Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Death, etc.

So, here's more about my 2-week hiatus:

Two weeks ago, a woman that I knew died of cancer. She was in her 60's. Her daughter is a friend of mine and used to be in youth group when I was a yg leader. I knew this woman was dying, but her cancer had moved fast. I was expecting a sudden change or intervention - even a miracle - that would save her life. But none came. When I got news of her death, I was very much shaken.

I would say I knew her reasonably well. It wasn't like we would go shoe shopping together or anything, but she was a women's leader in the Christian fellowship that I belong to. I know that she loved the Lord and she is with Him now - Hallelujah! And I know that she was not afraid to die. And I know that her family is peaceful, although still in deep sorrow, for sure.

What is most upsetting to me is that it left me feeling so vulnerable. As in, "If it could happen to her, it could happen to me." Oddly enough, when my younger cousin passed away 6 years ago at the age of 27, that didn't shake me nearly as much as this. To be sure, my cousin's death was a great trauma for our family, and there is still grief that we're working through. But perhaps it was because I didn't identify with him as much. This woman who died - she was a mother. Sure, her kids are older than mine, but I doubt they were ready to lose their mom. The thing that scares me most about dying is the thought of leaving my children behind.

I don't know that I've ever had a full-blown panic attack before - I've had some panicky moments, but that's it. But on the day of this woman's funeral, I had a full-blown panic attack. I wasn't even able to attend her funeral because it was right during the time I had to pick up my kids and get my son to a doctor's appointment, and my husband can hardly ever get out of work for such things. I was simply going to go to the visitation for a few moments and give my condolences to her family.

But I could. not. do. it.

I called my husband at work and sobbed on the phone with him for an hour until he finally just said, "Don't go." So I didn't. I still cried the rest of the day, but my panic dissipated. However, I'm still analyzing that panic attack. I think I was just too afraid to face the sorrow that I would encounter. Or the reality of death. I've been to wakes and funerals before - it's never easy, but I've gone. For some reason, I just couldn't go to this one.

A spirit of fear seemed to remain with me for a long time. The following week, I started having some severe abdominal pain. At first, I thought it was a gall bladder attack, but then the pain settled into my right side. As soon as my husband got home from work, I asked him to call someone to watch the kids so he could take me to an urgent care. I thought for sure I had appendicitis. It was even painful when the doc pushed on it and she said, "yep, that seems like your appendix". However, the CT scan showed no problems with appendicitis, gall stones, kidney stones, or anything else unusual except that I had enlarged mesenteric (abdominal) lymph nodes. She told me to take meds for the pain and follow up with my doctor in few days.

Frustrating, but at least I knew that I did not need surgery - Whew! But then my mind started working. Abdominal lymph node swelling. . . .hmmm. Lymph nodes usually don't swell for no reason. What was going on? And I did what any rational human being would do - I looked it up online. And the first several hits came up with articles about cancer, of course. It seems there are many serious reasons for swollen lymph nodes, and few not-so-serious ones. I know, I know - it's generally not wise to try to diagnose oneself online, but even if I hadn't looked on the internet, I still would have been stricken with fear.

So, over the next 24 hours, I became absolutely 100% convinced that I was going to die. I just knew that whatever I had, it wasn't good and that I was going to leave my children motherless. I think there was still some fear and vulnerability lingering, what do you think?

Five days later, when I was finally able to get in to see my doctor, the first thing he did was assure me that it was most likely not serious. He did order blood tests to rule out cancer, and he also ordered a test checking for mononucleosis. I haven't gotten the results of those tests back yet, but I'm OK now. My doctor did say it was most likely viral. After several days of pain, nausea, and constipation, I am now almost back to normal.

So, there in a nutshell, is the reason that I didn't post for almost 2 weeks. Hopefully I won't take that long of a break again. Unless I have mono.


  1. I think death affects us all in different ways. And usually in ways we never expect. I am sorry for the loss you have endured and am glad you are feeling better

  2. My husband went to the hospital last week for nausea, and diarrhea....and, like you, feeling really, really sick and like he was doomed. I wonder if wild depression could be a side-effect of a flu? That is just so strange.

    I do know what you mean; I think that the idea of mothers and children being separated has always haunted me - and my dad's mom (with whom I felt a lot of affinity - even though I never knew her) died when he (her oldest of four) was just 9. So, that idea of dying when your children were little has always terrified me.

  3. How scary! I am so glad you are okay.

    When my dad died 5 years ago I went through something kind of similar. He died at 59 with hardly any warning. It really made me think about my life and that anything can happen.

    I am glad you are feeling better.



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