I can’t quite bring myself to return to “normal” blogging. I’m not quite ready to return to “real” life. To do so feels like a betrayal of all that I’ve seen and, more importantly, all that I now know exists.
A big part of me knows that isn’t true. I’ve got to reengage in politics and reengage in culture and reengage in everything else. But I just can’t do it yet.
It isn’t time yet.
Perhaps one reason for that is that my own journey takes two more stops this week. The first occurs this afternoon when i go to NIH to get an MRI on my brain. It is really, really hard to believe it has been nearly five years since the night of my accident and the night of the diagnosis and the beautiful days since… and, oh yeah, my periods.
The second stop is on Friday afternoon when we find out the results of today’s MRI.
Talk about culture shock, not only am I home now, living in my ridiculously comfortable world, I am about to undergo the starkest change of roles – I will be switching from provider to patient. I prefer provider.
But I will also be undergoing the shock of the journey from that Ugandan hospital to the National Institutes of Health.
I almost feel guilty praying for good news on the MRI. I mean why should I get prayers when there are so many others who need it far more? I’ve always known this intellectually. I’ve seen it too – seen it in other people’s sufferings in our hospitals. But now I know of suffering on an unimaginable scale – the scale of names and faces that represent billions.
Yet I know that God is bigger than my limited thinking. I know that the reason for suffering isn’t God. The story is far more complicated than that. As God is light there are forces that are forces of darkness. We live in a world of spiritual struggle and strife. And in that world prayers somehow matter – matter mightily. So I know it is ok to pray for good news.
This morning I found something I wrote not long after my surgery:
We got the final pathology reports last night. One was from NIH and the other from one of the country’s top pathologists in Boston. Both agree that my particular tumor was a ‘mixed glioma’ made up of both ‘oglios’ and ‘astros’ (my not-so- technically-accurate terms). Both also agree that these cells show no evidence of being ‘high grade’ cells – those that are rapidly dividing. Instead, they are ‘level 2’ cells meaning that they are ‘low grade.’ Other tests run by the Boston pathologist similarly suggest that these are not ‘angry’ cells, and divide very slowly.
Kim and I had both hoped the reports would say this was purely an ‘oglio’ tumor – the kind that if they recur tend to do so in decades. That it wasn’t purely this particular type was initially a blow for both of us. As much as anything we were hoping we could simply wash our hands of this and move on, with an MRI every six months or year.
But the news we got was hardly bad. If this tumor recurs, the doctors believe it will do so at some undetermined point between when Level 2 astrocytomas recur (usually measured in years) and when Level 2 Oligodendrogliomas recur (measured in decades). Recurrence would mean reexamining options and considering treatments like radiation. Of course, it is also possible it might never recur – and that is certainly the prayer that we’d ask you to continue to pray in the coming days and years.
When we first heard the pathology reports, Dr. Fine (Chief Neuro-Oncologist at NIH) warned us that this was, in many ways, the most frustrating of all possible diagnoses. Not, obviously, because of the threat it poses but because of the uncertainty it presents. After hearing all the possible outcomes, we are tempted to agree – the lack of certainty is hard. The seemingly endless list of things that could possibly go wrong is also hard to grasp.
Yet we know this diagnosis is really just a microcosm for all our lives – we are not promised tomorrow (or even our next breath). Solomon put it succinctly, “We do not know what a day may bring forth.” This lack of certainty, however, does not mean that we are mere biological accidents drifting along on the winds of chance. Rather, we believe that the lack of certainty is just the beginning of faith. We know we are not alone and that God is with us in all of us – that we will never be on our own. We also ask that your prayers for us continue – that as the months and years progress, you will remember to pray for our total and complete healing and for no recurrence of this tumor.