‘Tis the Season… for Curveballs

… You must think i’m strong to give me what i’m going through… forgive me if i’m wrong, but this looks like more than i can do on my own… i know i’m not strong enough to be everything that i’m supposed to be… i’m asking You to be strong enough for the both of us…

I am on my way out the door for the weekend. As I told my godson in a letter I wrote to him earlier this week, I’m headed to a place where the only darkness that could possibly exist there is any that Ninang Ais might be silly enough to bring along.

The simple truth is that I’ve not trained myself for the world.

3 years, 5 months, and 18 days ago, I told Drew very matter-of-fact-ly that, “I’m not here for the money, I don’t want to become a career woman, I just chose what I love to do best and I’m here to become the best person I can be for my kids.

In nearly three-and-a-half years, precious little has changed. I’ve not been a 4.0 student by any means, but my grades have upset me more than they’ve upset my parents, if that’s any indication of their general acceptability. I’ve not been ambitious in my employment, though I think I’ve developed a healthy and natural need for it.

And none too soon, with two and a half semesters left, but that’s where I’m beginning to be aware of something that seems to carry similar characteristics to what Fish, a.k.a Mr. Benedict Denniston, might term a “fundamental doubt.”

If I were a character of Lewis, Aslan might be telling me now that He never tells anyone anyone else’s story but their own. I don’t believe in coincidences – only God-incidences, and it’s one of those instances where one experiences a sudden clarity of insight as to how things have fallen into place as He has willed.

Upon returning from Michigan, I needed work to keep me active and healthy in light of negative circumstances at school which might otherwise have weighed me down rather badly. My family has always been the best and most supportive group, but sometimes you need people who have been exactly through what you’re going through, and at the time, I needed Jason.

I finally started charting and learning Creighton just a little over a month after starting at Mantra. None too soon, it would seem.

I needed time to spend with all my old friends from high school over winter break to remind me that I have people to turn to. I especially needed to talk over, with Michelle, all the problems that I was beginning to suspect after a little less than two months of charting, and couldn’t as yet find it in myself to speak of to anyone else. I also needed to discover how Nate had changed as a person, and that I could consequently look for support in areas that I, in past, would look for the kind of opposition that strengthens as it challenges.

I needed time spent with Steffy and Marybeth to remind me that not all of my dearest friends are states away from me. I’m able to draw from their company the same sort of strength and comfort that I know Mother finds in her mommy circle that I envy so much.

I needed our core class to be dropped, so that it would force me to rework both my work and my school schedule, pick up another class. In doing so, I was also able to join Students for Life and attend meetings much more regularly than I had previously anticipated being able to do. With my new schedule, it became possible to start training again, three times a week, which, as it would turn out, was one of the best moves for my health that I could possibly have made, and sorely needed.

Students for Life turned out to be the group of people that I’ve been aching to find since I started college. I needed SFL to push me to make our 1Flesh University Chapter happen, which, in turn, compounded with my chosen topic for my Nutritional Biochemistry project, forced me to take a deeper look at certain aspects of Creighton, especially as it relates to me.

Matt gave Jason that final push to get out, and consequently gave me what I needed to come to terms with what I needed to do for my own wellbeing, both physically and spiritually – leave Mantra. I’m sad that under the circumstances, it may have appeared to some as if I’d merely been anxious to follow Jason out the door as quickly as possible. While it’s true that my last official week on the schedule was pretty miserable during prep – Jason’s last week had been just the week before, and it was his first week at his new job – the kindness of the rest of my Mantra family, while making the week easier, made losing Mantra nearly as hard as losing Daveed’s. I can only hope that they knew that, even if they didn’t know why.

Which brings us to the why part. My last official day on the schedule was Saturday the 2nd, and I wasn’t even called in. It’s always better without goodbyes, and God knows that I cope better, though He knows I can never plan them that way. He took care of it with Jason; my last day working with Jason was Jason’s last Saturday at Mantra, and the following week, I was called in on Tuesday and Wednesday while he was not, and he was called in on Thursday when I was at school. No goodbyes. In the same manner, Friday was my completely unanticipated last official day. No goodbyes.

I had my doctor’s appointment on Monday the 4th. I learned then that it is my doctor’s belief that, based on my charts and experiences over the past near-three years, I have endometriosis.

Now, before I go on, there are two courses that I could take from here. The first is that I could try to remain content with what little knowledge I have of the disorder, do whatever the doctor tells me, and otherwise attempt to go on living as I have. While tempting – especially since I trust my doctor in that we are on the same page about absolutely refusing to go with the pill on this – it simply isn’t possible for me to keep myself in the dark. I’m already doing research for my project and for 1Flesh. The research that I’d already done had given me some idea of what was happening in my body even before the doctor confirmed it. I knew that my cycles, though regular in terms of length and occurrence, were strange, particularly with regards to my mucus scores, which were – prior to being essentially instructed to overdose on vitamin B6 – several points below normal. My lowest was the cycle prior to seeing the effects of the B6; I hit a low of 1.33. And then, of course, there has been the issue of abdominal pain, unlike any pain I’d ever experienced prior to 2010.

Thus, the second course of action, which is the only one that really makes sense anyway, is to find out as much as I can about the disorder and my options. It is, unfortunately, also the scarier and [potentially] more scarring route.

What I have learned so far is that:

  • Endometriosis is “as close to a malignant disease as one can get while still remaining benign,” in that, similar to a malignant disease, it has the ability to spread both locally and distantly. It has the ability to attach to other tissues, invade and damage them, can exhibit cellular proliferation, and cellular invasion and neoangiogenesis, a. k. a. the formation of new blood cells.
  • It can be spread throughout the body through the blood, or through the lymphatic system.
  • No surprise that it has something to do with an impaired immune system; my eczema and food allergies are certainly no great indication of a normally functioning immune system.
  • They’re really not sure what triggers it, so prevention’s sort of… not possible.
  • The most common symptom is infertility, and there is “little question that endometriosis has an adverse effect on fertility by being strongly associated with infertility and an association with a higher risk of spontaneous abortion.”
  • And, that ultimately, endometriosis is a surgical disease. Medical therapy can offer temporary pain relief, but there is no medication which has been proven effective for endometriosis-associated infertility.

In short, endometriosis adversely affects not only my fertility, but my general quality of life – something which I already knew inside, and have consequently taken what steps I can to control factors which I know put an undue amount of stress on my body. Hence leaving Mantra, and going on a very strict gluten-, nut-, egg-, and dairy-free diet. But what it comes down to is that I’m going to need surgery at some point, as it’s my best shot at getting rid of it, and that my biological clock is consequently shortened either way.

I sort of skipped over that part when it was addressed briefly in the context of a joke in I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Now that passage has more meaning for me, that women have biological clocks, whereas men don’t.

I’m grateful to know, as I generally hate being left to wonder. Still, I won’t lie that truly the most difficult thing to hear from the doctor was the caution that if I do want to have kids, I probably shouldn’t wait until I’m thirty to try to start a family. If it had been anyone else and I’d been in a less questionable state – that is, not crying – I might have retorted that that wasn’t exactly something I’d be able to help very much if someone didn’t get around to coming and helping me. 30 is just eight years away, and unless I’ve already got a good friendship with this guy already, I have to factor in meeting- and getting-to-know- and learning-to-love- time, which could very easily take up a large space of the next eight years, considering.

I’ve known for a while that something was wrong. I think I’ve known better than anyone for at least four months now. I cannot say that I am surprised, but neither can I say that I prepared myself adequately for the blow.

My standing lab orders include hormone studies during my post-peak phase, during which I am not to go without bloodwork for two days straight.

Aslan continues to tell me my story… If I take things even farther back, I can trace my determination to not cry when being stuck with needles to Paolo. For the life of me, I can’t remember why he had bloodwork so often – maybe he was donating? I don’t remember anymore – but I remember being tested for anemia in 2009, and holding on to a small red pouch of prayers, resolving not to cry and never to cry again when faced with needles, and instead follow Kuya Paolo’s excellent example of apathy and post-bloodwork joking. It worked, because I’ve been able to keep my breathing steady, not flex, and not cry ever since. I am now very calmly prepared to be stuck every other day, several times over in each sitting, over the course of a couple of weeks.

And even father back than that, I remember crying for Yena, when she had to have all that bloodwork done because she was fighting neutropenia. I’ve wondered sometimes if that sort of pain is a glimpse into the pain of the Blessed Mother. Maybe now, I can make some sense of all that suffering.

I don’t think it would be right of me to term what I’ve been experiencing as a premonition, because that would suggest that I’ve chosen distrust and despair. Still, I’d begun to wonder more recently if God wouldn’t end up asking me to offer up the one thing I’ve wanted more than anything for as long as I can remember – to be a mother. And true to what I told Drew three and a half years ago, that’s what I’ve been trying to train myself for. While I should be just as qualified as any of my peers coming out of this program, I can’t seem to get excited about the prospects. I don’t know if I should be comforting myself that I’m just succeeding in not letting college make me too worldly… I don’t think it’s a form of senioritis, because I honestly thought I’d found exactly where I wanted to be once school was all over… and now I find that it’s not the most compatible position with the current state of my health, which brings us to the option of grad school to open up more options that I do get extremely excited about. But grad school takes money, and money means working, and working means either finding something not quite so stressful, or surgery sooner rather than later so that I can continue the very stressful work that I’ve found I do enjoy, given the right team.

Jamie says to Landon in A Walk to Remember, I do not need a reason to be angry with God. I’m able to say that I’m too aware of His hand in my life, too grateful for all that He’s done for me, and frankly too worn out to be angry at all. But I am afraid, and that is the darkness that I am at risk for bringing with me this weekend. I’m afraid of what I might be called to offer up, I’m afraid of where He might ask me to go and what He might ask me to do, but I’m most of all afraid that this weekend won’t be long enough for me to lay my fears at His feet.

Adoration helped after the appointment. I brought a box of tissues, but found that I couldn’t cry. It was almost as if He’d forbidden me to cry with Him so near. It turned out that the tissues weren’t for me. They were for another adorer that had come to pour out her anguish to Him.

Immediately after putting in my two weeks at Mantra, I contacted the Sisters about this weekend’s retreat. The retreat was full, and I was put on the waiting list. I couldn’t understand. I finally had time to go – time that I’d been trying desperately to find since CREDO in September of 2009. I had received some measure of relief from the spiritual direction that I was given at the Day of Recollection in October of 2011. I was told that unless I feared that I would never go if I didn’t go right then, I shouldn’t worry too much about it, and that I could wait peacefully until an opportunity presented itself. Well, here it was, and God, it seemed, was keeping the door closed.

I can see now that He had to finish breaking and stripping me down to a state where I could be truly open to receiving Him. Isn’t that what all this has been? Four hours after I got home from adoration on Monday, I received an email from the vocations director informing me that there was a spot open which I was free to take, if I still wished to do so on such short notice. Where else would I go, now that He’s torn up my roots and broken down my walls? Now all I have left is my fear, and I hope He gives me the grace to let that go as well.

Audrey Assad put Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening to music and sang it at Rohs Street Cafe last year. I can’t find a video of the performance online, but it has often echoed in my heart since.

… the woods are lovely, dark and deep…. but I have promises to keep… and miles to go… and miles to go… and miles to go…

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3 comments

  1. Please know that it is better to treat endo surgically sooner than later! The longer you wait the worse it will be and harder to eradicate. The NaPro surgical fellows are trained in adhesion free techniques, with endo recurrence rates as low as 7% (w/o hormonal suppression after surgery). No one can touch that. I work in such a practice, and the pain relief these women experience after the surgery is life changing. To find a surgically trained NaPro doc near you, call the Pope Paul VI Institute, 402.390.9175.

    • Thanks, Therese! We – my Creighton practitioner and doctor and I – will watch my cycle this month and do a hormone study to confirm, and go from there. Thanks for taking the time to drop a hopeful message!!

  2. Ais, I will offer up the whole day tomorrow for you. I can feel the weight of the cross you carry.

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