I’ve had a bit of a week, as they say.
Normally I try to keep this blog about book- and/or publishing-related things. But every so often I have a moment where I remember that I’m human, and that you are too. And just maybe you need to be reminded that you’re not alone, and me sharing parts of my non-author life with you may offer some encouragement.
So this is one of ‘those’ posts—the kinds that are impossibly difficult to write, but therefore all the more important to share.
As I said at the beginning, I’ve had a bit of a week. At the end of last year I wrote a post that revealed how I don’t deal well when it comes to anything medical. What I don’t think I said is that I actually have PTSD-inspired health anxiety. It’s not fun, especially since I can’t take meds lest I risk them messing with my creativity (or so I’m told). But unless something triggers my fear into panic-mode, I can generally get by dealing with just a low level of awareness 24/7.
But last week—well, there was a trigger.
Last Thursday, I had an ultrasound on a lump. The good news is, it was fine. The not so good news is, the scan found another lump. That was… unexpected. Even more unexpected were the results that came in late Friday afternoon recommending that I have a biopsy.
I found out over the phone. I’d been in to see my doctor first thing that morning, but the ultrasound report hadn’t arrived. She knows my history and that I have health anxiety, so she offered to phone so I wouldn’t have to return to the medical centre later that day. When the call came, and when she said follow-up was needed, I was shaking so bad that I could barely stand. My ears were ringing, that one word repeating over and over in my mind.
But the thing is, while that’s a terrifying word to someone like me, the kind of anxiety I have means I automatically catastrophise anything health related. So it wasn’t just ‘biopsy’ that I heard on repeat. It was another word, also six letters, and, illogical or not, my mind jumped straight there.
I remember holding the phone to my ear and mentally screaming at myself to pull it together, to listen to what my doctor was telling me—how she was saying it most likely wasn’t anything bad, and we were just following the next rational step to make sure all was well.
Something about that word helped steady me, clearing the panic that was blurring the edges of my vision.
Rational steps—a list of what to do next.
I’ve always been good at following directions, so while I wasn’t able to focus on anything my doctor said regarding the statistics all being in my favour and emphasising again that I shouldn’t worry, I was able to find a pen and write down the phone number she gave me, before thanking her and hanging up. I then sat in a chair until the shakes left me (it took a while), breathing deeply until I was calm enough to make the call to schedule my ultrasound-guided biopsy for Monday morning.
I wasn’t sure what I felt. Fear, definitely. But perhaps more interestingly, there was disappointment.
This is where this post is going to become a bit confronting to some people, so I’m warning you in advance.
There are two things I tend not to openly discuss online, if only because I know how offensive both topics can be when handled poorly—unintentionally or otherwise. I’m speaking, of course, of politics and religion. And while I can’t envision a day when I would ever talk politics in a blog post, for the remainder of this one, there will be mentions of my faith, because it’s important for the story I’m sharing (and I do love to tell a good story).
If you’ve ever read the ‘Acknowledgements’ sections of my books, you’ll see that I always thank God first. That seems so corny, I know, but the fact is that I am a Christian and I’m grateful for everything I believe God has given me.
… Which is why, jumping back to what I was saying earlier, it was hard to deal with the disappointment I felt. After all, I had prayed for a good report—to not need any follow up. I had friends praying for me too, people full of faith, even if mine admittedly fails (and often). So why didn’t God listen? Why didn’t He snap His fingers and make it so everything was fine?
I don’t have an answer to this.
Or… perhaps I do. But any good story needs to be told in order, so onward with this one.
I know most people reading this probably don’t believe in God. That’s your prerogative, and I’m definitely not here to try and convert you. (Jeez, pressure much?) The fact is, lots of people have been hurt by “religion”, and others are merely apathetic to it, unable or unwilling to believe in a “loving God” who allows such horrible things to happen in the world.
I understand. Truly—I do. And I’d be lying if I said I’ve never questioned my own faith. Hell, I often wonder if “prayer” is really just me talking to myself. Famine and war and slavery—where is the God in all that?
Well, that’s a discussion for another day—and, probably, another person. Like I said—I’m not writing this to convert you. I’m telling you the story of my week. And a huge part of that week has been me holding onto my faith—sometimes by nothing but a whisper—in order to make it through.
Was I disappointed that I had to have a biopsy? Yes. Was I scared? Yes. Was I alone?
Not once in the last week have I ever felt alone. Because while I didn’t understand what was happening, my faith allowed me to believe that it was happening for a reason—even if, at the time, I couldn’t see what that reason was. My faith was the only thing that kept me strong, that kept me sane, that kept me going.
People receive bad news every day—none of us are immune to the harder times in life. Maybe you’re drowning in bills you can’t afford. Maybe you’ve been abandoned by a loved one. Maybe you’ve lost a child. Maybe you’ve been in an accident. Maybe your family is a mess. Maybe you’re in the middle of a legal battle. Maybe you’re a victim of abuse. Maybe you’ve lost your job. Maybe your marriage is falling apart. Maybe you’re addicted to drugs. Maybe you’re facing a health crisis. Maybe someone close to you has died.
… Maybe, maybe, maybe.
There are so many things that can go wrong in this world, so many things that can happen to us and those we love. It makes sense that you might want to raise your fists and scream to the heavens. But the thing is…
God’s not up there.
He’s beside you.
And he’s holding your hands.
You can ignore Him or believe He isn’t real. You can even hate Him with every iota of your being. But that doesn’t change that fact that He loves you—and always will. Nothing you can do, say or think will ever change that. And no matter what circumstances you’re going through, regardless of whether you can feel it, He’s with you.
I know this, because the story I’m sharing—that’s how it continues.
I’ve had one of those weeks. The kind of week where my faith was tested. The kind of week I never would have made it through without Jesus holding my hands.
And today, the biopsy results came back.
It was another six letter word.
Everything fine, everything clear, no further action needed.
I should note here that the procedure itself on Monday was remarkably untraumatic (despite the fact that I was shaking so bad that even today my muscles still hurt). But the week I had—now that it’s over, I’ve come to realise that it was never about the biopsy, and it was never about the results. It was about me remembering that no matter what happens, I can make it through anything because God is with me. That’s something I’d forgotten, something I’d allowed my fear to steal from me. And I’m not deluded enough to say it won’t happen again, but I do believe the trust I learned in the last week is a stepping stone into the wonders that lie ahead.
That’s why I had to have the biopsy—not to check to see if the lump was fine, but to remind me of God’s faithfulness in my life. To remind me that I can trust Him. To remind me of the plans and promises He has for my future.
… And He has plans and promises for yours, too, whether or not you want anything to do with Him. (Just saying!)
I’m only human. This last week really took it out of me. I’m beyond shattered, physically, mentally and emotionally. But I also feel more alive than I have in a long time. More hopeful, more determined. More ready to face everything that is coming next. (And FYI, I’m not allowed to say what, exactly, yet, but let me tell you, my next year is going to be BIG when it comes to bookish stuff! AND I’m finally going to book that holiday my doctor told me to take last November! New Zealand, here I come!)
I think… I think some of you reading this might have needed to hear it. And that’s the only reason I’ve shared so openly. It’s not easy to lay it all out for the prying eyes of the internet to devour and critique. But if the story of my week encourages just one person, then it’s worth all the eye rolls and scoffing I’m sure it will otherwise receive.
To finish, I want to share a video clip that I stumbled upon while waiting for the results of the initial ultrasound. It’s only about 3 minutes long and it’s super empowering, especially for anyone who might be dealing with a difficult situation right now, since the encouragement is “I CAN HANDLE IT.” (It also has over half a million views, so it’s not just me who thinks it’s awesome!)
Enjoy, be encouraged, and remember—you’re not alone.