A few weeks ago, I found myself in my family doctor’s office, tears streaming uncontrollably down my cheeks, passing it off as trying to deal with the pain from my sore throat. Both the doctor and I knew that was a lie but he went along with it, nodding kindly with a compassionate half-smile. His sense of urgency at my physical state triggered something in me that I didn’t even know was there.
The similarities were too much. It was mid- October and it was rainy. I was going to the doctor expecting some antibiotics and an annoying wait at the pharmacy to follow, only for it to be implied that it was something more. Something more. He suggested I see my ENT immediately and even called and scheduled the appointment for me so that they would see me as soon as I got there. “I don’t see anything abnormal in your throat. With your level of pain in your neck and transplant site, I think you need a CAT scan.”
Mid-October. Rainy day. Thinking I’m going on for an inconsequential “tis-the-season” type of illness. Furrowed brows. Concerned whispers. An ENT visit. And now recommending a CAT scan.
“I can’t rule out some type of malignancy, given your history.”
There is was. The thing that broke the seal. That made the dam burst. That made for an awkward rest of the appointment, to be honest.
The tears began to flow immediately, rushing down my cheeks and soaking my sweatshirt. They wouldn’t stop.
Kim. Pull yourself together! Seriously, how many times have family doctors said something just like this to you and it’s been nothing! Why are you crying?! Get a grip! This poor guy is seriously worried about your mental state right now…
The doctor looked uncomfortable and like he felt really bad. Like he had just accidentally ran over my dog or something.
“I’m fine, it’s just a lot of pain.” He nods and smiles. It’s not a complete lie, but we both know what started the crap-show he was witnessing now.
A kind nurse comes in and offers me the whole box of tissues and pats me on the back. He walks out into the hallway with her and I hear them whispering. I hear him on the phone in the hallway.
“Yes…Yes…History of stage 4 melanoma. Yup, that’s her.”
Yup, that’s her.
The tears flow without breaks to the point that they are no longer individual drops but instead a steady stream.
He pops his head in, “can you head over now?” I tell him I can. He pauses and quietly asks, as though he’s embarrassed for me, “are you ok to drive?”
Yes, it was that bad.
I assure him I am and again remind him it’s just the physical pain and that I’ll be fine.
I got in my car and began sobbing. To the point of dry-heaving and physically shaking. Kim, what is WRONG with you?? This is literally the thousandth time this has happened to you. Get a grip!!
But it was all too much. The similarities between this appointment and the one that set everything in motion 6 years prior was just. too. much. 6 years after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, here I was again.
Mid-October, just after Brit’s birthday. Rainy. Going in expecting antibiotics and a wait at the pharmacy in my near future only be met with legitimate concern. An ENT appointment. A CAT scan.
The doctor’s sense of urgency triggered something in me that I didn’t even know was there.
And it hit me like a ton of bricks.
It was pure, unadulterated fear seeping from my body, causing me to shake and dry-heave. It was as if he had ripped off a bandaid and I was expecting to see an all-but-healed scar but instead I was pulled under by the rush that came from underneath. But this was coming from within.
I drove home and laid in a ball on my kitchen floor and sobbed. Full-on ugly cry. As I wept, I began to rebuke myself.
You never even did this the first time you were diagnosed! And this guy didn’t even diagnose you with anything! What are you afraid of??
It was then that I realized just how far I had let myself slip into a safe and comfortable faith. Into a faith that means well, does good, is sincere in all forms, but had grown complacent somehow. I was doing the right things and avoiding the wrong things but without realizing it, my faith had become so small.
People see me as having a strong faith. And I do, don’t get me wrong. There was never a point where I turned from God, not at all. But I think I had hidden behind the image that everyone has of the Kim who had cancer. Brave. Strong. Fearless.
As I lay on my kitchen floor, I cried out to God in a way that I hadn’t in a long time. I felt small and weak. Helpless and not just fearful, but truly overflowing with fear. I felt God speak into my spirit “But what are you afraid of?”
In that moment, I felt a sense of calm. There’s no other way to describe it besides God had heard my cry and like a parent rushing to a hurting child, picked me up and held me. The mess I was. Small and full of fear. Fear of facing it all over again. Fear at what my family would have to endure yet again because of me. Fear of no longer identifying with that confident fighter that I once must have been.
But He was there. Just like He had always been. He had never left.
My tears turned to those of gratitude and repentance. God, I’m so sorry! Forgive me for my small faith! Place in me, once again, a faith that is fearless! I don’t know how I still had tears to cry and they didn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.
But I felt amazing. Any believer knows the bitterness of the brokenness but how the tears that come afterwards can be so very sweet. I felt renewed, like a burden had lifted and a fog had cleared.
And I felt ready to face the ENT. A visit there, a CAT scan, a whole mess of antibiotics and steroids showed it was just some “tis the season” type of illness.
And better yet, the next week my PET scan and brain MRI came back clear once again.
So why do I share this? Well, for a few reasons actually. I never intended, through sharing my journey, to ever come across like I was handling things perfectly. With any diagnosis comes a lot of complex emotions and that’s ok. I don’t want anyone to think of me as like a gold-standard for how to deal, because, well, did you just read the above account? Yeah….
I’m just sharing this in the hopes that maybe it can encourage someone who is feeling that paralyzing fear. I never told anyone but my husband because I was so ashamed, but God is bigger than my shame and for sure bigger than our fears. I realized I could stand in church and sing “no guilt in life or fear in death” and maybe not mean it in that moment. I’ve been spending my nights when all is calm and quiet in the Psalms and it’s been so refreshing for my soul.
“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ Your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought me joy.” -Psalm 94:18-19
I hope you all are well and if you made it this far, you truly deserve a medal! In all seriousness, I know many of you have been along on this ride with us for these past 6 years and we are so grateful for your prayers, encouragement, and support.