4/22/2016 15 Comments
The 21-Day Itch
For the past three decades, I have lived with a disease called Achalasia. Basically, this is a rare disorder that causes the muscles at the base of the esophagus to become spastic, resulting in difficulties getting food to pass through to my stomach. About 28 years ago I had surgery to address this problem and, as my increased girth over time has demonstrated, eating became less of a problem. As long as I remained calm and focused, I was able to eat whatever I wanted. The problem, however, is that Achalasia is a progressive disease and over time the operation grew less effective. About a year ago I began to have difficulties eating once again. I lost a bunch of weight, but I also began to look as cute as a newborn puppy.
A couple of months ago, my body began to itch. I'm not talking about that mosquito-bite or heat rash kind of itch. I'm talking about claw-at-your-skin-can't-sleep-at-night kind of itching. It felt like snakes were crawling beneath my skin and nothing I did brought relief. After trying everything I knew to do, I finally went to the doctor. It turned out that my liver enzymes had become extremely elevated and the itching was caused by excessive bile not being processed in the liver. Who knew the liver worked that way? I certainly didn't! So for the next 21 days I engaged in a series of tests to identify and remove the cause of my discomfort. Finally, it was determined that a gall stone had broken loose from a pile of others collecting in my gall bladder and was blocking my bile duct. What a relief to know the cause of that 21-day itch! The plan was to have a simple procedure to remove the stone and vacuum out all the bile that had accumulated due to the blockage. This would soon be followed by another simply operation to remove the gall bladder and its accumulation of stones. Easy-peezy! .
On march 31 I appeared at Seattle's Swedish Hospital expecting to be vacuumed out and on track for clear eyes and itch-free living. I had really begun to look pretty rough at that point! My eyes were the color of a yellow highlighter and even with the medication the doctor prescribed to stop the itching I was scratching like a junkie who just discovered the best damn heroin on the planet!! To make matters worse, I learned that scratching, like yawning, was contagious. When you scratch people around you start to scratch as well. After a few minutes with me the whole room was scratching like a hoard of fleas had just been released!! I wanted, needed, expected relief when I went to the hospital that morning.
As sometimes happens in our lives, the universe shifts beyond our control in what feels like the blink of an eye. As I struggled to regain consciousness in the recovery room, I was informed that I would not be going home that day and was being transferred to another room. When I got settled in my new bed, my spouse came in and told me a cancerous tumor had been discovered on my bile duct during the procedure. There was going to be some organ cutting, chemotherapy, and radiation in my future. Things suddenly grew bigger than itchy skin and yellow eyes. Life got very real and precious all of a sudden and for the first time in my life I could not feel the ground beneath my soul. Nothing in any of my lives before or then had prepared me to connect the word "cancer" with any part of my self as I had imagined that self emerging.
Needless to say, the days since have been an adventure into emotions and processes for which I was not prepared. I went from wondering what to expect as I stepped into that pivotal age of 65 to wondering what mysteries waited around the upcoming corners of my life. At the same time, I can only give God thanks and praise for that 21-day itch and for the many challenges that have danced across my path this past year. Here's how good God has been: the esophageal thing made me lose weight, which improved the overall state of my health; the renegade gall stone blocked the bile duct and led to the discovery of the tumor, which is very small at this point; the chapters of entire event together made me realize how many friends I have around the country and brought to the surface how much I love my family, my spouse, and my friends. Through it all, I came to understand the love of God in new and exciting ways. For all of this I am deeply grateful.
God continues to be in charge of the things around us and constantly fills our lives with surprising tidbits of a reality that at once confounds and comforts us. After 65 years of life, I have finally learned to stop asking God for explanations and, rather, receive the blessings revealed in each and every experience with grace and humility. So often we search the crevasses of our past for reasons why bad things happen to good people. We assume the challenges and discomforts we encounter are the result of something we have or have not done, consequences of how or whom we are. We search for someone or something to blame. Well, if I have learned nothing else in all these years, I have learned that God simply does not work like that. Life happens to all of us and through it all God stands in the center cheering us on. Through it all, God is faithful. I am comforted to know that through it all I am ready and able to walk THROUGH whatever valleys I encounter; I am excited to feast at the table God is preparing in the presence of negativity and challenges, knowing without a doubt that surely goodness and mercy are following me like a loyal and devoted puppy! I am scheduled for an operation on May 3rd to remove that tumor. Recovery will continue for quite some time due to the complicated process of the surgery and treatment for the cancer. This is a journey and an adventure into a new dimension of living. Join me in praying that I have the grace and humility to receive God's healing love and peace. Stay tuned, stay hopeful, stay in faith, and stay with me!! I have always found strength in the beauty and wonder of others, so let me know how your lives are doing as well!
4/22/2016 11:43:13 am
You are loved Renee. Sending healing thoughts and big hugs from Boston.
4/22/2016 01:58:30 pm
Reading your blog is like hearing your preach, Renee. It warms my whole soul. I think about you every day and send you love and prayers for continued healing. Thank you for your friendship, your faith, your generosity.
4/22/2016 08:01:48 pm
I have learned and am still learning. Like you, its proof that we still have life to live and work to do. I am amazed at how brief interactions can have a life long impact. I thank God for the impact you've had on my life, for the very real conversations, and for just being you. I love you and stand with you in prayer.
4/22/2016 10:06:00 pm
Thank you for sharing your journey. They say you learn something new everyday, and today I learned a lot more about you. Keeping you in my prayers as always and once again in awe at how strong and resilient you are. Love and prayers from Singapore!
Renee, good to have updates...thank you for sharing. My prayers for continued faith and diminishment of fear and best outcomes of full healing. Two comments: (1) how fear can be so insidious in the places that it hides, in the shadows so to speak...because fear is innate to human nature for good reasons, it can also keep us from not fulfilling our best efforts. I've learned to heel my fears by analysis of my circumstances. Here's (2), one of my older brothers a few months ago needed surgery for a different form of cancer, and my younger brother was a fearful of the outcome. I cautioned his "what ifs" and helped him recount the positives. His wife is an operation-room RN (over 20 years experience), my brother and his doctor of nearly two decades agreed it should be done, and he wants to do it seeking best outcomes. So I encouraged him to see the more positive team going in and the possibilities are far greater for best outcomes than less. So my prayers continue as fear lays dormant and inactive through this course. Love ya.
4/26/2016 12:38:34 pm
Having just turned 65 myself. I am beyond moved. I am sending healing light and love and look forward to walking with Reverend McCoy on this stretch of her journey.
4/26/2016 01:41:36 pm
I was so sorry to hear about your diagnosis and I will continuously keep you in my prayers. I remember vividly the day Cancer entered my life. Like you I was shaking off the anesthesia of surgery. In my experience of that moment I felt like everything slowed down and got really quiet. I could only hear the doctor and it was like a gentle whisper. I wasn't afraid, not then. At that moment God took over. I had a struggling year of additional surgery, chemo and radiation. I wouldn't wish this on anyone, but I will tell you that you will learn things about yourself you've never known and if you think God has been strong in your life thus far, you ain't seen nothing yet. Thanks for sharing your journey. It will help someone. I have no doubt.
4/26/2016 01:47:47 pm
Sending healing energy and prayers your way, Renee. Going through my own battle of recently-diagnosed cancer and I've found that sharing the journey on social media is very therapeutic. Much love to you always!
4/26/2016 04:49:00 pm
Renee, I'm moved and inspired by reading your blog, particularly this last entry, "The 21-Day Itch." I found so much to relate to from my own cancer diagnoses and my liver and gall bladder issues. As I started reading your blog, I was hoping to write something inspiring for you. But reading on, you have inspired me with your insights, thoughts, and theology, all so beautifully written. You are in my prayers now, and I look forward to reading your future blogs as your journey continues. I'm sending you love, and holding you close in my heart.
4/26/2016 05:08:14 pm
I love you Renee McCoy. I am praying with you and for you. I am grateful to God for putting you in my life you have taught me so much.
4/27/2016 11:29:38 am
Renee, thanks for sharing your experiences with your diagnosis. I was curious as to how you lost the weight and now I understand that you are on a journey, one which you are well prepared to travel, both emotionally and spiritually. Tears came to my eyes as I read of your experience, because I, too, have had some physical set-backs that did, indeed, make me question my own value as a human being, as well as my worthiness as a person, and why I am here, and whether I need to stay or get the nerve to take myself out of this whole situation. I know in my heart that things just happen with no real rhyme or reason as to why they happen to one person and not another. I hope that my own faith will help me to cope as yours has helped you, Renee. I know that you and I have never really been close friends, I always wanted to be, but I was so shy. I always admired you because I could feel your strength, even just as a fellow black female student in the Anthropology Department. I have had to be very honest with myself and accept that I was not able to cope with working even part-time, so I am at home and coping with various chronic diseases. I am fortunate that I am able to afford to do this thanks to a military husband who was smart enough to always make sure he was paying into Social Security. I wish the very best to you, Renee, and I will continue to read your blog and to pray for you. Thank you.
4/27/2016 06:21:41 pm
Ahh Pastor Renee, prayers are a given, it is a gift to have you praying with us too. Gosh, you write so well I scarce can take it in. Be strong in your faith and remember, we all are with you on this journey. And as far as God's Plan....you'll never walk alone" You have brought so much to all of us. Take good care, Sally
10/17/2022 11:53:55 pm
Officer partner run. Guy dark inside respond.
Leave a Reply.
Renee McCoy is a writer, anthropologist, preacher, and artist living in Seattle, Washington. Her life has been focused on bringing the good news of God's unconditional love to others and working to support and encourage others to celebrate the wonder of being created in God's image. At the core of her soul is the unwavering belief that we are all remarkable individuals who come together to support one another as we journey to wholeness and the fulfillment of our unique purposes in this life.