Today I awoke with a single thought: I am alive, praise God. I reflected on yesterday's events, pondering all that has happened to me. Then as I watched the sun rise, I cried. I cannot describe well enough what indescribable emotions I have. I am so grateful, so happy, so relieved, so thankful.
Two weeks ago on Sunday is where I will begin...
I was working, laughing and joking with my coworkers when I got another bloody nose. I lurched over to the paper towels nearby and thought that after a little bit, it would be over. It is Fall and the air is dry and cold, bloody noses are bound to happen under such conditions. It began to gush really bad and it wouldn't stop. My coworker became very concerned about me. My other coworkers and her brought paper towels after wad of paper towels and I easily filled up half the trash barrel. Thirty minutes and it was still gushing. I heard a ringing in my ears and suddenly, a thick juicy pop. Instantly I felt I was in a fish bowl, spots entered my vision and things began to look muted and darker. I watched the clock, feeling dizzy. My heart started pounding as I watched time tick by, and knowing that although I had a damp cloth around my neck and my head back, the bleeding just wasn't stopping. Forty minutes later and I heard my coworker whisper to the others, "I am worried. Do you think we should take her to E.R.?" "Maybe it will stop, I pray it does soon. I'm worried too." the reply came. "If it doesn't stop in ten minutes, I'll take her." She said. "And I'll hold down the fort." came the response back.
Forty five minutes later, the bleeding slowed and stopped. At fifty minutes, I stood back up and went back to my tasks. I didn't feel very good, I thought for sure that something was very wrong about what had just happened. My heart wouldn't slow, the world around me seemed so dark and dull, and oh the piercing ringing with the dizziness! I just wasn't sure what to make of it, but I wanted to work and work to my best ability. So I did. I took a few breaks to catch my breath and overheard coworkers saying I was having an anxiety attack. I prayed that was not the case. The verse "Be anxious for nothing," came to my mind consistently. I handed God the reigns on my life, I did not want the burden and I knew that His way was best. Trusting Him was better than relying on myself to pull through. I still felt abnormally weak and my mind pressed me so hard with the thought: Something is wrong.
I finished out my workday, punched out. I sat in my car for about ten minutes, shaking fingered and resting my head on the steering wheel. I couldn't rationally bring myself to drive home. I called the doctor's office and asked their opinion. They said to "call an ambulance, get to E.R. and don't drive yourself." Those I knew cost money I could not pay. I called one of my best-friends, Hannah. Her reply was instant, "I will be there. Hang in there sweetheart, I'm on my way!" My mom called and I told her about the bloody nose. She told me she was on her way. My parents got to my car first and I was taken to the E.R. where Hannah and her hubby met me and gave me encouragement. I was hooked up to the heart monitor where I was told yet again that I was having an anxiety attack and that the cause of my bloody nose was only dryness from the Fall weather. I insisted that something just wasn't right, something was wrong. He rechecked the equipment and then made sure it matched my actual vital signs, insuring that the equipment wasn't glitching up. It wasn't. My heart rate was actually very low, not rapidly pounding. I was told I hyperventilated, swallowed a lot of protein-rich blood, and needed to relax now, go home and moisturize that nose, and take care. Finally giving in, still inwardly unsure, still feeling that sense of something being not right, I did so.
My aunt, who is knowledgeable about medical things, heard my story about the 45 minute nosebleed. She told me I was in the process of passing out. That explained the hyperventilating, the fishbowl effect, the darkening and dulling of my vision, the anxiety. It wasn't that I was anxious after all, but my body giving me a final firm warning that I was about to pass out on the floor! I did not know that at the time but it suddenly made total sense. She gave me a tip about pinching my nose and looking down so that I didn't swallow the protein-rich blood. The body wasn't meant to digest such rich proteins and that explained why I felt nauseated after the 45 minutes of gulping and swallowing. I took her suggestions about moisturizing my nose.
Saturday rolled around and I found bruising on my arm and on my legs. Perhaps I had tapped something a little hard? Bumped into something while bustling around at work and at home? I spoke to my family and they suggested that my iron may be low. I began eating iron-rich food and worked on gaining good weight.
Wednesday of last week. Nosebleeds had become a routine. My coworkers looked at me with the common concerned expression of, "Again? Oh no, sweetheart." And they uplifted and encouraged me, lots of times helping so that I didn't fall behind in my work. (A most excellent team, I love my coworkers. I wouldn't trade them for the world.) :) Fifteen minutes passed to twenty minutes as I stood over the bathroom sink pinching my nose and staring downward, praying that God would see me through this bloody nose too. I spent the time waiting for it to stop in prayer. I figured that was the best way to spend up time that I'm sure would have been otherwise spent thinking negatively about it. If this was going to be a normal situation with me, I was convinced that it would not be wasted, I was going to use the time in prayer. It was going to be time with my Jesus, even if it was talking to Him with a bloody drippy nose; I was not going to let it give me an excuse to be negative. I was going to spend that time with Him. I performed my tasks at work, helped my coworkers, smiled and did my best that I could do. When I got home, I got changed into comfy clothes so I could nap. That was becoming routine. I found that I was dizzy and often times fatigued, so one to two hour naps after work were becoming useful in order to continue doing things at home. I like to be productive (what workaholic perfectionist doesn't?). :P This time, I shouted down the stairs, "Oh no! Mom???" She hightailed it up the stairs to see what I was worried about. I had raised my shirt-sleeve to discover a rich purple-blue bruise the size of my whole hand on my upper left arm. Smaller 1/2 dollar sized bruises dotted the back of my elbows, and forearms. "You need to make an appointment with the doctor." She said worriedly. I booked the appointment for the following day.
Thursday of last week. Another nosebleed. I pinched my nose and began my time waiting for it to please end and praying. It plugged up and I freshened up and returned to my tasks. It wasn't going to ruin my day. I convinced myself daily that, "Today is another day to live for Jesus." I was going to live it in the best way I knew how: by throwing myself at His feet and letting Him know that no matter what, I am His slave and I will do His will. It did not matter the situations, the pressure, or those dreadful nosebleeds. Inspired, I drew a sharpie smiley grin on a cherry tomato and wrote on the back of it that saying. I placed it into the hands of a co-worker who I knew was having a tough day. (Bunny trail: lol, she is so cute! She refused to destroy the "beautiful treasure" I had bestowed in her care, so she put it up on her kitchen sink so she can see it every morning. A few days later she came up to me with a frown and told me it had to be thrown away due to it's being a tomato and...yeah, those things just don't last.)
I got off work and I went in to the appointment. The doctor's eyes grew wide when I displayed nineteen bruises on my arms and legs, promising that I did nothing more than touch something and poof, there they were. And what were those tiny bruise-dots? I asked him about those too. He had the nurse take two vials for blood-work and then I was done. I went home and took a nap.
Friday. I was notified to "be very careful. The lab says to surround yourself in bubble wrap and lounge for this weekend. We'll see you on Monday." "I err...I think I have to work on Monday. Perhaps another day can be scheduled?" I stuttered, confused. Why be very careful? Why the example of bubble wrap? "No, it’s urgent," the doctor objected with my offer. "We will see you on Monday morning. You talk to your boss and get it arranged." "Okay," I moused. "Also, can you come back in today? We need one more vial for blood-work." the doctor said. "Blood-work? Uh, sure." I grabbed my purse and went to the doctor's office. The place they'd drawn blood from last time was already bruising up pretty good so they stuck my other arm. The nurse seemed very careful about pricking me the second time with the needle. I kept feeling like something wasn't right with me but I'd felt that feeling since the monumental 45 minute nosebleed from two weeks ago. I set that warning into the back of my mind as dismissible nonsense. The nurse finished up and I was sent home. A few hours later I was called and told that the result was positive, I had been diagnosed with I.T.P.: Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura. My first reaction was to laugh out the word, "What?" He explained what it meant and I realized he was serious and the situation was serious. The warning in the back of my mind, it was real. I was given a heavy prescription for Prednisone and told to "pick it up now and get started on it." Still confused at the explanation that my body's immune system was devouring my platelets that clotted my blood, I made a trip to my work and told my boss I needed a span of time for a doctor appointment on Monday. I informed her of my issue, so she was in the know. Thankfully, it was discovered that I was off that day.
Got my meds, went home and told my parents. We researched my diagnosis via the internet and tried to become educated as to what it was and what questions we should ask the doctor. I brought it to the Lord in prayer. I was certainly convinced that wherever God wanted me, that's where I would be, whatever I was to go through, God knew why. I would rest in His hands, the best place in all the world. I received a phone call from the cancer center telling me that I had an appointment with them on Monday morning. That was my doctor appointment? With the cancer center? A cancer specialist was going to talk with me? I swallowed and said okay. I prayed. If this was God's will that I carry cancer within my body, I would remain victorious because it was not me that was strong but Him. Because it was His strength within me, I was "more than a conqueror." God loves me so much, I am a daughter of the King, I reminded myself. And if He desires that I be at Home with Him, then I will live my every last breath at peace and knowing that only He has control. If I try and take the reigns, I will only find my world spinning like a plane in a fast-falling spiraling nosedive. Oh yes, my greatest hope is in Him where security and hope is steadfast and enduring. And how much do I know that no matter what the outcome, God's will WILL be done. Isn't it best then that I "be still and know that He is God?" Yes, certainly. From this point onward, I no longer felt afraid. I was (and am) at complete peace.
Mom had one of her friends over for supper and Pastor Keith also came (bringing with him a Daily Bread dealing specifically with struggles and trials - this soon became a treasure trove in the days to come). I don't remember saying much, but the evening was very pleasurable and full of good conversation.
Saturday, I was told that I had made an impact on someone's life and they were inspired by me. I waited till I went to bed and then I cried; so in awe that Jesus was using me, His vessel, to shine so brightly when times seemed so dark. I couldn't comprehend fully this fact. I decided upon something monumental: If these dark big bruises, these bloody noses, this purpura that spotted my arms, legs, feet, and eyelids brought even ONE person to the throne of Grace. If my pain, in my weakness, in my struggle, in this situation, the Peace that is within me stirred ONE heart and opened them to see the light that is Salvation. If all of this trial brought just ONE to safety from Hell's gate, then it is worth it all. God let me have this trial because it is my joy to bear it! There are those that pray that You remove this from my life, but if this is Your will that I have it...Oh yes, without a doubt, I will carry it! Please! To be a light from which You shine, Mighty One, my Strength and Delight, that's what I want most! This trial has become my joy. I am strong when I am weak, this mystery I once thought hard to understand, I comprehend it. I am strong not because of me, but because You are in me: I am weak, You are my strength. I read a page of the Daily Bread. Psalms 36:7-8: "How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures." I meditated on that until I drifted off to sleep.
Sunday. "I am praying for you." "You are in our prayers." "*Squenches* I love you, we are praying for you." "Can I add you in our prayer-chain?" "You were prayed for before worship started today." "We prayed for you." "Be encouraged, we are here for you girly, God has a plan for your life!" -my phone vibrated with each text, many of these duplicated until my inbox read 98% full. I blinked away tears and sat in awe in the breakroom, in the car, at home, in my room, as I came to understand just how many were backing me in prayer. I was mightily encouraged.
Monday came. I had set my alarm for 4am. I prayed alone in the quiet dark until 6:30am when the rest of my family woke up. I felt I needed a good long talk with God, He is my support and I knew I would need Him. I wanted Him to know how much He meant to me and that I was willing to go through this day with Him just as any other: With Him guiding me through. Yes, me and my Beloved. Special are the secret times alone with just Him and I. Then I picked up the Daily Bread book and read, meditating on what I discovered. It read: "We experience peace - not panic - when we trust the power of God." The supporting verse was Psalm 29: 11 - "The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace." Wow, I thought. He is faithful, His Word is True, He has done this in my life, today. I got ready and went in to fill out new paperwork at the cancer center. All I felt was peace, calm and secure; my Jesus held me fast and strong in His mighty arms. As nervous thoughts entered my mind, I passed them over to Him and thought about them no more. He would take excellent care of me.
My mom was pulled aside by one of the nurses into the hallway. I couldn't help but overhear them as I filled out the paperwork. "We are worried about your daughter. Her levels are very low," the nurse said in a hushed whisper. "Normal is 150,000 and very low is 10,000. Nicole's is only 7,000." my mom replied, just as soft. "Her condition right now is life-threatening," the nurse agreed. I heard my mom sniffling, trying to contain her tears.
I texted my three best-friends with an update and to be praying for me, and most of all for strength for my mom. I was assured that many were praying. I took that to heart and was comforted by the support. I was called up, my turn. My parents and I entered the room with the specialist and the questions began. I answered them all to the best of my knowledge. Surprisingly, together we tracked the symptoms to a decade at least. This was not a new problem, I had it for a long long time. Suddenly, events in my life that had been so confusing, made the most perfect of sense. Every sore throat my friends had when they were around me, I'd caught and it instantly became strep throat for me and if I didn't catch it, it spun frantically out of control. It landed me into Scarlet fever twice in my childhood. I got H1N1 so easily, then a week later, strep throat, a little bit later, a bad nasal cold that left me with my right ear being infected with piercing random high squeals (it was hard to hear from that side, but I'd let it go, figured it was part of life). The frustrating 'acne' (it wouldn't go away) I thought I had speckled down both legs for years was instantly pointed out as purpura; blood that was popping under the surface of my skin. The winter stories of frostbitten toes and poor blood circulation, she took note of.
The 45 minute bloody nose, nearly passing out and the E.R. rush, my specialist became alarmed at that story: "Did they draw blood for a test?" "No." Mom said. "It was pronounced as only dry and I was sent home." I told her. "No?" She blinked, repeating words, "Dry nose? Sent you home?" I nodded. Mom told her we were not interested in causing any trouble, and the specialist told us she would find out who it was and inform them of what had happened with me so it doesn't happen again. She called that situation "very dangerous." I was examined and then asked if I had the day off as I might be here all day, if not longer. That concerned my parents, but I smiled and said okay. She (the specialist) then sent me off to the lab for more blood-work.
I am afraid of needles, but I informed my fear and the lab personnel of the fact that I was working on conquering it. I read the newest addition to my bookshelf: "Courageous," as I sat in the waiting room. A frail hand rested on my shoulder and so I turned to look at the friendly smile of a stranger. Her words sent me pondering, "You are a light, precious and beautiful." The lady left the waiting room with her friend. I sat there for a moment before being able to read again. They called my name. I swallowed and mustered courage. I was improving from the hyperventilating that I used to do upon seeing the sharp tip. I looked away from the needle, which helps, but only to see Halloween decor that was stickied to the office window in large dripping blood letters spelling out: B-E-W-A-R-E-! (...yeahhh, <.<....>> cozy feelings!!) I turned my fear over to Jesus. I could conquer this! He is with me! He is with me! I reminded myself. My eyes drew to the vampire grinning sharkishly back at me. He is with me! I shouted in my mind. "Perfect love casts out all fear," the verse popped to mind. I looked away. I will trust in Him! Perfect love casts out all fear, He is Perfect Love, He will cast out my fear. I was told to please hold the last of the seven vials; it wouldn't fit in the slot on the monster-large green chair. It looked like a torture chamber in here with the rubber twisty-tie on the arm of the chair and the plastic vial slots. I told the lab lady that and she laughed at my joking about. We had a good conversation and I surprised myself, holding the vial that would soon contain my blood, and watching the tubes be filled (normally this would make me feel very sick). Soon I was told that I was all done in the "torturous room of blood, bwahahaha." and it was time to return to the cancer wing of the hospital.
I was told the first result would come back within half an hour. I read and played checkers with my Dad to pass the time. A woman placed her hand on my shoulder when I stood up from the match (Dad won) and she gave me a gentle embrace (I bruise amazingly easy), "You are an inspiration. Your mother just told me your story, and honey I am praying for you, so is our church." She smiled sympathetically back at me and then whispered, "So beautiful..." I didn't know what to say. All I could think was, Look, look what God has worked! Amazing! Amazing!
I sat down to read more of my book. "Want some mint tea?" one of the patients asked, grinning jokingly at me. He had overheard my strong dislike of mint when mom pointed out a recipe back in the waiting room of the lab. We shared all in a good laugh and it became a running joke. It was quite funny and laughter felt really very good. There was a lady sitting near the window near her mom who was dealing with cancer and they both told me what a beautiful young lady I was, how "inspiring of a light in the darkness" I was. I found myself speechless, but my mind became a noisy place, full of contemplation over what many were telling me, all of them people I did not know, all of them affected by my trial in amazing ways, all of them telling me basically the same thing: They clearly, so clearly, saw Jesus in me. Overjoyed -that was me. And here I was, waiting for 25 minutes to hear back if I would be staying at the hospital, and to hear back if I had cancer, and to hear if I was going to live or go Home. I was excited by both prospects. I was not afraid.
The specialist practically burst through the doors and she was smiling. "I have good news..." She began, crossing the room quickly. All eyes turned to me and the room went silent. It crossed my mind: She is not pulling us into a room, she is grinning ear to ear. "You do not have Leukemia!" I breathed and my vision went blurry very quickly. All around I heard words of delight and happiness, clapping; happiness. Mom put her hand to her heart and breathed relief. Dad put his hand around my shoulders and I heard the elderly lady a few seats down say with her daughter, "Praise God, praise God." Thank you Jesus, I told Him quietly. I listened on to my specialist as she told the results of the first test. "You are responding to the steroids, that's good. You're still in critical condition because if you stop taking the Prednisone, you'll drop back down. Don't stop taking it! But I want you to know you are out of life-threatening..." "Praise God!" The daughter said enthusiastically. I smiled, yes. "You are also not anemic, and your white and red blood cells are good. You will be able to go home today. And your count has risen to 34,000." I thanked God. "You still must be very, very careful. Do you work between now and then?" I nodded. "Where?" I told her. "Ask your coworkers to handle the sharp objects, okay? It is incredibly important." I nodded, smiled, "Okay." "And I will see you on Thursday, okay?" I nodded and held my book. "I want you to buy antacids so that you don't develop bleeding ulcers from the other meds, okay? That would be very bad at this point. Double the amount and keep on top of it. See you Thursday morning." I felt like my fingers were shaking, but when I checked them with a glance, they didn't seem to be. I felt...so grateful. My parents and I went out for lunch and hot coco to celebrate.
Later. As mom talked to her friends, told the events of the day, I was lightly touched on the shoulders every now and again, sometimes being pulled into gentle hugs by those around me and people passing through, some I recognized, some I didn't. "You are so strong." "Look at her smile! It's been there the whole time!" "Has it really?" "She's at complete peace, I don't know how." "She is such a light!" "What an encouragement to others!" "And I thought my trials were tough...look at her! Look at those bruises, how's she do it?" I pondered on this all, amazed. I had done only one thing: I had given my situation up to the Lord and rested in His hands, knowing that wherever He would take me in this, He was in control. I trusted Him, that's all I did. And this was the result? ...so awed.
Sat at the pharmacy while the prescription was filled. One of my best-friends (one of the three I'd remained in contact with throughout the day with updating) swung by to see how I was and that was encouraging. I thanked him for being diligent to pray for me. It was good to see the smile of a good friend.
Slept on the way home, wiped thoroughly out by the adventure of the day. Got on my computer for a little and posted a song on my page that I thought best described my day: "My Redeemer is Faithful and True," by Steven Curtis Chapman. I chatted with my friends for a while, eating liver and onions and joking about it to them via chat. "Mmm, yummy...." I told them. "Eww, that's nasty!" "Gross!" They exclaimed. I laughed and told them I devoured it (which I did; thankfully, I like liver and onions, broccoli, and spinach. Good iron-rich foods. I have liked them since I was young. I know, I was an odd one, eh?) :P Dad said when we bought "the stuff" that, "I can't find the use of a Tragger recipe for liver; apparently, they didn't want to ruin a perfectly good barbeque with that junk." lol.
Made an out of state call to my daddy to update him. Hearing his voice was the cherry on top of my ice cream, so to speak. It was very nice and he was relieved at the good news. He promised to send up some of his music to soothe me *smiles, can't wait.* I recall him playing his guitar from my childhood to adulthood, and it is beautifully done how he makes that guitar sing. One of these days, I will ask him to please record a special cd with the song Valseana on it (Mmmmm).
Dozed off while chatting with my pals, listening to my favorite Christian worship songs. Was woken up by my mom for bed. Told my friends good night and thanked them for praying, then saw how many more were praying for me and their comments. It was awe-inspiring for me, seeing how God was working through my life. Cried, prayed, promptly feel asleep.
Woke up this morning at 5 am, watched the sunrise touch the mountains and tree tops. I felt like I was seeing the world with a brand new set of eyes and it was beautiful. Cupped my hands and buried my face in them. My experience of yesterday flooded my mind and I had a thought I've never had before: I am alive, praise God. I broke into silent tears and cried, praying that God would never let me forget this experience in my life, pondering all He did in and was doing in and through me, and thanking Him for everything.
Remembered all my new things I needed to have in my routine (-sometimes needing to backtrack, lol) as I got ready for a day of resting and reclining. Bundling up against the frosty cold air, I completed my morning chores, then played a bit of frizzbee with the puppy; watching her antics to catch it as her ears flopped about, bounding here and there across the field. Laughed heartily as she lunged prematurely for the unthrown frizzbee. It was grand. I gave her head a good tussling and then went off to check off my grocery list.
Met up with one of the ladies at the coffee counter (hey, a mocha sounded reeaally good!) and she told me quite meaningfully that I was a blessing in her life. I stood there, just as stunned as yesterday when all those people touched my shoulder, hugged me, smiled at me, telling me all those amazing... (wow, I can’t fathom it). Joani continued on, telling me how often I'd been in her prayers, especially Monday morning (which I had never informed her was my cancer center appointment)! I was amazed, breathing out, "Wow..." She asked what and I told her about yesterday. She reached over the counter, scooting my mocha out of the way, and gave me a gentle squeezed hug, "You are such an inspiration! Oh just look at how beautiful you are! Look what God's doing in you! What a blessing! What a blessing!" I breathed, clasping a pretty good grip on her shirt, "I didn't do anything...I didn't do anything. He did it all." She patted my back, "Oh yes, yes He did. But," She pulled out of the hug and grasped my shoulders, making firm eye-contact, "You were willing." My eyes watered up, I swallowed. "You were willing to obey Him regardless of the outcome; you are victorious. People see you, you are NOT invisible: You are a light, you are His light to the lost. You inspire me, you are an inspiration to us all." She gave me a second gentle hug, "In our weakness, He has made us strong. Here you are, a living example of that truth." I opened my mouth but I couldn't find words to say. Speechless. "I love you and we are all praying for you," she encouraged, gently resting her hand over mine. "Thank you," I whispered. I went on to do my shopping, but my mind wasn't on my shopping list. I had to back track a lot, and I usually tend to be a straight go-for-the-item-and-go person. My mind was too busy pondering on all that had happened within the last few days.
I am awestruck. Look at all that God has done. Isn't it amazing?? How unfathomable! How incredible! How awesome! How amazing! And how great! Praise be to God, always and forever. I have done nothing and He has done miraculous things in my life. How can I fathom it? All I know is that my life is in His hands, the best place in all the world for me to be.
God is good (ref. Psalm 136). Selah (think about, ponder on this amazing fact).
(Footnote: I do not know yet what the underlying cause is for my condition. If it is permanent or temporary, I don't know that either. I do not know much, I am learning. It looks like I have had I.T.P. for over a decade and within the past two weeks, it rapidly declined to where I stood on death's doorstep unknowingly oblivious. There are speculations as to the underlying cause, but I do not wish to say speculated ideas, only facts, this way there are no misunderstandings. More testing is being done in the labs and I will discover more on Thursday. Your prayers are appreciated. Thank you.) :)