Ann Bjorlie’s Story: Miracles are Still Happening

Ann BjorlieDo you believe in miracles? Do you believe God answers prayer? I do, and yesterday as Ann (a spunky friend I’ve known for over 20 years) sat across from me in our tea room recounting what had happened to her recently, I knew it was a message that I wanted to share with you ASAP…like today! What happened? Well, her aorta burst, she bled out and was without oxygen for 15 minutes. Ann Recovered!And yet, she’s alive and well today!  The doctor told her that she was “one in a million,” but I think she was more than that, because no one at the hospital had ever known someone to survive this particular medical disaster. I believe it is an undeniable miracle!  There were a series of conditions that were unique and could have been circumstance, such as her surgeon being outside her room when she started throwing up blood, one of his colleagues who’d read all her charts was still in hospital (later evening), an anesthesiologist who worked with their team “just happened” to be at the hospital too, and an operating room “just happened” to be open and clean at that moment. But, the surgeon performed a surgery that had never been performed in that situation at that hospital before, with an outcome that not one person believed was possible (including my medical doctor husband). That’s a miracle in my book!Ann at HospitalThat’s the short of it; if you still have doubts and time to read the long of it, I think the details are well worth sharing. Ann was born with a congenital heart defect, but it wasn’t until January of 2015 that the problem became so severe she needed her aortic valve replaced. Ann recovered quickly, and we were all hopeful that she’d do just fine, but then, ten months later, she started having problems with being out of breath, feeling weak and losing blood. Her husband took her into the ER at Spectrum Hospital (here in GR), where they kept her overnight. I’ll let her pick up the story in her own words here:
     “Wednesday morning [December 2] began a battery of tests. I actually do not remember much from that day except having a CT scan. In the afternoon I encouraged John to go to prayer meeting for supper. He went and stayed for the meeting as well. Just as he got back, Dr. Fanning came and began to tell us I had a fistula that was touching my esophagus and dripping blood into my throat, which is why I was having black stools. Then he proceeded to tell us that they do not do surgery to repair this in Spectrum, so I’d have to go to Cleveland Clinic! He had talked with his colleagues and they simply would not assist him in such a risky surgery that had never been done at this hospital. He was obviously disturbed and was trying to let us know how serious this was. He told us that recovery in Cleveland is a month long, etc. Then, he stepped out with a phone call before we could ask any questions. We hardly knew what to ask as we were shocked at this news. Almost as soon as he left, John said, “Let’s pray.” He asked the Lord to raise me up like He did Dorcas. We cannot remember if I prayed. I think I just said “Amen” to his prayer as I was too emotional to pray. I know exactly what I would have prayed, and that is that they would find a way to do the surgery here [in Grand Rapids]. At any rate, I said to John, “Something’s happening, I think I’m going to throw up.” I began to vomit blood each time my heart beat. John held my shoulders as he sat beside me and color drained from my face.
     “Much of the following is from John’s recollection as I lost consciousness before they even put me on the bed…I’ve been told that the surgery began around 9:30 pm and lasted until around 4:30 am. I’ve read the doctor’s report of my surgery, and he says that when I entered the operating room, my pulse was barely there and thready, I had no blood pressure, blood was squirting out my mouth and coming out my rectum, they gave me multiple blood products, as I had bled out! With so little hope I am amazed at the determination of this surgeon and his medical team. I’ve since heard that not one person expected me to recover. Not one. And then, even if I did survive, they wondered if I’d have my mind, due to lack of oxygen during my bleed and before I was intubated. Would my kidneys function? Many questions surrounded my whole recovery as this hospital had never before done this surgery. Not one medical person had ever seen someone survive this rupture.
     “We thank God that we went to the ER when we did. It was a Tuesday late afternoon. All our friends, Facebook friends, and family soon became aware I had been hospitalized. What do Christians do for friends when there is a need? They pray. So by Wednesday night at prayer meetings all over the world people began to pray for my health, even though we had no idea what was wrong and how very seriously my life was endangered. I had one friend tell me via Facebook that she was praying likely at the time of my rupture. She is an hour earlier and had read I was in the hospital on FB. Do I believe in God? You had better believe I do. Does God answer prayer? Yes, He does.
     “One scripture given to me twice while in the hospital was Psalm 118:17-18, ” I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD. The LORD has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death.” This was read to me when Mike and Nona visited. He read the entire Psalm. Then a young man sent this same verse to me via Facebook. It was after I was released and at home that I began to realize the significance of the verse. God help me to be faithful.”
     If you’ve got even more time to hear her story, an 11-minute version from a radio broadcast is here:
Ann Bjorlie at our Kitchen Table



A Tale of Three Marathoners…from Chicago to Boston…and Back to Home!

Jess and Sam after the Boston MarathonDo you like running? Did you catch any of this week’s Boston Marathon? Boston MarathonI knew someone who was running this year, so I had a keen interest in the race, Baby Cheering her Daddy for the Boston Marathonbut it made me think about three other marathoners whom I admire
even though they weren’t running in the Boston Marathon. Baby with a Hat 1The first one is Jess, whose daughter’s cuteness (Sadie)
has adorned some of my Bless Your Baby entries. Marathon running coupleJess is totally delightful! She’s also a marathoner, and the story goes
that she and her husband, Sam, ran a marathon togetherBride and Bridegroom running a Marathon the morning before they got married. Doesn’t that put a big grin on your face? Baby with a Hat 2 Jess has set aside many of her personal ambitions in order to love her family, Baby on a jet planeand this past week she went with her husband and their little girl to Boston, Ready for the Boston Marathonwhere they cheered Sam on in the Boston Marathon. Way to go, Sam and Jess!! Baby with a Hat 3Life is a marathon, and you’re doing great! Luncheon TableLast week while Alan was at a conference in Chicago, Mom and Baby eatingI spent a blissful afternoon with Jess and Sadie, Sistersalong with two other women who are running a great race in life’s marathon.Green Rice with SaffronThe hostess, Marlene, is an Iranian Christian and always makes the most delectable, exotic meals. Baby with a Hat 4I won’t go into details, Iranean Soupbut the transition from Iran (many years ago) was at great cost to her family, and she still cares for an older brother who was never able to recover emotionally. Baby with Great AuntDespite the trials in her life, Marlene radiates a gentle kindness which makes me (and I suspect everybody else in her life space) feel dearly loved. Baby with her Great AuntShe’s the kind of woman I wish lived next door to me, and I envy her neighbors! Definitely one of those blessed, virtuous woman whose worth is far above rubies.

Lunch PartyMarlene’s sister-in-law is another rare gem. Lillian and her husband are caring for both her brother and her mother…and have been for years (in addition to rearing their own brood, a very demanding medical practice, and being very involved in their Messianic Jewish community, etc!). Baby with a Hat 5Their example of working tirelessly and extending grace to others is mind-boggling to me. I don’t think I had the metal to have lived such a rigorous, unselfish life of putting the needs of others ahead of my own. I know God certainly didn’t test me in that way. Baby with a Hat 6 At any rate, I was deeply touched by the experience of sharing an afternoon of life and love with these precious spiritual kin (same Father and all mothered by my spiritual mentor, Mommu). It was super fun, refreshing, and so encouraging!

Baby with a Hat 7Life is a long, hard marathon, isn’t it?  But, like Sadie, let’s just keep trying,
and in the end, everything will turn out right!    🙂   Baby with a Hat 8“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

P.S.—All the pictures of Jess, Sam, and Sadie (except for the pictures taken on the day of our visit last week) were taken and used by permission of Jess, who is very generous besides being so cool! Thank you!

Dealing with Cancer: Fight…or Trust?

Kari FormsmaEvery once in a while, I share the story of some dear friend who has been a major source of inspiration to me, and although I’ve told you about Kari before (Ob/Gyn with an aggressive form of uterine cancer), her recent Caring Bridge entry was so encouraging that I asked if I could share it with you. She tells a story about her father-in-law as well as some reflections on her own cancer journey.

Miracles and Waiting on His Plan

Larry’s dad developed bladder cancer a number of years ago.  It is a story of a remarkable number of medical mistakes and failures, and of God’s grace in a miracle cure. First, he was treated as if he had only a precancer, based on a misreading of the original (and repeat) biopies ( mistakes 1-3). When he repeatedly failed the superficial laser treatment, I suggested he get a second opinion at U of M.  They re-read the prior biopsies, said he had had invasive cancer since the first biopsy and said he needed to have extensive surgery, which they could not schedule for a few more months (potential failure 4). We were able to get the surgery done here in Battle Creek within a few weeks, but he had to have a re-operation 1 week later as there was an internal leak of  urine into his belly (mistake 5), however, despite extensive looking by 2 urologic surgeons, it could not be found (mistake 6). He had to live with this  with the condition being difficult to handle and making him feel ill. Eventually this healed on its own after several months.

At a followup visit several months later he was complaining of back pain so a pelvic CT was ordered which showed nothing (mistake 7, as was not high enough). When he continued with pain he got an MRI which was read in the urology office as negative (mistake 8). The final report from the radiologist correctly idenitified the multiple enlarged lymph nodes from the metastatic bladder cancer, but apparently was never read by the urologists (mistake 9.). His primary care doctor got a copy several months later, when he requested records and discovered the oversight.  Dad was then started on radiation, then chemotherapy.  After half the planned chemo, repeat imaging showed there was zero effect on the tumors and they suggested he might as well stop treatment. He was tolerating the chemo so well, after discussion with family, he decided to finish the last few cycles as it might be at least holding the the speed of growth.

While people had been praying for Dad all along, about this time there was a “laying on of hands” at his church, and extensive  prayer. Running into one of the urologists in Battle Creek I updated him on the situation. He looked at me straight in the eye and said, “You know he won’t survive this. People don’t survive after metastasis of bladder cancer, so just prepare yourself It will only be a few more months.”

Six months later his oncologist suggested a repeat CT, just to see how much the tumors had grown. To everyone’s astonishment, they were gone! All I could think was , “Well, here we go again- another misreading and a medical error.”  However, repeat scans again and again over the last years showed no sign of tumor.  There is no real explanation here except that this was a miracle.

Why am I telling you this? It helps to explain why I do not feel this is a “battle” with cancer.  So many people use these words, which I have never quite related to.  I do not feel aggressive in any way.  If determination or extra effort could cure it, I would do that.  But it is not what you have to do..  Mostly you accept things – side effects , treatments. It is really pretty passive time of waiting, not “fighting”.

I believe that the outcome is entirely in God’s hands, whether treatments “work” or not. If my life is over sooner than later (and, of course it will be over someday, no matter what) then it is because my work on earth is done.  If my life ends later, then God has more work for me to do. Either way, my only choice is to trust that God’s plans are good.  If I am asked to “endure”, that is what I need to do.  If it is to wait and see what the outcome is or what side effects I have, then waiting is what I must do. This “fighting” would be both counter productive and exhausting. I am okay and at peace with waiting to see what He has in mind for me.

So that comes to my own miracle this week.  I opened a copy of my mail today which held the paper results of my CBC (blood counts) from last Thursday.  I was alarmed to find that that doctor that read them to me missed that my “absolute neutrophils” (the most important infection fighting cells) were 420 (not the 1600 I understood he read to me on the phone on Friday.) If they are under 1500, I am supposed to put on drugs to boost them higher and/or be hospitalized. And these were taken 3 days after their lowest point! The point being, I had been in significant danger of having a life-threatening infection, instead of the just bronchitis I am now recovering from. When today I called U of M with the result, they wanted me to go to the emergency room to get treatment because they were so low. However, since the report was 4 days old, I asked and it was decided to repeat the CBC today prior to being admitted.  The neutrophils are now 2700, an astonishingly rapid recovery.

So I have been through a  harrowing time this last week, not even knowing it.  If I was “taken out”, or at least “taken down” during this time, it would have been understandable – but I was not. While I still have a pretty good cough, I no longer have a fever and have walked through this time safely.  Only God can do this, affirming my original position. You don’t “fight” cancer, you endure or journey through it, trusting “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to His purpose.”  This is true whether He decides I am done with my life sooner or later.  Just trust.

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life” (Psalm 138:7). Worry like a rocking chair

Kari’s father-in-law, who is “Uncle Milton” to us, is alive and doing fine today! Uncle Milton's 86th birthday partyLarry, Kari, Kathi, Alan, with Uncle Milt and Aunt Faye on the sofa.Jan. 25, 2011We were celebrating Uncle Milt’s 86th birthday in 2011. March 23, 2013This was taken just last spring, so you can see the Lord has truly preserved his life in a very miraculous way! Thank you, LORD!!

Birthday Blessings: Joy in Suffering??

Last Sunday’s message was from 1 Peter on the subject of finding joy during times of suffering. If you’re skeptical and think that’s never happened since the Apostle Paul spent a night in a Philippian jail, then have I ever got a story for you from a friend who was in a terrible accident on Mackinac Island last August 31.1079407_10151587978631918_1593864927_n My 63rd birthday was yesterday, but if you just want to hear Jane’s story, skip down to near the end. The prologue is this: For all but a very few of the last 38 birthdays, I’ve had the joy of sharing them with my son, Aaron, who was born on my 25th birthday, but this year work pressures kept him from bringing his family as he’d planned, and so I found myself with a free day, except that my wonderful DSCN6632husband took me out to Panera for hot chocolate and a (free birthday) pastry  for DSCN6725     breakfast, and then when he got home from work he took me out for dinner  DSCN6810                 in Grand Haven. It got up to 79° yesterday—balmy and warm—DSCN6739 so we took a leisurely stroll along the waterfront and out to the end of the pier.  DSCN6764                   Meanwhile, I asked the Lord what He thought I should do DSCN6796         with my windfall of free time, and it just seemed like He had some ideas! DSCN6651So, in the morning after breakfast, I whisked down to Spectrum to sit with my next-door neighbor, whose husband ended up having prostate cancer surgery on my birthday! (Everything went well and he has an excellent prognosis. :)) DSCN6712Then, I found my way down to Middleville to take Jane out for lunch. Jane was on Mackinac Island with her family just about one month ago and got in a freak accident while out bicycling with her grand daughter. A horse ran into her, spooked, and stepped on her, nearly killing her. She’s had an amazing recovery but (of course) has a very long way to go and is still in a lot of pain.1174289_10201909259274476_1997772777_n            At any rate, this is how Jane looked in the hospital a month ago,   DSCN6714and  this is how great she was looking yesterday already! Here are her thoughts:

                                            Good morning everyone!¸¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪ ¸•.¸¸♥¸¸.•*•♫   Good Morning ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ 2 You¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪

Yesterday, I got an email from a friend that said “Stay strong and positive. Not sure why I said that to the most positive person around.” Earlier in the day another friend approached me with a hug and kind compliment, “I’ve noticed you haven’t sounded angry or bitter.” Both comments caught me off guard. How could I be angry or bitter? How can I be anything but positive? Let me try to explain. From the moment I realized what happened I started thanking God for all the things that didn’t happen – and I know I was one breath from death. I didn’t get that.

I had been riding a bike with my 9 year old granddaughter and her 10 year old friend. I think I’m on the millionth prayer ‘Thank you, God that this didn’t happen to them.’ They were 20 feet ahead of me and spared any injury. I still can’t stop thanking God that nothing happened to those sweet little girls and that he protected them from harm. Mark 10:16 “He took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” He also protected them. I get that.

How can I be angry or let bitterness take root when I review what I didn’t get? My scalp was torn away from my skull and required 14 staples to put it back in place. I didn’t get a concussion and my skull didn’t crack. (There are advantages to being hard headed, I guess.)

When I looked up to see the horse moving forward, I moved to the left as quickly as I could. All my ribs on the right side front and back were crushed. My heart, just a couple inches away, was not touched. My heart could have been smashed, but I didn’t get that.

My shoulder blade cracked and while it’s the most painful area on my body, it wasn’t shattered beyond repair. It will always wing out now because that’s how it healed. I’ll forever wear that badge. It will be a constant reminder of God’s protection and blessing on my life.

I was wearing a backpack and every item inside was crushed, bent, or broken. My metal business card case, metal encased notepad, and metal enforced wallet were bent beyond further use, and my glasses inside a hard case were totally crushed. My spinal cord was unaffected – not even bruised. I could have been left with a damaged spinal cord, unable to walk – but I didn’t get that.

The sandals I was wearing rubbed blisters on my ankles, but my ankles didn’t get broken or sprained. Think of it. I could have gotten broken legs, crushed knees, broken pelvis … I didn’t get any of that.

When my ribs got crushed, my right lung was punctured and collapsed. God orchestrated the team of workers who showed up to save my life. What are the chances that the med station on Mackinaw Island would have a chest tube? How often would a medic be called upon to insert a chest tube, not from the bottom of the lung, which is the normal method, but from the top, down? God sent an ER doctor to the island that day and while talking on the phone to a doctor at the trauma center in Petoskey, inserted the chest tube that would inflate my lung and save my life. Miracles happened on August 31st. I get that.

Ephesians 3:17-20 “Let Christ dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

How can I be angry or bitter? There is no other attitude to have besides positive. Recovery is slow and I feel bad about not being able to work till the end of the contract I had at my job. I’m not sure how that factors in to God’s plan, but I know that every detail of life paints a tapestry designed by Him. I’m easily exhausted, but am not bed ridden. When I use this little netbook for writing, it has to be at a certain position due to the pain in my right side, and it’s difficult to write, but I can write and type . . . just in short periods.

Philippians 2:13-16 “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.”

All prayers gladly accepted. They work. I get that. psalmDSCN6708(This picture is of a plaque sitting directly in front of Jane’s door at home.)

*Thank you, dear Deb W., for the delightful birthday greeting at the top!

The Great Wall of China and a Reflection by Shelly

Back in 1995, I went on a trip to China with my three oldest sons…& company. 🙂563667_10151530528399672_1186781014_n Ever since then, I’ve had a huge heart for the people and an interest in anyone who goes there, so I was especially excited when I got to know Shelly. 179835_10150093592473381_502937_nShelly has been living in China for some years now and is involved with teaching English to Chinese students. Wiki Commons
So, it was a special delight to me when I read of her adventure in hiking 800px-20090529_Great_Wall_8185 along the Great Wall of China, because I remembered walking that wall Great Wall of Chinaon a rainy day when people were all bobbing along under brightly colored umbrellas that reminded me of balloons.Shelly
At any rate, Shelly is such a cheerful soul, and I was so charmed by her story, that I asked permission to relate it to you, and she very graciously consented!
“The adventure began at the main gate to the university, which apparently doesn’t open until 6 AM, but my friend and I had to leave by 5:30 to get to the train station for our 6:30 train. Undaunted, and unwilling to walk all the way around to the smaller gate back by our apartments, we climbed over the gate and got to the station on time. We were bound for a “barrier city” to the west of Beijing in Hebei Province. Part of the ancient Great Wall can be seen in the mountains surrounding and running through this small city. -1           Here is a pictures of Da Jing Gate and part of the old wall rising above it.-2“And, this is a stretch of the old wall that we walked along. Though cloudy, the day was perfect for a hike! If we weren’t hiking the hills, we were hiking the yet unfinished malls looking for bathrooms. When we finally found one, it was like a river crossing adventure due to some bad plumbing. Water more than an inch deep covered the entire bathroom. Fortunately, someone before us had put down planks of granite to form a “land bridge” or “stepping stones” to get to the stalls.
That’s a good metaphor for life when it seems our way is hindered. To our surprise and delight, someone may have made a way that we can follow with relative ease. It may still be messy and we may need to tread carefully, but we can make a go of it. Sometimes, however, we are the ones who need to make the land bridge. More commonly I think we are called to mutually build “land bridges” between one another as we learn to navigate our relationships in ways that keep everyone’s feet dry and get us to our desired destinations. That is the strength and beauty of the Body to help one another in our times of need.183930_4737644000409_1391020426_n“Or, as in the case of the bathroom adventure, share the experience with a fellow traveler. May you climb mountains and traverse messy places with steadfastness– and a companion or two.”
“A threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
(1st 3 pictures of the Great Wall are from Wiki Commons, but the rest are Shelly’s.)

Thoughts from an ObGyn with Uterine Cancer

l.kyMongDzVxSAHMKPAlan doesn’t ever remember not knowing Larry, and I’ve known him for 50 years. We all fell in love with Kari when Larry married her and have been fast friends ever since. Kari became an ObGyn after their kids were comfortably into school, and Kari is the kind of woman who (with Larry) spends many a vacation doing short-term medical mission work in Africa. Needless to say, I think they are totally awesome and so have been pretty devastated by her recent diagnosis with an aggressive form of uterine cancer…her surgery, and now chemotherapy. She sent me such a sweet response to my latest lament over her condition that I asked her if I could share excerpts with you. Because, Alan and I are praying for and anguishing over no fewer than a dozen friends who are wrestling with cancer right now, and I thought perhaps her glowing attitudes might encourage others at home and abroad as they try to come to peace with major illness and the prospects of (our universally inevitable) death on this earth as we know it now.
“I felt bad that I have caused you so much distress over your concern for me/us. While I too, have had that feeling this is all a nightmare from which I would like to awake, that was only at the beginning when I first understood just what I had.
“However, for the last many weeks I have not felt this way.  I know this road is has been chosen for me by my Maker and planned from my birth so I plan to walk it as best I can, sometimes getting a glimpse of what He is planning to accomplish and sometimes not. Either way, it WAS chosen for me and I take comfort and strength in that.  If I die sooner, I hope to leave as many believers behind as I can…I am hoping some how, that I can show [others] what Christ has meant to me in walking this road, with the pain, fear, confusing and frustration. I  hope that somehow, readers will see joy, confidence, clarity, insight, and  strength  that faith can bring, knowing full well that each one is responsible for opening his/her heart to Him. I just want to be a vehicle to play my part in this plan and to be used in a very real way for the salvation of so many I love that are lost.  Also, I want to demonstrate that God can be a the strong arm to lean on and that facing death need not be terrifying…I am not saying that I plan on dying soon and certainly do not want to, but it is unrealistic not to acknowledge that it is a possibility. This experience has helped me clarify, if given the gift of significantly more time on this earth, what I want to do. Interestingly, it is not the things that other people seem to say (at least according to popular songs, movies, etc). It is not visiting more places or even spending increasing amounts of time with family as I feel I have been pretty good over the years in doing things and have no regrets about them.  What I would like more time to do is pass on what I have learned about patient care and medicine to a new generation, that is, become involved in some way teaching.  The new WMU medical opening next year may be an opportunity.  Also I would like more time to do something grand to impress on the current generation  the tragedy of sexual immorality, including the devastating consequences  it has/is having on children, women and society in general… This is a dream I have had for a long time, but I have yet to find a way to do this.
“Anyway, getting back to your comments, please to not stress for me that this ‘should not be happening.’  It should.  I ask you to join me to try to understand that, as  believers, your and my job is to use this illness, as all experience, to glorify God and fulfill our mission in life as the Bible directs us and to strive not to waste any time wishing it weren’t happening, but to spend that time using our experiences the way God wants us to.”
Amen! Thank you, Kari, for lighting a path for the rest of us. You echo so beautifully the Apostle Paul’s confession in Philippians 3: “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ…that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death, if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead…Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one things I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

Grace at Work

November 2011 013Today I want to share a story about my dear friend, Kari. (From left to right: Alan, me, Kari, Larry, Tom, and Brenda…we’ve all been friends pretty much forever.) I just got word a few minutes ago that Kari finished her ObGyn renewal boards already this morning! Three cheers for Kari. (She had cancer surgery just a few weeks ago and next week she’s starting chemo treatments.) I stand in awe of the way she’s handling all this!! Also, this afternoon I’m making dinner for some friends whose husband is recovering from cancer surgery, and Alan’s condition (which seems great at this time) is still ever on my heart, so the whole question of how to treat cancer and facing end-of-life issues has been burning my brain black on the front burner lately. Kari’s CaringBridge post is such a picture of grace at work that I want to share a few excerpts in the hopes of comforting anyone else who may be peering into the future with fear and trembling:

I guess I want to share a story that has been on my mind lately. Our first  trip to Zambia to the hospital there was several years ago now.  When first proposed to me that I go, I had said I would only go if they specifically needed a ob/gyn, as I knew I would be overwhelmed with general medicine.  When it turned out that was they type of doctor  was requested, I did not hesitate a minute – I knew I was being “called” and did not think twice.  It was a challenging experience to say the least.  The hospital had not had any doctor for a few years, the OR was dirty and disorganized and we did not know any of the staff or their capabilities like we do now.  I was doing a lot of general medicine with critically ill patients and I barely knew what to do for them.

However, one experience stands out for me above all the rest. The nurses we came with had spent several days trying to organize and clean the OR. We had trouble finding and obtaining oxygen which was delaying our doing any surgery, although we had several patients that needed procedures for various reasons.

There was one patient that I felt needed to be the first for surgery.  I had been told she had a miscarriage…and now she appeared to have had a “septic abortion”, meaning she was infected, and the ultrasound report showed an “abscess”. She was having a lot of pain but I ended up sitting on her a day or so, waiting for things to be ready for surgery.

Now I was in the OR ready to start the case… The instrument packages did not look very sterile to me and the lighting was poor. So as I stood over the patient with a scalpel in hand, looked around the room and started to tremble.  I thought, “I am going to kill this patient! What am I doing??” and started to cry.

However, I paused and asked myself, “Am I supposed to be here?” The answer was clear and unequivocal: yes. That is the one thing I knew – that I had been called to this place and time.  So then, what was I afraid of? An image floated before my eyes of a picture that the long- term missionary nurse had cut from a magazine and had on her wall.  It was of a surgeon in the OR in a mask and surgical gown, the OR light shining on the patient, with an image of Christ standing behind the surgeon with one hand on his shoulder and one hand covering the surgeon’s hand on the scalpel.

I stopped trembling and tearing up, and I started the surgery.  It turned out the patient did not have an abscess but a ruptured ectopic (tubal) pregnancy.  She was bleeding to death internally and waiting any longer would have surely meant her death. The nurse with no experience first assisting performed courageously and with natural talent and skill that was amazing, not panicking with the large amount of blood. Ann kept her cool and David turned out to be incredibly experienced.

I am telling this story because I feel like I have spent more time than I want to admit in the last several weeks with that scalpel poised over that patient, trembling and unsure.  I have to ask myself, “Am I supposed to be here? Should I go through with this?”. The answer is clearly, again, “Yes”.  I did the right things and clearly this situation was not MY choice or in my control,  but the One who is in charge of my life decided and is directing this whole cancer story.  So, why should I be afraid?

“But he knows the way that I take: when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).-3