Monday, October 13, 2008

When Things Change

My parents have always been an inspiration to me. We've had our share of disagreements, heartache, and relational conflict, but they have modeled to me how to resolve conflict, communicate effectively, and let love cover a multitude of errors. Who I am would look completely different without their influence in my life.

Both my parents are young, active and full of life. They are seldom home. If my mom isn't working, she's hiking, biking or dancing. If my Dad's not working, he's golfing, walking, or chopping wood. They both have lived with chronic illnesses for the past 13 or more years, and they have chosen to suffer in relative silence, without complaining, living the life they want to live, not the life their illnesses could dictate for them.

This past year has been a challenging year for both of them. My Dad's ulcerative colitis flared and a routine colonoscopy showed abnormal cell growth. Multiple tests and weeks of the unknown later, his doctors recommended that he have his colon removed and told him the grim news that his tests results showed a great chance that he had colon cancer. Tests also revealed a second diagnosis of a liver disease that will at some point, unless the Lord heals him, require a liver transplant. He had his colon removed on July 17th and we all rejoiced that his pathology reports came back completely clean. His recovery has been slow and steady, with setbacks here and there, but overall, he's made great progress.

My mom has lived her life with scoliosis that has progressed significantly the past couple of years. She also suffers from rheumatoid arthritis that is crippling parts of her body and frequent migraine headaches, but she never complains. If you ask how she's doing, she always thinks of something positive to comment on that doesn't reflect the chronic pain she is forced to live with. She and her husband hike in the mountains, rides bikes for miles, and dance for hours, to the shock of her doctors who have told her she could be in a wheelchair at this point in her life. This summer, her uterus, which had been prolapsing for years, came completely detached.

Last Thursday, both my parents had surgery. My mom endured a 9 hour hysterectomy. Her unique physique from the scoliosis, slowed the doctor down as she worked to repair and reposition organs that the uterus damaged as it fell. My Dad had his "take down" surgery, a follow up to his colon removal. He faces a large up-front, dietary learning curve and another surgery recovery time, but is set to have a great life.

Thursday was a long day for me. In my mind's eye, my parents are invincible. Strong. Full of life. Rarely sick. Impossible to get down. Seeing them suffer breaks my heart. Knowing they were each in surgery at the same time in different parts of the city was surreal. Not being able to be there because I had obligations to my own children made me feel like I was failing them. Watching them recover with dignity and determination warms my heart with pride. Seeing them in their weakness makes me love them more. Being able to visit my Mom and bring her grandkids, lunch, and dinner today was a gift. Helping my Dad get set for the winter before his surgery was priceless.

In times of change, I am so grateful that loves covers my family like a blanket and that God has allowed me to live in Oregon so I can serve my parents in this unique time. And I know that in a few months, my Dad will be swinging an axe faster and better than I could ever dream and my Mom will be hiking to summits of mountains, taking pictures along the way. I can hardly wait!

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