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Dr. Patron left; Jeremy, Zeke, and I filed out of the exam room and down the hallways toward a desk where we scheduled an appointment a month out and handed our credit card over the counter. Then we received the only good news of the day: we owed $314, not $1,000+. Jeremy and I exchanged smiles, grateful, and I stuffed a curling shade between my glasses and my face, to protect my dilated pupils on the ride home.
We rode the elevator down a floor and walked slowly out of the building, Zeke catching a ride in the stroller. Tears dripped down my cheeks, off my nose, into my mouth.
We walked in silence until we got to the car. Then Jeremy turned to me and said, “I can’t believe this.”
“Yeah,” I said thickly. “They don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
“I never expected that,” he said.
“Yeah,” I said.
“You okay?” he said, stopping to look at me.
I sighed and buried my face in his chest. He held me, feet from our car, surrounded by two-story office buildings and asphalt and abandoned vehicles. When I pulled back, I noticed a splotch of mascara on his shirt.
“Sorry about that,” I said, smiling.
“I’m used to it by now,” he said, smiling.
We didn’t say much in the ten-minute ride home. When we pulled into our driveway, Kiley was under the carport at the far end of our driveway, hands on her hips and grinning as she watched my daughter holding her son’s hands as he took wobbling steps forward on our lawn.
“How’d it go?” Kiley said, frowning when she saw my red face.
“Well,” I said, looking at Jeremy.
“Not great,” Jeremy said. We gave her a recap of what the doctor had said, had shown us, had not known about my condition.
“Wow,” she said. “So, they have no idea what it is or how it got there?”
“Right,” I said.
“And there’s literally nothing they can do to fix it?” she said.
“Yep,” I said.
“But it’s not cancer?” she said.
“That’s what they said,” I said, “Although I’m not sure I’m convinced – I mean, I do have an unexplained growth in my eye!”
“But they said it wasn’t cancer,” said Jeremy.
“Right,” I said, “But I just can’t imagine what else it could be.” Jeremy shrugged.
“I can’t believe they don’t know what it is,” said Kiley
“Yeah, me either,” I said. Jeremy nodded.
Kiley shook her head slowly, then studied my face for a few seconds before she said, “Liz, I just can’t imagine. I’m so sorry, friend.”
“Yeah,” I said, feeling my eyes fill again, “Me too.”
She left a few minutes later, and while Jeremy played in the yard with the kids, I sat in a chair in the living room with the sun on my face and scribbled notes in my journal, a catchall for my racing mind, which sought to make sense of my circumstances in the way I always did – through writing.
So I recorded the events and words spoken at the appointment; I thought of Joni Erickson-Tata teaching herself to paint with her mouth; I remembered my friend Beth’s son with the neurological issue, the one who committed suicide; I made a note to study blindness in the Bible (“Blind Bartimaeus,” I scribbled); I recorded which Psalms I had read that morning before walking through the doors of the doctor’s office (“Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge,” from Psalm 16, and “Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance,” from Psalm 32).
I wrote the words “cherishing my body – body positivity,” and mid-sentence, I heard my phone ding in my backpack, and I looked up. I reached into my bag and studied the phone: it was Jeremy.
“You okay?” he texted from the yard.
“Yeah,” I texted back, “Just needing some time to myself to think and journal.”
I put the phone away and walked to the bathroom, sat on the toilet, urinated, wiped, stood. As I went to flush, I did a double-take: my pee was neon yellow, just like the medical technician had said it would be. Finally, something predictable, I thought as I smiled and flushed it away.
To be continued…
This post is part of my “Through A Mirror Dimly” series about a recent health issue I’ve been experiencing. I started telling this true story during the season of Lent as a way to make sense of the ways that my own suffering teaches me about the suffering of Jesus Christ.
I also invite you to engage with your own suffering through this series: how does your personal pain illuminate the suffering of Jesus for you? And what can your pain teach you about the life of faith?