My thanks to Zoe who gave me the inspiration to write this post.
In mid-November (2015), I saw a general practitioner who ended up referring me to a specialist. Then, that specialist referred me to another specialist, who then referred me to another specialist. That specialist referred me to a specialist at an out-of-state cancer institute. I was then referred to another out-of-state specialist.
With each doctor I saw, I was poked, prodded, jabbed (no, they all don’t have the same meaning in this case) and scanned. Between February and May, I went under general anesthesia 4 times. A routine mammogram showed a “suspicious” area, resulting in an excisional biopsy, and a 5.8 cm (2 inch) scar on the underside of my left breast. The “suspicious” tissue was found to be benign.
The second time was an attempted LEEP (loop electrosurgical excision procedure) which failed because fibroids (common in women) were obstructing the cervix opening. The third time was due to a colonoscopy. A CT scan indicated that a “mass in the mid ascending colon was consistent with primary colon carcinoma.” The post operative colonoscopy report indicated “malignant features present.”
In early March I was diagnosed with cancer, even though the first pathology report indicated that two polyps (adenomas) in close proximity of each other, were benign. However, it was the consensus of a team of doctors that the initial pathology report was most likely an error, therefore, an invasive procedure, a right hemicolectomy, was suggested. Not a non-invasive procedure, a polypectomy.
A full hysterectomy was also suggested because a gynecologist and a gynecologic oncologist suspected cervical and/or uterine cancer. Both surgeries were performed at the same time
I was under the knife for 4 hours. They (two surgeons) removed close to half my colon, multiple large fibroids, my cervix, ovaries, uterus, and numerous lymph nodes. The risks were infection, hernia, blood clots, injury to nearby structures including the intestines, stomach, bladder, blood vessels, and the ureter (a tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder).
I was also told that a leak could occur where the intestines were reconnected, requiring more surgery, and a need for a stoma. Thankfully, there were no complications.
The operation took place in late May. So, from March through May, I had a lot of time to think about my possible fate — a physically painful exit from this life, or poisoning my body with chemo chemicals and the grueling ramifications, which could result in prolonged suffering, and death.
I didn’t fear death, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled about the prospects of dying. I also relived the remorse that I had wasted so much of my adult life as a devout Christian. I was just beginning to live. Those who’ve been there know what I’m talking about.
I understand that religion—faith in a personal god, and afterlife, may bring some comfort to believers. However, I was so glad I didn’t go through all of this while believing in a personal god.
Former evangelical pastor, Bruce Gerencser, wrote an insightful post (God Gave Me Breast Cancer Because He Loves Me) on the mindset of many Christians when facing serious illnesses, or other misfortunes. It really puts the above image into perspective.
Another insightful read is Neil Carter’s post (The Predatory Side of Religion) about those of us who used to be devout, and the “tricky challenges” we face (especially those of us living in conservative, religious communities) when going through trying times.
“I dislike the phrase “Internet friends,” because it implies that people you know online aren’t really your friends, that somehow the friendship is less real or meaningful to you because it happens through Skype or text messages.
The measure of a friendship is not its physicality but its significance.
Good friendships, online or off, urge us toward empathy; they give us comfort and also pull us out of the prisons of our selves.”
~ John Green
Having lost my offline social network after deconvertion, I am so fortunate to have met such amazing people online, especially those I consider my dearest friends with whom I had privately shared my recent journey.
The outpouring of love, compassion, wise counsel and unwavering support, with emails, phone and Skype calls, text messages, cards, flowers and gifts from people I’d never met in person (yet), got me through a very trying time. You gave me the freedom to be authentic—to be fully human. You will always hold a special place in my heart. ❤
As it turned out, the final pathology report revealed that the doctors jumped the gun. I didn’t have cancer. At. All. And such an invasive surgery was unnecessary.
Looks can be deceiving.
Before I could write this post, I needed to give myself time to process and resolve some feelings of frustration and anger. But that is behind me now, and, for the record, I’m recovering remarkably well.
The 33 cm (13 inch) zipper-like scar on my abdomen no longer reminds me of a dysfunctional medical system, or predatory-type Christians exploiting my circumstances. Now, when I look at my scar, I am reminded of the beauty and solace that comes from authentic human connection.
As noted in the header, we matter because we matter to each other. We make each other important.
Now, getting to the question of faith. Do I have faith?