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Jesus and Chemo: On a Rock in a Hard Place, 2nd Edition

Jesus and Chemo: On a Rock in a Hard Place, 2nd Edition

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Jesus and Chemo: On a Rock in a Hard Place, 2nd Edition

Lunghezza:
260 pagine
2 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
May 14, 2016
ISBN:
9781365114601
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

At age 31, Karen Smith was dealing with a challenging marriage and trying to find God's will in the matter when she developed breathing problems. When she took her toddler son for a check-up, the doctor listened to her lungs and immediately ordered tests. The results? Hodgkin's disease -- a cancer of the lymph tissue, stage 4b. And pregnancy. Karen's faith would be tested as never before as she fought for the life of her unborn child as well as her own.
Editore:
Pubblicato:
May 14, 2016
ISBN:
9781365114601
Formato:
Libro

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Jesus and Chemo - Karen Smith Williams

Jesus and Chemo: On a Rock in a Hard Place, 2nd Edition

Jesus and Chemo

On a Rock in a Hard Place

Karen Smith Williams

Copyright 2016 by Karen Smith Williams

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-365-11460-1

2nd Edition

Introduction

This book helped to save my life.

Well, the process of writing it helped to save my life, I should say.

When diagnosed with cancer in 1981, I began to keep a journal of daily events and concurrently typed a manuscript about my experiences. I even toted my little portable typewriter to the hospital with me and pecked away in the hospital lounge, hoping to create a book. The whole process distracted me from my fears and helped me gain perspective.

A devout evangelical Christian, I later submitted the manuscript to publishers of Christian books, without results.

Now, decades later, I’ve hauled the yellowed manuscript from its home in the closet, deciding to launch it via the wonders of personal computer and e-book publishing.

Thanks so much for your interest in my journey.

(The doctors’ names have been changed. Some of the friends’ names have been changed, and some are real, including that of my dear friend, Sharyl Calhoun.)

Karen Smith Williams

Orlando, Florida 2016

"On Christ the solid rock I stand,

All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand."

--from the hymn by Edward Mote and William B. Bradbury

(Scripture references are from the King James Version of the Bible.)

Chapter One

Help!

Make haste to help me, O Lord.

Psalm 70:1

October 1980

No matter what your age, it’s very important that you have a will drawn up, especially if you have children. A representative of a Christian stewardship group was addressing our church congregation in Portland, Indiana, one Sunday morning. In your will, you need to designate who would become the guardians of any dependent children should you die. Otherwise, the state could make that decision for you, and it might not be in line with your wishes. For the sake of your children, for your peace of mind, he said firmly, make sure you have a will.

At age 31, I had previously placed the idea of a will about ten-thousandth on my must-do list. But the man had a valid point, it seemed. I would contact my cousin Kent and his wife, Anne, about the possibility of their being named guardians of our sons -- a three-year-old and an infant -- should my husband, Jim, and I die. I hoped they would view the request more of a compliment than a scary thought.

Yes, we’ll be glad to be named as guardians in your will, Anne replied on the phone. But Kent says it’s only on the condition you take very, very good care of your health!

No problem! I chuckled.

A few weeks later when I sent Kent and Anne copies of the will for them to sign as guardians, I couldn’t resist joking with the ever fun-loving couple.

It’s such a relief to know our boys would be taken care of if something happens to Jim and me, I wrote. We’re now going to take up some activities we’ve always wanted to do. Jim wants to try his luck at snake-handling, and I’m going to take up sky-diving. After we’ve mastered those, we want to take a prolonged tour of the nation’s toxic waste dumps.

July 22, 1981

How silly, how flippant that letter to Kent and Anne seemed now, months later, as I watched my young son Joel stumble about the doctor’s office while we awaited his routine exam. After Joel’s nine-months checkup, I would seek answers to my problem.

Since January, I had experienced intermittent pains on the left side of my chest. In the winter, I had decided to shrug off the minor discomfort as pleurisy -- an inflammation of the lining of the chest cavity. I’d never had it, but its description in books sounded similar to my symptoms. I also felt tired, as if my body constantly battled a flu bug.

The chest pains, although not intense, continued to concern me during the summer. Were they due to tension? Heart trouble? An odd infection? When spells of shortness of breath began, it was time to get medical help.

After Joel’s checkup, I described my symptoms to Dr. Jeff Bisel, a studious-looking young man just finishing a family practice residency at Ball Hospital in Muncie, Indiana. He frowned as he listened to my chest.

Have you had abnormal tuberculosis tests in the past? he asked. I shrugged, and he advised me to have a TB test and chest x-ray immediately. I could only comply.

I’ll call you tomorrow if the x-ray shows anything, Dr. Bisel said as I left the office.

July 23

Dr. Bisel called.

Your x-ray shows a significant amount of fluid around your left lung, he said. It’s hard to imagine this much fluid in a healthy person. I want to talk to some other doctors about it and will call again to set up an appointment for you to come back in.

Great, I sighed as I hung up the phone. How much prayer would it take to neutralize this much worry?

July 24

Picking up my husband, Jim, at his truck terminal after his first week on a new driving job distracted me from my fears. But that afternoon, the doctor phoned again.

I think you need to be admitted to the hospital right away. We’d like to remove the fluid around your lung and evaluate it.

Oh, that would be very stressful for us right now, I argued. My husband recently began a new job, and I don’t think his insurance is effective yet.

Only a few conditions could cause this much fluid, the doctor said tersely. All are serious. Please come in as soon as possible.

We ended the conversation with my promise to let him know when our insurance could take effect. I learned it was August 6th, 13 days away. I called his office and left a message.

*****

I lugged around my worry like heavy baggage as I visited a friend with lung problems. I told her of my excess fluid and the doctor’s concern.

I have chronic bronchitis, and that causes fluid to build up inside my lungs, she said. It’s something I’ve learned to live with. Medication helps.

It didn’t sound quite the same as my problem -- hadn’t the doc said my fluid was around my lung? Yet somehow my fears shrank. I drove to the county library to research pleural effusion, which was doctor-speak for my situation. Tuberculosis could indeed be a cause, I read.

I decided that TB must be my problem, especially since two of its symptoms (weight loss and night sweats) were my symptoms as well.

July 27

Monday morning brought the now-familiar sound of Dr. Bisel’s voice on the phone. (Doesn’t this guy have any other patients besides me? I wondered.)

We can’t wait until August 6 to admit you to the hospital, he said firmly. We need to tap that fluid around your lung sooner.

Aargh, what was I, a maple tree ready to be tapped for syrup?

Because of our lack of insurance, Dr. Bisel finally agreed to do this minor surgical procedure in his office, and it was scheduled for the following Thursday.

I immediately phoned my dear friend Sharyl to tell her of the latest development.

Karen, the doctor’s an alarmist, she assured me. Remember when he thought that Joel’s watery eye could mean a venereal disease?

I laughed. Yes, he’s a newbie, and he’s being extra careful as he learns the ropes.

He has probably just learned about tapping people’s lungs in school, Sharyl continued. I bet he just wants to practice on you.

Our laughter sent my worry scurrying away.

July 30

With Jim away at work, my parents took me to the doctor’s office in Muncie, which was located about 30 miles from the tiny town of Pennville where Jim and I had made our home after our marriage a few years ago. I arrived at the medical complex on time. The doctor did not. I was nervous. He was not, I hoped.

Dr. Bisel, a nurse, and I went into an examining room equipped with a cart of surgical supplies. I changed into one of those not-so-elegant patient gowns and sat on the examining table.

The doctor showed me a long tube and a needle he would insert into my back. The tube was attached to a vacuum bottle.

Have you been practicing up on this? I asked, not entirely in jest.

I’ve done it quite a few times without any trouble.

As he took my blood pressure, the doctor mentioned I would need another chest x-ray after the fluid was removed.

Well, tell them to have a lead apron handy in x-ray, I advised. I have some symptoms of pregnancy.

Do you think you might be pregnant? he asked with eyebrows that raised above his thick glasses.

My symptoms may only be due to my worry over this.

Worried? You don’t seem at all worried! he laughed.

Yes, and that needle you’re preparing doesn’t look at all like a barbaric torture instrument!

As I leaned over the table and hugged a pillow, the doctor numbed my back with a shot between two lower ribs. He then inserted the needle connected to the tube, which I didn’t feel. For about 30 minutes, he drained clear, straw-colored fluid from me. I looked in disbelief as one vacuum bottle filled and another took its place.

I then felt intense irritation and a desire to cough, but coughing brought no relief. By then, the procedure, called a thoracentesis, was over, and the nurse wheeled me outside and across the parking lot to the hospital for the x-ray and a blood test.

Back at home, Jim’s sister, her husband, and their five children were visiting for a few days. Having company helped elbow out my fears.

What a way to slim down! I joked as I told them about all the water-weight I’d lost during the office procedure.

August 4

When I again picked up the phone to hear Dr. Bisel, I was honestly thinking of changing my number. Did this man ever take a day off?

They’re still evaluating the fluid taken from your pleural cavity, the doctor informed me. It looks possible that you do have tuberculosis, even though your TB test was negative. That’s nothing to fear, for there is excellent treatment for that now. For some reason, more cases of TB seem to develop when there’s an economic downswing like we’re experiencing.

My sigh of relief was interrupted as he continued.

There’s something else, Karen. For some reason, after we removed the fluid, your heart did not go back into place.

He had previously told me that my chest x-ray showed my heart was displaced to the right side of my chest, apparently by the fluid build-up.

Might it take some time for my heart to go back? It seemed worth suggesting.

It shouldn’t, he replied. And there’s an area around the blood vessels of your heart that doesn’t look quite right. So I’d like you to come to the hospital and have some more extensive x-rays called tomograms. They’ll be a series of 10-20 pictures with which we can see slices of the area around your lung.

My displaced heart sank. I don’t think I want to have those x-rays. I knew of the possible cancer risk that could come from repeated exposure.

You’re concerned about the radiation?

Yes.

OK. Let me check on this. Another procedure called a CT scan might give us the needed information with less radiation. I’ll talk to the radiologist about it and call you tomorrow.

Thanks.

He may have thought me overly concerned, yet he hadn’t taken issue with me. He had respected my wishes. I appreciated that. But he still needed to take some time off and leave me alone.

August 5

The doctor phoned, right on schedule.

After checking on the CT scans, I learned that the difference in radiation levels between them and the tomograms isn’t significant. Also, the CT costs about three times as much. What do you think?

I practiced sighing. Let’s go with the tomograms.

August 6

Sharyl and her children, Amy and Matthew, took me to the Muncie hospital while Aaron and Joel stayed with my parents. Sharyl, my precious friend -- the one I forever encouraged to exchange her diet soda habit for herbal tea and to take vitamins. What did she think of my advice now?

For the tomograms, I lay very still on a table while a large machine humming ominous tunes moved back and forth above me. My abdomen was shielded with a lead apron.

I probably glow in the dark now, I told Sharyl on the way home. A human firefly!

Hopefully there would be no more of that x-ray malarkey.

August 10

During the weekend, Aaron, Joel, and I spent time at my parents’ home, twelve miles from Pennville in Portland, as my cousin Bob and his family had come from Michigan for a visit.

When I returned home, the phone was ringing. It was a secretary at the doctor’s office.

Dr. Bisel wants you to come to the hospital at once.

I must have flunked the tomograms. At least our insurance was now effective. Major medical, minor medical, teensy-tiny medical -- I had it all.

August 11

Sharyl took me to the doctor’s office, where he examined me thoroughly. Every aspect of my thin body appeared healthy except the chest area.

I was admitted to the hospital where, among other preliminaries, a pregnancy test was scheduled. Cheerful student nurses in gold uniforms filled

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