We’ve all had good days, bad days, and the “when it rains, it pours” kind of days.
My cancer journey was filled with countless ups and downs, curveballs and fastballs, and tears of joy and tears of pain. Some days were beautiful. And some days, it rained and it poured.
This part of my story includes much suffering, but it also introduced me to unrealized strength and courage to persevere through life’s storms. Although I never want to relive that specific day again, I feel increased gratitude for the good days and encouragement to face challenging days because of it.
Here is my story of an exceedingly challenging day and 5 important reflections that I carry with me from the experience:
December 15, 2017
I was recovering in the hospital from a surgery where a nine inch vertical incision was made down my abdomen. It was being held together with surgical skin glue and a layer of dissolvable stitches. I was on a tremendous amount of medication (oral, IV, and an anti-nausea patch behind my ear) and was hoping to be discharged from the hospital soon.
Although the circumstances were intense, I was starting to heal. My parents and brother had come to visit me that morning and we thought it would be fun to leave the room to play cards together on another floor in the building. I couldn’t wait for this little adventure!
It was such a lovely morning with them, but I grew tired quickly. I didn’t want it to end, but I needed my rest so we began to head back to my room.
I moved slowly in my sticky socks while pulling my IV pole alongside me preparing to exit the elevator. Since there were other people entering and exiting, I shuffled sideways facing the elevator door to avoid colliding with someone. I had to be extra careful.
As the elevator door began to close, I didn’t think twice about it. I anticipated that it would reopen when it sensed that I was in its path.
But it did not. The elevator door continued to close.
Unable to move quickly, my eyes widened and the elevator door hit me directly in the abdomen right where my incision was before bouncing back open. It caused me to jolt my body and I yanked my IV pole through the doors stepping towards my family.
Once the initial shock wore off, the pain began to sear. I started screaming.
The dull throbbing that the medication had held my pain level to had now escalated to an unbearable pounding. My heart was racing, my cheeks were drenched with tears, and I was terrified that my incision had opened up during this event.
Quickly upon arriving back to my room, the medical team checked to see if the glue was intact on my incision. Then, an ultrasound was taken to make sure I didn’t have any internal bruising or bleeding. I was trembling with pain and fear while awaiting answers and another dose of pain medication.
Another woman came in to interview me about what had happened. She wanted to have the elevator checked to make sure it wasn’t malfunctioning and to keep it safe for everyone else. I could barely think and hold it together.
When news returned that I had no internal injuries, we were relieved and my parents and brother said their goodbyes and left.
In the coming hours, the pain began to dull in my abdomen, but I began to notice that my hand with the IV in it was burning. My nurse informed me that it was standard to have it changed every 3 days so it would need to be done that day. I was dreading this since my veins like to play “hide-and-seek” with needles. I was described as a “tough stick.”
Multiple nurses were brought in and attempts were made in the crease of my arm, my hand, and my wrist. Every nurse was doing their very best to find a vein but a successful stick could not be achieved. After the sixth attempt, I found myself shaking and crying once again from anxiety and pain.
“Please make it stop,” I cried to Wes. “I can’t take this anymore.”
Just in time, a nurse perked up her eyes looking at the others.
“I’ve got one,” she said as the needle sunk deeply into my forearm and I yelped in pain. She had found a vein and the sticks were finally over.
Everyone exited the room except Wes and me. I was breathing heavily and I didn’t want to move my left arm. I was violently running my right hand through my hair, around my neck, and over my face rubbing my eyes trying to calm myself down but I was still panicking.
“Let me help you up,” Wes said to me as he helped me stand and he gently pulled me into his arms. “I love you.”
Right when I was getting ready to respond, I noticed quickly that something was wrong.
“Wes, I can’t see you,” I said to him. “You’re completely blurry. My contacts are in but something is wrong with my vision.”
He rushed out of the room to find the first nurse available to examine my eyesight. After she spent time looking at my eyes she looked behind my ear.
“Did you touch the anti-nausea patch behind your ear and then touch your eyes,” she asked me.
“I probably did,” I replied recalling that I rubbed my head and neck from stress and then wiped tears from my eyes.
“That is what caused your pupils to dilate,” she said. “It could be a few days to regain clear vision, but we expect it to go back to normal.”
“Thank you,” I said in shock as she left the room. I looked towards the blur that was Wes and sighed. “What do you think the purpose of such a horrible day is?”
“When the sun rises tomorrow and this day becomes part of the past, what do you say we take some time and process through it together,” he asked and I nodded my head and he helped me get ready for bed.
When I awoke in the morning, I was thankful that yesterday had come and gone. I could barely believe I had made it to another day. I couldn’t believe so much of my cancer journey had gone by and I hadn’t made a list of reminders for hard times already. With many hard moments from the cancer journey and a difficult day fresh on our minds, it was the perfect time to do it and we were ready to put something together to carry with us for the years ahead.
Here is the list of 5 reminders we made for stormy days:
- Even through blurred eyes, there were things we could see clearly: Love, Courage, Perseverance, and Hope. Whether the situation was unclear or we entered in blindly, this would always carry us through.
- Amidst a chain of difficult events and unexpected hardships, there were still things to be grateful for. It would always be okay to grieve and process through challenging circumstances, but we would always, always, always find something to be grateful for to provide strength and remind us why we keep going.
- A really bad day did not translate to a really bad life. That day was now a part of the past. The present had arrived and the future awaited!
- Even though I was the only one directly inflicted with the physical pain, I did not face any of it alone. God, Wes, my family, doctors, and medical staff were there during that hard day (and many more during the entirety of my cancer journey). The residual pain was still present, but I wasn’t alone.
- We could look back on this experience in order to relate to, empathize with, and encourage others to never lose hope for the days ahead. Though there may be pain in the night, joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). My life verse remained true as it guided me before cancer, during treatment/surgeries, and now through survivorship:
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33 ESV
If today is a difficult one for you, or if you have a loved one facing great struggles, my hope is that this piece of my journey along with its reflections will bring this encouragement to you: you can keep going through the hard days, you can press through the trials you are enduring, and you can find hope in a loving God.
I’ve seen it pour when it rains and I’ve also witnessed the most beautiful rainbows emerge after a storm. So whether you are on Cloud 9 or amidst a storm, carry hope, love, and light with you. God is with you and He is good.
May God bless you today and always!
Are you in the midst of a great trial or challenging season? Or are you on the other side of a hardship and want to share what has helped you get through? I would love to hear from you and lift up prayer requests for you if you need them or resound with joyous praises if you’re dong well!