Having been married for forty-five years, sometimes Joe and I think alike and have the same thought at the exact same time. One of us relays a random thought, and the other announces he or she had just been thinking about the same thing precisely the same moment. It seems uncanny when that happens, but we laugh and say we can read the other’s mind. In spite of common thoughts we occasionally share, it was not easy to understand his mindset when it came to making medical decisions.
Like everyone Joe does not like doctor appointments or prescribed tests, and in attempting to avoid them, he has put his health at risk. Several years ago he began experiencing occasional chest pain. Despite my constant urging to see the doctor, he disregarded his symptoms. Chest pain is a concern of immediate urgency, but Joe insisted it was probably nothing more than heartburn from something he ate. I worried and prayed, but it was months before he finally gave in. He learned that he had experienced several small heart attacks, and he was referred to a cardiologist. The cardiologist recommended a cardiac catheterization to evaluate his heart and coronary arteries, and the probability of open-heart surgery.
Joe was extremely fearful, and his decision was to wait, and delay as long as possible. He relayed thoughts that perhaps the cardiologist might make a mistake with the catheterization or the surgery, and that might result in his death. He desperately tried to convince himself that his chances were equally good by doing nothing, and maybe the doctor was wrong and it was not that serious. I understood his fear, but I couldn’t understand his willingness to take the risk of perhaps another heart attack. No one could persuade Joe to take action. Family members tried as I had, but only God could do it. I prayed that Joe would be led to do what was needed before time ran out. Knowing I had done everything I could, I put him in God’s hands. Joe continued to wait, and when I saw his condition become worse, sometimes doubts crept in. I was fearful he had waited too long, but I continued to pray and take comfort in prayer and faith.
Then it finally happened, he accepted the heart catheterization. I knew God had led him to that acceptance. Joe did, however, vehemently proclaim he did not want open heart surgery. He urged the doctor to do whatever was needed during the catheterization. The doctor agreed that if it was possible to rectify the affected arteries by way of stints, he would do so. I thanked God that Joe finally had the foresight to take this first step, and I prayed everything would be accomplished in this one time.
In the process of the catheterization, the cardiologist found that one heart valve was 97% clogged. If Joe continued delaying this procedure, he might soon have experienced a fatal heart attack. Time had been running out, but there was still another problem. Attempts to apply the stint were unsuccessful, and it resulted in a tear in one artery. This immediately called for emergency surgery with a heart bypass. The doctor told me that it was unusual but there was a space and time in the operating room within the hour when normally it would not have been so readily available. The Lord’s wonderful plan had designated that time for Joe, and a complicated and desperate situation had led to answered prayer. Everything was successfully accomplished, and a wife’s prayer was answered.
I had thought Joe had learned a lesson, but another was to come. A year ago, he began having stomach pain. He was inclined to accept this as acid reflex or just eating something that didn’t agree with him. Occasionally over the counter medication helped so he continued ignoring it, until other symptoms appeared. Finally he went to the doctor, who recommended a somewhat invasive test, but Joe was fearful and unwilling to comply. Time passed and he realized this was something serious, and he suspected cancer. He talked about his brother who had accepted prescribed surgery and treatment, but still he had lost his life to cancer. Joe thought he might have the same fate. Through this entire ordeal I continued praying just as I had done before.
One day the pain became so unbearable, that he asked me to take him to the hospital. The tests revealed a growth on his large intestine. Within a few hours he had emergency surgery, and it turned out to be colon cancer. By the grace of God, he had gotten to the hospital in time, surgery was successful, and the cancer was removed and had not spread.
There as several lessons to be learned in these experiences. Joe and I know the power of prayer, this wasn’t a new lesson, we both prayed and we have seen the Lord’s work many times. Other lessons are the importance of accepting medical treatment and testing promptly. If Joe had been willing to have a colonoscopy, a small polyp could have been removed before it had grown into a cancerous tumor the size of a baseball. A little discomfort involved in a test or the preparation could have eliminated a serious and painful condition that threatened his life. It goes without saying that God is powerful, but He expects us to act responsibly in maintaining our health. Decisions should be based on faith, not fear. Fear hinders while faith triumphs.
Diane LoDuca [email protected]