...just a little worrisome -- needle and implant -- not exactly an ideal combination!)  he kept apologizing as if this was his fault.  i think he was just as thrown off as i was.  well sort of.  this man, this renowned surgeon, well, he sees everything...he sees it all in his office.  but i never saw this coming.  that was the hardest part of the morning -- i just wasn't in any way prepared for this turn of events.  i am not sure i even thought it possible. 
i had to wait for a good 30 minutes in that examining room for his schedule to clear enough for my little procedure.  that was just enough time to get really nervous.  really upset.  really worried. by the time dr. barber and jennifer came back into the room i was a wreck.  and remember, that needle and implant issue? i would have to be very still.  i can tell you friends, it wasn't all that great a day.  somehow finding out that i had to go through another biopsy after having a double mastectomy just didn't compute.  i wanted to explain to someone...anyone...this just wasn't fair.  at least, it didn't make sense.  i had gone to this appointment alone.  rick was in big meetings and my loyal friend (and medical assistant), meritt, was in china.  (she's adopting two little girls at the moment - good excuse.)  i could have asked another friend to go with me, but in my mind i was going to breeze in and breeze out.  i had no plans for anything more.  certainly no plans for an out of the blue biopsy.  but that's what i was handed.  fair or not.  logical or not.  like it or not, it was time to lay back on the table and be still.
be still.  oh that phrase. that phrase. that phrase.  it absolutely haunts me at times.  i can't ever seem to escape it and i know this is because i am so very bad at being still.   there are a few messages i get from God consistently, but "be still" would be at the very top of that list.  "be still and know that i am God." (psalm 46:10).  He has told me.  He tells me.  He seems to always be telling me.  and here i was on a breezy, busy thursday morning, and my doctor was leaning over me and whispering these very same words God is always wanting me to hear, “be still jody.  it’s important for you to be still.” i looked at his needle (for just a very quick second, mind you) and i thought of the implant and i have to tell you i was quite the obedient patient.
after my little meltdown moment in the car though, i thought about what dr. barber had said about being still.  because all i really wanted to do at that point was go and be busy.  do something.  anything.  find some activity to get my mind off of that biopsy.  i had a whole weekend ahead of me full with waiting.  but as i began to calm, the rest of the verse came to me.  it isn’t just be still.  it is “be still and KNOW that I am God.”  and that second part was what i clung to this past weekend.  knowing God is God. regardless of results.  and even though i did a horrible job of being still over the weekend, (i seriously holed up in our storage room for 8 hours on monday and organized every bit of our seasonal/hand-me-down/random clothing - stress does have it’s organizational perks!) i did keep reminding myself of that entire verse,  "and know that I am God."  and that's what i held to tightly.   knowing God is God.  case closed.  He is in control.  end of story. there is nothing which will come at me which He hasn't first held in His own hands.  He is not God on occasion.  He is not God when He feels like it.  He is not God when i want Him to be.  He is not God only in the good stuff.  He is God all the time.  always and forever.  nothing changes that.  not good results and not bad results.
the doctor was right.  the results came back earlier today (tuesday morning) and the biopsy showed the mass to be only scar tissue.  i've never been so thankful to hear about scarring. my friend, karen, just wrote me and said, “who would ever have thought scar tissue could be so beautiful?”  and she’s right.  that is exactly how i feel tonight. i’m just so thankful for my beautiful-ugly scar tissue.  and all day long i have kept coming back to that be still and know verse.  i keep asking myself, but would i still want to be reminded that God is God even if the results were bad. if the test had come back malignant would God still be God? even harder to ask, would He still be good?  i have to tell you, my answer is yes.  yes, because that is the only thing about all of this which gives me hope.   He knows.  as another friend wrote to me tonight on facebook, “i will not live one day less or one day longer than what God has already ordained.”  somehow i feel like God wants me “to be still and know”  so that i can know he will still be God.  no matter what.
a couple of years ago, right before we were given the file on bella in fact, we went away to a neat place called serenbe.  it is a little retreat here in georgia and the kids and i surprised rick with a father’s day weekend away.  while walking in the woods, i came across a bench and in front of the bench was a  plaque which read:
be still and know that I am God.   
be still and know that I am.
be still and know.
be still. 
see, i told you, God is really working on me with this message.  finding these words in the middle of a walk in the woods....well, that was just too uncanny!  i sat down on the bench and was like, “okay God, i hear you. i hear you.  i hear you.”  but i had no idea how much i would still need to be listening.  and sitting on that bench i couldn’t have possibly dreamt up what He would give me to teach me. i had no idea that within just a few weeks we'd be pursuing a little girl on the other side of the ocean and within just a couple of years i'd be diagnosed with cancer.  of course i photographed the bench and those words in dirt.  and i have thought of them often. i've also thought about the way God delivers His messages.  sometimes we get them on lovely walks in the evening woods with our family and sometimes we get them on harsh examining tables in a doctor's office all alone.  i’m pretty sure i still don’t completely get it.  but i am listening.  a little closer.  a little better.  leaning in a little harder.  and these past few worrisome days --- they are probably also a part of my listening and my learning.  part of my lesson on being still and knowing Him. 
maybe you are like me.  maybe, you too, have to sometimes be forced to lay back on a table with a needle close by before you can truly hear the words “be still.”  i’d really like to think i’m improving in my listening skills -- that i can get God’s message without all this mess...but it doesn’t change anything does it?  God is God. i knew that 8 months ago when i received bad news and i know it again tonight with some good news.  but good or bad, what really counts and what really matters is that He knows.  


Simply LKJ said...

Jody, So thankful the results came back as they did. Praise God! We miss seeing you all. What a beautiful post, and a great reminder!

Aus said...

Oh Jody - how do you keep this stuff to yourself? I'll join you in thanking the Father for a Blessing! So sorry for the fear.... And thank you for understanding that verse - I've always been of the opinion that the motivating think there is the "Be" - Because I am - I know God - and I can be still - or active - or just 'know' - Be... And remember that a burden carried by two is only have a burden each (Those Irish were clever folk!!)

hugs - happy for you guys - and now I understand why you mentioned that Merritt had a good excuse for 'this one'!! ;) (yeah - we can smile and laugh now!!)

aus and co.

Anonymous said...


Again, your story is full of so many blessed comments. Elaine Fricke