Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Thou hast enlarged me in my distress…


“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.” Psalm 4:1

What a powerful prayer found in Psalm chapter 4, verse 1. As I read this verse, I kept repeating “thou hast enlarged me in my distress.” Enlarged me. Thou hast enlarged me. Thou hast enlarged me in my distress. What did that mean exactly? The more I thought about it, the more I realized this verse was speaking volumes to me.

In the middle of the tragedy of my being diagnosed with breast cancer, God was in the process of enlarging me. He was using my health ordeal as a really powerful teaching tool. He was widening my dependence on Him and in the midst of that, He was growing my faith. Little did I know my faith would be tested later in the day.

Driving to Fayetteville, my mind began to wander. As I looked out over the dry, winter grass I couldn’t help but think about the seasons. It was the middle of February here in Georgia, but we were in the dead of winter. Everything was dormant. Trees were barren and stark. Everything seemed so lifeless. I don’t like winter. The cold and I don’t get along. As I kept driving, I searched the landscape in hopes of seeing just one single sign of new life. There had to be just one. I drove for miles and miles seeing nothing but open fields dotted with cattle. Living out in the Southwest corner of the state was wonderful. I loved the scenery and the laid back atmosphere but in the winter, it was hard to find things to bring joy on cold, gray days…and then I saw it…one lone daffodil.

The tiny daffodil was all alone, just at the edge of a large pasture. There beneath the bob wire fence it stood in regal glory. It’s beautiful yellow head tilted toward the sunlight basking in the warmth. The dark green leaves cupped the flower and anchored it in place. Yes, Spring was coming! This was a sign of new life. I was so thankful to see that tiny little flower. It made my heart sing.

I drove on toward the doctor’s office. I was hesitant about going even though I didn’t really know why. I loved my breast surgeon. She’s an awesome lady. She’s young and vibrant, full of life, and still, there was a bit of trepidation in my heart.

A parking space near the door was open and waiting. I slid the car in carefully and parked. Traffic had been heavy and I had only a few minutes to spare before time for me to check in for my appointment. I hurried up the path to the medical building and grabbed the first elevator up to the second floor. When I walked inside the office, three women turned to look at me. As always, their gaze went straight to my chest. I don’t know why but every time I’ve ever been to this office the same thing has happened. Perhaps it’s because the women there are just before having their own breasts removed or perhaps they already have had them taken. I guess it was just natural for them to scope me out to see where I was in the process. I smiled and walked toward the check in desk.

After signing in, I took a seat and pulled out my phone. I knew it would be a few minutes before being called back and wanted to check my emails. I glanced up from my cell phone now and then to see what the other women were doing. Two were watching reruns of Three’s Company on the TV in the corner of the office. The other woman was engrossed in her phone. No one made eye contact. It was very sad.

The nurse called me back and we went to the room at the end of the hall. She took my blood pressure and asked a series of questions. After she’d completed her bit, she asked me to remove the clothing from the upper half of my body and put on the robe provided. I complied and took a seat on the exam table.

I waited and waited and waited for the doctor to come. After about forty minutes, I heard a small tap at the door and heard her enter. “Hello, Sunshine!” she exclaimed, “How are you doing today?” We bantered back and forth with pleasantries and then she unfastened my robe. Her cold fingers began probing my chest and armpits. She noticed a small rash on the right side under my surgical scar. “When did that pop up?” she said. I explained I’d noticed it a few days earlier. She looked at it carefully and said, “Well, it’s not cancer!” I was glad to hear it and asked what she thought it could be. She told me it looked like Eczema and said the cold, dry weather was more than likely the culprit. She told me to begin applying Neosporin or Petroleum Jelly to it to keep it hydrated and allow it to heal. As she was finishing up, she asked how I was doing on the medication. Oh no…here it comes, I thought to myself.

I told her I had stopped taking the Aromasin about 2 and a half weeks ago. Immediately she turned to me and got close to my face and said, “WHY?” I explained all the side effects I’d had and how terrible I’d felt and told her I’d just decided it wasn’t for me. She got very quiet and then said, very matter of factly, “I don’t like it. I don’t like it one little bit.” I could tell by her tone that she really was upset and didn’t understand how I could stop taking the medication. She leaned in toward me and said, “You know your cancer was very aggressive and with it being fed by Estrogen and Progesterone, it could come back at any time. We really need to make sure that doesn’t happen. I really think you should take the medication.” I didn’t say anything. I just sat and listened. I think she could tell I felt intimidated so she shifted the conversation to her two little ones. As she talked about her boys, I reminisced with her and told her I remembered those kind of times in my children’s lives, too. After a few more pleasantries, she left the room with the instruction for me to return in six months.

On my way out of her office, I could feel my blood pressure rising. I was so upset. Why did I feel like I had to defend myself for my decision to stop taking the anti-hormone therapy? I’d already tried 2 others before this one and all three of them had given me extreme side effects. I replayed the conversation I’d had with the doctor in my mind. The part that really bugged me was when I was explaining to her about the various side effects and she piped in saying, “We have medications we can give to counteract the nausea or the mood swings.” It didn’t make sense to me to take one medication to try and keep cancer at bay and then have to take 2 or 3 more to counter the side effects of the first medication. I felt like I was at war with my medical professionals over the choices I was making pertaining to my health and that really upset me.

In the car, as I backed out of the parking lot, I began to cry. I don’t know why, I just started to bawl. I wanted to hit something and scream, “Don’t you understand??? How would you feel if the shoe was on the other foot and this was you, instead of me? Wouldn’t you do the same thing? Wouldn’t you want to have a good quality of life? Would you really take medication if you knew all the side effects?” All the way home, I struggled wondering if I was doing the right thing and making the right decisions. Maybe I hadn’t given the medications enough time to really see how they’d work long term…maybe I was making a mistake. I started to doubt myself.

When I got home, I talked it over with my husband. He assured me I had made the right choice. He reminded me of what had happened during the time I was on the last medication and how I had felt. I knew in my heart he was right, but I kept hearing the doctor’s voice in the back of my head telling me I needed to be on the medication.

I started to think. Why do oncologists push Aromatase Inhibitors so? Do they receive kickbacks from the drug manufacturers or are they really thinking the medication will prolong my life? I’d like to know the answer to that question but I’m afraid to ask it. And we, as dumb, uninformed patients just do as we’re told most of the time…that is, until we’ve had enough and start to do our own research.

My decision to not take the medication has been a hard one. The oncologist’s office called today, in fact, to offer me another choice drug. I turned them down. It’s hard to explain faith to a medical professional but I tried. I wanted him to understand my decision not to take Aromatase Inhibitors in no way reflects on ability to trust his expertise, but I have a Great Physician whom I trust even more.

“Thou hast enlarged me in my distress”…I feel the Lord working on my behalf as I trust in Him and rely on Him for wisdom and direction. And just like that tiny, yellow daffodil with its face lifted toward the sun, I may stand alone in my decision, but I am still here and I’m still thriving.
© bonnie annis all rights reserved

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