Recovery from that first surgery was fairly easy, and the abdominal pain was gone when I awoke. Trouble was, we still didn’t know what had caused it.
My surgeon had been surprised to discover that the supposed “ovarian mass” diagnosed by ultrasound was nonexistent. Instead, she found that a portion of my colon had moved out of place and adhered to the abdominal wall (this is probably what confused the ultrasound tech, as it was right over the ovaries). She removed the adhesion, but didn’t quite know what to make of the whole thing, since colons aren’t part of her reproductive bailiwick. She suggested that it would be a good precaution to get a colonoscopy just in case it was caused by some sort of inflammatory condition, like Crohn’s or colitis. The other big “c” word never even came up.
The preparation was the worst part; the actual colonoscopy was no big deal. The anesthesia provided a welcome nap, and less than two hours later I was sipping a juice box and waiting for the nurse to come around with the final paperwork. Instead, she directed me to a semi-private corner with a few armchairs, where my husband was already waiting. We chatted and joked and talked about what to have for dinner. I saw the anesthesiologist walk by, and wondered why he averted his eyes–he’d been so jovial before.
It was just beginning to dawn on me that something was up when the doctor walked over. His face was grim as he pulled up a chair to face us. I can’t even remember exactly what he said, but he talked about a tumor, something so big the camera couldn’t get past it, and started going on about genetic disorders. My husband grabbed my hand.
I finally interrupted, incredulously: “Are you talking about cancer?”
“Yes,” he said, looking down at the floor. “I’m sorry. You seem like nice people.”
The first thing you do is cry, of course. Wail and weep in a way that you’ve not done since your toddler tantrum days, your whole body shaking with a sense of utter self-righteousness and indignation: NO! IT’S NOT FAIR! I WANT SOMETHING ELSE!
Then, as the sheer outrage subsides in the days that follow, all you really want is to be held. Husbands are good at that. (Parents, too, though they may have grown a bit out of practice with the years.) Even dogs are pretty good at offering comfort, I’ve found.
And then there’s God. Some people get mad at God in times like this, and while I understand that reaction, I don’t see this as His fault. It’s just the way the world has been since we left Eden; suffering is the flip side of free will. If anyone’s to blame, it’s that damn snake that started it all.
Still, I pray for a miracle. I wonder why I have scorned, or at least shrugged off, so much of what I was raised to believe. I may never reconcile myself to modern-day American evangelicalism and its self-righteous politics, but I want to reconcile myself to God. I want to have the faith of a child again.
I’ve opened the Bible at random several times recently and been surprised to find myself in the book of Amos, an obscure prophet I’ve never paid much attention to before. The first thing my eyes fall on is this simple verse, something God said to Israel back in the day and I choose to believe was also meant for me in this moment: “Seek me, and live.”