I have decided to widen my circle of prayer regarding a health issue I am facing. For some, this post will be an update on the situation, and for others, it will be an explanation from the beginning. Please read on…
I share this story as a request for prayer but also as an opportunity to praise God for his faithfulness; I have witnessed evidence of God’s hand in this situation in so many specific details along the way. About a month ago, while I was home in the States for summer vacation, I found a lump on my throat. I was standing in front of a mirror while taking some pills, and I noticed that my throat looked strange when I swallowed. I don’t usually watch myself swallow, but I did this time because I was sharing a hotel room with my family and the bathroom was the only available place for me to be at the moment. The fact that I found the lump on my throat while at home in the States is to me the first evidence of God’s hand.
I was able to get an appointment with my doctor in the States, a woman who has been our family physician for about fifteen years. She treated me free of charge since I do not have insurance outside of Taiwan–evidence #2 of God’s hand working–and was able to tell me that she thought the lump was related to my thyroid. This doctor suggested that I have blood work and an ultrasound done and was ready to help me get all of the tests scheduled within the next 48 hours before I would be leaving for Taiwan. However, I decided to wait until returning to Taiwan to do the tests because it would probably save me about $2000.
After arriving in Taiwan, I spoke with my friend Cathleen about finding a good doctor here to see me. I knew I needed to see either an ear/nose/throat doctor or an endocrinologist. Cathleen and I attend the same church, and at our church there is a man named Dr. Tsai whose son is a student at MAK. Dr. Tsai works at E-Da Hospital, a hospital just around the corner from the school, and he recommended a good ear/nose/throat doctor for me to see. The ear/nose/throat doctor ordered the blood tests and ultrasound that my doctor in the States had recommended. After those tests and a fine needle aspiration biopsy (i.e. they stuck a needle in my throat and removed a sample from the mass) were completed, I saw an endocrinologist (another good doctor recommended by Dr. Tsai) for the results. He told me that though the initial biopsy test showed that the tumor is benign, I would need to have surgery. I sent the results home to my doctor in the States, and she agreed that surgery to remove the 6 cm mass is necessary. At this point, I was scared and upset. I had been hoping that the mass could be taken care of with medication alone; I did not want to have surgery. This news, by the way, came to me during the first week of school, and I was, to say the least, a basket-case. Through it all though, I was surrounded by friends and co-workers who came around me to listen when I needed it, to teach classes for me when I had doctor’s appointments, to guide me in making decisions, and sometimes to just distract me from the fear and worry. I see this community as another provision from God’s hand. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention at this point that God has guided me in every step of navigating the hospital system by giving me capable bilingual friends to accompany me on every visit, allowing me to coordinate with my parents so they could be on the phone with me to ask questions during the visit with the endocrinologist, providing me with good doctors who speak English and can communicate with me directly, allowing special grace to be able to get appointments with doctors whose schedules were already full, and the list goes on. God cares about the details.
When I found out that I would have to have surgery, I was told by my parents that they were considering sending Dad to be here during the surgery, and they asked me to decide if I wanted him here. Of course I would love to have my dad here, but this decision made everything more complicated. My parents are moving, my mom just had surgery, my dad is starting a new job–I was thinking “who am I to tell Dad to drop everything and travel for 24 hours (one way!) to be here with me during what is known as a pretty routine surgery?” I was so overwhelmed with the decision, but a day later, my parents emailed me to say that I didn’t need to make the decision because they had already made it. Dad would come. They had been praying about this, and they had felt confirmation from the Lord through their prayers and through the assurance of other praying friends. That was wonderful news, but here comes the most extravagant provision of God so far. Just about an hour after my parents made their decision for Dad to come to Taiwan for my surgery, they received a phone call from a friend. This friend said that she and her husband wanted to pay for Dad’s round-trip plane ticket because they were sure that God wanted Dad to be here with me. When my parents protested this offer, the friend said, “You cannot take away from me the joy of giving.” Wow. As my dad wrote in an email to me about this provision, “Now how do you like that? Kind of reminds me of the passage in Ephesians 3:20-21: ‘Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.'” God is SO good and has provided so graciously for me already.
Yesterday, I had a consultation with the surgeon who will be performing my operation. This doctor was recommended by both Dr. Tsai and the endocrinologist, and I feel very confident about his abilities. He speaks the best English of any of the doctors I have seen so far, and this is a great comfort. He has performed this surgery thousands of times, so he has good experience. He was willing to answer all of my questions, even though I had a long list and doctors in Taiwan usually have very short consultations with their patients. I was able to schedule the surgery for the week before our Fall break at school (surgery date: September 29), so I will have about 10 days to recover, and if I need more time, I can take a day or two off after the break. I feel like the timing is good and the details are in place, so I can mostly put this out of my mind for the next month and focus on school.
Beyond all of the physical evidences of God’s hand in my situation, I have also experienced His presence through the Word. In my darkest moments, I was comforted by words like these from Psalm 121: “The Lord will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life. The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever.” And from Psalm 103: “He forgives all your sin; he heals your diseases…He satisfies you with goodness; your youth is renewed like the eagle.” Finally, I turned to Isaiah 40:28-31, and at the same moment my dad sent me via Skype a reminder of the different pictures of strength in these verses. I’d like to pass along the wisdom of the Scripture along with dad’s wisdom here: The prophet writes, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding.” Verse 28 is a picture of God’s endless strength. “Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men may stumble and fall.” Verse 30 is a picture of our expended strength. “He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless…But those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength.” Verses 29 and 31 picture exchanged strength. “They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.” Verse 31 pictures employed strength. I am praying for employed strength today. I know that I cannot walk through this valley without God’s hands strengthening me.
Please praise God with me for all the evidences of his work in my life and in this situation. Also, pray for the following:
- that I will be able to focus on school and the daily tasks over the next month or so as the surgery date approaches,
- that Dad will be able to work out the details for getting a plane ticket to Taiwan,
- that Mom will be comforted as she is alone in the States during the time of the surgery,
- that God will provide financially for any costs related to the surgery,
- that the mass will not grow between now and the surgery,
- that God will cover me with peace as I wait, and
- that the surgery will be successful, or better yet, that GOD will completely heal me before I have the surgery!
Thank you walking alongside me in this valley and trusting the Lord with me. “Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever” (Psalm 136:26).