Recently I went for an annual post cancer check-up with my oncologist.
Unfortunately, for the first time in four and half years, my blood tests came back abnormal. Didn’t see that coming!
I blinked back tears as my oncologist handed me the referral for a PET scan. I walked out of his office bewildered and drove to a nearby park and sobbed. It was not what I had expected to hear after being in remission for four and half years.
When the nurse called me to confirm my appointment, I could feel the tension in my body rise as she gave me instructions over the phone for the PET scan. PET stands for positron emission tomography, a nuclear medicine imaging test in which a small amount of liquid radioactive material is injected into the body and used to diagnose a variety of diseases.
In other words: a thorough examination to see if there are any more cancer cells in my body. Which was now the doctor’s concern.
The nurse’s instructions were to fast from food for six hours prior to the scan (only water allowed) and I was discouraged from doing any vigorous exercises before the appointment. I rolled my eyes as she finished and hung up the phone frustrated. I could feel knots in my stomach as I fought back more tears.
The next morning, I drove for nearly an hour to where I had to get the scan done; thankfully it was school holidays, so the traffic was light heading into the city. I managed to find a car park two blocks away from the hospital, but I had to trudge up a hill which made me breathless. My energy levels were low because I hadn’t eaten. My stomach reminded me of the fact as it growled in protest.
A stylish, mature woman with a coiffure and wearing retro glasses greeted me with a smile and kindly held the lift for me. Her sweet floral fragrance filled the elevator and so did her warm personality. She asked what level I needed, but I was a bit vague. She waited patiently as I gathered my thoughts and finally remembered where it was I was going.
As the doors of the lift opened on my floor, the wafting smell of coffee and the noise of people chatting in the café were all too familiar. The hospital environment triggered memories of the last ten years, a place etched in my mind forever since I’d been diagnosed in 2008. I often recognised a familiar face of a doctor, nurse or a patient I would stop and chat to and then weave my way through the hospital corridors.
I walked past a picture of a scripture hanging under a set of stairs that used to grab my attention and still does, Psalm 66. This was a scripture God gave Az and I when we were going through cancer the first time. I quickly peered at it and reassured myself that despite what I was feeling God was faithful.
I arrived for my appointment, a two-hour procedure, on time. A female nurse ushered me through a room to change into a hospital gown.
She then inserted a cannula into my arm. A sharp pain from the needle made my arm jolt from discomfort. I rolled my eyes as she turned her back to me to get something else. My stomach growled again and all I could think about was gorging on food.
I was shifted to another room with just a single bed. An urban male nurse with a perfect haircut brought me a lime coloured liquid that I had to drink. He explained the glucose drink is like Gatorade. As I took a sip I almost gagged.
After he left, I checked my phone to focus elsewhere but another male nurse walked in and advised me to lie still on the bed and try not to exert any energy. He discouraged me from reading or talking on my phone before I entered the donut-shaped machine room.
‘Great,’ I thought, ‘I have to look at the stark white walls.’
I started to feel overwhelmed all over again. As I peered up to the ceiling I noticed the security cameras and my thoughts started to wander….why doesn’t God intervene so I can live a normal life?!
I wrestled with the thoughts which were like arrows piercing my heart:
Did God really heal me?
Are God’s promises true or is it all in my head?
Maybe this is my lot in life….
I knew entertaining negative thoughts would lead me down a dark hole of despair.
I looked around the sanitised room and noticed the cleanliness. It dawned on me that my doctor was making a fuss to ensure that I was being looked after, and that God had orchestrated my path that day when I met the friendly stylish lady and the nurses who had prepped me. I was reminded of how blessed I was to live in Australia with a top medical system compared to other countries.
Sometimes it’s difficult to focus on the good when all hell is breaking out. Some days I crumple up in a heap or sob in my car and that too is ok but I have learnt that in dark times drowning in discouraging thoughts is not beneficial. It starts with a thought.
Instead of allowing the memories of what I had been through with cancer to dominate how I felt, I started to utter thanksgiving to God in that stark white room.
I recalled the very first time I was diagnosed with cancer, when the doctor said that having a family was not an option, but yet when the odds were against me God supernaturally blessed Az and I with a baby.
The angst in my heart shifted and the spirit of heaviness over my mind dispersed. I felt the tangible peace of the Father overwhelm me and bring reassurance.
A couple of weeks later, which felt like an eternity when waiting for test results, after I had dropped William off at school and Az had left for work, I received a phone call from my oncologist. I was nervous until I heard the words: “Good news, your results are all clear. I don’t need to see you for another year.” They were music to my ears.
I let out a deep sigh of relief. “Thank goodness!”
And thank you Jesus!!
So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honourable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always.