I wish I weren’t in my pajamas.
This is the second thought I had after my husband sat me down in our living room on our 5th anniversary to tell me that the MRI he’d had earlier in the week “accidentally” revealed a 2mm aneurysm crouching silently in an artery of his brain.
My first thought had been a freefall of terror—a real “life flashing before my eyes” moment coupled with deeplybeggy prayers to God, but the second thought has come to make me chuckle because it seems so incongruous and out-of-bounds.
I wish I hadn’t been wearing pajamas. One should be dressed for news like this.
The fact is, we don’t get to decide the weather, the setting, or our attire for when the breaks squeal and the course of our lives change. We are just who we are, and where we are, and with whatever clothes are on our backs at the time. The news will come all the same, with disregard for how you’d want it to look on screen in the biopic of your life.
This “outpouching” of a small artery in his brain is likely an aneurysm, according to the first report, and a small one at that. Miniscule, all things considered from the medical community. Maximum in our living room. If it is not an aneurysm, it is something else, and that “something” is a true nothing. Something that is a deformity but not a weakness in the arterial wall. To be sure, however, a CT scan would have to be done Charles tells me as I stare somewhere between “nowhere” and our wood stove which had not yet been lit for the season.
This was Friday, October 8th, our 5th anniversary, and the day before we were to leave for Provincetown to spend two nights in celebration of 5 years of marriage, 8.5 years together and a lifetime to come. A lifetime that seemed far, far more fragile in that moment than it had even five minutes earlier.
Aneurysms are scary enough on their own, most not having any symptoms until something goes very, verywrong, so it could have been “good news” that this one was found “early” and is “so small.” However, there is a dark and scary history of aneurysms in my husband’s family, including an abdominal one that killed his father as he stood in the doctor’s office for a routine stress test in 2010. Thankfully his mother has survived one, major brain surgery saved her life, but the family trauma around his father’s death remains.
With genetics like these, who needs enemies?
As this was a Friday morning, we knew it was unlikely that we’d hear about a follow-up CT scan before the long weekend, and since the MRI didn’t show anything that was an emergency, according to his doctor, we decided it was best to carry on with our plans for our anniversary 2-night getaway in one of our favorite places on earth. Only now we’d be traveling with our own personal storm cloud, one that could equally dissipate or turn into a funnel and obliterate everything in its path.
As luck would have it—if you believe in luck, which I don’t—on our first afternoon in P-town, a copy of Kate Bowler’s book Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved was front and center in an impossibly tiny and overflowing used bookstore tucked far off the main street. I’d just heard her interviewed on Armchair Expert a couple of weeks prior as she told the tale of being in her thirties with a son under the age of two when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. She is magnificent and faithful and realistic, and it seemed like the next right step to take to devour words she’d written in an even more tender time than I currently found myself.
It isn’t my brain after all.
The weekend was lovely, a little cloudy, a little sunny, and filled with beach reads, naps, and excellent food and drink. We didn’t avoid the aneurysm in the room, and would sometimes chuckle at the absurdity that our life together generally is, sometimes cry, sometimes clench our jaws, and sometimes hold our hands out and shrug because there was literally nothing else we could be doing at that moment that would help the situation. We did decide we’d be getting a second, and perhaps a third, opinion once the CT scan was complete, but that was the only decision we could make. We were doing all we could, which was wait.
My least favorite thing in this entire human experience is waiting. Uncertainty is my kryptonite, making me feel small and vulnerable and incapable, but I’ve run through the Bible enough times to know that waiting is holy. I don’t want to know this, mind you. I’d rather just be frustrated and angry at waiting without possessing the knowledge that it is one of the holiest acts of obedience a Christian can practice, but I can’t un-know that either. So, it was in the waiting that I found myself, all at once scrambling for the exit and settling in and getting cozy—or trying to.
I think of the disciples on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, when they didn’t know that Easter would come and were probably feeling panicky and hopeless now that Jesus’ body was locked away in that tomb. But they waited, together. I think of Mary, Mother of Jesus, who waited nine months with the knowledge of Emmanuel growing inside her. I think of Naomi, who didn’t know she was waiting until her daughter-in-law resurrected their family with her new husband, Boaz, and the offspring Naomi never thought she’d have. Offspring that traced all the way forward to the infant Jesus. I think of the women, always the women, including Mary Magdalene, who waited and mourned, trekking back to the tomb to mourn some more, and finding a risen Christ. I even think of Joseph at the bottom of a well, chucked there by his own brothers. Waiting for what, many of these people didn’t necessarily know, but they waited. These stories of waiting are hard and scary, but victorious.
I do my best, though, not to think of Job. I pretend his story of waiting doesn’t exist as I stare toward the uncertain horizon because his story of waiting is scarred with tragedy, and I would prefer that to not be my story of waiting, thank you very much.
As far as recent updates go, this past Monday Charles had the follow-up CT scan, and today the results came in and were frustratingly unclear. Still can’t tell if it’s for sure an aneurysm, which would be more urgent, or this other thing, called an infundibulum, which is not urgent. The report noted: “Significant Abnormality; Attention Needed.” Alas, phone calls are being made for second opinions and prayers are being prayed–spoken and written– by us and others who we’ve told privately over the last week and a half.
Now you know, and now you can come alongside us in prayer.
Pray that we get a clear diagnosis, which has alluded us thus far. Pray that the diagnosis is manageable. Pray for us to be calmed in the uncertainty and that we can find true rest in God’s hands. I don’t know how this will turn out, but I know it will be okay. I don’t even know what “okay,” means, but I know it will be just that.
Our fear, our pain, our questions…they’re all offered to God in humble admission that only He knows today how this chapter will end, even while we’re in our pajamas.