In May of 2003, we lived in Australia where my husband was the Defense Attaché to the American Embassy in Canberra. Originally scheduled to leave in June, we extended our assignment for six months so our daughter, Megan, could finish high school there. (The school year goes from January to December in Australia.)
Megan came home from school on May 19th not feeling well. She complained of pain in her right side. Her symptoms weren’t severe, but I questioned if we should go to the emergency room in case it might be her appendix. One of Megan's best friends lived down the street, and her father was a doctor. He came to the house to look at Megan and let me know if she needed immediate attention. He carefully examined her abdomen and lingered there for a while. He looked at me with concern and said, “I don’t think it’s her appendix or anything that needs to be taken care of tonight, but there’s something going on that won’t be quickly fixed.
I had no idea what he was talking about. He wasn’t so sure either.
We went to the doctor first thing in the morning, and he sent us immediately for an ultrasound. The technician was very silent through the procedure and spent a lot of time carefully studying the screen. After quite a long wait, the ultrasound doctor came in and explained to us that Megan had a rather large growth in her abdomen, about the size of a football.
Megan and I were scheduled to go back to her primary doctor in an hour, and so we got some ice cream and sat in the car as we waited for our appointment. We sat in shock. After some time passed and the silence became obvious, we started to giggle and make jokes about what could be in Megan’s abdomen. My method of dealing with something uncomfortable has always been to make jokes. Thank goodness Megan could laugh with me.
Megan’s doctor had no clue what the ultrasound meant and sent us to a specialist. Numerous tests were performed, and we met with a surgeon in the next few days. Doctor Cho was a sweet, loving woman who tried to put us at ease as best she could, but she was unable to tell us exactly what was in Megan’s abdomen and was concerned about it herself. She talked about a large tumor that most likely was attached to Megan’s pancreas or possibly her duodenum. It would have to be removed. She wouldn’t know what kind of tumor it was or if it was a tumor until after the surgery. During the process she also wanted a pancreatic specialist and a heart surgeon standing by. This invasive monster could also be wrapped around Megan’s aorta.
I’ve never felt such fear in my life. Both Rick and I experienced so much panic and shock that we couldn’t pray. We couldn’t find peace and comfort in each other as we usually did.
We had to make the choice whether to fly Megan back to the states for the surgery or have it done in Australia. Although going back to the states felt logical, we would have to spend six weeks there after the surgery before Megan could fly home. We felt very confident in the doctor we had seen and the Australian medical system. After talking to Megan, we decided she would feel more secure around her friends and familiar home. We chose to stay in Australia for the surgery. The doctor thought it would be two weeks before she could perform the operation.
That first week was a difficult time for us all. The uncertainty of what was in Megan’s abdomen frightened Rick and me terribly, but we didn’t want to express our concerns around her. She was unable to go to school as she didn’t feel well and wasn’t eating a lot. It also seemed to me that this should be a priority case and should be taken care of immediately. (I suppose every mother feels that way when her child is ill.) Why the long wait?
Rick had a dream that he was at Megan’s funeral and spoke at it, saying “What a great loss for the world”. Fortunately, he didn’t tell me about that dream until months later. I would wake up in the middle of the night in such terror that I couldn’t breathe.
Prior to this time, I had struggled with the idea of my children leaving me. David was already in the states attending college, and Megan would leave us soon after we arrived back there from our Australian assignment. I wanted my children to stay with me. I struggled with depression and obsessed about my time with them. Now, God was about to take me to a place where no parent should go to teach me about letting them go.
To be continued…