My story starts on July 30th, 2018. It was the day of my final presentation to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from our local 4-year university. I felt nervous all day. Stomach cramping/jitters, heart racing, cold sweats. I didn’t think much of it. It was clear I had “presentation anxiety”, or so I thought. As I got dressed for the presentation, I watch a YouTube video for 10 minutes trying to tie my tie. Too short. Rats… but look at the time! I’m going to be late! I get to the college with 5 minutes to spare. Can I tie the tie again? Can I get a redo? Time’s ticking… GO FOR IT! Zoom, off comes the tie. Yikes, no turning back. Quick, quick, where is the lightning network when I need it! Come on YouTube, load! Bam, just in time, the tie falls into the perfect Windsor knot , length perfectly at my belt line. Presentation… Success. The celebration in my heart and mind begins as I realize I’m finally done. My nerves calm down, my body relaxes… but it’s weird… I still have this pain in my gut.
That night, I went to sleep expecting the night to be like any other. Boy was I naïve. About 2:30am it hit… and it was a big one. I was laying on my side and BAM! The sneeze that shook the world. I yelped, and hollered and my wife woke up. “What’s wrong!?!” she exclaimed. “I sneezed. *pant* and I think I pulled something” I said laughing as I said it. We had a good laugh, and we went back to sleep. The next morning, I woke up with a pain in my left arm and chest. Hmmm… this really hurts! Left arm… left arm… wait… am I having a heart attack? Nah, I probably just pulled a muscle. This pain lasted for the next 4 days, and I knew I had pulled a muscle during that sneeze… Or so I thought.
It is now August 3rd. I use a PTO day as we are heading to the beach tomorrow. We get everything packed and ready, but it is only mid-afternoon. With everyone anxious for the beach, we have to kill some time and get everyone side tracked. Family Movie Time! We all sit down for a nice movie (The Princess Diaries 2… yea!!! haha) in our basement movie room. About 30 minutes in, my left arm goes completely numb instantly. What the heck? That’s weird… left arm… left arm… wait… am I having a heart attack? First these pains in my chest and arm for 4 days? Now complete numbness? Do I tell my wife? Do I say anything at all? She will make me go to the E/R. I don’t want to go to the E/R. We are going to the beach tomorrow. It’s fine, it’s fine I convince myself. The feeling comes back by the end of the movie. “Let’s go to the park” the kids yell! Well, we do have more time to kill before bedtime. Driving to the park I start feeling a pain in my chest. This is different than the other feelings so far. This borderline feels like heartburn. It’s fine, it’s fine I convince myself. Tomorrow is the beach!
Morning comes, and we prepare to take off in a minivan loaded down with enough luggage to last a family of 15 for 12 weeks in Siberia. With the minivan riding low (and the coffee pot off… trust me, I checked it 10 times), we set out on our way to the beach. The trip was relatively uneventful except for two things. One, I missed 4 turns. That is not like me at all! Why am I side tracked? Two, at every stop I literally cannot lift my left leg. In order to get out of the van, I have to pick my leg up with my hand and set it on the pavement. Why is my leg so weak I cannot pick it up under its own power? We get to the beach house and unload the van. That night lying in bed, I decide now is the time to break the news to my wife. Heck, she can’t make me go to the doctor now. We are at the beach! I explain everything that I have been feeling and experiencing the past week. “What! And your just now telling me!!!!”. Yeah, yeah. “We are finding a doctor at the beach tomorrow and we are taking you”. Backfire… yikes, didn’t see that coming. “Honey, honey, let’s wait and see… If I’m not feeling better by the time we get back from the beach, I’ll go to the doctor back in town”. “You better”, she says. Whew!!! Dodged a bullet.
Aside from getting stung by a jellyfish, the beach trip actually goes really well. My pains seem to be subsiding. My stomach seems to be calming down. Wait… maybe this was all anxiety or stress all along! Yeah, that’s it! I haven’t been having heart issues, I have just been stressed. Whew! Glad we got that straightened out. Guess what honey, I’m feeling great. Let’s head back home… and that doctor visit? Yeah, we won’t be needing that… or so I thought.
Life returns to normal on August 13th. I’m back to work. The kids and my wife continue enjoying summer break. I’m feeling great. Then Tuesday comes, and Wednesday. The stomach cramping returns. I’m waking up at night with my pillow soaked in sweat. My fingers on my left hand are intermittently going numb. Time to pray. “God, I need some guidance. You know my heart Lord. You know I’m a stubborn man. You know I’m too prideful to admit I may have something wrong with me. Would you please give me a blatantly obvious symptom or sign if I need to go to the doctor?”
More days pass. Symptoms still seem to come and go. My prayer remains the same, and has become almost a daily ritual at this point. It is now August 23rd, and I’m sitting at my computer at work. I’m not stressed, nothing major is going on, I have been “at rest” for at least 30 minutes… wait… what’s that?!? I feel my heart beating extremely strongly as though it wants to come out of my chest. I count the pulse (by looking at my chest… I don’t even have to hunt for a pulse or use my fingers to find it). My chest is jumping 25 times in 15 seconds… YIKES! 100 BPM, and I’m sitting still. “Lord?” I prayed, “Is this the sign? Something clearly is not right. I see that.” I finished my work day and after “meet the teacher” at my kid’s school, we all sit down for supper. My wife starts the conversation and said “I had a random conversation with another teacher today. Her husband up and heads to the hospital one day recently because he thought something was wrong with his heart, and turns out he had a-fib”. Wow. Got it Lord. To coin Bill Engvall… here’s your sign… AGAIN… “Honey, you know what we talked about at the beach? Yeah, those symptoms are still here”. “We are going to the doctor. Now!”. “Yes dear”….
Let me call my mom and dad and see if they can meet us to get the kids. The urgent care closes soon, so we need to get going. We all jump in the van, and I call my parents. After hearing the situation, they suggest skipping the urgent care step and just go straight to the E/R. After all, if the urgent care hears the words “heart, chest, arm, pain” in the same sentence, you going to the E/R anyways. Good point. Wow, by chance we are right next to one of the local hospital. However, this hospital is not known for its “expert” heart center. Confirmed… no good… lets go back to the other local hospital that is closer to our house anyways. “Okay God, it seems your leading us to this certain hospital… I pray that you have the people there that we need to see.” Upon arriving, we are greeted at the E/R entrance by a security guard. Lock down… The hospital is on lock down. Seriously? “Okay God, you gave me the signs that I needed to get my heart checked out (I think … doubting now)… then You lead us to this hospital (I think… doubting now)… and now you are giving me a good opportunity to just call the whole thing off, turn around, and walk away? Nope. Not going to do it Lord. We have already discussed my stubbornness. Before it was stubbornness that I didn’t need to go. Well, now, I’m committed. This is happening, and I’m not going to let some lock down scare me”. We are told that I can go in, but my wife and kids have to wait outside. Once my parents get the kids, then my wife can come in and join me. “Bye Honey, I’m going in. You’ll be fine. Have a nice chat with this nice security guard. My parents will be here soon”. O yeah… “Mr. Security guard, why are we locked down? Is it safe?” “Of course you’re safe. Every officer in the county is here. Why are we locked down? Sorry. Can’t tell you. Good luck in there! Hope you feel better!” Hmmm… stubbornness 2.0… let’s go.
First test. Getting through the locked doors. Check. Second test. Signing the consent forms. Check. Now for the real tests… EKG, Blood work, X-Rays, CT scan. The hours tick by. Knock, knock. It’s the doctor. “Hi, we have the results of the tests, and we think we have found out what is wrong. Let’s start with the good news. Your heart looks great. Now some bad news. We found in your CT scan that you have a 6cm x 15cm (2.5 inch x 6 inch) mass. We don’t know what it is. However, we can assure you, it’s not supposed to be there”. My mind starts racing… mass… mass… “Okay doc, let’s get upstairs and get that puppy out”. Whoa… not so fast. “We don’t know what this mass is. This could be cancerous. In fact, due to size, location, and your age… we think it could be lymphoma. The first thing we need to do is get a biopsy”. Rats. “You can go home, but you need to call this number first thing in the morning to talk with the specialist”. Rats.
“Dear heavenly Father. I thank you for your patience. For your wisdom. For never giving up on me no matter how stubborn I am. I thank you for putting the signs in place that I would go to the doctor tonight. I thank you for giving me the courage to stay at the hospital, even though it was on lock down. I thank you for giving me the doctors that ran the correct tests that highlighted the mass and root cause of the issue. You know my personality Lord. I like concrete facts. I can work with those. Well, you gave me a concrete root cause. I know we don’t know what it is yet Lord, but You do. I trust you God. Please help me see the right doctor at the right time tomorrow to get this biopsy underway. Once You reveal to the doctor’s and I what exactly we are dealing with, then we can make a plan and fix it. Thank you again Lord, amen.”