In January of 2015, my husband began rubbing his chest.
“My heart won’t stop racing!”
“Was it a stressful day at work,” I asked?
We had been talking for the last couple of months about how something had to give with Gabe’s job. Not only was he driving an hour to work, he was working 10 to 12 hour days before driving another hour home. It was starting to wear on him, and our entire family was effected by the high demands of his career.
A few days later, Gabe started to have chest pain. It was enough to make him question if he was having a heart attack. It was time to go to the hospital.
In the emergency room, Gabe’s heart rate was crazy. One minute it was 70 and the next it was over one hundred!
“Atrial tachycardia“, the doctor had said. “We will keep you until the medication begins to regulate your heart.”
After two days, the medications were not helping. They sent him home with a scheduled procedure for the next week. He would be having a heart ablation, a seemingly simple procedure where they pricked a tiny hole between the heart chambers and burned away excess tissue surrounding the heart.
The procedure, though uncomfortable, was a complete success! We went through the rest of 2015 with no other health struggles or emergency room trips. Until, exactly a year later, in January of 2016.
“I’m taking you to the ER”, I insisted as I drove my family home from church.
“Just let me go home to bed”, Gabe argued.
“You have had a headache, dizziness, nausea and now vomiting for the last week! You couldn’t even sit in your chair tonight, and I have stopped twice on the way home now, so you could throw up!”
After finding a babysitter and getting my kids off to bed, I practically dragged my husband to the car. It didn’t take long to get him registered in the hospitals emergency room. After several hours of tests, two doctors came into the tiny room.
“Unfortunately, the test results show that you had a stroke in your cerebellum. We need to keep you here to run more tests.”
My husband and I looked at each other in shock. He was only 45, after all. We were not expecting this kind of news until we were at least in our 70’s!
The next day we learned that the stroke was more than likely the result of a blood clot that was thrown from the tiny pin-prick hole between his heart chambers. While they couldn’t prove it, it was the only theory that made sense.
As my husband was being released with strict instructions for “no work, no stress, no noise”, we were visited by an endocrinologist.
“Before you leave, you need to know that the MRA revealed a large mass on your thyroid. In a couple of months, after you have had some healing time from your stroke, you need to see a surgeon.”
We were so focused on healing from the stroke, that we found we weren’t too worried about the mass on Gabe’s thyroid. A few months later, a biopsy revealed cancer.
“It’s actually a blessing you had the stoke. Since you were not having any symptoms, we would have more than likely caught this cancer when it was much worse”, the endocrinologist explained.
In July of 2016, Gabe had surgery to remove his thyroid. Cancer was found in three places. By September, he was finished with his radioactive iodine treatments. Gabe was back to healing from his stroke, and his surgery.
By Thanksgiving Gabe was starting to feel pretty good. He had begun to return to the office a few days a week, and we were making some exciting plans for 2017. Only, Gabe had began to notice a lot of blood in the toilet. Realizing it could possibly be from the blood thinners he now had to take, he felt God was urging him to mention it to his doctor.
In January of 2017, Gabe received a phone call from the gastroenterology.
“The biopsy from your colonoscopy came in today. I’m sorry, but you have colon cancer.”
For the next two weeks, my husband and I struggled with our emotions. One minute we felt peace and complete trust in God and the next minute, fear and despair would overwhelm us. Hadn’t we been through enough? A heart procedure, stroke, thyroid cancer, and now colon cancer?
After two weeks of grieving, the fog began to lift from our emotions, and we began to think more clearly about our situation.
“Gabe, do you realize you wouldn’t have had the stroke if you hadn’t had the heart ablation?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“And you wouldn’t have learned about the thyroid cancer if you hadn’t had the stroke.”
The worry wrinkle on my husbands face began to smooth away, as he began to understand my meaning.
“If I hadn’t been on the blood thinners, they never would have discovered the colon cancer.”
We sat together in awesome wonder.
We really could trust God! He really DID know what He was doing! It was pointless to question Him! Not only had God allowed all of this struggle into our lives the last two years, but His hand was there the whole time, leading us. Excitement began to replace our wonder, and thankfulness.
Yes, thankfulness. For the stroke, the thyroid cancer, and even this colon cancer. For all the time off work my husband had to take, the millions of doctors appointments and the growing pile of medical bills. For the stress of juggling crazy schedules, and the fearful thoughts of “what if”. We have witnessed God’s perfect timing, His perfect thoughts, and His perfect ways. We have received blessings from His hand through the giving hands of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are thankful for all of it, because while it was difficult (I would be lying if I said it wasn’t), we have been able to experience God’s unseen hand in our life.
There is an unseen hand to me
That leads through ways I can not see
While going through this world of woe
This hand still leads me as I go.”
– Bill Gaither