Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Like a Baby

Many times our premature babies forget to breathe.We call it "apnea of prematurity". Breathing is a natural thing, but these babies are immature and when they stop breathing (go apneic), the alarms go off and we walk over and stimulate them. Pat them on the back, rub their feet, (sometimes a little more convincing is needed). And they take a deep breath and begin breathing again. They do this over and over again, but as they get older and more mature , their apnea spells become less and less and they finally outgrow it.

Sometimes I feel like a premature baby. Being a christian and relying on God continually, should be a natural thing by now. But, in so many ways I am still an immature baby in my christian walk.

I went into work today for an hour or so and then took a break and walked over to MD Anderson to see my oncologist. Carl had to work so he wasn't able to come. My long time friend and charge nurse on that floor, Mary, stopped in to visit me in the exam room. It was a blessing to visit with her. She is a christian also and we shared how God had his hand in picking my doctors and staff there.

Now don't get me wrong here. I love and trust my oncologist and all of his staff. But any visit with an oncologist is not usually a spirit lifting experience and today was no different. We talked again about what to expect after treatment and radiation. My question was, that if we did CT or PET scans only once a year, wouldn't we miss a chance to catch any metastisis earlier? And he gently reminded me again that it wouldn't change the outcome or survival rate at that point. I asked if it spread to the lung couldn't they just take it out, do chemo and radiation and cure it. But he said that breast cancer cells that go to the lungs do not respond to treatment like lung cancer that goes to the lungs. If that was to happen, it would become incurable. He actually remembered telling me this before, but he must have known I needed to hear it again to understand and believe it. He is such a kind and honest man in his presentation. But, I wanted to hear the word "cured" somewhere in his conversation. And I never did.

He asked me how I was feeling and I told him that it was strange, but over the last 2 weeks, I get hit with some crippling nausea and vomiting that doesn't seem to follow any pattern. It's not related to food intake or chemo that I can tell. No rhyme or reason as to when it hits. He asked me if I got headaches. I said, yes fairly often, but they're not real bad. He said that if I found that to be a problem still, after finishing chemo, he would do an MRI to see if the cancer might have traveled to the brain. Basically that is how they tell if the cancer has spread anywhere. By testing any abnormal symptoms. I was very upset by hearing this. How do you go on after treatment and live a normal life, without becoming a hypochondriac? Without worrying that every time I get a bad headache, or bone pain or dry cough that the cancer is back?

I left the visit in tears to go back to work. I really should have walked around the block first, but I didn't have the energy. I headed straight to Ann's office. I knew I was in need of a believing, praying, friend, right then. We talked, we cried, and she prayed. As she was praying for me I received a soft, healing peaceful feeling. We stayed in silent prayer for a few moments, knowing that God was hearing our tears and all of our unspoken words. After praying, I was ready to breathe again. Just like the babies, I had been reminded to take a breath and go on. I even joked to Ann that it's probably a good thing that I don't have many eyelashes left so my makeup wouldn't be smeared all over my face. We both had a good laugh and I went back out ready to take care of my babies.

At 2pm, I walked across the street for chemo. But this walk wasn't the discouraging walk from earlier. It was almost like the medicine you get right before they put you to sleep for surgery. No matter what is about to happen, you feel fine. Peaceful. You only have to lay there and breathe and all the rest will be taken care of for you. When I got there, I received a message on my phone from my friend Maureen in the NICU. Our hospital is a round building with glass windows all around it. The message said "We are all waving to you out the window from Winnie. Love you lots!" What joy a few simple words can bring!!

The chemo went well. Carl came. My nurse, Diane, told me I was very anemic and she was going to call Dr. Baidas and ask about a transfusion. We joked because the bloodmobile was downstairs that day and it was time for Carl to give. He could have just brought it up to me :) I told Diane "Well, I'd love nothing more than a boost for going back to work, but don't take it personally if he says no. He's not a big fan of that for some reason." Sure enough, he didn't want to, since the chemo was nearly finished. I went to sleep and slept through most of the chemo, the ride home and most of the evening. As if God, wanted to remind me once more before the day was over, I got a call from my dear friend Lori, another believer, who lifted and encouraged my spirits.

In our christian life, we start out as a baby craving spiritual milk so that we can grow in him. "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation." (1 Peter 2:2 ) He wants us to grow in our maturity level from milk to solid foods. But He knows that it doesn't happen over night. He knows that, just like that preemie baby, we sometimes forget to breathe. We weren't ready. We fall back from solid food to milk.
"I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready." (1 Corinthians 3:2)

Yesterday, I spent some time as a baby. Though by this time in my spiritual walk, I should be on solid foods, today I drank only milk. But God already knew it. "In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!" (Hebrews 5:12)

I forgot to breathe today. But God provided me with believing friends, with prayers and encouragements. A pat on the back. A reminder to breathe.

Tomorrow's plan is to rest, rest and rest. But I first plan to eat solid food. I'm going to read my bible. Learn the "elementary truths" all over again. And pray and give thanks to Him who is so incredibly patient with me as I try to mature from a baby to an adult in my christian walk.