Monday, January 18, 2010

Thankful--For Every, Every Minute

So I had a pretty bad medical scare here lately.

The day before my 45th birthday, I got the results of an echocardiogram that had been done to check out a heart murmur. I'd been told that the murmur was probably not significant, but still, if I'd never had an echo, I should, they said.

So I had the echo, or ultrasound of the heart, and sure enough, the murmur is insignificant. However (they said), we want you to come back in for a CT scan of your chest, because it appears that your aorta is mildly enlarged.

As I hung up the phone, concern began to gradually spread through my brain. I googled, I tried to recall from my life insurance underwriting days...I just knew this was not good. An enlarged aorta means, basically, that it's a weak vessel that could blow at any time. In other words, an aneurysm, which I always thought was what it was called when it blew, but I guess you can walk around with an aneurysm--or enlarged, weakened vessel--for years, too. Sort of a time bomb.

I woke up the next morning, on my birthday, with a page from the Lincoln Manual--the life insurance underwriter's bible--burned into my consciousness. "Enlarged Aorta" was the title, and there was a chart underneath. I couldn't "see" or recall everything on the chart entirely, but I remembered now, that it was a very bad page. The chart went from mildly enlarged to severely enlarged, and there was a section on those who'd been treated by surgery too--and most of the categories were either uninsurable (too great a risk) or very, very expensive to buy life insurance for. Although it seemed that the first category, mild enlargement, was surprisingly only a Table B (the minimum upcharge on a normal rate, without the nonsmoker discount).

It's interesting how my brain, in sleep, was able to pull back and look at my case so objectively! But it did nothing to reassure the waking me, who was having a birthday, for Pete's sake. I'd been thinking that 45 was probably about the halfway point for me, since longevity runs in my family--and suddenly, I was worrying that I may have hit my halfway point a long time ago. It was quite sobering, and I felt suddenly afraid. It was a hard day, my birthday.

I shared the news with only a few people, since the CT scan would be the more definitive report and I wouldn't know those results for a week or so. I was hoping and praying that the enlargement would be very mild, indeed.

But I had one week, then, of not knowing and trying not to imagine and fear the worst. I found myself thinking often of Annie Martin and John Fawcett, both friends of ours who died in the last two years; both were in their forties, and both left children and spouses behind. That was the hard part--the thoughts of leaving my children, wondering if I'd be there to see them married, cuddle grandchildren, visit them in their homes, turn 18. How many more years would Papa Rooster and I have together? Would I never become old and gray? How would he function as a single parent? As much as I look forward to being with Jesus, I realized that I fiercely love my life and all the people God has placed in it.

I also had weird guilty feelings, wondering if it was significant that it was my heart that was affected. Was there a failure of my heart, to love, to give to others? If I had been a kinder, gentler person, would this not have happened? Could yelling at my kids in anger have caused this? Should I bargain with God and promise to become a new, better person if only He'd take this away? I didn't let myself go down any of these mental tracks, but they did occur.

Finally, I evaluated my activities. Would I change anything? I might have to quit my part-time job, but other than that, I couldn't think of much to let go of. Maybe I would finally hire a house cleaner....

You can imagine, then, the relief that rushed through me when the doctor's assistant said, "We have the results of your scan, and your aorta looks completely normal--no enlargement at all."

I am praising God and rejoicing in the gift of LIFE! I can't believe how much we take it for granted, as Thornton Wilder tries to show us in his brilliant play "Our Town," one of those literary works I'm glad I had to write a paper on in high school. "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?"

It's been three days since I got the good news. I thought it would shape me for the rest of my life, yet I am amazed at how my mind has moved on. I'll go for hours without recalling either the sense of dread or the relief that were so powerful just days ago; then I will remember and be surprised at how life goes on, evidently.

And I am so thankful that it does.


Heather said...

Praise God for the clear report!

Sherry said...

Wow, scary, and wonderful relief! I'm glad you received such good news.

Islandsparrow said...

Thankful with you Jeanne!

Anne Kennedy said...

Praise God! Many prayers of thanksgiving. I've noticed how everything quickly falls back to normals, even after an incredible miracle. I try to hang on, by my emotional memory is ridiculously short.

Anonymous said...

Praise the Lord! How quickly I tend to forget these miracles, these gifts from God of healing and of false alarms, and I tend to remember only the times God didn't answer my prayers the way I wanted (like with John). God loves us and knows what's best for us. Praise the Lord! Taryn

Anonymous said...

Good news for sure--God is a good God. Can understand your anxiety and the rush of "what ifs"..Pianomum

Megan (FriedOkra) said...

Wow. That was scary and eye-opening to ME, I can only imagine what you must have gone through while you waited. So glad everything turned out to be FINE! Happy 45th to the youngest lookin' halfway-there woman I've ever met! Hugs to all of you!