Archive for February 2012

Hospital Doors

February 28, 2012

On Wednesday, while waiting to leave the hospital for the drive home after surgery, I sat on a bench near the hospital doors and watched the many faces coming in.  I had come in through those doors a half dozen times in the previous month.  I reflected on the thoughts that had gone through my mind each time I had walked through those doors.  On December 27, right after my diagnosis, I wondered about this hospital, the doctor I was about to meet, and what she would say and find out about my cancer.  During one visit, because I had fasted in preparation for a procedure, I wondered how soon I could eat lunch and what I would like to eat when I could.  During another visit I tried to make sense out of the very conflicting results I was getting from various tests, and wondered what the doctor would find that day.  I was back a couple of other times too, but when I came through those doors on February 2, it was for the surgeon to perform a colectomy to remove the section of my colon where the cancerous ulcer was found.  In my heart, it was my desire for God to be glorified in my life that day, but I also wondered what this experience would entail for my family and me.

That Wednesday while I waited for my ride, I wondered about each of the faces coming through the doors.  Some were the faces of medical professionals, coming in for a day’s work.  Some were patients.  Some were volunteers.  Some were family members of patients.  Doctors with stethoscopes and briefcases walked in next to chemo patients wearing knit caps.  Volunteers hurried by husbands who were carefully pushing their wives in wheel chairs.

I also realized that for a moment in time, the hospital doors framed together strangers who knew nothing about each other.  As I looked at the faces walking by, I realized that they were not looking at each other.  They all were preoccupied.  They all were wrapped up in their own concerns, anxieties, plans and daydreams.  I realized that I had been equally oblivious of those who had walked through the doors beside me each of the previous times I had entered.

Life does the same thing.  It frames me together alongside strangers that I don’t even know.  I, in my own little world — they, in theirs.  In Matthew 5, Jesus presented the picture that His followers were to be influencing and providing light for their world.  I don’t naively believe that it is my responsibility to personally interact with “everyone” who “happens” to walk through doorways next to me.  But I am challenged to consider, when in a moment of time life “frames” me next to others:   “Do I, in that passing moment, pay attention to, or care, or speak to them about what is on their hearts?”  How many times am I “in my own little world,” thinking my own private thoughts, without a thought or a care for that other soul who God has providentially arranged to be right beside me?

Jesus said:  “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 5:13-16

Life Events versus Life Processes

February 24, 2012

I want to thank all of you who were praying for me as I underwent surgery for colon cancer on Thursday, February 2 at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo.  I was discharged on Tuesday, February 7 and went back for a follow up appointment on Friday, February 17.  I understand that medically speaking the surgeon believes he removed everything that he needed to in order to minimize the probability of the cancer spreading (i.e., part of my colon and the attending lymph nodes).  However, I realized that night after my surgery, and the next day, and the next, that although the surgery was behind me, there were definite “mile markers” which the doctors and nursing staff were looking for as they monitored my body’s recovery.  Colon resectioning was not as simple as cutting out a piece of PVC pipe, gluing the two ends together, and returning everything to “good to go” condition again.  I realized that every one of those “mile markers” were important.  Besides being mindful of the actual “plumbing” repair, the doctors and nurses were constantly watching for blood clots, increased temperature, swelling, blood pressure, nausea, etc.  Diet was restricted and only incrementally changed until eventually I was (more or less) back on a full diet again.  What struck me was that I went into the surgery thinking a great deal about the event of surgery, but not much about the process of recovery that would come afterward.

Events call attention to themselves.  They are often specific.  Unless they come as a result of an accident, they are often “planable.”   They can more or less be represented as “points in time.”  A person goes through an event, but then it is past, and he/she “moves on” with his/her life — even if the event was life changing.  But processes are different.  They tend to be ongoing.  They don’t have clear-cut points of termination.  They may be measured by various mile markers, but they have linear characteristics.  My surgery was an event.  It took place on February 2. But by that evening, the event of surgery was over, and I had entered the process of recovery.  Over the next three or four days the medical staff watched for various mile markers to indicate that the healing was progressing, but none of those markers were worth “writing” about.  Yet at every point, if the recovery hadn’t proceeded as it should have, there would have been a concern because something was wrong.

Processes are harder to remember.  I would suggest that many who have lost loved ones have found sympathy and support at the time of the funeral, however they may not have received as much support as they went through the grieving process in the following days and weeks and months.   Events are “rememberable” by others, in that it may be easier for others to remember and express concern, offer prayers, or reach out to a person at an “event” time of his/her life, whether it is a surgical procedure, death, or accident.  But the process of building (or rebuilding) that comes afterward may be forgotten by those who were so supportive during the difficult moments of the event.

Two days after surgery I wrote:

“I am finding that it is harder for me to deal with the process than the event.  Surgery was a one time event.  I prayed for God’s will to be done and committed the outcome to Him.  The doctors started the anesthesia and my conscious involvement was over and done.  But recovery is not so simple.  Every day involves waiting, waiting for ‘things to happen,’ which are very important, but which may not happen as the doctors expect, hope and anticipate.  There are very few actions I can take to help the recovery process, but those actions cannot ensure results.”

I am thankful that God has facilitated my recovery, and I am thankful for my friends and family who continue to support me as I am in this recovery process.  They haven’t forgotten me now that the event of my surgery is past, but I would suggest that almost anyone who goes through a significant life event may also have an equally important process that follows.  Don’t forget about that person who just had surgery, or an accident, or the death of a loved one.  He/she may be going through a very significant process in his/her life, the outcome of any part thereof may be every bit as consequential as the event itself.

In the realm of Christian experience a parallel may be that there is often a great deal of focus on the event of a person turning to put his/her trust and belief in Jesus Christ.  That event, or experience, is highly valued and celebrated, and it should be.  However, there is also a process which ought to continue from that point into the future.  That person should continue to follow Jesus Christ as one of his disciples, or followers.  Following Jesus Christ is a process.  It is not just an event.

I am thankful that the writers of the New Testament encouraged the followers of Jesus Christ to be praying for one another.  I need that reminder.  I need to be reminded to pray for others, not just when they are going through significant events in their lives, but also as they go through the routine and seemingly mundane processes that make up our everyday existence.  I am thankful that my recovery has been “uneventful,” that there have not been any complications or problems, that the doctor and nurses gave me a “thumbs up” at my follow-up appointment a week ago (my body appears to be healing well, and no cancer was found in the numerous lymph nodes which were removed), but I realize that it is all because of God and what God was doing in the processes that were taking place in my body.  I will close by thanking all of you who were (and are) praying for me as I go through this process of recovery.  May I, by God’s grace, likewise be faithful in praying for you, as you go through various events and processes in your lives, as well.