Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Stirrups and Nakedness

Every year for the last 15 years I have put myself through a ritual that can bring on panic and anxiety and depression. I wish that I could avoid it altogether, but it really isn't optional. In fact, it's a matter of life and death. I find it amazing how we grow up and develop this feeling of invincibility with regard to our bodies, yet that feeling is so fragile. One bad doctor's report and our entire attitude can be altered for the rest of our lives. Each ache or pain, every upset stomach or case of heartburn, can set one's mind to racing, to running up the panic meter. It's like once our shield of strength has been penetrated and we are exposed, we can never relax. The feeling reminds me of my first car. After taking it on many journeys spanning thousands and thousands of miles, I came to rely on this dependable friend. One day the engine blew, and even though it was repaired, I never felt comfortable in that car again. Every knock, every ping, every unusual sound, made me fear that I was about to be stranded by the side of the road.

Of course, my loyal readers probably have already figured out what my subject matter is about today. I have alluded to it several times over the past few years. It is about cancer and how I live with it even when the doctor's reports indicate that I am clear for another season. Just when you start to relax a little bit, that doctor's appointment stirs the pot. It is time for my yearly ritual, a rite that follows a well-worn path. I lay naked from the waist down on an examination table with my legs up in stirrups while a team of folks works on me handling and touching parts of me that I would rather keep hidden. I wait while they poke and prod with their invasive instruments.

If they find nothing, then I am paroled for another year. If they find any evidence of recurrence, then I am in surgery within 48 hours and must hang in for a few more days after that for the biopsy results to come back. Actually it turns out that during this latter window of time is when I feel even more exposed than when I am on that exam table. That report will dictate how my treatment will proceed. One thing that I have learned is that laying naked in stirrups in front of a medical team is actually a good vantage point. It is there that you really come to understand what or who gives you strength. Stirrups and nakedness. A most appropriate time to remember Phillipians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

This year marks the second in a row that I have been found clear. But I honestly feel that I can now deal with the news either way. As you can imagine, it has not always been that way.