Fall of 2013 dawned as a time of beginnings. I still struggled with my chronic pain, but my job as a child-care worker and my growing friendship with Ben added a vitality to my life that I had left behind in the many months before. The emotional cavities in my heart were healing as Ben helped me grow and live a fuller life. We began officially dating in October. We had a magical Christmas holiday and made long-lasting memories. I really liked dating Ben, and I loved him! By December of 2013, I was certain I would marry him.
We talked about everything that was important, shared the same passions, complimented each other’s strengths, and stood by during weakness. He became my best friend. I avoided calling him boyfriend because boyfriend seemed too shallow for what he meant to me. Long distance proved hard, but fun.
Enduring chronic pain seemed more hopeful alongside a best friend who refused to leave and always comforted me through the tears. The following February (2014), while I took a shower, I noticed a lump on my body. Fear stole my breathe. I had never seen it before, but in the previous months I had experienced a different kind of pain.
I called Ben who responded in the way I most needed. He remained calm and simply prayed for the present and the future. After talking to Mom and a good friend, we decided to wait it out. The lump wasn’t hard or unmovable, good signs that told us this probably wasn’t serious … yet.
Summer rolled around and the lump caused increased pain. After some research, it seemed to be a hernia. I decided to go to the ER primarily for confirmation. Ben was working at camp that summer, and so we sat on the steps, trusting God with the ER visit, feeling as though we stood on the brink of something big. I had no insurance, so I was uncertain what the cost would be.
Calm accompanied me as I walked into the ER the following day. I asked the nurse if she could check if I had insurance. I was supposed to get it soon, but the card had yet to arrive, and I just wanted to see if by some miracle I had insurance. I got that some miracle! When the nurse returned she assured me I was covered. I was so surprised and thankful. The doctor confirmed that I had a hernia which happened to be in the most unusual place for a woman. They transferred me to a doctor that would help me take the next steps.
While the lump caused intense pain, it wasn’t life-threatening unless it became strangulated. You can live with a hernia for years before strangulation happens. I took the next steps I needed, and the doctor put in the request to my insurance company for surgery. I hoped so much that this request would be approved.
As I waited to hear the outcome, I finished the busy camp summer season in front of me. I had decided to finish my contract and leave in the fall. My relationship with Ben was becoming very serious, and we hoped to get married soon. I knew I needed to leave and embark on a new adventure. I had become so entrenched in my comfort zone of child care that I knew I needed to get out and learn new things. I was getting dangerously close to complacency.
Though sad to leave the four kiddos who had taught me so much about myself and my new dreams for life, I also felt excitement at the prospect of beginning a new adventure and season alongside Ben. No more long distance!
In August 2014, the call came in. My insurance company had not approved our request for surgery. They required more tests. How could they need more? I hung up and cried. I had waited so long, knowingly living with this hernia for seven months. I had worked hard to get insurance, to get answers, and now all of it crumbled around me.
With my upcoming move, my insurance wouldn’t carry over to a new county, which meant starting from zero in a new system, with new doctors, and playing the same old waiting game. So, I cried and listened to a Kari Jobe song that I think was Steady My Heart. Whatever the song, the lyrics contained the truths I needed to hear, and I accepted the no and moved forward. Again.
Chronic pain is the kind of heartache that jerks you back and forth between trust and fear, patience and unrest. God is unmovable, and healing would come in due time. More of the valley awaited me, and I was being asked to walk on.
My chronic headaches followed, the hernia grew worse, my confidence in healing wavered, but my growth in Christ continued. It would be six months before healing arrived and made itself known. In six months, I would see the physical and emotional healing meet in the middle, and I would finally walk into the sunshine. But there was much to endure before then.