Joys and Sorrows

Crônicas do Cotidiano > Joys and Sorrows

Written on April 8, 2009, the week before Easter.
A lot of things have happened in my family during these past few weeks in which I have not made any posts. There were times when I would think—I want to blog about this. Then responsibilities would become overwhelming, more things would happen and the original inspiration would vanish into thin air.

First of all, we are very happy with the engagement of our daughter on the 21st of March, with the “boy” that already made his way into our hearts a number of years ago. Their wedding has been set for December of this year and we are once again participating in the demanding, yet pleasurable, whirlwind of activities that surround this event—looking for a church and a place for the reception, choosing the invitations and making the list of the people worldwide that need to receive them, decorations, program, music, dress, etc. Now they have already decided on a church and a date (our own church is too small) but there may still be lots of decisions to participate in, while they seek and debate the pros and cons (and cost) of a series of options.

A little before that, on the 8th of March (exactly a month ago), our middle son and his wife appeared on a Sunday afternoon to surprise us with the announcement that they were expecting their first child. They did this in a very special way that I intended to share in a post. I was wanting to share both the beauty of the intense manner in which they were following the development of their child and the way they were starting to prepare themselves to be parents. Their colleagues at work, the people of our church and our family around the world actively participated in their happiness.

The expectant couple recorded the first ultrasound images and came here to show them. They were very disappointed when they realized that the recording had somehow not been properly done by the hospital and that we could thus not see what they had seen. Now, there is no more reason to enter into these details because, last night, they discovered that their baby’s heart was no longer beating. We spent several late night hours with them in the hospital and this morning she underwent a D&C. Nevertheless, it is gratifying to see our children endeavoring to face this disappointment with an attitude of trust in God and submission to His will. In this way, we avoid despair, but we do not eliminate sorrow. We hope that, some day, they may hold other children in their arms and see them grow into maturity.

Just a few hours ago, I clicked on a link that a church friend sent me with photos surrounding the birth of her first grandchild (born ten days ago). There, in the middle of other images of happy family and friends, was my daughter-in-law, sitting with little Isabella in her arms, pretty and serene like a madonna, as if she were dreaming of the day in which she would cradle the child within her. I broke down in tears…

Meanwhile, we also constantly accompany the lives of our other two children. Far away, in the USA, our youngest son remains happy in his marriage, getting established in a church, setting up their own home, choosing and buying a car… Despite the economic crisis, he and his wife are still employed and, last week, he sent us the results of the first of four phases of the CPA tests for California. He not only was one of the relative few that passed but also did very well in his scores! We celebrated at a distance interspersing the congratulations of different family members through the Internet. Another source of joy.

All along, our oldest son and his wife have kept us informed, from Bangladesh, as to their lives and the development of our new grandson. We are very happy because Lucas is a bright little fellow (LINK) and, now and then, I take my laptop over to my parents-in-law in the living room so they can see him and chat with his parents on Skype. They absolutely delight in seeing the smiles, chatter and gesture of their great-grandson (who just turned three months old). Last week the family went to the country of Nepal and that little baby already has the first stamp in his passport—following, so early on in life, the somewhat gypsy-like example of his parents and grandparents. (Lucas’ mom, our daughter-in-law, was born in Kenya, grew up in Bangladesh, studied for some years in a boarding school in India and went to university in Canada—country of which she is a citizen. She has a little notebook where, since she was a girl, her mother and, then eventually, she herself would annotate the details of each flight she has been on, together with signatures and comments of the airplane pilots. Fascinating!) For now, Lucas is only Canadian because children of foreigners, that are born in Bangladesh, are not considered citizens. They still have to go to the Brazilian embassy in India for him to become a Brazilian. Another stamp in his passport…

We are all superpleased because they are intending to spend some months with us, starting on June 18, right after their stay in India. It will be interesting to have a baby in our house. Especially with him being our own grand and great-grandson. Every day I think about something we need to do to prepare the room that they will occupy… Where can I borrow a crib? And a chair approved by the Inmetro (federal product approval agency that has just decided what car seats should be like)? Thinking about it now, they are probably going to transport him in one on the plane—but will it be usable? My husband already found us a second car for their use and, so, preparations are being made.

My parents-in-law have adapted quite well to life with us. They miss Recife, but don’t feel physically able to visit it anymore. Our “trips” are basically to church and to doctors’ offices, laboratories and clinics. In a way, they have good health, but they are always bothered by back and arthritic pain, for which we keep trying to find new solutions. We bought a new bed with an orthopedic mattress that also is higher… We’ve tried acupuncture… Right now, I’m taking both of them for physiotherapy three times a week… All of this provides relief, but not healing… Our relationship has been happy and harmonious these past two years—and has proven to be the best choice for our situation.

My husband continues to be aware that the surgery and the radiotherapy that he had in 2005 did not remove the cancer from his body. Until the end of 2008, however, no one could figure out where it was. Now they have pretty much found out the location and, after a lot of further exams and visits to specialists in various areas, during the first months of this year, we also know that the nodules are inoperable and should not be treated with radiotherapy. What comforts us somewhat is that they only appear on one of the most sophisticated tests, but in an almost imperceptible fashion. What’s left now are attempts to use medication beyond those that he is already taking, but it is possible that this may negatively affect his quality of life. Until this time he has never felt the effects of this infirmity that affects so many human beings around us. Each day, each month and each year that we remain together have filled our hearts with gratitude. But it is possible that the period of physical wellbeing that God has granted us has come to an end and this makes me sad.

And I, although I have faced a fair number of surgeries and ailments in my life, I had found myself in a period in which I felt like I was up to be almost everything for everyone… This made, and makes, me very happy. Until now I serve God taking care of my husband and parents-in-law, supervising my home, doing the shopping, interacting with my children, family and friends, being part of the Board of a Christian School, sharing the leadership of a project for supporting seminary student wives (called “Conte Comigo” or “Count on Me,” being a substitute and assistant teacher in a Sunday School class about the family, consciously evangelizing some people that are part of my life… Besides actively supplementing the family income with translations for various companies…

However, a simple visit to my GP in the beginning of 2009 changed that. When he saw the results of my thyroid tests, he asked for an ultrasound examination. We thus discovered that I have a multinodular goiter. After several consultations with various doctors and specialists, and more tests, it has been decided that I must take my thyroid out completely.

This, in the beginning, was quite a shock for me. I cried secretly and then in front of my daughter who insisted that she was plenty mature to help me face this (and she is!). My husband made me share the news with the others—Mom has something to tell you… And so I would tell them what was happening with me, but also in the context of what was going on with him, because that was also bothering me. Our children had various chats amongst themselves on the Internet and each of them intensified their interaction with us and with our possible needs. It was at this time that the oldest son changed his plans and decided to anticipate his December visit to June.

Now they are always demanding news on the chats and assuring me that the time to spare them of the things that worry us is over. Forever! That’s something very special, you know. To have adult children who are mature enough to be able to carry a load with and even for you. The thought of this fills my heart with joy. I’m learning how to share. But it’s been so many years that I have sought to spare them of my yoyo-like feelings (that I believe are very typical of the female species). I tend to be quickly discouraged (which is sometimes visible to others) but, with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in me, I am also able to inform my intellectual and spiritual sides in such a way that these re-assume control of my reactions and attitude. After all, I need to live in accordance with my faith, through which I understand that all things contribute for good for those that love God.  When children are little, experiencing the emotional instability of their mother does not contribute to the wellbeing of those that depend on her; and she must do everything in her power to learn how to face and react to difficulties—viewing problems in their greater and real context, while removing the focus from herself and from being harmfully introspective about her problems.

Meanwhile, I quietly tried to decipher the results of my exams and my prognosis by consulting “Dr. Internet.” I wanted to know two things—what would life be like without a thyroid and what are the chances that the nodules are cancerous. On occasion it seemed liked things were probably not as serious as they first seemed. I learned that there is a medication that replaces the thyroid very well for most people (and now I already know several people that continue life normally while using it—and keep meeting more that I had no idea were thyroidless!) The sites also said that a single nodule has more chance of being cancerous than when there are many. Nevertheless, there were several details in the description of my multiple nodules that fit the cancerous type better.

My GP (the one that asked for the ultrasound exam) tried not to frighten me. And the specialist (endocrinologist) was very positive, although she agreed that I should do the operation soon. In a visit to our old family doctor (who accompanied both us and the growth of our children for many years but is not covered by our medical plan), he informed me that I had already had a test in 1999 that showed my thyroid to be enlarged. I didn’t remember that. He also showed me from his records that my results (TSH, T3 and T4) throughout the years have not been all that different from what they are now and that my body has adapted well (so this is not a new problem for me). He gave me the impression that he didn’t expect it to be cancerous.

The nodules are not visible to the naked eye. And I also didn’t perceive any symptoms. Now I am starting to notice a few things that I thought were part of getting old, but perhaps they have nothing to do with age—like, for example, I’m always needing to clear my throat, there are times in which foods and situations make me feel very congested (I haven’t been able to sing properly for years because of that), certain positions bother me when I lie down, and there are nights when I struggle with insomnia….

The surgeon told me that this growth is of the “mergulhante” type, which upon further consultation with “Dr. Internet” seems to be called substernal in English, and that two of the nodules are over three centimeters. The tendency, if nothing is done, is to harm the trachea and the vocal chords more and more. He also added that it is quite possible that it/they is/are cancerous because of their size and explained everything that I wanted to know and even what I didn’t want to ask. If it should be cancer, there is a big chance that surgery will eliminate everything. If the biopsy should be positive after the surgery, a month later they will do another exam and, if they find more evidence of cancer, they will do a treatment with radioactive iodine…. Which normally solves the problem…

Pretty good news, right? Not that I have nodules, but that even if I should have cancer, usually there is a solution. But I had read horrible things about the suffering of those that submit to this treatment because they have to spend some time without the medicine that replaces the thyroid function. But I didn’t ask about that. After all, we are not at that stage yet and, who knows, maybe in a few weeks I will have recovered well from the surgery and find myself feeling better than ever after having gotten rid of something that had been bothering me for a long time without my knowing (as the endocrinologist suggested), with only a scar to hide behind high collars and scarves…

I was informed that more and more women are suffering from this malady and that nobody really knows why. He did not speak of the possibility of harming the vocal chords with the removal and I didn’t ask. But I read about this possibility… And so I’ve been going back and forth, as to my own health, zigzagging between good and bad news, between certainties and apprehensions, seeking to base and steer myself by that which is real and true, facing the facts and trying not to think too much about that which has not yet taken place. It’s hard to know where is the dividing line between preparation and preoccupation. But I have crossed it lots of times. And I’m always trying (and managing) to return to the side of tranquility, peace, serenity, and trust in God…

It so happens that we also have scheduled a trip to the United States and Canada in June and July, during my husband’s work vacation, envisioning the joy of visiting our youngest son (I would love to see him again and check out where and how the couple are now living) and other friends and family members (I still have three brothers and a sister there, plus their families), culminating with the wedding of a niece. We have decided to stick with these plans, have bought the tickets and now we will see what God has separated for us…

There are days (most of them) that I face this quite well. I am able to give thanks for the multitude of blessings that surround these difficulties. For the apparently proper functioning of the other parts of my body… Because so many of the bad things that surround me do not make up part of my life… For family and friends… For my church… For so much beauty around me…

I dive headfirst into the activities that are mine to perform, or that show up. I find joy, comfort, courage and hope in sermons, studies, talks, the words of friends, meditations… I perceive how special it is to be surrounded by people that love and serve God and not have to suffer through the relationship problems that so many experience on a daily basis and that we see on the news.

But, now and then, I feel like screaming, begging for this period of “stormlessness” to continue for a long time. So that soon I may be able to again take care of my in-laws and all the rest, and still have a husband with which to share things for many years. That God may permit that we may jointly participate in the wedding of our daughter; that we might travel together as planned; that we may get to know our first grandson and watch the development of the children of the other three as well. Then I cry a little, meditate on the Word, pray and go back to being useful and happy again, as long as God allows. And He is giving me strength for this.

I will always persevere in trying to be grateful and faithful because, no matter what happens, I am sure that our family will reunite in the presence of God in a place where there will be no more crying, pain nor sadness. Because Jesus Christ chose to come to this world. He suffered and died in the place of all those who believe this – seeing in him the only way to satisfy the Father’s justice and knowing that it was through His resurrection that He gave us access to the divine love that will conduct us through this life until we reach heaven. For this reason, the Easter that we celebrate this Sunday will truly be Happy.

My desire is that it will also be truly significant to you. If you are already a son or daughter of my Heavenly Father, then seek to grown in Him, taking on the commitment of serving Him in all the details of your life. And if you still do not have such a relationship with your Creator, try to talk about this with someone who does. Tomorrow may be too late. Wishing you a Happy Easter.

Sincerely, Betty

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Crônicas do Cotidiano > Joys and Sorrows