Tuesday, March 20, 2012

There's Nothing Funny About A Comedy Of Errors

Yesterday began six months ago with my last visit with my surgical oncologist at Duke. I left with my appointment card and it was for yesterday, Monday March 19, 2012. It was specifically for 11 am and right above that time were instructions to be there by 10 am. Fine. That became a permanent part of my calendar. All was well until

Wednesday February 29th, 2012 when I received an email letting me know I was scheduled to appear before the District Board of Ordained Ministry...you guessed it...March 19th at 10 am. Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning on March 19th!

Not having a clone that I know about, I emailed the district office and explained my prior commitment and our wonderful administrative assistant promptly took care of it and got another pastor to switch times with me giving me a new appointment time of 5 pm to appear before the DBOM as it had to be that day. Fine. I could make that. I knew my doctor would run late, he's a surgical oncologist! Of course he runs 2-3 hours late. But with an 11 am appointment, I could manage to get from Durham to Nashville by 5.

While all of this is going on, Duke is opening their new, costly Duke Cancer Center with more bells and whistles than imaginable! Somehow those bells and whistles created some havoc with scheduling and here's where I start "laughing."

Friday March 16th, I get an email from Duke with the exciting opportunity to sign-in, online, right then, for my upcoming Monday appointment. Cool! Except I see that I now have an appointment with the doctor at 12 noon instead of 11 am like I had been planning on for six months and had already had one meeting rescheduled to accommodate.

I knew that wasn't good, but if he didn't run too far behind, I could still go screeching into my other meeting on time. So I get there by 11:30 am to go ahead and get labs started. I have the paper to prove this: one time is mentioned and that is 12 noon. Two levels are mentioned: level 0 and level 1. At noon I'm to apparently do labs and see the doctor. That's why I was there by 11:30. That didn't make sense. Labs done on level 0. Check...and!...my one bright spot: no tourniquet was used for my blood draw! I didn't even know they could do that! When I asked if that was a new way of drawing blood, without a tourniquet, she said, "No. I didn't need one." Zip-pe-di-do-dah! X-ray done on level 1. Check! Then I'm told to go to level 3 to see the doctor. Huh?

So I point to my paper. I show the time and levels. No other time. No level 3. So I ask what time my appointment is with my doctor. She checks. One pm! So, I've gone from an 11 am appointment to a 1 pm appointment and I didn't find out it was 1 until I got there! Noon was bad enough and potentially a problem. With a 1 pm appointment, there was NO way I was going to get to my other meeting. No way! Unless God had already figured this out and for once the doctor was running on schedule.

At 2:35 I go to the desk on level 3 and explain my situation. I have to be on the road by 3 pm to go before my District Superintendent and the District Board of Ordained Ministry. Is there any way I can be given the results of my labs? If they're good then I can make another appointment for six months down the road and if they aren't good I can come back, but I really have to leave by 3.

You would have thought I asked them to arrange an impromptu meeting with the Queen of England! I threw everything into a tizzy, which really wasn't a pretty sight at all. I kept explaining to what seemed like everyone in the back my situation. And I said "District" so many times and I was getting so addled that I got in my brain that I needed to go to the District Office for my meeting which is in Rocky Mount. That fact will prove important.

I'm in the back, in a room, there's one nurse trying to get me to put on a gown. I keep looking at my watch which is moving closer and closer to 3, and I roll down my compression sleeve instead. I don't have time to change. My doctor's nurse sees if he can come on and see me real quick even though he's with someone else. She says it will be a few minutes to which I respond I don't have a few minutes and if he can't see me that minute, I'll have to leave. I apologized, I wasn't trying to be ugly, I just really had to hit the road...after getting to the parking deck and finding my car!

She gave me the results of my labs, which were good and she pretty much did what he would have done and I left. With going to Rocky Mount to the District Office on my brain.

I get there around 4:50 and the parking lot is fairly empty. I really expected to see more cars there. The doors were locked and the blinds were drawn. Not the warm welcome I expected at all! Luckily I had my handy-dandy district booklet of all important contact info and I whip out my cell and start calling folks to find out where everyone is. "Folks" have their cells off because they are polite and in a meeting with the person there before me. I leave voicemails and keep calling everyone I can think of to locate this committee who aren't where I think they're supposed to be!

It's now a few minutes after 5 and the committee has not shown up, I finally get someone who tells me they are meeting at Nashville UMC. I hang up in total disbelief and realize two voicemails have come in while I've been phoning. One is from the DBOM chair. I call him back and explain where I am and burst into tears. I tell him my nerves are frazzled and my skin is thin right now and I'm sorry I've messed up so badly. It's now 5:10 and I'm at least 15 minutes away from where they are waiting for me and they are ready to go home.

And he shows me grace on behalf of DBOM. And he says a prayer with me and it's the perfect prayer. And they work with me. And I'll see them next Monday. In Nashville.

So why do I share all this? Because I'm human and we all have a day or two like this in our lifetimes. Unfortunately. But the thing is, I'm a human with melanoma and that makes something of a difference in how I handle and respond to these days. I don't handle things like this like I did in my "before melanoma" days. (Sidebar: "before melanoma" equals "bm" and I don't need to explain what "bm" is. Kind of appropriate).

I'm not who I was. I can't change that and I can't go back and somehow hold on to that Carol. She's gone. She doesn't exist anymore. She has been rearranged for almost four years now and I couldn't stop it from happening and I didn't know it was happening until it happened and it STILL manages to catch me by surprise! And if you have melanoma, you know what I'm talking about because you aren't the same person either and you want the old you back and that person isn't coming back and  that's a dang hard thing to accept!

Part of me really doesn't even look the same thanks to my compression sleeve and glove. There are aspects of me that are better, to be sure. But there are aspects to my personality that have been forever and permanently changed. For me, how I react to things has changed drastically. Sometimes I'm much mellower than I would expect me to be. Sometimes angrier. Sometimes sillier. Sometimes more tearful. It is what it is and I am who I am and I don't know who I'll be tomorrow or in 5 minutes. And while I'm not crazy about this, I'm OK and making peace. Now. In ten minutes I may be bucking it. Rats.

Reinhold Niebuhr wrote The Serenity Prayer and many of us are familiar with the first part of it. There's actually a second part to it. Here's the whole thing:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

There are some things we cannot change and we are better off when we accept that and work within our new limits. That's not easy. It may never happen in some cases. But just like there are things we cannot change, there are things we can change and change takes courage! What, in life, can you change, and what in life is beyond your control?

Yesterday was beyond my control and I got addled.

I paid $250 to not see my doctor so I could get to a meeting that I missed because I went to the wrong place.

And I was shown grace.

"Grace" and "gratitude" come from the same Greek word, "charis" with a hard "c" sound.

May you be shown grace when things happen that are beyond your control.

May you have the grace and courage to accept what you cannot change and the grace and courage to change what you can and the wisdom to know the difference.

If you have melanoma, you are not who you once were. May you have the grace and courage to be who you are now.

You are still God's child. That has not changed. That will never change.

Thanks be to God.