That’s not a bruise
on my forehead
Five years ago, on Fat Tuesday, a Florida doctor who was not particularly good and not particularly nice saved my life.
Whether through an abundance of caution or an abundance of pressure to schedule pricey procedures (I know — that kind of thing NEVER happens), he had looked at my history of childhood kidney troubles and ordered a CT scan just to be sure my UTI wasn’t significant of something more ominous.
On Mardi Gras, as the costumed revelers were gathering in bourbonsoaked living rooms across town to prepare for the evenings festivities, I sat in his office as he read the results, which described a grapefruit- sized mass in the general area where my right ovary should have been.
``What is it?’’ I asked.
He looked at me as though I were an idiot, ``Well I can’t tell you THAT.’’
``How will I know?’’
``Obviously you have to have surgery as soon as possible.’’
It’s funny, but I do not remember this story in terms of calendar dates, but rather the dates of the church calendar.
I got my test results on Mardi Gras, I had my surgery the day after the fifth Sunday in Lent. I left the hospital on Palm Sunday. My mother died on Maundy Thursday. It was the worst Good Friday I had ever experienced (with apologies to everyone who went through, you know, THE FIRST Good Friday).
On Easter, my house was full of mourners.
It is impossible for me to resist the urge to observe this season as anything but a prayer of gratitude for the wilderness I had the good fortune to traverse then.
To be sure, I was not grateful at the time. When you are 34 and hearing that you may have metastatic ovarian cancer (not the most sunny diagnosis), but that you’ll have to wait until surgery to know for sure, every moment that ticks by is crushing.
Knowing that you are fighting for your life is hard. The next hardest thing is waiting to find out whether you’re fighting for your life. For me, it lasted a little shy of 40 days and 40 nights.
The days were filled with insulting, dehumanizing and sometimes humiliating tests. They were filled with friends who cheered me by saying ``I have a good feeling.’’
And by friends who said, ``No matter what happens, you’re strong enough to handle anything.’’
And by friends who committed to stick with me through whatever revealed itself.
The nights were filled with nervous prayer, fitful sleep and many, many hours of numb, sleepless silence. One afternoon, while sitting on my porch giving the latest update to a good friend who also happens to be a priest, I said, ``If I just knew what I’m facing. If I just knew, it would be so much easier.’’
She sort of laughed, softly.
``These are wilderness times,’’ she said. ``We don’t have the luxury of knowing how they’ll turn out.’’
Five years away from that conversation, I do know how that particular thing worked out, and I’m grateful for it. But I am even more grateful for the weeks spent in the wilderness. That time was an incredible gift that changed me in ways I would never want to lose.
Life is full of long walks through the wilderness. Financial hardships, health crises, job woes, heartbreak, grief and loss.
Rather than entering this season with a spirit of self-denial and flagellation, I am going to enter it with a quiet spirit of gratitude for all the past, present and future hours spent in the wilderness and the irreplaceable things learned there.
Elizabeth Trever Buchinger came from dust and to dust she shall return. You can connect with her on her website at www.moremindfulfamily. wordpress.com, or email her at VillageWordsmith@gmail. com.
That’s not a bruise
on my forehead
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