hospital hibernation.

A couple weeks ago, I spent more time at the hospital than my own home; I spent 5 days and 4 nights there. And I hate hearing whenever I have to be admitted to the hospital, but looking back I am grateful that I did and went there when I did.

It’s funny because earlier that Monday, I was at the hospital and every nurse just praised how great I looked, how healthy, how good, basically, how normal. And I felt exactly how they spoke: normal, healthy, happy. But as the day went on, a pain crescendo-ed. Pain drummed into my right shoulder, consistent beat, pain’s rod striking my bones every moment and sharper and closer to the last. Monday evening, it was at its worst, and I asked a dear friend to massage it for me. She massaged it for quite some time, at least 30 minutes, but the relief from it lasted no more than 3 minutes. Pain interrupted my sleep, and I reached more frequently for my prescription pain medicine than I normally do. I am someone who prefers balms, salves, heating pads, hot showers, massages, acupuncture—anything homeopathic compared to medicine. So for me to take the medicine meant I was really in pain, and that nothing was working, including the medicine. Tuesday the pain became worse and now was reaching my chest forcing me to sit on the couch with a heating pad on the majority of the day, once again reaching for that prescription pain medicine, which seemed to still not be working. Wednesday I wake up with pain as my alarm, and I feel like I’m going to either pass out or throw up as I move about the house. Now I can’t take this. Three days of pain is much too much, and so I call my nurse navigator asking if there is any open spots in the clinic for a doctor to see me. Prayerfully, there is one.

Once I’m wheeled into my room, its vitals time and of course, surprise surprise, I have a fever. Having a fever means more tests for me, seeing if I have an infection in my PIC line and investigating what else could be the source of this fever. I don’t even care that I have one, even though it is quite high. All I want is to be freed of pain. Waiting for the doctor to see me and prescribe some IV pain medication, I literally am moaning from the pain, the torture of waiting. This moaning is not just for today’s pain but also for yesterday and the day before that; this is the climax of my injury. I can’t help it, this instinctual cry that comes from within me, my own melody responding to the pain’s drumming thunderous beat. I don’t want to moan, because I find it kind of embarrassing and that I should keep myself together, but I can’t any more. The pain has unlocked me and my civilities.

After being tended to by nurses and my doctors and finally experiencing some relief from IV pain medication, it’s decided that I need to spend some time overnight at the hospital. I’m so miserable that I don’t even care. In fact, I almost just want to stay so I can get this pain to calm down completely. More tests are done throughout the next couple of days, trying to figure out the source and cause of this unbearable pain. On Friday, there is finally an answer as to what has been going inside my body to create storms of pain within my chest, a downpour that seems to never to ceasing: pericarditis. The sac that your hearts in, the pericardium, its own little heart-couch, had become inflamed, the cardiologist-oncologist explained to me. Finally, just knowing the source of the pain is an immediate comfort, knowing that you’re alright and that you’re going to be ok. Naming pain has some sort of new power, new control over it that you once did not have over the nebulous power that was presiding over you, weakening  you because you had no idea what to do to even begin to try to fight it and all of your weapons you went to were broken in trying to fight it.

My new weapons: high doses of ibuprofen around the clock, increased medicinal pain patch, and another prescription for my pain medication. Since I’ve left the hospital, this trio seems to be working. Some days I wake up and the pain is back, or late in the evening it’s slow steady beat returns, an unusual lullaby before bedtime. The more annoying and frustrating side effect though is my shortness of breath. During my 5 day stay, I was on oxygen for most of the time, the chest pain making it difficult to breath. Some mornings, like today, I have energy to move about freely within the house. Other days, I’m panting just trying to head to the bathroom, which is literally the room right next to our bedroom.

Sigh. The body. I can’t control it as much as I want to. The only way to control it is to rest, rest, rest, more resting that I was doing before this five day hospital hibernation. Which is frustrating and discouraging because up until that point, I finally felt like I had been experiencing good energy and better discernment when it came to resting and going out, even staying out later than I would have normally been able to do. So with me panting now going to the next room over…it just feels like I’ve regressed so much in such a little about of time. Like, how much more can a body rest? I’m trying to listen, I really am. And I guess there is progress since I haven’t been as frustrated with myself when I don’t complete all of the activities I was hoping to accomplish that day. That is life-giving and energy-saving. Discouragement drains.

Thankfully, I did have enough energy to attend our new young adult home-group that Josh and I have been going to. This week we studied a brief survey of Jesus’ miracles and their purpose to affirm his claims as the Messiah Savior. I almost just sat there and cried as we read passage after passage of the various healing miracles, from freedom of fevers to freedom from death. The climax (and the truest moment of holding back tears of realization)—

matthew 8

16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities
    and bore our diseases.”

Jesus takes on our sicknesses and carries them for us.

In my moments of hospital over-nighters and chemo-driven days, this truth can many a times feel so far away. But with my Bible in my lap, hearing it read aloud that moment in homechurch, it couldn’t have hit home any closer. Because I realized that whether I remember this truth or not, all day, every day, Jesus has been doing this for me for the past 14 years. Man, I would not be here if he hadn’t all those years ago! He is always there, withholding more pain that I probably even know and halting cancer cell growth more than scans can show. This verse promises his very, very nearness to us, hugging us physically and spiritually with its compassion and comfort, the promise that he is more than just there with us but taking on and enduring it all for us too.

On the surface, it may not look like the traditional “miracle” since I’m still undergoing treatment after all of this time. My cancer hasn’t completely disappeared like the Peter’s mother-in-law’s fever; it is still here within my lungs and my bones. But it’s a miracle that I am still here, even with a rare cancer, stage 4 diagnosis pronounced upon me 14 years ago. You can’t argue that one. The statistics argue for my miracle.

He has taken upon my cancer.

He has bore it in so many more ways that I won’t know until eternity.

That is joy-giving, life-giving.

That is grace.