Another 20-Year Anniversary

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The year 1996 was a big year for me. It was the year Jaime and I started dating. It was the year I graduated from high school. After graduation, I turned 18. In the fall I headed off to college. There were lots of milestones!

There was another big event for me in August of that year. The first weekend, I went to meet the girl who was to be my roommate for my Freshman and Sophomore years of college.  I remember having a stomach ache on Sunday that weekend. Thursday of that week that I wrote in my journal about abdominal pain and fevers. Friday morning I had an allergy appointment and my mom took me even though I was ill, feeling that perhaps the allergist could shed some light on my condition given her medical background and expertise. Once we got there she began examining me and when she touched my abdomen, pain surged through me. I shot up off the table, surprising all three of us. She knew right then it was probably my appendix and rushed me across the hall to where my physician had his offices. Within a few hours I was in surgery.

These days, appendectomies are often done laproscopically, but 20 years ago, we weren’t even presented with that option. We were hopeful, however, that the procedure would be routine and I would be out of the hospital after a few days. That was not meant to be. Once I was in surgery, they found that my appendix was hugely swollen and had perforated. Infection had spilled out into my abdomen and infection and scar tissue were clinging to my large and small intestine. They had to remove portions of both intestines as well as the appendix.

At the time, it was also determined I had a mild case of bronchitis. Out of concern for my lungs, the doctors decided it was best not to put me fully under for the surgery. The exact details are fuzzy in my mind, so I turned to my journal to fill in the details. There I reported that they gave me a spinal injection but I was partially aware during the surgery. Apparently I was lashing out and hitting at the doctors and nurses. They gave me a shot after the surgery to help me to forget. I did forget the surgery itself but had nightmares for months after the procedure as my subconscious tried to wrestle with the horror I had been through. (Side note: if you hit medical personnel during surgery, however justifiably, they will label you “combative” and that term will follow you around for the rest of your life!)

The first memory I have post-surgery is being wheeled from the elevator into my room. I thought I was screaming and writhing in pain, but was told later that I was in fact deathly still and softly moaning. I wanted to die. I had never, ever felt such a degree of pain and misery and it seemed unbearable. My second memory is of my parents and two of my sisters arriving at my room with a big bunch of balloons. I remember the shocked looks on their faces when they saw me. I remember my mom rushing to my side, and the others leaving immediately. The next two weeks were the most difficult of my life up to that point. I was discharged from the hospital after several days only to be readmitted due to uncontrolled pain and swelling. The infection took a long time to get under control. I became undernourished and unable to eat. Weight melted from my frame. The surgeon, skilled but callous, implied that I was anorexic because I wouldn’t (couldn’t!) eat. He also blamed me for the seriousness of my condition, deciding I must have withheld information from my parents about how I was feeling. He didn’t take into consideration that CFers have stomach pain routinely which makes it seem normal and also builds a pain tolerance that is perhaps higher than average. The staff seemed annoyed and threatening when I pulled my NG tube out in my sleep on the second night. Nothing was going right. It was an awful experience.

There were good things that happened too–Jaime came to visit me and brought me a cheerful stuffed Tigger. My sisters and dad came to visit regularly. My aunt and grandfather came. People sent flowers and little gifts to cheer me up. And my long-suffering mother stayed by my side most of the time, fielded phone calls from me in the middle of the night when I was despairing, and read to me to help pass the time. One day she read these verses from 2 Corinthians 1:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (v. 3-5)

Those verses meant a lot to me during those weeks and the time of recovery that followed. It was the first time in my life that I was in real trouble. I was dealing with an infection serious enough to cost me my life. I was being cared for by a surgeon who was unkind and unfair. I was due to leave for college and didn’t know if I’d be strong enough to go. The future felt uncertain. And yet I felt God’s comfort deeply, perhaps for the first time. I found joy in knowing that this comfort I had received could be used to help someone else. It was the first time I personally grappled with the notion of redemption–that God could take a painful and ugly experience in my life and bring good from it. And He did bring forth many good things. I felt forever marked by God’s love and care for me during those days. I learned that life is indeed uncertain and disaster can strike at any time, but that God is a sure and steady anchor and can see us through any storm. I had a new understanding of what real pain was which made me appreciate all the more Christ’s sacrifice for me on the cross. My faith was deepened. I understood a little more about how much my sister Sheri had suffered with her CF and I felt compassion and respect for her.

I also had new eyes through which to see the pain and suffering around me, and once I got to college just weeks later, I found that hurt was rampant in people’s lives. I had friends who were scarred by abusive pasts, friends who were struggling with depression, and those simply looking for acceptance and love from a cold, hard world. I found I could relate to them a little better, and I felt deep sadness for the wounds that were ongoing, unable to be fully healed by the passage of time.

Although I thought my wounds were fully healed, years later, we discovered that this surgery was a big player in the infertility I was experiencing. In an exploratory procedure, our reproductive specialist discovered that my abdomen was full of scar tissue from the appendectomy and was it creating a mess of things. And unbeknownst to us, one of my fallopian tubes had been removed and tied off, a detail the surgeon failed to mention back in 1996. While the infertility was painful and difficult, it was another formative time in my life where I learned to trust God and accept His plan for me. In a spectacular show of redemption, Lucas was born on August 9, 2011–the 15th anniversary of that dreadful surgery. His birth on that day reminded me that our hurts do not go unnoticed by God. He sees, He knows, and if we allow Him to, He works all things together for our good, no exceptions. What a miracle.

That experience 20 years ago marked my transition from childhood into adulthood. It was a time of major growth for me. It was also the first of several times where I was in real danger and God preserved and protected my life. After that I knew without a doubt that He had a plan and a purpose for me. I knew that my life wouldn’t be perfect–couldn’t be perfect in a world so marked by pain and suffering. But I also knew that He would be my faithful guide and companion, and that He would provide whatever I needed. And He has. Great is His faithfulness.

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Five Years Old

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Five years old. I’ll just give you a moment to let that sink in. Okay, maybe I’m the only one who needs a moment. But honestly, the last five years have passed at lightening speed! Four was a great age, and I’m guessing five will be equally wonderful. So while I feel a little sad, I’m excited for what’s next too.  Here are some things that make Lucas the wonderful and unique little guy he is at age five:

  • Lucas wants to be a farmer when he grows up. He loves farms and we visit our local petting farm weekly. He calls himself Farmer Lucas when he helps me harvest vegetables from our garden. He spends many hours a week playing with his toy farm and has slowly added onto it using popsicle stick structures and cardboard boxes to get it to closely resemble our local farm. His absolute favorite farm animals are chickens! He does an amazingly accurate imitation of both a hen and a rooster. He crows like a rooster whenever he sees that Jaime has fallen asleep on the couch, which is a very effective tool for rousing him.
  • Lucas’s other great love is soccer, much to his father’s delight. He went to nearly every Detroit City FC soccer game with Jaime this season and learned all the songs and chants. He also loves watching soccer on TV. His favorite team is Manchester United (which he calls the red team) and his favorite player is Maroune Fellaini whom he also calls Crazy Hair. Lucas watches the live and televised games very closely and imitates what he sees in our backyard. He doesn’t call it the backyard however–it’s simply “The Field.” He got his first real pair of soccer shoes a few weeks back and now wears them every time we play.
  • Lucas is very creative in his play. He found a way to combine his two favorites and built a soccer field in his barnyard complete with a sideline and bench. The animals face off at least once a day. The star player is Henny. He likes me to sit in the “stands” and sing all the songs from the Detroit City games over and over (and over) while the animals play. Apparently it is against stadium rules to lay down during the game, stretch, yawn, or otherwise appear any less than 100% engaged at all times. After the game the animals talk to their coach in a huddle before they line up to shake hands.
  • Lucas has three favorite bedtime stories presently: The Mitten by Jan Brett, The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt, and The Hat by Jan Brett. He told us one day that he wanted to read the stories and we were shocked when he recited all three, word for word while turning the pages at the proper times. After memorizing the stories he put them to good use by finding a large mitten (which was mine once upon a time) and repurposing it as his toy mitten to act out the story with his animals. In Tresselt’s version of the story, the mitten rips apart and sadly, the seams have popped on my pair too after hours of being stuffed with a menagerie of plastic animals. Ah well, it was worth it for the hours of happy play.
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The Mitten!

  • Lucas is still very affectionate and loving.  He tells us multiple times a day that he loves us and likes us. He gives us lots of hugs and kisses. Every day he asks Jaime, “How was work today, Daddy? What did you do?” and similarly he’ll ask me, “How was tutoring, Mommy?” followed by a relevant question such as, “Did [insert student’s name] wonder where I was?” or “Did you see [insert student’s name] today?” It makes us feel special that he asks. I don’t know why, it just does.
  • Lucas knows all the names of the roads near our house and likes to give us detailed (and accurate) directions before we head out. He has two favorite roads, favored because they both have deer signs which he loves. He even knows the name of the service drive that connects them. He has conceptually figured out how the roads and highways near us line up which has surprised and impressed me on more than one occasion. “If you keep going on this road, Mommy, you’ll cross over the highway and end up at the farm!”
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Deer sign!

  • He still loves orange. All orange, all the time. He also still loves singing, and breaks into song often. He’s taken to asking us, “Who wants a song?” and then serenades us with a song of his choice. Most recently, he’s deviated from children’s music and asks to listen to Jaime’s music and my music while riding in the car. While I have edified him with wholesome selections, Jaime has learned the hard way that Lucas memorizes lyrics quite quickly, so it’s a good idea to know yourself what they actually say. I’ve had to do a little damage control. “Silly Lucas, not drugs, bugs.” Jaime is grounded until further notice.

I could go on, but suffice it to say, we love our boy immensely and have greatly enjoyed watching him grow from that teeny baby to our big five-year-old.

Happy Birthday Sweet Boy. We love you so much!

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