This past week, I found out that “Hand Repair Surgery #9” will take place next Thursday, March 5. I am thrilled! I can’t begin to express how happy I am to move on in this process of healing my hand and arm. I still have a long way to go, but each step is one step closer to the end… and this step is more like a giant leap! The expander that is currently in my arm will be removed and the majority of my scars will be covered by the extra tissue that has been created. No more bump!!
Today, as I was contemplating this next surgery, I remembered that March 5 was the date of another significant surgery in my life. March 5, 2012, was the day that a cancerous tumor was removed from my cheek. That was just 3 years ago, but oh, how my life has changed! I feel like a completely different person than the one who was wheeled into the operating room that day. Little did I know that my world was about to change in ways that I couldn’t have ever imagined at the time.
At the time of my surgery 3 years ago, I didn’t know I had cancer. I thought I was going in to have a benign tumor removed from my salivary gland. One week later, my doctor called to let me know that I needed to make an appointment with another doctor, an oncology radiologist. Not knowing much more than that, I was quite nervous as I awaited the day of my appointment. I remember being overwhelmed as my new doctor told me about the treatments I would need in order to rid my body of this life threatening disease. All plans would have to be put on hold while I went through several weeks of daily radiation.
I had a few weeks between the time of my diagnosis and the day my radiation treatments were to begin. I’m not sure why, but during that time, I was actually buoyed up by the challenge that lay ahead of me. I resolved to fight my way through this battle and I was determined to win. Friends and family rallied around me to lend support and love. I was scared but I knew that everything was going to be OK. During this time, I was listening to the annual General Conference of my church. One of the speakers, President Henry B. Eyring, gave a talk entitled, “Mountains to Climb.” He spoke of a time in his life when he prayed for a test to prove his courage. I was so moved by this talk, that I decided to do as he had done and pray for a test, a “mountain to climb”, something that would draw me closer to my Savior.
I don’t recommend you do this.
The next week, I began my radiation treatments. They were difficult. I am claustrophobic and this particular type of radiation required that I wear a radiation mask which was made to fit snugly over my face and neck. It was then fastened to the table while the treatments took place. Each treatment took 8 minutes and 47 seconds. I know because I counted every second that I was secured to that table. Through the course of the next nine weeks, I would lose a significant portion of my hair, destroy the taste buds on the left side of my tongue, burn my ear so badly that it bled and became infected, and lose 20 lbs (that was the only good part!).
But all of this paled in comparison to the events that began on day two of my radiation treatments. My oldest son chose that day to tell us that he was gay. Soon there after, I was diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and began an intensive therapy program to overcome the effects of childhood abuse. Through all of this, our family finances began to suffer, as did my marriage. By this time, I had all but forgotten my petition to God for a test that would draw me closer to Him. Instead, I became angry and turned away from Him.
The crowning glory of all these trials came on May 9th of last year when I was in the accident that nearly severed my right hand. If I thought it couldn’t get worse…well, I was wrong. However, the miracles and blessings that accompanied that accident changed my outlook on life and gave me a new perspective.
Looking back, I can see the opposing influences that have been at work throughout my life. This past week, I have identified the subtle ways I allowed myself to be controlled by the adversary, and I saw glimpses of a person that I don’t like very much. But I also saw change. I saw a person who has learned to accept trials as the reason for mortality. I saw a person who is more aware and accepting of her imperfections. I saw a person who has learned to love more and judge less. I saw a person who is searching for truth and understands that it will be a life long pursuit. And I saw a person who is learning to surrender to a merciful God whose “arm is lengthened out all the day long” (2 Nephi 28:32).
I am grateful for the trials and challenges that have brought me to this point. I know they are far from over, but I am beginning to understand that the greatest lessons are learned and the greatest strength acquired through the most difficult situations that life has to offer. I have not yet reached the top of my “mountain”, but when I do, I hope to have a 360 degree view of the plan of our Father. Until then, I will “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope” as I “endure to the end” (2 Nephi 31:20).