By Barb Arland-Fye
I fell asleep Thursday night worrying about surgery scheduled Friday morning to remove a lymph node under my left arm for biopsy, and the possible diagnosis. But I awoke that morning feeling lifted up in prayer.
My trust in God over this health challenge should have kicked in sooner. It faltered a bit when preparation for surgery began; nervousness crept back into my psyche. As the scrub nurse placed the anesthesia mask over my nose and mouth, I momentarily panicked. The anesthesiologist calmly coached me to breathe deeply in and out, in and out. We’ll see you later, she said, or something to that effect!
The next thing I knew, I was in the recovery room with tears of relief streaming down my face. My compassionate surgeon arrived just minutes later and greeted me with a smile and said surgery went well. The lymph node was on its way to the pathology lab for examination. He asked if my husband Steve and I had talked yet about getting a “schnoodle,” a breed of dog that is a cross between a schnauzer and a poodle. The subject of dogs had come up the day before during my visit with the surgeon. He owns a schnoodle, the same type of dog my family owned when I was growing up. Steve and I don’t agree on dog breeds, but my surgeon suggested a schnoodle might be the answer!
The small talk was much appreciated. My surgeon knew that my personal physician and I have been searching for answers for several months about the source of an infection causing enlargement of lymph nodes in my body. “You need some answers,” he said.
It may be a week before an answer arrives, but I feel optimistic about the potential diagnosis and moving ahead, which I attribute to the power of prayer. My surgeon said it is OK to allow the “what-ifs” to enter my thoughts, but to follow those thoughts with positive ones about the things I love to do.
I thought about a faith-filled colleague and friend who survived cancer while continuing her career and raising her family. I never heard her dwell on the “why me” question. She exemplifies grace, a gift of the Holy Spirit, which I have been praying to develop. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “grace includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church.”
Praying for grace doesn’t make it happen like osmosis. I’ve discovered that I have to work at it, and accept missteps along the way. I called my friend a few weeks ago to tell her about my as yet-undiagnosed health challenge and to ask her advice. We are all companions on the journey, and I have never been too shy to turn to a companion to fortify my faith and assuage my fears. My friend did that for me, sharing more specific details about her journey through illness and offering her support. She followed up with a thoughtful card.
Bishop Tom Zinkula reminded me that St. Paul endured great physical suffering for the sake of the church. Paul compared his ordeals to that of an athlete who completed the race. I can relate to the running analogy. Paul’s race was a spiritual one, and he never lost confidence that God was running beside him. That’s what I’m working on, fortified by the power of prayer.
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at email@example.com.)