"If you write FOR a particular market or FOR a particular editor you will often miss the mark. But if you write because your fingers have danced across the keyboard, because a character has tapped you on the shoulder, because a story has settled in your heart, then even if you never sell it you have done the work you were meant to do. And sometime, dear readers, real magic happens." Jane Yolen

6/19/09

Friday Fiction: "Ailing Body, Nourished Soul" Exerpt

Guess what? I'M hosting Fiction Friday! Welcome to my contribution. Make sure that you comment on my entry and include a link to your contribution. Or, if you just want to read some great fiction (ALWAYS great in my opinion!), check out the links below.

Not only is this not fiction, it's longer than my usual entry. I hope two strikes doesn't make me "out." This is an excerpt from my current work in progress, Ailing Body, Nourished Soul. Still not done polishing, but I'd LOVE your feedback!

Ailing Body, Nourished Soul
Chapter 3

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
James 1:5 NIV

CAT scans. MRIs. Blood tests. Intravenous drugs. Poking and prodding. Monitor hooked to half a dozen or more parts of his body. Getting woken every two hours for shots and a check of vitals.

Despite all the tests, checks, and monitoring, they don’t tell what is in Marc’s heart. They don’t tell of the doubt, the fear, and the frustration of lying in a hospital bed two full days after arriving, with hardly a bit of information more than when he was admitted.

We were told to come to this different hospital on Friday because the best neurosurgeon in the area was on duty that weekend. Yet it’s Sunday night, and we still haven’t seen him.
Sure, we’d seen an intern or two, and they’d certainly done enough tests. Yet, what was the purpose of moving us here if he wasn’t gonna show up for us while he was on call?

Of course, the worst part of not having seen the doctor is that we spent the entire weekend just as clueless as we were when we were admitted on Friday. Marc has a mass on his brain. We knew that at Metro. We’d heard the word “tumor,” but nothing really beyond that. The only thing that we DID know at this point was that we were supposed to see the doctor the next morning, early. Just makes us wonder why they bothered to keep us in the hospital over the weekend anyhow.

I look over at my husband and see his eyes drooping, and his whole face seemingly without rigidity. I know he will try to force himself to stay awake until I go.

I wriggle my arm under the covers and rest my hand in his. “I think I’m going to head home so you can get some sleep. I’ll be back first thing tomorrow morning with your parents.”

He smiles and nods. “I love you.”

My lips meet his, and I run my hands through his hair. “I love you too.”

“Drive safe, hun.” His eyes scrunch up. “Be careful.”

“I will.” I grab his hand once more and squeeze as I leave the neuroscience unit and head toward the elevator.

What a long weekend it has been—for all of us. Marc has been in the neuroscience unit the whole time, of course, and I’ve been back and forth, with and without Andrew and Marc’s folks (who are staying with us to help out) while we wait for answers.

Tomorrow, though, answers look promising. I plan to be there at seven, and Barb has agreed to watch Andrew for us so all three adults can be there to meet this illusive doctor and hear what he has to say.

***


“How’d you sleep, sweetie?” I sit in the chair beside his bed.

“As well as you can being woken every two hours,” he quipped. “How about you?”

“Okay.” I look up at the ceiling, the monitors, and then back to his face. “Has the doctor shown up yet?”

Marc shrugs. “It’s pretty early yet.”

I look at my watch: Seven AM. I guess so.

“Your folks will be here soon. They were a little bit behind.”

Just as I finish my sentence, I hear footsteps. I bounce from my chair to see Dave and Sharon. I attempt to hide my disappointment, smiling and pointing to the two empty chairs beside his bed.

After two days of speculation and frustration, we’re in no mood to discuss the elephant in the room, so we the four of us make small talk until close to 9am. Yet, I can feel the fear—that anxiety about what this doctor is going to say.

If, of course, he ever arrives.

By nine, I, personally, am done being patient. “I’ll be right back,” I announce as I head for the nurse’s station.

“Can I help you?”

I force my voice to calm. “Do you have any idea when the doctor will be here?”

She shrugs her shoulders. “Soon, I’m sure. I believe your husband is first on his list. I haven’t seen him yet this morning.”

“Okay. Thanks.” I slowly walk back to the room, taking the time to breathe in and out slowly, and to pray.

Lord, I know You are here, and You know what is going on. Help comfort us, and prepare us for whatever news may be coming. Help us not to get caught up in the anxiety of waiting, but to use the time to prepare us for the information to come. I love You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

As I walk into Marc’s room, everyone looks my way. “Nothing yet. We’re supposed to be first on his list. I guess all we can do is wait. The nurse said she hadn’t seen him yet.” I shrug and sit down in the chair between Marc and his dad.

I extend my arm toward Marc, placing his left palm in mine. “Can’t be much longer, hun.”

I smile and return to the small talk. “Did I tell you what Andrew did yesterday?”

***

At 10am, two unfamiliar faces enter the room. I eyeball their badges from my seat. The first is the neurosurgeon, Dr. Stern, who looks about as old as Marc’s father. It may be my own impatience, but he looks like he has better places to be, and is in a bit of a hurry to get to one of them. He is followed close behind by Jennifer, his nurse. She, on the other hand, appears ready to sit down and chat.

The next few minutes are a blur of rapid-fire doctorese. I know it’s going to take some serious time to comprehend this. From what I can figure, though, the tumor is likely one of two types – a pituitary tumor, or a craniopharyngioma (I have no idea what it is either). Regardless, it is big enough that they need to open him up and do some serious brain surgery: a craniotomy. (Apparently, smaller brain tumors can be removed through the nasal cavity. I shudder at the thought.) And Dr. Stern is pressing immediacy.

“Some of my non-critical patients have offered move their surgery dates so I can get you in on Wednesday,” he says.

In two days, my husband is having brain surgery. A couple days before his thirty-sixth birthday, and three months before his second child is due to be born, my husband will be lying on a cold operating table with scalpels probing his brain—all because of a tumor we didn’t know existed a week ago. I sit down in my chair.

As disoriented and confused as I currently feel, I can’t even be close to Marc’s contemplations. I rest one hand on his shoulder, rubbing some tension out: or trying to, anyway.

Suddenly, my brain goes into planning mode. Who will watch Andrew? I certainly don’t want to take him with us to sit in the waiting room for hours. What about Dave and Sharon? How long am I going to need to be on the phone telling everyone and their brother what’s going on? What about me? I’m six months pregnant. How is this stress going to affect the baby? Am I going to need to force myself to eat for her? What are the short-term repercussions of this? Long-term?

Jennifer is speaking to me, but I’m not hearing. I try to focus my brain.

“Let’s go in the conference room,” she is saying, I think. “We can all sit and talk about this, and any questions you have.”

We follow the nurse, me in a complete daze. I imagine the others were the same, though I didn’t check. Dr. Stern doesn’t join us. Strange, I think. We all sit – Marc wheeled over in a wheelchair, me beside him (holding his hand), and Dave and Sharon opposite us. Jennifer sits at the end. Our heads turn directly toward her.

Despite the hundreds of questions that zipped through my mind not ten minutes ago, I can’t think of a single one now that I have someone who can possibly answer them. Thankfully, neither my father-in-law nor my husband are not as tight-lipped.

Jennifer, however, rests her hand on her chin and really focuses on the two men and their words. She seems to be truly listening to not only to what they are saying, but to the feelings behind them. Then she looks at some of the papers in her hands and seems to contemplate how to answer. Then she does.

Something about Jennifer’s tone of voice calms us, making us feel like we’re with someone who can speak to us in plain English. She explains what she can.

The surgery will last three to four hours. The doctor plans to go in and remove the tumor, then have a biopsy done on it. Most of these tumors (whichever of the two it is) are benign, but of course there is still a chance it could be malignant. Treatment afterward will depend on what they discover.

He’ll be in the neuroscience unit recovering for several days after the surgery, and he’ll have some restrictions once he does get home. He’ll likely have to stay on several of the medications after the surgery for a while, and there will be a period when he can’t be left alone, due to an increased risk of seizure after brain surgery.

“Thank you, Jen.” The rest of the family echoes my thoughts. “This has really helped.”

She pops up from her seat and rubs both Marc and me on the back. “Whatever I can do to help. And don’t be afraid to contact us if you have any more questions. I know how overwhelming this can be.”

And I feel like I have someone—someone who knows what she’s talking about—on our side.

QUESTIONS: Is patience a struggle for you? Do you find yourself getting more and more anxious the longer you have to wait? Does your brain go into ‘what-if’ mode, dreaming up the most terrible possibilities as you wait? When you do get bad news, or news you can’t understand, how does it make you feel? Do you find it easy or difficult to trust God in situations like this? Do you feel it necessary to find an explanation before you are comfortable accepting a difficult situation?

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help us to know that no matter how long we are in the dark about our situation, You have already known since eternity past exactly what will happen. Help us, Lord, to trust You as we wait, and to believe You are in control when things don’t turn out exactly as we’d like. Help us, Lord, to accept Your sovereignty as the best for us, for that is exactly what it is. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to leave your link below, and read the others!

14 comments:

  1. Thanks for letting us read this, JO. You put a lot of your emotions and wifey worries into your words. Plus, you showed how God was working in the situation,too.


    My FF post is a tribute to my father.

    http://mybackdoorministry.blogspot.com

    Vonnie

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  2. Wow, Jo. I'm so glad you posted this! I cannot imagine going through all that! What a time--and yet God carried you through. What a testimony of our great God!

    Loved this, sweetie!!

    Today I posted a story for Father's Day (since I actually remembered--which is a huge accomplishment this week! LoL)
    http://pattywysong.blogspot.com/2009/06/jakes-ladder.html

    Thanks for hosting for us!
    Huggles!

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  3. Great excerpt, and one that I think anyone who has ever gone through the waiting game in a hospital can relate to (whether as a patient or a family member). It looks like your book is coming along well!

    My FF is an experiment this week:
    http://www.podtalesandponderings.blogspot.com

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  4. I love that you are sharing this excerpt from your WIP. This will minister to many, I believe. Since the day my husband went into the hospital (the first time) back in April, I can totally relate to your descriptions of the racing of thoughts, questions, anxiety, and all that goes with it.

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  5. Oops, I forgot to leave my link.

    It's a continuation of my WIP. http://karlenejacobsen.blogspot.com

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  7. Thanks for doing this Joanne. It's a huge help. Merry is still vomiting and pretty miserable.

    anyway... here is mine!

    http://shirleymcclay.com/?p=575

    I think it's my only attempt at a Bible story!

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  8. Here's my Friday Fiction. It's a father/son story and I didn't even do it on purpose for Father's Day. :)

    http://lauryhubrich.blogspot.com/2009/06/its-just-name.html

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  9. Thank you for sharing this piece of your life with us, Jo. I can't imagine what you and Marc went through.

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  10. There is always an end to the valley - I know God has good things in store for you and your family! Thanks for sharing from your life.

    Today I continued on with 'Dusty Dreams'
    http://candidthought.blogspot.com/

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  11. I can "feel" this all the way through.

    I can hardly wait to read the rest.

    Patience? Don't have much so this is an "ouch" moment—I have no real reason to be impatient considering the kind of situation you are describing here.

    Here's mine. I change the site so that people could comment (I hope) more easily.

    http://twolatincats.wordpress.com/2009/06/19/friday-fiction/

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  12. I must read the rest! Joanne, what a privilege it is to read your story (and Marc's!)

    What an application at the end.

    I cannot imagine living through this - so full of grace you are.

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  13. WOW JJ, this is very emotionally charged. You use a lot of short, careful sentences that capture the urgency, the worry and the complete atmosphere of this. Because it is real, it feels as if I was shadowing you in the background. So hard to wait for things, like the dr. Wonderful writing tho.


    My FF is another Rachel episode. It's coming closer to the end-and this week, I've made Rachel positively um...well, you'll have to read to find out. ^_^

    http://fictionfusion.blogspot.com/2009/06/raising-rachel-part-16-friday-fiction.html

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  14. Joanne, so much of what you wrote in this chapter felt like what I went through with my dad. Keep on writing the book. Can't wait to read the rest. :-)

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