My Darth Vader mask… (part one)

It is not true that God wants to teach us something in our trials:  through every cloud he brings, he wants us to unlearn something. His purpose in the cold is to simplify our belief until our relationship to him is exactly that of a child. Oswald Chambers

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:25

Both oncologists consulting on my case agreed, and convinced me that the transplant at Stanford Hospital would be the best next step going forward. They’d already shot me up with a variety of toxic chemicals and prescribed a daily pocketful of pills to take, none of which dented the virulent disease in my bones. One of those drugs had an interesting side effect if you want to hear it. Nausea is not involved; so don’t skip this part if you’re beginning to feel a little queasy.

It was Halloween day and I woke up after a restless night’s sleep and entered the bathroom to splash water on my face. Usually when I look in the mirror I recognize the reflection. But on this day, the unfamiliar looking guy who was looking back at me startled me. His face was round, unlike anybody living in our house at the time. (Although with the Griggis, you never know who they’ve taken in during the night.) Maybe this man of unfamiliar features walked into the bathroom when I wasn’t looking. But I gasped when I realized that I was alone in there and the face I was staring at was my own. From the neck up I looked like an obese me! My head wasn’t nearly the same shape as when I had gone to bed the night before. I wasn’t the skinny me to which I had been accustomed – my head was almost the size and shape of a volleyball. I looked much more like Hardy than Laurel. How could my face have gained so much weight in my sleep?

Bob and Jean were still asleep, so I paced the floor for a half an hour or so asking God to shrink my head again. I’d never prayed that exact prayer before, not in the anatomical sense anyway. Finally, because I didn’t want to risk the possibility that I was on my way from volleyball to beach ball dimensions, I decided to wake them.

I softly knocked on their bedroom door and entered at their invitation. “Something’s wrong with my face,” I whispered. “I don’t look like me.” Once they rubbed the sleep from their eyes and focused on my visage, it took no convincing – they called the doctor. He wouldn’t let us drive to the hospital and convinced me to call an ambulance. Now I’m really scared. Is this gonna be my permanent new look? All my hats are going to be too small. Will my hair cover all this new acreage?

I’d never been in an ambulance before – at least not for myself. I rode in one with a kid who broke his arm at my daughter’s birthday party at the roller rink, but it’s really different when you’re the one on the gurney hooked up to the IV. While on my back, I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and called my friend Dan to ask him to call some other friends to pray. I’m not skittish about loud sirens or fast drivers, but the ride was harrowing as I muttered to myself all the way to the hospital, “I will fear no evil for you are with me.”

When we got to the ER most of the doctors and nurses were in Halloween costumes. It’s difficult to take Draculas, gnomes, and Madonnas seriously as health care professionals. Then it occurred to me – “That’s what I look like – a jack-o-lantern! It’s Halloween and I’ve got a pumpkin face!” The Griggis suggested that I wouldn’t need a costume in order to go out trick-or-treating that night. I wasn’t terribly amused until after my face went back to normal size a few days later. And since it did, I didn’t have to buy any new hats. All I had to do was pay for the ambulance ride. Hats would’ve been cheaper.

[Part two to come…]

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