Sunday, August 1, 2010

Shark Week: Let's Try This Again

One year ago, on this exact Sunday, I came very close to completed a labor of love. I also came very close to losing my life.

In February 2009, I traveled to Kenya, East Africa to shoot a documentary on a non-profit called BethanyKids. I worked tirelessly for months ingesting dozens of hours of footage, scrubbing through it all, and cutting it down to a 30 minute story that would touch hearts (and wallets) back here in the states. I was exhausted. It was my first attempt at a documentary and my final independent project for graduate school. I was just three days from showing the finished masterpiece to my advisors. As I drove home on that hot, early August evening, I began to get sharp pain in my abdomen. I had been complaining of stomach pain for months, and even had it checked out by my doctor, but this pain was the worst of it yet. I looked in my rearview mirror at my face--now brilliantly red and perspiring. I thought about pulling over the car, calling a friend for help, and rushing to the hospital. I kept driving home. By the time I got there, the pain had subsided. Worried that it might return, I called my friend Alex to bring me over some Rolaids. Yes... stabbing pain in my right, lower abdomen called for a bottle of Rolaids.

Alex showed up just in time for the first night of Shark Week. We watched a program about a man who was literally pulled from the jaws of death. Five days later I would be the one lying on the operating table.

The pain didn't return until Thursday--maybe adrenaline from finishing the documentary warded off any discomfort. But that night, my first night home in 7 months with nothing to do but catch up on Must-See-TV, it came back. For 12 hours I tossed and turned until I couldn't take it any more. I called out sick and headed to the doctor.

"If you need to run any tests," I told him, "you're going to have to wait until Monday. I HAVE to go to the beach tomorrow."

"Sarah, you're going over to the ER. I think it's your appendix," he said without hesitating. "Let's get this out and you'll be as good as new." Famous last words.

Six days later, finishing up an essay for class and preparing to head into work, my surgeon called. "I don't know how to say this, but you're going to need to make an appointment with an oncologist." I sat in shock for a few minutes after she explained the tumor they found on the tip of my appendix. The tumor that spread to the fat around my colon. The tumor they weren't sure was completely out of me. "You're lucky," she said as we hung up the phone. "We normally don't find these types until it's too late."

The next few months were filled with CT scans, blood tests, doctors’ appointments, specialists, oh and I can't leave out the colonoscopy. By the time October rolled around, we decided the best and only way to be sure the cancer was gone would be to remove a foot of my colon.

I like to cry. I believe that a good, hard cry can make all the difference in perspective. I cried for months--most days I didn't even know why I was crying. Fear, frustration, sadness, pain. Blow-drying my hair one Thursday morning, I felt the tears forming in the corners of my eyes as my little dog brought his favorite toy for me to throw. My heart ached. I turned on my car to drive into work and the words playing through my speakers were: "The Lord has promised good to me, his word, my hope secure."

Amen. The Lord has promised good things for my life. My hope is secure in Him. I stopped crying that day. (Okay, maybe not completely!)

It's been one year this week. A year of pain, a year of sadness, a year of rejoicing, a year of change. I sometimes feel like I am a completely different person. I've survived carcinoid, graduated from grad school, moved to Tennessee, quit news, and won an Emmy. I've learned more about God's faithfulness in the desperate moments, and more about who I am in the trying times.

As I celebrate another shark week, my perspective is different. In some small way, I know what's it like to be chased by death, to feel the teeth sinking in so deep you wonder if you will survive, and to be ripped from its jaws just in time. Yes, my perspective is different. I feel so blessed. Let's just hope this shark week has a less painful ending.

1 comment:

  1. Seaton, I can't believe it's been a year! And what a year it's been. I'm so thankful you are doing well!