1 new voicemail: “Hi Heidi, this is Dr. Petryk from MN Oncology calling. It’s time to schedule a follow-up appointment, but this time around, we’re going to need a CT scan instead of just bloodwork and labs. Call us back, and we can walk you through it.”
The battle I once fought with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is, most of the time, out of sight, out of my mind. Out of sight because I’m living a completely different life than I did with a shaved head and a radiation mask. Out of mind because if I dwell too long in yesteryear, I dig up fears that I’ve worked tirelessly to bury. But the recurring appointments, now every 6 months, inevitably bring me back.
I deleted the voicemail, dialed them back, and waited moments before a nurse answered. After some pleasantries, we picked the right date and time, she explained the scan details, how contrast material would pump into my veins an hour prior, and right before we hung up, I thought to ask, “Hey, is this safe for breastfeeding? I mean, is there a certain amount of time after the contrast that I should wait before resuming?” To which there was a long pause. And then she said, “Um… I’m not sure. I’ve actually never been asked that before.”
I know I stick out like a sore thumb amongst the wheelchairs and canes that predominately occupy the oncologist’s waiting room, but what I failed to remember is a patient with a baby kicking in a carseat is almost unheard of. My doc’s words from years back echoed in my mind: “I’m obligated to tell you the risks. The largest and real risk for a woman your age is infertility. The agents in chemotherapy attack every living thing inside your body; which is the point when they’re attacking cancer cells, but it’s obviously the downside when they (potentially) attack your uterus.” I remember my hand instinctively moving to cover my lower abdomen. As if, at the time, I was protecting my unborn babies.
But now, turn the page over to today, only 2.5 years later, and I’ve got a husband by my side and a baby boy in my arms while asking my oncologist about breastfeeding. And without a glimmer of realization of what I asked or a hint of thankfulness in my heart. It wasn’t until I heard her voice whisper on the other end, “You know that’s a miracle, don’t you?” that I realized I had once again taken my healing, the protection over my body, and the creation of my baby for granted.
Rewind the tapes with me, would you? 2000+ years ago, Jesus was walking into a village when 10 men, shunned from society, stricken with leprosy, pounced at Him. They so badly wanted to be healed, to return to life as normal, to be rid of the pain caused from a broken body and broken relationships. Our good God, who always has compassion on anyone that reaches out to Him, told them to go find the priests.
Uh, the priests? Wait, what? Jesus turned them away? According to Jewish law, only priests could declare a leper clean and officially accept them back into society. So you see, Jesus wasn’t blowing them off; He already healed each of those 10 men and was simply directing them to the next phase of healing. And in this case, it was so. The priests deemed them fit, and they were fully embraced back into their homes and living rooms.
But guess what hits a little too close to home? Only 1 of the men came back to Jesus. 1 out of the 10 thanked Him for what He had done. Only 1 shouted praise back to the Healer. Jesus’ response makes me cringe, “Didn’t I heal 10 men? Where are the other 9?”
Jesus healed me from cancer. He protected my eggs. He’s blessed my body in a way that I could carry my son for 9 (who am I kidding, 10) months. And that phone call with my oncology nurse showed me just how dangerously close I was to those 9 other lepers. Those 9 men, that when they were healed, didn’t come back to Jesus, didn’t thank Him for what He had done, didn’t shout praise to their Healer, but chose to move on and live life without giving credit where credit was due.
I don’t ever want Jesus to ask where I’ve gone. I don’t want to take for granted the good gifts He has given me. And I don’t ever want to cease giving thanks to the Man who deserves all the praise. Are you with me? Will you join me?
This Thanksgiving, let’s return to Jesus. Let’s be the most grateful bunch, because of all the beautiful gems He’s given us. And let’s shout praise, because especially those who belong to Jesus, the heaping mound of mashed potatoes we’ll dish up for our Thanksgiving dinner can’t hold a candle to the plateful of blessings that come with being His people, the light of the world, the city on a hill.
Thank you, oncology nurse, for the reality check, and thank you, Jesus, for healing me! And to you friends, happy turkey day. Let thanksgiving rule your hearts and minds because this is God’s will for you (1 Thess. 5:18). Peace and bread pudding to all, and to all a good night.
Chime in: what will you give thanks for this Thanksgiving?