When we first talked about doing a series on what the traditional church calendar identifies as Ordinary Time, I had no inkling of the longing that would accompany this season for me, of the way I would want to remove all the trappings of Advent before the twelfth day of Christmas (known as Epiphany and remembered by the church as the day the Magi visited the newborn Christ–see Matt. 2:1-11). I had planned to keep the Christmas tree up until January 6. My husband left November 19 to spend four months working far away in Kenya, not something we planned for or expected to mark the end of 2016. I thought extending Advent as long as possible, drawing out the celebration of special days, of preparation for the Savior of the world, would make the first months apart sweeter and more bearable.
Then, the week my husband left for a few final days of training prior to his departure for Kenya, I went to the doctor. I had some strange stomach pains. Anxiety, perhaps? Did I have an appetite, he asked? No, not really. He was worried about appendicitis. He ordered a CT scan.
A few days later, he called me. No appendicitis, but the radiologist had seen a growth in the lower lung–a nodule, less than three centimeters. Not anything that looked really concerning, but he wanted to be sure. He’d ordered a PET scan. A few days later, I lay back in a recliner in a darkened room in the outpatient wing of the hospital, covered with warm blankets as they injected me with the radioactive dye that would highlight anything unusual. “Don’t think about anything stressful,” the radiology tech said. “Just relax.”
A week later, another call from my doctor. He was referring me to a pulmonologist, he said. The appointment was already made.
The pulmonologist was kind. There were more nodules, he said. All over my lymph nodes, plus the one in the bottom of the lung. They could be nothing serious, but could be something. Five somethings, in fact. Three possible infections, two possible cancers. They had to be sure. I’d have a biopsy. Next week. “Don’t let this ruin your Christmas,” he said. His voice was kind, gentle.
I stumbled out to the car, stunned and breathless. It was December 19.
I won’t go into the ensuing battle betwixt fear and faith. There isn’t space here. Suffice it to say that by the time I walked through the hospital doors on December 29 for the biopsy, I felt like I’d been through a long, dark, airless tunnel. I felt like I’d been paralyzed. The war between dark and light is never easily fought.
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