This morning I went shopping for a few groceries. Usually EJ goes with me and it becomes a fun experience instead of a chore, but he and JJ were sleeping so I went alone. I knew that if I didn’t get the groceries today, I would not be able to get them until at least Sunday and I didn’t want to wait that long.
I was in the paper products aisle in the store when I got a call from the urologist’s office. The woman said that they had scheduled an appointment for JJ at the Cancer Center at the hospital tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.. Could we make it? Before I could answer, the connection got wonky and all I could hear was something like “Wh….st…..wr…..yo…” I said, “The reception is bad! I can’t hear you” and then the call was lost. I tried to call back, but there were about 10 different voice mail options and none seemed appropriate. I pressed “0” hoping it would connect me to a receptionist, but got another menu with a million different options. Or maybe it was the same menu. For goodness sakes, there ought to be an option to talk to a REAL PERSON! I was feeling a Mama Bear growl of frustration building up when the doctor’s office called again. First thing I told the woman was that I was in the grocery store and I kept losing connection. She said she understood. She repeated the info and then asked if JJ could make it and I said yes.
We hung up and I suddenly felt as if the breath had been knocked out of me. The Tumor Board, a committee made up of doctors of various specialties who meet periodically to discuss various patients, met yesterday to discuss JJ case. Our next scheduled appointment with the urologist is just before Thanksgiving. The fact that we now suddenly have an appointment at the Cancer Center has thrown me off balance. I do not know if this unexpected appointment is a good thing or a bad thing. Is it normal or abnormal? Is it doctors just getting us started in the process or is there urgency because the news is bad? The uncertainty raised my stress about 5 levels. At this level of stress, a person’s stomach starts eating itself.
I texted my friend while in the dairy department to tell her about the appointment. She called me as I was driving home. She said when she got my text, she also felt the breath knocked out of her. She called her sister who lives in California, waking her up, to ask her to help her calm down so she could talk to me without crying. My friend and I shared our concerns with each other, ranted about our frustrations with doctor offices , and then we laughed. I tell you, the best type of friend is not one who gives you a bunch of advice, but one who is right there freaking out with you.
My friend said, “We just have to believe this is a positive thing.” I said, “What else can we do…other than totally fall apart and collapse?” I mean, we just got to get through this. And that made me think of Going on a Bear Hunt.
There are some children’s stories that I think are very profound and teach deep wisdom. I think of them as sort of parables that very simply describe spiritual truths. The Velveteen Rabbit is one of those stories. It describes what it means to be Real. It is such a deep book that I have it on the bookcase with my Biblical and Hebrew reference books. Another such book is called “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.” I do not own this book, but I used to borrow it from the library when JJ was little. I have the important parts memorized.
When I face something very difficult, I often quote the book to myself, although I always change the words to reflect the situation:
We’re going on a bear hunt.
We’re going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day!
We’re not scared.
Uh oh! An appointment at the Cancer Center!
A unexpected and scary appointment.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh, no! We’ve got to go through it…
And then I gather up my faith and my courage and I go forward.
And I try not to forget to breathe.