What a pain!

I have not been writing lately. Or doing much of anything. The house has been hovering at an unacceptable cleanliness level (according to my standards) for about 7 months. It would be fun to say that I’ve been busy planning an amazing vacation to Aruba, or painting the bedroom that has been on my “to do” list for 3 years. But that’s not true.

I’ve been in chronic pain.

In the past I’ve dealt with migraines and managed to settle on a system where I could still be a mom and finagle the pain. But, the pain I’ve had these last months is something from a different level. Somehow I managed to get bursitis and frozen shoulder at the same time. I’ve given people the cold shoulder, but this is different. There is little range of motion and excrutiaing pain when I move my arm too high.

I can spare you the details because part of when someone is in pain, at least for me, is that we don’t want to burden others with something they can do nothing about. There is a helpless feeling already when one’s body is not cooperating so when it comes to explaining a pained expression or to bow out of an athletic activity, sometimes it’s just easier to smile and nod.

But is this really ok?

No.

Shouldn’t we bear one another’s burden’s and help each other out? So often I have wanted to cry out to someone and tell them how badly I hurt. How I can’t lift my arm to wash the top of my head, blow dry my hair, drive for long distances (not good for a soccer mom), or pull up my pants. I wish I could tell people how I am woken up in the night with pain shooting down my arm and piercing my shoulder so I stay awake for hours. Then I get out of bed in the morning (after not sleeping), start my day and try to look like I’m not in pain. Lots of coffee and mascara help.

What is the right response when you don’t want to be a complainer, but you need help?

Many people suffer in silence when in pain. Whether physical, emotional, financial, spiritual….no one wants to be a burden or “that” person who is whiny. But, how can we learn compassion and how to help others if we don’t sometimes share our weakness and let down our guard. By being vulnerable we can build a bridge to another and show them that it’s ok to ask for help, to hurt, to cry and to take time to heal.

Just the other day the Lord gently reminded me that pain is one of His specialties. He felt it, experienced it and He can definitely handle mine. He can handle yours too.

Encouragement Cafe readers!

If you found me through Encouragement Cafe then I am so glad to have you here! I’m just sorry the coffee is only the virtual kind and we aren’t able to talk face to face. I hope you are able to take some time to scroll through my blog and read for a bit. May your day be blessed and I hope you are able to find something to smile about today and be encouraged!

I understand, Mrs. Dr.

It’s an interesting dynamic when your husband is a physician and you are, well, not. I vacillate between feeling like a minor celebrity (we live in a small town) especially when I pay with my credit card and the cashier says, “Ohhhhhh Mast!! Are you related to doctor Mast?!” Or I can feel completely invisible in the same scenario because he’s the amazing doctor and I’m….nobody.
Yes, I understand. For those of you who are doing all the behind the scenes work (all 8000 things everyday that no one sees) I understand. I’ve made a list for you ladies who need to know that someone else is where you are:
1) I get it! When he comes home and doesn’t talk and can’t talk because everything must be HIPAA compliant. He truly can’t share what’s on his heart because he’s sworn to secrecy. It’s like being married to a doctor who’s also a spy. Then in the dark. Late at night after y’all have said your prayers you hear him whisper, “I’m so afraid I missed something today.” And he can’t even tell you about it.

2) I understand how it makes you twitch when people make rude comments about money. There’s a strange stereotype that we are just rolling in it over here. It’s maddening really! I would never, ever comment to a (fill in the occupation of your choice) about how little income he/she were making. It’s just rude. Yet, people find it perfectly OK to say things like, “Well, you’re a doctor! You have lots of money!” Or, “Ask the doctor for some money!” I’m truly baffled by this. And hurt. Because sometimes I think people see us as dollar signs and not as people. OK we have money, but we also have money problems. We are normal and we argue about money just like the people who are counting every nickel that comes in. It cost a healthy 6 figures for my husband to go to school and (15 years later) we are still paying that off. I could go on and on, but just know that I understand the sensitivity that money issues bring to the table and it can be painful.

3) I understand the loneliness. I’m an extrovert. I have parties for the most mundane reasons. When the kids learned to walk, lost their teeth (sometimes the two events were related) or learned a new skill, I was ready to make pizza and call it a party. Mark, is done with people by the end of the day. He becomes an introvert with a case of introvertitis and I, on the other hand, want to be surrounded by people who are more than 4 feet tall and speak in complete sentences.
We need to find balance and it’s not easy. It requires trust in the Lord that He will mesh our personalities, blend, refine and complement our strengths so we can serve Him together. When that happens, of course I have a party!

4) I understand that you sometimes feel second best. Maybe this only happens to me and I need to work on my self-esteem. I do sometimes feel that my husband is touted in our community as somewhat of a celebrity and the kids and I are forgotten. Certainly we don’t need to be in the limelight, nor do we want to be, but it can be a sore spot when I often hear how wonderful “he” is and what an “amazing doctor he is” and I just feel like….the housewife. Sigh.

On my worst days I’ll berate myself about how I can only put on a band-aid, but ‘”he” can make people well!! (It’s the Lord who heals. Doctors are vessels. Just clarifying.) Then I might get angry about how people are often praising him, but they don’t realize that he’s human. People glamorize their physicians, but do they stop to think that they leave their dirty socks lying around the house, burp at the table, curse when they run into the dishwasher, yell at the TV when their sports team is losing and, believe it or not, they get sick and they are not always the ideal patient. (*Disclaimer: These descriptions are NOT all my husband! They are characteristics I compiled from the reality of our home and the homes of others.)

5) I get how exhausted you are. Do you essentially do it all? My husband works about 12 hours a day. He spends 2-3 hours in the evenings working on paperwork. There’s really not time for him to take care of car repairs/oil changes/state inspections, taking the dog to the vet, laundry, food shopping/preparation/clean-up, anything dealing with the children or schoolwork (we/I home school so factor that into the equation), house repairs/painting/maintenance, household budgeting, banking and bill paying and you. Where do you and your marriage fit in? You are both exhausted and in most cases you are carrying the burden of the household. I have no answers because the above list (and more) is currently on my shoulders. Just know that I understand and I can pray for you and for myself that somehow all of this works out as we work for Him.

6) I understand that your life may have been put on hold for him. I’m older than my husband so it stood to reason that I was going to want a baby soon after we married. Like, 9 months after our honeymoon. Instead, medical school happened and five years after our “I do’s”, and as I frantically approached 30, we had a baby! Then another. (Then, sadly, a miscarriage.) And another baby. And another! I had to make up for lost time, right? I am so thankful for our four children and even more thankful that we are out of the stage where we had 4 under the age of 7! But things were a whirlwind and I didn’t get to finish grad school, write a book or go to Spain. I did do the really important #1 item on my dream list and that was to become a wife and mother. The rest can wait. I can go to Spain when I’m 70. Pregnancy at 70 is much, much harder. Still, I understand how many of us have had to push the “pause” button on life for the sake of our husbands’ careers. What do we do with those feelings?

7) Finally, I understand how unbelievable proud you are of him. It was a long haul. Undergrad. Medical School. Residency. Finding a job. Daily doing that job. No matter how George Clooney makes it look on ER, being a doctor is not glamorous. There are days it’s stinky, bloody and other-body-fluid messy. It’s taking off putrid toenails, looking at moles, cutting off growths and looking people in the eye and telling them they don’t have long to live. Medicine is messy. But it’s also miraculous. It’s seeing babies born and watching those who have struggled with depression finally smile. Only because these people have answered the call to be healers at the extended hand of the Healer is this job possible.

You. At home with the children. The dog. The laundry that will never end. The laundry that he will wear home with someone else’s blood on it. Yes, you. He can do this job because of you. He knows you are waiting on the other side of that door with love, a hug (after he changes his clothes!) and a hopeful heart. You will fill him with what he needs to go back and do it again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. His patients may never thank you. People will still see you as “the doctor’s wife”. You may still be seen as unseen. But, the Lord sees you and He knows you are caring for a brother by loving him when he comes home from a day healing in His name.
Well done lady. I understand.

Full Disclosure (for women only, or a few brave men.)

Today is a big day for me and not in a good way. Or a bad way. It’s just interesting. With me it’s almost always interesting. More than 2 years ago I started bleeding much in the same way, although less in amount, as you would when nursing a baby. This was absoluting frightening to me so I did what I often do when I don’t know what to do. I drank a cup of coffee, called the doctor, called my husband THEN I prayed! Why do I get the order backwards almost every time?!

Over the course of several years various tests revealed nothing that would show why I would be bleeding in this way. There were no cysts, masses or tumors. Praise God! So, I stopped wearing white shirts and tried to live my life. But, the problem persisted.

Then in January of this year it seemed to get worse. Back I schlepped to the doctor’s office and this time I was actually relieved when she saw a papilloma/ductal cyst. Well, now we have a suspect! Removal was not recommended as it was so small that it was deemed non-cancerous and, “How could anyting that small be causing all this trouble?” I laughed because I have 4 children. I remember when they were the size of a Tic-Tac and my nausea had nausea.

Fast forward to today. A more recent test and biposy revealed that the little trouble maker from January had continued to bleed (all my undergarments can attest to that!) and it had grown ever so slightly. It also had atypical cells. It was explained to me that atypical is NOT cancer! Apparently there is atypical, pre-cancer, then cancer. Cancer is so dumb. It’s like it has to go to school, then pre-school, THEN it gets to be cancer! Well, I’m not about to let it go to school in my body! I don’t even want to go to school with me!

So today is the day my kind doctor will remove those atypical cells before they have a chance to misbehave and do some real damage.

But here’s the cool part.

I was freaking out about having surgery. Not the being put to sleep part, becuase I’ve been NOT sleeping ever since this whole ordeal started (I’m typing this at 2 AM by the way.) Besides, in a sick way I’m looking forward to anesthesia! As a busy homeschooling mama of four kiddos, I’m kinda looking forward to a warm blanket and an uninterrupted nap. I almost don’t care that I’ll be in a room with some strangers and part of my chest will be exposed!

OK, the cool part. As I was praying about this I asked the Lord if I should really be having surgery? If I should just wait for His healing? Maybe there really aren’t atypical cells there if I can’t see them, right? Then, like He so often does, He gently showed me Matthew 9:20-21. The woman who reached out and touched the hem of His garment. And He gently prodded my heart and said, “You can’t see those atypical cells, but you can see the blood and know something isn’t right. My Word does not say where her bleeding was.”  Oh sweet Jesus!

All along I assumed, as maybe you did, that it was menstrual, but maybe she had been bleeding from her ears. Or she suffered from Eczema or nose bleeds (she lived in the desert and that climate is sooo dry!) Or maybe, just maybe, she was afflicted like I am and just needed to reach out for healing (maybe that means surgery since that is available to us today. Praise God!)

Just that gentle Word from the Lord is what I needed today. Knowing that He hears my heart cry for health and wholeness and that He cares what happens to me. I love that His Word is so perfect for whatever I face in my life and that He uses the truth of Scripture to show me His love, grace and mercy. What a gift! A gift I truly needed on this day when life can seem uncertain.