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A few weeks ago, I had my first ACTUAL near death experience. Before this, the closest I had come to dying was finding a spider in the car while on the freeway. While I don’t believe anyone wants to have to truly come to terms with their own mortality, it was an opportunity for God to teach me about His protection.
When I got pregnant last March, my first ultrasound showed that I had a small cyst of some sort near my ovaries. This is not uncommon, so the doctors just said we would watch it throughout the pregnancy and I would just have it removed after delivery. So for 9 months, my sweet baby girl grew and as luck would have it, the cyst grew right along with her. By the time I had my last ultrasound at 36 weeks, the cyst was about the size of a softball. Possibly because of the size of the cyst, my baby couldn’t turn and was stuck in breach position, so we had to do a csection. I was actually excited about that because my doctor said we could just take the cyst out during delivery that way and I would only have to have one surgery.
Delivery day came and I was gifted a healthy baby girl. But upon completion of the csection, I was told that there was actually no cyst on my ovaries. What a mystery! Where did it go? After a few CT scans, we found that the cyst was there still, and it was not near my ovaries but floating around unattached to anything behind my abdomen (my medically educated friends would call this space the Retroperitoneum).
I was recommended to a general surgeon who said we could take it out laparoscopically and I would be in and out of the hospital in under 24 hours. Sounded fantastic (mostly because I had just had the csection 8 weeks earlier and didn’t want to be away from my baby. Also because I didn’t want get another larger operation). I was in.
As they tend to do, my mother meddled and pushed me to get a second opinion from a doctor she knew. The day before my laparoscopic surgery was scheduled, I met with a Gynecologic Oncologist, who was regarded as one of the best surgeons in Houston. Her prognosis was that the cyst was too big to be removed laparoscopically as it was now the size of a personal watermelon (which meant that yes, I looked about 30 weeks pregnant 10 weeks after delivering my baby. Huge confidence boost). She called another surgeon, a Urologist, who was also very well-respected in Houston and they agreed that this surgery needed both of them involved.
I had surgery two weeks later.
Now that I have set the groundwork, I will point out God’s protections and also explain how this surgery nearly killed me.
- My meddlesome Momma – Without her worrying (as all mothers do) I would have gone to the general surgeon and had the cyst taken out laparoscopically. What we found out during the actual surgery, was that the cyst had actually gotten so big that it had pressed up against my Iliac veins and put so much pressure on them that they had actually fused to the cyst. For those who aren’t doctors (like myself), the iliac veins are preeeeetty important. Apparently, if they are injured, it is fairly lethal. At Least that is how one of my surgeons described it after the fact. So if my mom hadn’t pushed to get a second opinion, the general surgeon would have pulled at that cyst laparoscopically and my iliac vein would have likely come with it, leaving me either very injured or very dead. Praise Jesus for moms like mine.
- Availability of two of Houston’s best surgeons – The gynecologic oncologist that I met with told us that she was retiring on March 1 and the surgery would have to take place before then (that was Feb 13). The Urologist that was her preferred partner for the surgery, lost his father that same week and was pushing his schedule back for a week or so to be with family. It seemed nearly impossible that these schedules would line up before the end of February and I was in quite a bit of pain from the cyst. I was just about ready to give up on these surgeons and go back to the general surgeon (remember – that option = death) when they found an Operating Room that was open during the one available time for both surgeons. On February 28. Praise Jesus for making that work even during a retirement and the loss of a parent.
- The skill of the surgeons – The way the cyst had adhered to my iliac veins was pretty serious. The surgeons had described it as having to remove the wood veneer off a table, without scratching the table in any way. Sounds a bit tricky if you ask me. But since the surgeons were so skilled, they managed to get it done without any damage to my veins. Praise Jesus!
- There were some complications after the surgery that led to me staying in the hospital for 7 days as opposed to the 2 that were originally planned. God protected me through that by giving me more time to heal. If you have ever had a 3 month old, you know that they require a little bit of work and are also so darn cute, it is hard to resist picking them up for a cuddle. But for the two weeks after my surgery, I was instructed to do just that. No lifting my baby (or anything else that weighed over 10 lbs). So while it was not ideal staying in the hospital, and even harder not getting to cuddle my sweet Kinsley, I know I would have overdone it if I had been back home so it was nice to have that extra buffer to heal under medical supervision.
Even when it seems like everything that could possibly go wrong, indeed does go wrong, God is still there in that situation. This doesn’t mean that He is going to make it easy or make problems disappear altogether. But He does intend to grow you through that trial and He is protecting you from things unseen. Look back on a trial you have faced and try to find God’s protection in that situation. Sometimes we need to have a little distance from our hardships before we can see the silver linings or the ways God was trying to grow and strengthen us. I would love to hear about your specific trials and lessons if you want to share! Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below!