From an article originally posted April 15, 2014…
Today as my dear friend Jen drove away to catch a plane, I felt so thankful for my time next to her. She is a gift of honesty, heart sharing, and love. We spent the weekend living beside one another as we had once done when our firstborns were babies. It was a wonderful weekend.
As she drove away, I took a good look inside my mouth. I hadn’t wanted to look. I have just been numbing and numbing the pain to make it through each moment. I mostly stopped eating, and simply tried to get through moments without showing my pain too much and upsetting everyone. I longed for a good weekend and a break from my misery. The new sores in my mouth left me so discouraged. I wasn’t improving—the opposite was true.
I left the sermon at Westside this past Sunday clear with one thought: how would my heart react if the pain never lifted? How would I meet Jesus in the unique pain of these ulcers in my mouth, future pain with cancer, and how would I react in the midst of the pain? It felt clear. The Holy Spirit was asking me how I was going to walk this new hard. I tried to attempt to explain what I was being asked, but I couldn’t articulate the words Sunday afternoon.
Today I found my answer. Today was a giant fail in trust. My friend left and I flew to the pharmacy for more of the liquid that numbs my mouth. The young woman simply told me my insurance had denied my medicine until tomorrow. What? I needed it now. I felt like a crazy addict, but the medicine was a simple mouth wash that numbs my mouth for 15 minutes for a bit of relief. Then I spit it out. It is the moment of relief that helps me manage the moments of pain.
I drove away and wept. I called my doctor and admitted that I had more mouth sores and the giant ulcer in the back wasn’t improving. That I was also getting covered in painful spots that the dermatologist did a biopsy on yesterday. He called me in immediately. I had no pain rinse to hold off my pain. By the time I entered his office, I was weeping in pain. He kindly looked at me and insisted that I stop my medicine. Again, I simply wept. This is the medicine that is battling my cancer. How could I stop? He said 2 weeks would be okay. I looked at him desperate; how could I stop when my cancer is so aggressive?
He called in more medicine; it was denied by my insurance. I had told him that a kindness from one of my readers had offered the help of her husband that was a dentist here in Colorado Springs. She told me how her son had battled cancer and he treated his terrible mouth ulcers. My oncologist was so humble. He asked me to call him. He could not come up with a solution my insurance would approve. My insurance called a mouth wash he was suggesting a medical device. We met wall after painful wall—three medicines denied. He told me he wanted to see me in 2 weeks.
I left his office broken, desperate about not taking my new medicine for my cancer. I stopped to make an appointment. No one had anyone with them, and they saw me but wouldn’t call me over to their table to make my appointment. I sat in tears until I couldn’t sit any longer. I left the office broken. I didn’t want them to see my angry sad tears. I called the office from the elevator and made my appointment. I was so broken, so angry, so weary. I felt broken and I felt invisible.
I emailed the kind woman who had been reading my story here who offered the help of her husband, and she immediately responded. I returned to the pharmacy to be greeted by the same young woman who seemed to enjoy telling me each time I was denied a new medicine to treat my pain. I could not understand. Finally, I thought to ask if I could simply pay for the drug that was being denied. I cannot understand why I hadn’t thought to ask that before. She said it would be $23. SERIOUSLY! I then handed her my card, she snickered at me and said she didn’t have it filled and I would have to wait. When I returned, she sheepishly told me the pharmacist figured out how to help me and contacted my insurance company.
I was waiting in the parking lot of Walgreens with my mouth screaming at me, tears streaming down my face as I sent desperate emails to the woman who offered help from her husband. She kindly responded. I wept at her prompt offer to help me.
As the medicine that helps numb my pain started to work a bit of relief as I was driving away from Walgreens, I remembered Sunday. What if the pain never passes? What if I never heal? What if the hard continues? How will my heart respond? Ugh. I just cried and cried. My heart, my weary heart is so quick to anger. My reactions in pain are so ugly, so mean, so accusatory, so unkind. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday.... I forget so quickly. I’m asked to trust in the hard, to walk near to Jesus in the suffering, to receive today, and search, look, seek grace. And I failed.
But God in his great love has never seen me as a failure. He never looked at my bitter reactions with the disgust I looked at myself with today. No, He gently reminded me I was not alone in my suffering. He gently reminded me of the road He traveled this very week. He nudged me to the greater story, the greater grace. The pain that was walked far greater than I would ever know to meet me in my ugly today. He walked each step of his hard with the intention of loving me today when I felt helpless. He took each nail, each jeer, each step towards the cross so I would never have to know that kind of pain. I cannot imagine. I have pain, and I forget love. He had pain, and He carried it FOR love. I’m simply left humbled.
Grace did show up today. It showed up when my friend sat next to me and helped me with my book. Grace showed up when the kindness of my oncologist admitted his limitation and opened his own hands to my story. Grace showed up when a precious reader quickly responded to my desperation in love and quick response. Grace showed up today when that quiet voice reminded me I was not alone in my hard. Grace showed up when the kindness of my husband met me with great care. He must be tired—this pain has endured for a very long time. He hears my pain all through the night. With each painful tear I shed in anguish and pain, I’m met. Truly met and not alone.
It was a tearful Tuesday, but in those tears I met the beautiful end of myself and the beginning of something bigger. This journey isn’t going to be easy—there will be moments of joy. Grace will meet me, even if the pain never stops. Some days I will forget to look. But it doesn’t mean it’s not there.