September 30th, 2004 -
My eyelids weighed heavy, blinks lazed slow. The pressure on my chest was even worse than the morning previous. I struggled out of bed and shuffled to the dorm sink to inspect my reflection. Was my face as swollen as it felt?
I gasped, barely recognizing myself. My lips were three times their fullness, my cheeks were pillows, and my veins bulged pale blue. The image staring back at me was a creepy caricature.
Concerned, my roommate and long time family friend, Amber, called my dad for help. I was 19 and moved to Portland for college, just one month prior. We were new here and had no idea what to do. Amber handed me the phone. Dad spoke gently, strength trembling in his voice. He told me to write down all my symptoms and he’d call back with a plan. I grabbed a pen and tried to recall them all. There was that strange lump that had just showed up a week or two ago near my shoulder. It bumped up against my backpack. I facetiously nicknamed it “my tumor” when I first noticed it. We laughed. And then there was that penetrating ache right under my throat. I could no longer sing or breathe deep without pain. I hurried to finish the list, startled at how many bullet points were shooting through the page.
I folded the paper and somehow convinced myself it was no big deal. I threw on my Nikes and dropped by the nurses office on my way to class. She gave me a Benadryl and we giggled together about how I must be allergic to the entire city of Portland. I don’t remember a thing about class - but I am surprised I went…I mean, seriously, my head was a balloon. Why in the world did I go to class?
After lunch, my dad called back announcing he was on his way. He wanted to go to urgent care with me. I remember shaking my head, “that’s a three hour drive!...Dad, no. I’m okay, really!” Exasperated, I sat on the edge of my bed and stared into the faded carpet. I set aside my denial for a moment so the realization began to sink in...something could be wrong. Something was wrong. I blinked back tears, remembering Isaac...
Just a couple months before this, we received devastating news. Isaac was walking on the side of the road. There was an accident...the car swerved and ran him over, trapping his whole body under its totaled frame. The doctors were not sure he’d live. And if he did, they were sure his brain would be so severely impaired, he would never be the same. But, oh mercy...to our joy and relief, he survived. And he was still himself - still smart, loyal, witty...and still confident of his God. I wondered if I could be as confident if it had happened to me.
I had recently returned from our annual college retreat at Wildhorse Canyon - the theme of the weekend? Suffering. How to grieve. How to forebear. How to withstand...and how to stand firm. Would my faith be true under a fiery trial? When the storm hit, would my faith prove sinking sand...or would I stand?
I couldn’t answer these questions, but in the midst of them a strange stillness settled into my soul. And in His stillness, by grace I prayed, “no matter what this day holds, God. Blessed be Your Name. Whatever the news is, God, please, bless Your name.” Only God’s Spirit inside me would utter such a prayer, “Whatever is ahead, Lord bless Your name.” I was weak and uncertain. But the solid Rock was with me. And with the assurance of His presence, I said “Amen,” stood and stepped out of my dorm to go to the appointment….the appointment that would change my life forever...