Thursday, March 2, 2017


For my daddy, because he doesn't see these things on facebook. :-)

Worked a 14 hour day without a break and I'm headed straight to bed (after I finish my "dinner"....or whatever meal it is that you eat at 10:30pm) because I'm going in early tomorrow to address the things I left unfinished. I'm missing my snugglebug tonight - left her at the dog-sitter's because there's no reason to pick her up only to take her right back 7 hours later.

It was a long day, and we have two more long(er?) ones coming up.

But tonight, in this moment, I'm feeing so thankful....

...thankful that I loooooove my job. It challenges me -I feel like I could spend my whole career here and never stop learning - and I feel like what I do really matters (for my patients AND for my colleagues).
...thankful I'm a part of a team that is so deserving of my respect and that they all work SO hard to do what's right for our patients (desk staff, RNs and MDs alike).
...thankful for my health. So many of my patients would give anything to have the strength and stamina to work a 14 hour day.
...thankful for the stories I get invited to participate in every day. I firmly believe that some of the greatest earthly displays of dignity, strength, compassion, sacrifice and perseverance happen in the context of a bone marrow transplant. I hope I never forget what an honor it is to bear witness to those stories.
...thankful for my brothers and sisters who promptly respond to a self-pitying text with a generous string of pictures and videos of some of the cutest babies and kiddos currently walking the face of this earth. The baby giggles from those little hearts fill me with so. much. joy. and watching their older siblings interact with them and entertain them is one of my life's purest delights.
...thankful for a dog-sitter who loves my dog like her own and is SO incredibly flexible with my unpredictable schedule. Andrea, I seriously don't know what I would do without you.

So if you ever hear me complain about my job, please remember (and remind me) that I love what I do. I am so incredibly blessed by my job and I have much to be thankful for. I'm just tired. That's all.

And I miss my pup.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Welcome to Hematology! Please place your heart on your sleeve and step this way....

It was a hard week.

It was a week where my hate for cancer grew so strong I felt consumed.

It was a week that left me feeling like no matter how hard we fight, we'll never win.

Earlier in the week, I received notice of the death of a patient who holds a special place in my heart.  She was the first person I ever had the joy of telling that her bone marrow results were back and the cancer was gone.  The transplant worked.  She was in remission.  She gave me the biggest hug and I cried along with her and her son, overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment.  This is why she had pressed on for so long.  This is why she had endured all of the pain and suffering we put her through. To see those sweet words in print on her biopsy report.

"No evidence of leukemia."

A few months later, I was commenting to my co-worker how beautiful her obituary picture was.  I had never seen her with hair.

The cancer came back.  There was nothing else to be done.  It took her quickly.

But Friday is new day, right?

It's a day when the following conversations take place:

Me, answering a direct page: Hi, this is Eva
Kim: Eva, it's Kim, can you come to Charlton 9 desk right away?
Me: I'm with a patient right it urgent?
Kim: (pause)...well, yeah, sort of.  yes.
(I quickly wrap things up with my patient and head out to the desk)
Me: What's up?
Kim: [Insert name here] relapsed.  He specifically asked if you were around to say goodbye.
Me: Where is he?
Kim: Room 41.

Me, walking in the room: What's going on?!?
Him: It's back.
Me: Oh, [name], I'm so sorry.
(Gives long hug while he says all kinds of nice things about how thankful he is for all that we did and how special I was to him and his wife)
Me: So what's the plan?
Him: I'm getting on the first plane south to go see my kids one last time.  Then I'm going home to die.
Me: Is [your wife] here?
Him: No, we separated
Me: Whaaaaat?  What's going on there?
Him: It's been two and a half years of hell.  That's what's going on.
(more conversation takes place)
Him: Alright, I'm getting out of here.  I'm not spending one more minute in a hospital.  I just wanted to say goodbye.  You meant a lot to us.

He's 34 years old.

Two hours later, on the phone with one of my favorites:
Me: We added some testing to your appointments next week.  The scan you had today raised some concerns that need to be checked out a little more thoroughly, so we're doing a PET scan and repeating a bone marrow when you come back.
Him: Does this mean the cancer is back?
Me, trying hard to stay within my scope of practice and not "diagnose": Well, we can't say for certain one way or the other right now.  That's why we need to do the additionally testing, to figure out what's going on.
Him: Tell me honestly, though, what else could it be?
(long pause as I try to think of one other possible thing it could be....)
Me: Well, that's what we need to figure out.
(long pause)
Him: What am I supposed to tell [my wife]?
Me: Well, you can tell her that nothing is certain yet.  That we need to investigate further.
Him, slowly: Yeah, okay....that sounds good....I'll tell her that.

And then I went home and wept.

And it's turning out to be a weepy Saturday, too.

I am head-over-heels in love with my new job.  One of my favorite things about it has been the opportunity to get to know my patients in a way I was never able to in the float staff.  I know their kids, their hobbies, their spouses and their pets.  They show me videos on their iPads of their kids running across the restaurant when Mom & Dad surprise them by coming home after 4 months away, or of the award they received at school (joking, "I think they just made up an award to give me because I have cancer.  When you have cancer everyone wants to give you an award and if they can't think of one, they just make one up.")

I get paged on a Friday afternoon because their kids are in town to visit for the weekend and they stopped up to see if I was available to meet them.  They introduce me by saying, "This is daddy's nurse" or "This is the one we were telling you about who has been so good to mommy and daddy."

One time I say, "Thank you for letting your mom and dad come and stay with us so we can help your dad get healthy again. I bet it's really hard not to have them at home."  The five-year-old responds, "Yeah. Thank you for making him better." and I get choked up at her sweetness and innocence.

My heart just soars with love and compassion for these suffering families.

But then weeks like this happen.  The names on the "death notice" emails get more and more familiar.  And the same family who asked me to come and meet their kids is asking me to come and say goodbye.

I'm less than a year in, and my heart already feels like it's being shredded into a million pieces.  And it makes me wonder how long I can survive in a specialty where I will outlive all of my patients; a specialty where in clinical studies, "long-term survival" is considered 2 years.

I'm not sure how to wrap this up.  Not sure what my point is.  Maybe my point is just that I love my job but some pieces of it are getting really hard and I'm still learning how to navigate that.  And also that I want to capture some of these stories, because I don't want to forget them.  I want their lives to matter to me.  I want to remember their journeys.

I don't want goodbye to be the last word.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Humpday Listday: T5 Signs That I'm Adjusting to My New Normal

One year ago (yesterday) I had shoulder surgery.  Six months ago (yesterday) I started a new job.  My life looks much different now than it did 12 months ago....I have full range of motion in my arm, virtually no pain, a job I love that I previously didn't know existed, I'm involved in a worship ministry that I love at church, and I have many new, budding relationships with people who are quickly becoming dear to my heart.  Life is busier than it has been in years, but it is also better. I feel happier and healthier than I have felt in nearly 5 years.  I am once again engaged at work and, more importantly, I once again feel engaged in life.

So. Many. Things. to be thankful for.

But even good change can be difficult.  For months after I took my new job, I felt like I was in "crisis mode" as far as my time and energy were concerned. My mental and emotional energy were consumed each day with the things I needed to learn and navigate at work.  But six months (plus one day) in, I feel reassured that I am adjusting to my "new normal."  I offer the following evidences:

5) I signed up for another CCEF class for this spring.  I am really excited to get back into the pursuit of my Foundations of Biblical Counseling certificate and I am thankful I feel like I once again have the time and energy to invest in something I am so passionate about.

4) I am accruing less overtime at work, which seems like a good sign that I am finally getting the hang of what I'm doing and some things are starting to come a little more naturally.

3) I read 9 books this month (granted, 7 of them were the Chronicles of Narnia which go REALLY fast).  But still.  My soul feels at rest when sitting down with a good book and I desperately missed having the energy to read over the summer months.  Glad to be back in the habit.

2) I've started hosting people in my home again, something I LOVE to do.  On two recent Sundays I had the wonderful opportunity to have some families from church join me around the dinner table for food and fellowship.  And in a couple of weeks, my roommate and I will be hosting a "Friendsgiving" for some of the young adults and families in our social circles.  So, so, so thankful that I once again have enough margin in my life to invest in good old-fashioned hospitality.

1) I'm blogging again!  (you're welcome, Dad!)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Dulling the Sword

"I've been in groups that spend so much time debating words and sentences and contexts that they never do much of anything else.  Maybe that's what Paul had in mind when he told Timothy to warn against quarreling about words; it is of no value and only ruins those who listen (2 Tim 2:14).  These studies never get beyond the quarrel.  They certainly never get to the implications for the way we live.  I'm all for getting to grips with the words of a passage (and structure, context, grammar, the works).  But I am not for it if we end up muzzling the very Word we are claiming to study....I suppose it's no surprise.  Sharp two-edged swords are uncomfortable and if a detailed study of grammar dulls the edge, we may well do it.  It keeps the blade at arm's length.  We examine it, but it no longer examines us."
- Steve Midgley, "Something Worth Meeting For - A Biblical Vision for Small Groups" The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Vol. 28 N. 3

A constant battle for me.

Insight isn't change.  CHANGE is change.

But, oh, how I love insight.....

Lord, break down my self-made-barriers of intellectual protection and pierce my heart.  May I never examine your Word without allowing myself to be examined by it.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Thankful Thursday

(For an explanation of Thankful Thursday, go here).

1961) A successful day of shopping.  Kind of fun to have a reason to get some new stuff!
1962) Calvary's Tenebrae service.  What a powerful, moving time reflecting on Christ's work on the cross.
1963) The reminder that even as Christ was nailed to the cross, HE was sustaining the soldiers who drove the nails.  It is such amazing love and sacrifice.  And a sweet reminder of how he lovingly sustains me even when I'm unfaithful.
1964) "The Lamb of God / in my place / His blood poured out / my sin erased / It was my death He died / I am raised to life / Hallelujah / the Lamb of God"
1965) Easter is coming!
1966) The kindness of the Worship Team in welcoming me as a newcomer. 
1967) Having my whole family here in Rochester!  So thankful they all made the trip down!
1968) Realizing I know Penny so well that all she has to do is lay down in an unusual place and I can tell something is wrong.  I am thankful for the connection I have with her and the meaning I find in that.
1969) Thankful that my first Worship Team experience went better than I thought it would!  What a blessing to be a part of that team and to lead the Body in worship on Easter.  What a celebration!
1970) Thankful for Joel's kind encouragement during vocal warm-ups.
1971) Right before 2nd service, Ginger asked me to be one of her Mary Kay models, saying she keeps looking at me from across the room and just thinks I'm so beautiful.  Moments later Karmen taps me on the knee and says, "You made it through the first service!  Hang in there, you're doing a great job!"  And then a few minutes later, Alicia leans over and says, "You look so pretty this morning."  I will never understand why God is so gracious to me and why He shows me such unnecessary kindness through His Body.
1972) Getting to stand on stage and watch people worship, to see them express their joy through their bodies & faces and to hear them singing praises...what a blessing!
1973) Yummy yummy Chester's brunch buffet.  SO GOOD.  Yummy.
1974) Having my family at my church to join in our Easter celebration and then spending time together over lunch with much of the conversation centering around all the future plans of things we want to do together.  I love how much I love being with them.
1975) Thankful Penny seems to have stopped vomiting and pooping.  It was a long night last night getting up with her every few hours...thankful this night seems like it might be a bit quieter!
1976) Great emails from Laurel with her ideas of what she wants to do while I am in Atlanta.  I love how that girl plans and communicates!
1977) Sending Dad a thank you email for everything he paid for last weekend and having him respond, "Well, we're spending your inheritance, so thank YOU."  SO funny!
1978) Making returns.  I feel a little better getting some money back after my wardrobe shopping spree last week!
1979) FINALLY getting around to listening to my new CDs Lindsay gave me for Christmas.  Great music with lyrics that remind me of sweet and significant truths of which I often need reminding.
1980) "He takes broken things and makes them beautiful."  Hallelujah.
1981) Another successful platelet donation!  Thankful my hematocrit seems to be trending upward so I can give more consistently.
1982) A chance to have some small talk with Amanda (receptionist at the chiropractor).  I love meeting other old souls.  I also love being reminded how fascinating people are when you take a minute to talk to them.  (Who would have thought that a classically beautiful, 20-something-year-old receptionist would spend their free time tracking the migratory patterns of hummingbirds?!?!?)
1983) I'm thankful my back pain doesn't prevent me from being active.  In fact, that's the only time it doesn't hurt.  Glad I can stay consistent with my workout routine while I wait for the pain to be relieved.
1984) Thankful for a sweet, encouraging, complimentary email from my mom in response to my thank you email.  To have TWO people that love me the way she and Dad embarrassment of riches that can't even be put to words.
1985) Early to bed for the first time in the last long 7 days.  Thankful for the opportunity to SLEEP!
1986) "What though the vile accuser roar / of sins that I have done; / I know them well and thousands more / my God, He knoweth none."
1987) Only three days left with kidney transplant before I get to start my new job!  Yay!
1988) Thankful that Julie took the time to chat even though she felt like she needed to prepare for her meeting tomorrow.  Talking with her is good for my soul and I'm thankful she offered me that gift tonight.
1989) My dad in the window of his apartment, signaling to me in the parking lot by waving his arm and flicking his shades open and closed.  Just the sight of him makes me happy.
1990) One more sleep until Atlanta!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Humpday Listday: T5 Reasons I Travel

I'm getting ready to fly to Atlanta in the morning to keep my sister company while she attends a work conference and then to spend the weekend with a dear friend. I'll come home to work a couple of days before taking off for London, Belgium and France with my family. 

I have always loved to travel and have tried to take advantage of every opportunity I have to do so. My ability to hop on a plane every 6-8 weeks may take a bit of a hit with my new position at work, so I feel especially aware of how thankful I am for the opportunities in front of me this month. 

Traveling is not something I do absent-mindedly. In fact, I have always had a fairly clear vision of why I travel and what I am trying to accomplish. My five main reasons are....

5) learn things about God. I like to explore God's creativity and learn about Him through His creation. He had so many different ideas when He created this world!

4) help fight my egocentricity. The things I see and learn about when I travel serve as reminders of the breadth of this world and the depth of history and, subsequently, how small I am in comparison. I need that reminder often. So I travel. 

3)...because I am single. I want to take advantage of the perks of singleness for however long that remains my reality and one big perk is that I get to spend my time and my money however I choose (within biblical guidelines).  One of the perks of being fairly unencumbered is that I am free to go see people I love who live all over the U.S. and the world. And I also get to go see new places with people I love. 

2)...because I enjoy it. I believe God wants us to delight in Him. Delighting in His creation helps me delight in Him. I worship when I travel. I reflect more when I travel. I learn things about Him when I travel. And also, I'm learning it's okay to have a little fun and enjoy life. 

1) build relationships with those whom I travel with and those whom I visit. So many great conversations, meaningful memories and inside jokes happen while traveling with friends and family. I also have friends serving the church who I am able to support beyond giving finances. I can offer emotional and spiritual support in the form of a friendly face and a face-to-face word of encouragement in a new, unfamiliar place (or a no-longer-unfamiliar place that is still a great physical distance from familiar faces and knowing hugs). As long as I am blessed with the time and fiancial resources to do so, I will continue to delight in serving the church in this way. 

So as much as I have learned to delight in the routine and consistency of life on my new schedule, I am also greatly looking forward to the month of April when traveling will be the means that will allow me to explore a new city with my sister, spend time encouraging one of my dearest friends who faithfully serves young missionaries who work abroad with Operation Mobiliazation, celebrate my cousin's wedding with my extended family, and spend precious time with four of my favorite people reflecting on the historical significance of Normandy, the art and architectural beauty of Paris, the quaint delight of Brugge and much, much more. SO EXCITED!!!!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Thankful Thursday

(For an explanation of Thankful Thursday, go here).

1926) Dianne calling me "just to check in."  So thankful for the renewed sense of community here.
1927) Another great conversation with Heather (my new manager), hearing about school and her kids, and getting unequivocal support for pursuing the Early Intervention Work Hardening program (more extensive PT and strengthening for my shoulder that will interfere with my new work schedule).  So excited to work for her and get to know her better.
1928) The opportunity to catch up with Kristy before Salt & Light.  So thankful for her interest in me and my family, her encouragement, support, kindness.  What a gift she is to me.
1929) One last dinner with Jill before she heads to Liberia.  I will miss having her around but I am thankful to see her continue to be faithful to the work God has called her to.
1930) The Salt & Light community.  Thankful for stories told, laughter shared, music sung, truth spoken and prayers raised.  I love my Thursday nights!
1931) Sweet time with Heather and Ami, hearing about their ministry in South Africa and what the Lord has been teaching them over the past couple of years.
1932) One last hug from Jill before she leaves!
1933) Heather's side comment, "You have a lot to offer, sister" when I was processing future co-worker relationships.  I don't know if she even knows I heard her, but it was encouraging to know that was her knee-jerk reaction to thinking about me going into a new situation.
1934) Ami's perceptive comment that she thinks I would be really good at teaching before I even mentioned my new-found interest in patient education.  Encouraging reinforcement, for sure.
1935) Stories.  Laughter.  The opportunity to tell my stories until Ami is red in the face, Heather is crying and Meredith says her abs hurt.  So. Much. Fun.
1936) Having my hair washed and brushed and cut.  I just LOVE it.
1937) Denise's kind words about the possibility of me singing on Worship Team.  She shows me such favor.  Bless her.
1938) Getting the opportunity to talk to my nail girls some more about Cambodia and Thailand.
1939) Penny's unbearable cuteness when her hair is just the right length.  I just can't get enough of her right now.
1940) A successful first "office party."  Excited to get to know that group better.
1941) Getting to church in time for choir warm-up at 8 even though I woke up at 7:40...over an hour after my alarm went off.  I don't know how God stretched those 20 minutes so much, but I'm thankful He did!
1942) The ladies in the back of church who waved their palm branches the entire time of worship.  Such a blessing to see their expression of joy in the Lord.
1943) The much-needed challenge/reminder of what it means to repent and to not hide behind denial, minimization or blame-shifting.  I sinned.  It's bad.  I need help.  My help is in the Lord.  U-turn.  Lord, make this sequence a pattern in my life!
1945) A quiet Sunday afternoon reading with coffee in hand and pup in lap.  Happy.
1946) Laughing on the phone with Ang and then getting a text from her that it was the highlight of her day. :-)
1947) Finally feeling well enough to work out again.  Feels good to be back at it!
1948) Finishing a preliminary outline for the Medical English classes Jennifer asked me to teach to Chinese-speaking university students.  It came together nicely and I feel really good about it!
1949) Filed my taxes.  Thankful for a little money back to cushion the account.
1950) Eric's wedding invite!  SO beautiful and formal!  Oh man, I'm SOOOO excited for him and so proud of the man he has become!
1951) Tina.  I'm thankful for my time with her and how she pushes me.
1952) Dunn Bros Coffee.  Great way to start the day.
1953) Getting the giggles SO BAD on the phone at work when I asked to speak with a nephrologist and I called him Dr. Dribble instead of Dr. Dibble.  Oh man.  It was so funny to me.  It has been a while since I have had to fight that hard to keep my composure.  I mean, come on.  A nephrologist named Dr. Dribble...
1954) The STRINGS section at choir practice tonight!  I could listen to them all. day. long.
1955) Crying every. single. time. we sing Man of Sorrows.  Can't wait for Easter morning!
1956) A beautiful, brisk, 10-minute walk into work each day.  Great way to start the morning.
1957) Those moments of extreme clarity when a bunch of pieces of information that have been floating around in your head for YEARS come crashing down into their proper when you see a flowchart of all of the hematopoietic cancers and suddenly understand which ones are related, how they are classified and how they differ from each other.  SO EXCITED for my new job!
1958) Cute pictures from Andrea of Penny cautiously checking out the dog park. :-)
1959) Having Liz introduce herself at choir rehearsal and the chance to get to know her a little bit.
1960) Good Friday dress rehearsal for the Tenebrae service.  What a blessing to be a part of that service.  So sweet to sing and reflect on what happened at the cross.  Excited to see how the Spirit moves tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Humpday Listday: T5 Jokes Played On me

I'm not a huge prankster, although it seems like I would come by it naturally enough (back in the day Dad pretended he got his face smashed up and would still be in bandages when the big day came on April 17th, years later Mom got him back by calling him and saying she was in labor with me when I didn't actually arrive until the 19th...) but I have been the target of some pretty good pranks. Here are my 5 favorite:

5) In junior high, after an exhausting weekend at a youth group retreat, I fell SOUNDLY asleep on the bus on the way home (surprise, surprise....). And I happened to be sleeping with my head tipped back and my mouth wide open. After the youth group boys grew bored of their competition to see who could throw the most Froot Loops in my mouth (yes, they were hitting me in the face with cereal and I never woke up), Mark decided to stick a Cheeto in my know...he could. 

I continued to sleep. 

And breathe. 

When we got back to church I awoke to find a Cheeto CRUSTED to my tongue. It was disgusting. 

Unfortunately, I didn't find it funny at the time, but looking back on it I think it's hilarious. I mean, come on. I was a mouth breather. What did I expect?!?!?

4) Growing up in a small town and driving a rusted out conversion van without a grill gave us two reasons to never worry about anyone stealing our car. So we never locked it. 

And we mostly left the keys in it. 

In the ignition. 

So some of the high school boys thought it was hilarious to move it from the school parking lot to any number of nearby locations which were completely out of sight when you were standing in the school parking lot. So Hanah and I would come out of school after practice, sigh and roll our eyes and....start looking. Good one.

3) My dad LOVES to scare us. One of his most successful attempts occurred when I was a senior in high school. I was at the computer, which is on one end of the house, and was getting ready to go down the stairs - on the other end of the house - to go to bed. Dad heard me gathering my things and "hid" behind a pillar in the dining room ("hid" in quotes because he was over two times as thick as the pillar) where all the lights had already been turned off. Instead of jumping out in front of me, as most people would do, he waited for me to pass and grabbed me from behind.  I screamed, pushed him away and went to bed with adrenaline coursing through my body. 

As I laid there, completely unable to sleep on tht kind of adrealine high, I realized I had not turned the computer off. So back upstairs I went to shut things down. Dad heard me come back upstairs, got out of bed and "HID" BEHIND THE SAME PILLAR

Moments later I pass him, he grabs me from behind, I scream. 

Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice...moments apart....with the same trick....shame. on. me.

2) My turn! One of my dad's other favorite tricks took place anytime he saw our headlights coming up the driveway. If the house was dark, which it often was in the evening, he would stand with his foot about 6 inches behind the door, facing the direction of the door handle so that when we came in from the garage with our mind on a million different things and the door opened a little and then stopped suddenly, we still couldn't see him standing behind it. Then, in that brief moment of surprise and confusion, he would reach around the door and grab our wrist which was usually still holding the doorknob. And more often than not we would scream. 

Well, one night, as I crested the hill in our driveway, I caught the last little glimpse of the lights being turned off. Gotcha!  I pulled into the garage like normal, but when I went to open the door, I turned the handle and sort of "threw" the door open, removing my hand from the knob. Sure enough, the door hit something solid and then The Hand came sweeping around the edge...and whiffed. 

And swept again. 


Finally his confused face came peeking around the edge to find me standing there feeling proud and triumphant. Not that I scared him or anything, but it sure was fun to beat him at his own game!

1) I actually have other stories, still, that I could tell about my dad.  He simply loves to startle us. But to this day, the best prank ever pulled on me was the infamous "Hiding of the Christmas Presents."  

One year before Christmas, Mark and Norm (I think it was Norm...seems right...but for sure Mark) were at our house hanging out with Hannah. I was not home.  The boys got the brilliant idea to go through all of the presents under the tree and hide all of mine so that when Christmas morning came and the presents were disbursed I had....none. After a few moments of confusion, Hannah informed me that I was to go find my presents. 

Sort of like an Easter egg hunt. 

At Christmas. 

And everyone else simply had their eggs handed to them. 

Thankfully Hannah knew where to locate a few of the strays that I had trouble finding, and I had grown up enough by this time to find it much, much funnier than the Cheeto incident, even in the moment. To this day, I LOVE hearing how Mark giggles any time this story comes up. Oh, brothers. 

Happy April Fool's Day!  If you're looking for me, you can find me trying to avoid my dad and Mark....

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thankful Thursday

(For an explanation of Thankful Thursday, go here).

1892) Pastor Dan calling and asking to hear my voice in consideration for the worship team.  Not sure I’m worship team material, but it’s nice to be asked!
1893) The first grill of the season at Ray and Kristy’s!  I love signs of the summer!
1894) Hugs.  Oh, how I love hugs.
1895) Encouraging, thoughtful, kind and funny emails from friends and family in response to the email announcing my new job.  I am so blessed by the people who care for me.
1896) Steve and Laura’s first Game Weekend!
1897) Thankful the Oostras came to New Richmond tonight even though they have to go back home for a meeting tomorrow.  I’ll take every moment I can get with them!
1898) Angela’s generosity and hospitality.
1899) Hannah’s flexibility in change sleeping arrangements to accommodate my shoulder.  So caring.
1901) A brisk walk on a cool spring day.  Feels good!
1902) March Madness Game Weekend!  So relaxing to just hang out with some of my favs.
1903) The cave.  Man, I love sleeping in the cave.
1904) Listening to Bjorn sing hymns to Harris while putting him to sleep.  I hate being sick and am even more bummed to miss out on Game Weekend fun, but it is totally worth it just to have experienced that sweet moment.
1905) As much as I hate missing Game Weekend, I am thankful I don’t have other commitments so I can just rest and sleep off this illness.
1906) Pastor Kevin back in the pulpit.  I so appreciate that man’s leadership.
1907) If I’m going to lay in bed all day, I’m thankful there is basketball to watch.
1908) Thankful for each of the kind ushers who offered me a seat while I stood in the back of church for the entire service due to my back.  Hard to explain why I couldn’t sit down, but, oh, there is such kindness in our church.
1909) Thankful for Penny’s snuggles on a sick day.
1910) Thankful I didn’t have to go anywhere in this snowstorm.
1911) Excited to have “graduated” from physical therapy!  Hoping things go well as I transition to “work hardening.”
1912) Thankful for a day of rest.  I don’t feel a ton better, but it was nice to be free of commitments and take care of myself.
1913) Excited that I already got invited to my first work party!  So excited for this new job!
1914) Thankful mom’s pacemaker placement went well and that there was finally some definitive action taken.
1915) Thankful for my little snuggle bug on long days in bed!
1918) Another 5 lb down, 19 total so far.  Thankful to see hard work paying off!
1919) Finding cute clothes.  :-)  Always fun.
1920) Waking up from my second nap of the day and having that moment when I feel my strength returning.  Nice to know I’m on the upswing side of this illness.
1921) Finally getting around to opening my mail and finding a sweet note from Chinwe.  So, so thankful for that sister.
1922) Sally sending me LP Leader clippings from 2001.  Oh, Sally.
1923) Making decisions I wouldn’t have made in the past, like staying home from choir to rest when I can’t sing anyway.  Thankful I’m learning how to take care of myself and ask for what I need.
1924) Running into the BMT Coordinators in the cafeteria and their excitement that I can come to the welcome party on Saturday.  So excited to get to know them better!
1925) Talking to a delightful patient on the phone, having him tell me he would really like to meet me during his next set of appointments and then seeing a message that he called back later in the afternoon just to thank me for my help.  Thankful I can still have patient interactions like that when I am away from the bedside.

Humpday Listday: T5 Things I Learned (or Remembered) From Having Shoulder Surgery

Friday will mark 5 months since I had surgery to repair my rotator cuff.  It feels like a lifetime ago.  As I "graduated" from the first phase of physical therapy this week, I have been reflecting on how far my shoulder has come and everything that has changed since October 27th.  Much has been learned, or re-learned, over the past 5 months.  Here are a few things that stick out...

5) Shoulder surgery is not for wimps.

I knew going in that many medical professionals consider shoulder surgery to be one of the most painful operations.  I was thankful for this insider's knowledge as I felt like it helped me set proper post-operative expectations.  I was prepared for it to be painful.  I was NOT prepared for the inaccuracy of my idea of "painful."  My previous concept of pain did not even include the reality of what I experienced the first few days after surgery.  Oy.  The kind of pain, the intensity of the pain and the consistency of the pain were all new (unpleasant) experiences for me. 

Not. For. Wimps.

Thankfully the most intense pain was fairly well controlled after the first 72 hours.  However, the other aspect of the process that is not for wimps is the recovery.  It is a slooooooooooow process that requires a lot of dedication and hard work.  The first six weeks were a breeze as I mostly just sat in a recliner and let my body do its natural healing work.  But once the sling came off, I had to get a little more "involved."  My daily routine for the last 3 months included two 1-hour physical therapy sessions which were not only time-consuming but often uncomfortable as well.  And at any given moment, it is SO hard to see progress.  I would usually gain somewhere between 0-5 degrees in my range of motion on a weekly basis.  But now, looking back on the whole process, I can see what huge gains I have made.  (There is a spiritual lesson here regarding the slow process of sanctification that I will let you work through on your own).  The pain, the patience, the time demands, the dedication, the need to push yourself past certain's simply not for wimps.

4) You use your shoulder more than you think.

I had no idea how much I engaged my shoulder muscles.  For raising my arm - obviously.  For pushing and pulling - yes.  But for sitting up?  For laughing?  For bending over to raise the toilet lid?  I would have never guessed.  Basically anytime you move any part of your body above the waist, your shoulder engages.  It either engages to bring your arm along with the rest of your body (such as when sitting forward in a chair) or to hold it in place while the rest of your torso moves (such as when laughing).  When you raise your left arm, the right shoulder engages to help give you the proper counter-balance.  But you NEVER notice (until it hurts) because it just happens naturally.  Our bodies are FASCINATING.

3) You should be careful how you react the first time you see someone naked.

One weekend, when my mom had to be away, my non-medical sister came to Long Prairie to help take care of me, make me food, do my physical therapy, etc.  My mom was showing her our morning routine which consisted of doing physical therapy followed by the opportunity to get washed up and put on clean clothes.  I was standing in the bathroom with Hannah just outside of my peripheral vision as Mom showed her how to help me get my shirt off.  Before my shirt even hit the floor, I heard a guttural sound of disgust coming from the bathroom doorway which is....well....not exactly what you want to hear the first time someone sees you topless, even if it is just your sister.  What did NOT cross my mind was the fact that my nasty, bloody steri-strips were still covering my incision.  This also did not cross my (squeamish) sister's mind until she saw them.  Hence her reaction.

But still.  Even though she meant no harm, and no harm was done (in fact, it's one of my favorite humorous moments from those six weeks at home), the brief moment of misunderstanding still served as a reminder to gracious to the human bodies around us in all of their beauty and unique imperfections.

2) I have the. best. family. (and pseudo-family).

Where do I start.  Oy.

My sisters (and my pseudo-sibs) put together an "anti-boredom package" which was a saving grace during my time at home.  It had everything I could need in it.  Books they knew I would like.  A puzzle which was the perfect combination of "something to get me out of my chair" and "something that didn't require a lot of brain power."  Movies.  Lotion.  Chapstick.  A Humans of New York book.  Puzzle books.  And so much more.  So, so, so, thoughtful.

My guys.  My mom.  My mom waited on me hand and foot for SIX WEEKS.  She fed me.  Did my physical therapy twice a day.  Managed my pills.  Pulled up my pants every time I went to the bathroom.  Refilled my water.  Fed my dog.  Paid for me to have my hair washed and braided twice a week so I could feel somewhat human.  Drove me wherever I needed to go.  Put on my deodorant.  Scratched my back when I couldn't reach.  Unpacked my suitcase.  Closed my door every time I got in the car.  Adjusted my pillows.  Sent my mail.  Washed my clothes.  She did for me.  And never once complained or acted inconvenienced (despite the fact that she was simultaneously moving to Long Prairie, initiating her plan to work from home and getting ready to run her annual craft fair that happens over Thanksgiving weekend...stressful).  That woman is an incredible example of unconditional love in the way she loves and serves her girls and she deserves to be hear praise every day for the way she treats us.  I think I received a whole lifetime of love in those six weeks.  And yet even now she just keeps sending it my way. 

Mom also scrambled to put together an outfit to keep me warm at the outdoor Vikings/Packer game (an event I didn't happen to think about when I was packing clothes for my time at home and therefore did not have the proper items with me).  It was very kind and thoughtful of her to help me find something to wear.  And then my sisters re-dressed me in their own clothes in the parking lot because I looked ri.dic.u.lous.  Also kind and thoughtful of them.

Speaking of my sisters....they called or texted nearly every day.  They willingly drove up north to keep me company over the weekends (my Hanson and Oostra sisters also spent some weekends sitting in my corner of the house with me....I love them for spending that time with me).  They learned the physical therapy routines so they could take care of me on the few occasions when my mom had to be gone.  They watched movies with me, made me laugh (which wasn't always super helpful....but was still fun even when it hurt), and made me feel like I still had some connection with the outside world.  They brainstormed Netflix shows they thought I might like so I would have some options to choose from.  They drove me back and forth from quilt retreat so that I could still spend the day with everyone but could also sleep at home where I was most comfortable.  And they continue to accommodate me, planning sleeping arrangements around where I will be most comfortable when we travel together, carrying suitcases for me, and just generally being thoughtful about what I can and can't do. 

As if that wasn't enough love and support, my dad chimed in, too.  He and my mom had a LONG, patient conversation with me pre-surgery, listening to me talk through all of the implications of each option and helping me make a well-considered decision about how to proceed.  He called often to see how I was doing.  Visited on weekends.  Watched football with me.  Listened to me cry when I was getting frustrated with my physical therapy.  Encouraged me to be patient.  And so much more.

I have always known my family is great.  But the love and support they have shown me over the past 5 months has been an overwhelming reminder of how blessed I am to have each one of them in my life.  I owe them each a lifetime (or more) of thanks.

1) God has a good (and often painful) plan.

I believe God is good no matter our circumstances.  It is easy for me to say He is good right now when things seem to be falling into place and the future looks a little clearer than it did 5 months ago.  But I truly felt His goodness even in those moments when I was sitting in the recliner, tears streaming down my cheeks from the pain, with no clue what the nature of my job would be when I returned to Rochester...only knowing I had lost the schedule that I loved.  Beyond that....things were uncertain.   

I have grown more in faith, trust, and a true sight of the beauty of God in the last 5 months than I have in several years prior to my surgery.  I believe this is a direct result of being challenged, weakened and thrown to my knees in need.  My independent, competent, single self has had to rely on Him and His Body in ways I never imagined going into this process.  And I know Him - and His love for me - better because of it.

It is amazing to me how God meets us in our pain.  Pain (both physical and emotional) is a consequence of sin.  I don't believe I injured my shoulder as a punishment for any specific sin in my life, but I do believe I injured it because there is sin in our lives.  This world is fallen and, as a result, our bodies are not what they were intended to be.  They break.  They fail. (And, amazingly, they also heal).  Yet even in that breaking, which we are responsible for - both through specific personal sins and our communal sin nature - even there in the breaking, He meets us with so much grace.  Even as we suffer the rightful consequences of sin, He uses those very consequences as another avenue of grace in our lives.  He does not abandon us to the consequences.  He takes our brokenness and turns it to good.  It's mind blowing.

I believe God is good to His children when things are "going well," (which usually just means we're getting whatever we want - it's the mindset of a 2-year-old, really) but I think He is especially good to His children when they suffer, not because suffering is fun, but because suffering often drives us to Him and there is nothing better for us than being closer to Him.  There is a joy found in Him that is deeper than anything that can be found merely through pleasant circumstances (not to say joy can't be found in pleasant circumstance....just that pleasant circumstance alone can not bring that depth of comes through Him regardless of circumstance).    This truth is well supported in Scripture and, the longer I live, the more it is supported by my own life experience as well.  This shoulder surgery experience being one huge example.

So I continue to learn and re-learn this basic truth.  That God's plan is good.  Not always free of pain or uncertainty.  But always, always good.