The ultrasound tech was training another lady during my appointment so rather than chatting with me, I ended up eavesdropping on their conversation. Every word seemed to make my heart sink...even when they started whispering to each other I'd hear snippets like "I can't even find the edge of it." I knew neither of them was going to make a prognosis for me. I just had to pray and wait till I met with the doctor. The "it" turned out to be an ovarian tumor nearly six inches across. I was immediately referred to a gynecological oncologist.
Obviously the tumor had to come out, but I was very surprised to learn there was no way to determine if it was malignant or benign until it was removed. I went into surgery not knowing if they would only remove one ovary or do a complete hysterectomy. The tumor had to be extracted intact so that any possible cancer cells wouldn't have the opportunity to spread to other areas in my abdomen. That required a vertical incision from my navel down. In post-op recovery the doctor said my tumor actually fell into a borderline category so they ended up removing everything and we wouldn't know until my follow-up if I would need radiation or chemo. We were wrapping up our homeschool year (the roller coaster ride was the beginning of April, my hysterectomy was May 22nd), but we had a two months of uncertainty and then weeks of recovery.
We didn't stop school. Schnickelfritz needed the routine and normalcy and I needed something to keep my mind occupied so it didn't wander down that dark "what if" path. I was racing down the road to "what would I look like with no hair" and "would our son have to go to public school if I die?" In a way I was fortunate that my husband had already dealt with thyroid cancer as a teenager. He helped me focus on just the next step and when we reached it, we'd take the next one together.
After surgery I spent most of the day in bed so school was often just read-alouds and snuggling (as long as Schnickelfritz didn't jostle me). Two weeks later, when I had 77 staples removed, we got the good news. I would not need chemo or radiation. I still go to the doctor 4 times a year for blood work to make sure the cancer marker enzyme is still low, but we're approaching three years with no recurrence. So now that I'm on the other side of the mountain looking back, here's the advice I'd like to share.
Prepare as much as possible.
I realize that by its very nature a crisis is usually unexpected. Still you may have some warning. I had a month before my surgery could be scheduled so I used that time to prepare freezer meals and finish the schoolwork that would be harder for us to do from my bed. Our schoolroom is normally in the basement, but I made sure to move the books we'd still be using up to the same level as the bedroom. Years ago when I was pregnant I was diagnosed with Placenta Previa and knew I might be on bedrest for the last trimester. Again, I used the time I had beforehand to fill the freezer, decorate the nursery, and lay in baby supplies that I wouldn't be able to shop for at the last minute.
Let's face it. We all know a crisis will arise at some point. Have you followed Dave Ramsey's advice and built up your $1000 emergency fund? If your children are old enough have you taught them the skills they need to run the house if you're laid up in bed?
Share your needs
How many times have you lied to your friends? Let me rephrase that...how many times when you run into a friend and they ask "How are you doing?" do you respond with "Fine!" even when you're not? We tend to hide our frailty and failings from others. I had plans and backup plans for help during my recovery. My mother was going to come from Indiana and stay with us but her own health issues prevented it. My step-mother was going to commute several days but she caught a terrible cold and didn't want me to start coughing or sneezing in my condition (coughing REALLY hurt). Even my aunt, the closest of all, was too busy taking care of my grandmother who had broken her hip the week before. I had no choice but to turn to my local homeschool co-op and let them know my needs. They were such a blessing. Some brought meals. Others took my son for the day so I could rest. One family let him swim in their pool, another family let him join their birthday party at the St. Louis Zoo. They even went the extra mile to pick him up and bring him home because I wasn't cleared to drive.
Last fall our pastor led a series based on The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. The point of the series is that we need to come before God with bold prayers and claim his promises. Not that God has become a catalog service where we place our orders and wait for them to be delivered, but that we need to stop asking wimpy, nonspecific prayers. Just after my appointment with the oncologist I ran across this passage while looking up verses for Royal Rangers in the Message translation of the Bible.
8 Don't, enemy, crow over me. I'm down, but I'm not out. I'm sitting in the dark right now, but God is my light. 9 I can take God's punishing rage. I deserve it - I sinned. But it's not forever. He's on my side and is going to get me out of this. He'll turn on the lights and show me his ways. I'll see the whole picture and how right he is. 10 And my enemy will see it, too, and be discredited - yes, disgraced! This enemy who kept taunting, "So where is this God of yours?" I'm going to see it with these, my own eyes - my enemy disgraced, trash in the gutter. 11 Oh, that will be a day! A day for rebuilding your city, a day for stretching your arms, spreading your wings!
I heard a voice in my head saying “Your enemy has a name—it’s cancer.” I was sitting in the dark, waiting for a tumor that may be malignant to be removed. I could see how some would ask “where is God” or “why did God let this happen to you?” But when I read God is my light and someday that enemy would be trash in the gutter I took it as God’s promise that I would make it through. After that, anytime I felt myself feeling afraid I would read and reread that passage and pray.
My crisis was a medical one. Please visit some of these Crewmember's blogs to see how they handled Homeschooling in a Crisis. And don't forget to check out the 5 Days of Teaching Creatively Giveaway.