Yesterday, I described in detail the ways God worked out the timing and details of our lives around Ry’s colon cancer in such a way that a horrifyingly scary situation was given space to be our one and only concern. Everything else was smoothed out. I ended by saying Ry was “easily able to step out of his work to take the convalescence his body needed.”
Of course, by “easy,” I don’t mean easy. I mean with little complication. Because it was anything but easy for Ry to step out of the world for 6 weeks. It was terrible for him. It was the most difficult challenge for him, I think. Cancer diagnosis? Fine. We have a problem, we talk to the people who know how to solve it. Surgery? Fine. I don’t have anything to worry about: all I have to do is sleep during it. Catheter? um . . . we won’t talk about that . . . Pain post surgery? Fine. Pain is good. Pain means things are getting better. I can take pain. I inflict pain on my body all the time in the name of health and fitness.
But. Stop doing stuff for 6 weeks? Stop working? Stop producing? Stop?! Impossible! Inconceivable!
Enter: Ry v. Lee: Battle of the Wills, Round Two!
I wanted him to stay alive. I had handed him completely over to the care of strangers. I had waited helplessly while they cut into his body. I had seen him unconscious and I didn’t like it. I had seen him nearly pass out under my care–having no idea how my weak, broken body was going to catch his strong and muscular one. I had seen the stuff–blood? bodily fluid somethin’-er-other–oozing from his wounds stain the bedsheets. I had returned to the hospital at 7 AM the morning after the surgery to find his bed empty, his room seemingly empty, drips of dried blood on the floor! convinced, I was, that something horrible had happened to him in the night and they weren’t able to reach me on my phone for some reason. All of it. I had done. And I never, ever, ever wanted to do any of it ever again. I wanted him well. I wanted him alive. And I thought the best way to do that was for him to listen to his doctor and do everything the doctor told him to do.
But Ry thought differently. Because Ry is not Lee, and Lee is not Ry. Ry had handed his own body over to strangers to do with what they would. He had lain helpless in a hospital bed, bound by medical equipment that was thrust upon him while he was unconscious. Medical equipment he had no way of removing on his own, so he was left subject to the whim and schedule of hospital staff. He’d had things invading his body that had no business being there. He had done helpless and out-of-control. And he. was. finished. He wanted to be strong and healthy and well and alive and under his own power and volition. And he thought the best way to do that was for him to listen to his body and to do everything his body told him to do.
So, my need to feel safe collided with his need to be well. More screaming, slamming, weeping, rending of garments. More stoicism, courage (stupidity?) determination (donkey stubbornness?), perseverance, and compassion with strong boundaries.
But in the end? When it was all said and done? What we had was a healed body, a body cancer-free. Thirteen inches of colon were removed from Ry’s body—more than we had expected, although, apparently it’s standard—along with ten lymph nodes. His lymph nodes were clear, his margins were clear. He was finished. The surgery was all that was needed to rid his body of the cancer. If ever again I see the doctor who ordered Ry’s initial colonoscopy, I think I’m going to have to kiss him.
Ry recovered remarkably quickly from the surgery—which leaves Ry saying, “See? I told you I could listen to my body!” and me saying, “Thanks be to God his intestines didn’t end up outside his abdominal wall in spite of his stubborn need to move a belt sander out of the garage mere days after the surgery, while he was still on a 10lb. weight limit.”
And we’re both right. And we’re both grateful that we’re both right. There is no reason on earth Ry should have had colon cancer. Really. He doesn’t fit into a single risk category. He’s 38, with no family history, in great physical condition—he exercises regularly (crazy man!) and eats healthfully. There was no reason for it. I Googled till my fingers were bruised and my eyes were raw and I came up empty. Yet it happened nonetheless. Because, apparently, stuff just happens sometimes. And all you can do is get through it. And we, by God’s grace, by God’s strength, by God’s knocking some humility into both of us along the way, we did indeed make it.
And we came out the other side all the more convinced that making plans makes no sense. And all the more convinced that God has blessed us with a wonderful marriage and that he continues to bless our marriage richly. In spite of ourselves.