Have you ever wanted to be in two places at once?
I found myself in that situation last Tuesday, April 19. That was the date when two major events took place for our family: Gail had major surgery in the morning and Jacob received the Sacrament of Confirmation in the evening. Gail’s recovery precluded her from attending Jake’s Confirmation. More on that in a bit.
Gail went to see our family doctor back in early February when she started to spot. Gail’s usually very regular so this was certainly out of the ordinary. After a few weeks of monitoring, a couple more visits to the doctor, and an ultrasound, it was confirmed in mid-March that Gail had cysts on/in her ovaries. The multi-cyst on her left ovary was the size of a tennis ball.
Needless to say, we were very concerned that the cysts were cancerous. However, it would take weeks to confirm or deny this so there wasn’t much we could do except to pray. Gail’s blood work and MRI came back indicating that Gail had endometriosis but the jury was out on cancer. So again we waited.
We met with the surgeon in early April and did one more round of blood tests and cancer tests. We got our results on April 7 and both the surgeon and the Cancer Agency ruled out cancer for the time being (we wouldn’t know for certain until the cysts were tested after removal).
The two surgery dates offered to us were April 19 and May 31 – a difference of six weeks. Thus, we chose the April 19 date.
April 19 was also the scheduled date of Jake’s Confirmation.
Gail broke the news to Jake when she picked him up from school. Not surprisingly, Jake was upset with the conflict, and he fought back tears as Gail explained to him the importance of getting the surgery as early as possible. To his credit, Jake said that he understood. I spent time with him that evening to make sure that he was okay with everything. He assured me that he was.
We spent the next two weeks preparing and praying. On the surgery side, Gail worked hard on instructions and materials for her substitute. On the Confirmation side, Jake participated in the rehearsal and a Confirmation Retreat. On Gail’s last day of teaching (Friday the 15th), Gail’s principal sent a note home to grade two parents stating that Gail would be away for medical reasons.
On the morning of the 19th, we left for the hospital at 6am. By 7am, they were preparing Gail for surgery while I waited in the appropriately-named waiting room. At 7:30am, I was able to spend half an hour with Gail before they wheeled her away for surgery.
We didn’t really say much in those 30 minutes. We laughed at Gail’s fashionable surgery socks and slippers. We made predictions for how long the surgery would take. We whispered prayers. And mostly, we held each other’s hand in silence.
I kissed Gail and went to the cafeteria to wait. I did some work and engaged in a few conversations. In fact, it seemed like one out of every two people I met were from our home church of St. Paul’s. I made a couple of trips to the day surgery ward for updates but to no avail. Finally, at 11am, I went back to my car to get some rest.
Meanwhile, back at St. Paul’s, there was an army of teachers and students getting the gym and church ready for that evening’s Confirmation celebration. Normally in my role as PREP (Parish Religious Education Program) Director, I would have been at the church helping with the preparations. But I didn’t want to leave the hospital just in case. The team did a great job of updating me throughout the morning.
While I was fully confident in their ability, I still desired to be there to help. But I wanted to be at the hospital too.
I had to let go and let God.
My phone rang just before noon; it was the surgeon. She told me that Gail’s surgery went smoothly albeit a tad longer than they had expected. They had removed the cysts by making four incisions in her abdomen and doing everything via laparoscopy (tube) as opposed to c-section. After the three-hour surgery, she would be in post-surgery recovery for another four hours.
After texting, emailing, and calling some people, I raced home to eat lunch and to shower. On my way back to the hospital, I stopped by the church to do some further preparation for the evening. I got to see Gail just after 3pm. She was doing okay but very tired and very nauseous.
They moved Gail to the maternity ward to give her a private room. I chuckled as I entered the room and remarked that we hadn’t been in the ward as patients since having Kayla in December 2007. I spent 90 minutes with Gail before leaving for the church. I promised that I would return after the Confirmation reception to spend the night at the hospital with her.
The couple of hours leading up to the Confirmation Mass were extremely busy at St. Paul’s. However, I kept thinking about Gail and kept wondering how she was doing. While I was grateful that Gail’s dad was with her, I wanted it to be me. Maybe it was my husband pride talking, but I wanted to be there to protect her, to hold her, and to take care of her. But immediately upon seeing Jake arrive to the church at 6pm to get dressed in his robe, I knew that he (and the other Confirmands) needed to be my priority for the next few hours.
I needed to trust that Gail would be fine without me. I needed once again to let go and let God.
There was an undeniable excitement and buzz in the air as the students arrived to put on their robes and take pictures. The Mass went really well, and thankfully the students did a good job in answering Archbishop Michael’s questions. I beamed with pride as Jake received the sacrament while wishing that Gail was there to witness it.
For the reception, I resumed my regular post as Archbishop Michael’s bodyguard with respect to the photographs. He was aware of Gail’s surgery and he told me that he had been praying for her. It was a beautiful sentiment to hear as we gathered for our incomplete family picture.
After an efficient clean up, I was preparing to return to the hospital when Gail called to tell me that I wouldn’t be allowed to sleep over as she wasn’t a true “maternity” patient. I was really upset as I realized that it would be another 10 hours or so before I would get to see Gail. But there was nothing I could do.
I had to trust that the nurses would take good care of Gail. I had to let go and let God.
Despite how tired I was, I could barely sleep that night as I was worried about Gail. The next morning, I drove the kids to school and then arrived back at the hospital at 8am. Gail was awake, alert, and sore. Gail responded well to the tests that morning and was discharged at noon.
As we slowly made our way through the hallway, I was glad that I paid for parking until 4pm. Gail was moving very gingerly. In fact, she was losing hallway races to senior citizens. And it was even close.
“You’re moving like Obaasan,” I said. Obaasan was my 103 year-old grandmother.
“Good thing I still have four hours left on my parking,” I exclaimed.
“Maybe you should slow down,” I suggested.
Gail smacked me.
“Okay, good. You’re feeling pretty normal,” I replied.
I brought the car to the nearest exit and I helped to settle her at home in her beautiful five-star accommodations downstairs. That night at PREP, I explained the surgery and four-week recovery time to the grade two parents who were gathered for a meeting. I thanked them for their understanding and for respecting our privacy the previous few days.
And just five days after the Confirmation celebration, the grade two students received their First Communion on Saturday night. After journeying with them and helping them prepare for the past eight months, Gail couldn’t be there to witness them receiving the sacrament.
She too had to let go and let God.
Gail is recovering nicely thanks be to God. She went out for the first time on Sunday and drove for the first time on Monday. I expect her to be running a marathon by this Friday. Kidding.
The best news of all came on Monday night in the form of the biopsy results: the cysts were benign!!!
It brought to an end a nervous and stressful eight weeks of uncertainty.
Throughout it all, our kids have been amazing. I get the sense that they weren’t ever scared of losing their mother, rather they were frightened at the fact that I would be cooking for them for the next few weeks.
To that point, we’re grateful for the many people who have brought over food for us. And for those who have visited, sent flowers, called, messaged, emailed, and prayed. Also, we’re thankful to everyone who has helped us with picking up and dropping off the kids. Between football games, football practices, bowling, track, and gymnastics, there’s always a lot going on.
We pray for Jake – that the Holy Spirit empowers him to continue to be a witness to Christ and good example to his friends. He has grown a lot this year (physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually) and we can’t wait to see how God will continue to work in him and through him.
Most importantly, we thank God for His overwhelming love, mercy, and protection. I know that I went back and forth between praying that the cysts be non-cancerous to praying that God’s will be done – not that they were necessarily mutually exclusive.
God has been truly present throughout this entire process. He’s manifested Himself in family, friends, fellow staff members, parents, students, surgeons, nurses.
We pray that Gail continues to heal.
We pray that Jake continues to mature in his faith.
And we pray that we all have the faith and trust to let go and let God.