Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Life Preserver

Great is your compassion, O LORD; preserve my life, according to your judgments.
Psalm 119:156, Book of Common Prayer

            I had a mini-meltdown in the kitchen this morning, which only served to remind me how much energy it takes to keep my emotional hatches battened down the rest of the time. Last night when I got home from work, there was one message telling me that surgery Friday was backed up half an hour. That meant I could sleep a bit later, but also meant that I had to change plans with my driver. The details of arranging things for surgery are niggling annoyances. 
            And then there was the other call, from someone in my gynecologic oncologist’s office, who left no message except her name and phone call.
            It was too late to call back. I convinced myself that it had to be a schedule change, with no relationship to the CATscan I’d had last week. I remembered the time a nurse in his office had called to say the doctor wanted to talk to me. I nearly died of fright. At least, I told myself, it wasn’t himself calling. I didn’t want to learn that my surgery had to be postponed altogether because something bigger and badder was going on in my abdominal cavity. Or to find out—and of course this had to be it—that the pain in my hips in the morning had nothing to do with aging and everything to do with end stage bone cancer.
            When the office opened, I called, but the woman who called wasn’t in and the nurse who answered didn’t know why that woman had called. She confirmed the date and time of my appointment and gave me the woman’s voice mail. I left a message, and she called back within a few minutes.
            Nurses, hospital staff, and even doctors are all human. She was calling merely to find out if I had kept my appointment with the bladder guy. She didn’t see the note that my gyn onc had already called to talk to him, not until that very minute on the phone with me. I could connect the dots—the tumors the bladder guy is removing on Friday showed up on the CATscan, and my gyn onc was making sure everyone knew they were there. Sometimes I love him for his attention to detail; sometimes I wish he’d take a vacation, be a little less dedicated.
            I asked this woman to put a note in my file saying I lived alone and had an active imagination and that all future calls were to be specific. The HIPPA privacy rules mean that no detailed messages are left, unless I make it clear that I want such things. She apologized profusely; I told her my heart rate was returning to normal.
            I took a lot of deep breaths and got on with my morning routine. At the healing service at church, my priest spoke of how we don’t need to go it alone, a sermon just for me. I went forward to be anointed and prayed for; the other women hugged me and assured me of prayers. But all day, my body has been upset. It had faced news of a recurrence of the dangerous cancer, even if the news was fabricated in my own mind, and it wasn’t happy.
            Instead, I was thrown the life preserver of God’s loving compassion, mediated through good people around me. I don’t suppose it’s a coincidence that all this occurred on a morning when I was already headed to church. If it had been bad news, there would have been people to help me through it. I am not alone.

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