Monday, October 12, 2015

One Year Later... Then and Now

For the past year I haven't posted on my blog, and though I'm sometimes slow in posting, it wasn't just a case of "not getting around to writing a post". 

On this weekend last year, my life turned upside down!

It was the weekend of the annual Niamey Universal Tournament of Softball (called NUTS for short), in which softball teams from Niger and surrounding countries will spend the weekend playing ball for the title of "Champions".  Gary and I were in Makalondi, and because we enjoy the event and because our son, Joe, had a team competing in the tournament, we decided to drive in to the city for the weekend of games.  It was Friday morning.

Before leaving home, I decided to shower to freshen up from working in the heat.  As I dried off with my towel, I felt something strange on the side of my right breast. 
I went over it again.  Yep, there was a knot, and it was pretty noticeable. 
Panic hit me as I felt again and again.  There was no denying it; there was a sizable lump there. 
I asked Gary to come and feel it. He felt it too. 
Panic rose to Extreme panic as I began to think over my options….

The whole ride into the city was spent thinking over what I'd just discovered and praying that God would help me to remain calm.
                                          "Papa" playing with Oliver at the Softball games

The weekend was spent watching softball games, visiting with friends, and praying for peace.  I talked to a good friend, a doctor, and he helped me come up with first steps.

Monday morning early, I went to a local clinic and had a mammogram done.  The technician was excellent and the equipment would rival that in most U.S. hospitals.  Then it was the waiting until I could pick up the results the next day…

Gary and I talked, but not too much, about what was happening. In some ways, to not talk about it seemed that it would help to keep it away.  One doctor friend had reminded me that a high percentage of lumps are benign, so I repeated that to myself.

I kept thinking about the patients I had seen at my clinic that I had feared had malignant tumors.  I would refer them to a doctor friend in Niamey for further tests and then treatment.  I wasn't very involved beyond the referral… I really didn't know what all would happen after a biopsy was done.

When we got the results of the mammogram back, it was stamped with the word: Normal.
At first that was comforting, but as I thought about it more, I just couldn't believe that the sizable lump was "normal".  I just felt that I needed to have it checked out further.

I contacted one of our doctors at our mission hospital further east in the country, and asked if I could come and have a consult and exam with he and our OB/GYN. I requested an ultrasound.  He agreed and Gary and I made arrangements for me to fly out on our mission air service, SIM Air, to Galmi Hospital. 

I'm so thankful for the compassionate, dedicated staff at our hospital! They were so kind and on their lunch break, after a Very Busy morning of work, the 2 doctors graciously did an ultrasound and exam. Both revealed that there was indeed "something" there…including a "knotty" lymph node.  We talked, and they suggested that Gary and I move up our scheduled December departure date to the U.S.  I remember the woman doctor (OB/GYN) saying "Woman to woman, Joy, I think that the sooner you know something, the better you'll feel. How much will you really accomplish if you are constantly wondering what is going on?"  Wise words. 

I walked back to the house where I was staying with my friend, Deb.  (Remember Deb? She's the one who helped so much with Yumanli after her burn and with baby Esther's spina bifida.)  It was good to be able to sit and talk through things with Deb.  I called Gary and told him the results. He told me that our son, Joe, was also anxiously waiting to hear something, so he would give him a call. 
Deb was recovering from a bug so she was home resting.  Thankfully, she was home that afternoon! We talked.  We watched an episode of a mystery series.  And that evening she had a couple of other medical missionary friends in for supper and to watch a movie. All this helped me to be able to not dwell on the "what if's".  But when I went in to bed, I climbed in feeling very vulnerable and very alone.  It was new territory to navigate.

My son, Joe, flew in that morning from Niamey.  He walked through the gate from the air strip, straight to me and gave me a long hug, asking, "how are you doing, mom?"  I was SO glad for his presence! I wanted to hang on to him and just talk, but we were in the middle of a crowd.  Missionaries and many nationals had come to the air strip to greet the new doctor arriving and the nationals wanted to see the airplane.  Talking would have to wait. 

I said good-bye to Deb, knowing that I probably wouldn't see her again in Niger for awhile… that was my first reality adjustment that brought home the fact that my life had changed forever.  And I had no idea how many other changes were coming…

As I climbed into the plane, it seemed surreal that my son was flying me "home".  In spite of the reason for my having to fly in the first place, I was so extremely proud of my Joe and pleased to be able to have the experience to be flown by him!!  As I gazed out the window of the plane on the vast expanse of Niger below me, I was struck by all the remote little villages…and wondering if they had ever heard the good news of Jesus.  Jesus, Who was holding me together right then, giving me courage and strength to think about all the decisions we would have to make in the next few days… Jesus, Who promised to never leave me or forsake me.  And I prayed for those villages! 

Gary was waiting for me in the parking lot when we came from the hanger.  As we drove home (to our Niamey apartment) I gave him all the details I hadn't been able to do over the phone.  When I walked in our door at home, there was a huge bowl full of all kinds of fruit - mangoes, pineapple, apples, bananas, grapes, papaya - it was Gary's gift of comfort.  It was such a welcome sight, and having him wrap his arms around me and assure me that he would take care of me!

The next few days were spent talking about the next steps: Who do we tell? How much time did we need to prepare to leave?  We needed to change our airline tickets.  Being able to talk it out helped so much. 
I remember thinking that all this seemed very unreal.  Were we really talking about all this?!  How had this happened?!  I'm a nurse, for heaven's sake…How could I have not noticed this earlier?!  And I remember just getting alone with Jesus and Him calming my heart with His Word.  Verses I had known before became full of renewed meaning and promise!  

And I remember having asked a missionary friend at one of the ball games, how she had navigated having breast cancer… and asking her if she had fallen apart.  And she told me, "No I didn't, not until it was all over.  While I was going through it, I felt like I was being carried along on the crest of a wave."  Over the next months, I would come to know exactly what she was talking about…

Now: (next post)


AnneJisca said...

You have been in my thoughts often over the past year. May God continue to bless you, and bring healing.
-Anne Jisca

Palamanga said...

thanks so much Anne Jisca! love you!