A heaven-hearted hope...


It's my favorite word in medicine, JR tells me after I describe the ongoing pain in my gut that landed me in the hospital two months ago and the grumblings the pain appears to produce. Borborygmus, he continues. It's onomatopoetic, don't you think - the medical term for intestinal grumblings? Borborygmus. He repeats, drawing out the bor bory, slow and deep.

JR is a PA in my gastroenterologist's office, and his little English lesson in the middle of my visit is amusing and makes me laugh, but it's not at all funny to hear that there are no easy solutions to the adhesions that they are sure are the source of my pain. Unless they cause a blockage, surgery to remove or cut them simply results in more adhesions.


The rheumatologist calls before my appointment last week. My hemoglobin levels keep dropping and he wants me to get more blood work before I see him. I'm not surprised. I can't remember being so fatigued as I've been the past few months. My iron levels are good. B-12, too. It's the anemia of chronic illness, he tells me. Iron supplements, a change in diet, or B-12 shots won't help, so he refers me to a hematologist for procrit injections. I worked for a hematologist once, so I know how this goes, and I resolve to refuse a bone marrow aspiration, should he suggest it.

I read that treating the chronic illness more aggressively is the best treatment for this kind of anemia, but my options are few. The rheumatologist offers the only biologic he believes won't make my lungs worse, but it comes with the rare risk of a fatal, untreatable brain infection. The risks are low, he tells me, but that doesn't mean anything if you are one of the ones that get it

I'm between a rock and a hard place, I tell friends, and that I think I'll stay on the Rock for now. I mean it. I'm not afraid of medicine. I'm an RN, a nurse practitioner even - once upon a time. For years I've willingly followed the suggestions of those in the medical profession I respect. But this? I pray and pray, but I don't have a peace about this medicine's risk, rare that it is, and I don't dare move forward unless or until I do.

Fox Squirrel

The endocrinologist's office calls to remind me that I'm due for a sonogram to check on those nodules in my thyroid. The cyst on my cheek is getting larger and I wonder if I should have the surgeon who removed the cyst on my neck last summer take a look at this one before it gets any larger. And while I'm at it, I need to see the podiatrist about the corn on the bottom of my left foot that's causing me more and more pain. And I laugh again, thinking of JR's onomatopoeia and my mother's growing older ain't for sissies and the merry heart that's good medicine.

But what also comes to my mind is this...
Affliction is what fuels the furnace of this heaven-hearted hope. People whose lives are unscathed by affliction have a less energetic hope. Oh, they are glad to know they are going to heaven. But suffering makes the Christian experience more than signing the dotted line on an eternal health-care contract. Suffering turns our heart toward the future, like a mother turning the face of her child, insisting “Look this way!” Once heaven has our attention, a fervent anticipation for God’s ultimate reality – appearing with Him in glory – begins to glow, making everything earthly pale in comparison. Earth’s pain keeps crushing our hopes, reminding us this world can never satisfy; only heaven can. And every time we begin to nestle too comfortably on this planet, God cracks open the locks of the dam to allow an ice-cold splash of suffering to wake us from our spiritual slumber. 
Suffering keeps swelling our feet so that earth’s shoes won’t fit 
I believe it. I truly do. And I'm OK with it, too. If I had a choice, I wouldn't choose these momentary afflictions that are swelling my feet anymore than Joni would choose paralysis and breast cancer, but to have that heaven-hearted hope and a fervent anticipation for God's ultimate reality makes it all OK.

{Photos: This week on Pollywog Creek - muscovy duck on the pond, a pair of grey squirrels in the sweetgum tree, and a fox squirrel out on a limb}