On the 21st June I learned two things that would undoubtedly change my life.
The first was that my dad had just been helicoptered off Cradle Mountain to the nearest hospital due to back spasms. This ultimately led to him undergoing spinal surgery and later receiving a diagnosis of blood cancer.
The second was that I was pregnant.
To be honest, I’ve been putting off writing about this. Not because I didn’t want to share. In fact I’m still not entirely sure why I’ve been putting it off. Maybe I’ll know after I write this.
Please note, I am sharing details from my own perspective and memory. Many things happened in between events, such as conversations with medical staff and us. I am also trying not to overdramatise the situation and so the facts may seem brief.
My parents were on a trip to Tasmania with their friends. From our end, it was progressing like most of my parents trips. We would receive photo updates and brief descriptions of their activities (usually photos of food) every day or so. Then on the 21st of June, our family chat received a series of messages with a few photos of Dad, one of him with the paramedic, explaining what had been happening over the last two days.
They were enjoying the afternoon view from a lookout on Cradle Mountain before Dad’s back went into spasm and he had to lie flat on the ground. The sun was starting to set so their friends went to find the ranger. The paramedics arrived and he was taken via helicopter to the closest hospital. A CT scan showed a fracture in a vertebrae which seemed to be collapsing into the spinal cord. However something else caught the eye of the doctor and an MRI was requested. The MRI revealed growths within the spinal canal, which were likely putting pressure on the spinal cord and the cause of the spasms.
Earlier in the day, I had taken a pregnancy test and found out I was pregnant. We were quietly excited and booked an appointment with the GP later in the week. At this point Melbourne had recently finished lockdown #4 so perhaps we were somehow more prepared to receive unexpected news at short notice. By the end of the day, there were equal parts of shock, disbelief, anticipation and numbness for all the news we had received.
The next step was to transfer Dad to Hobart hospital, where he would undergo spinal surgery to remove the growths and relieve pressure within the spinal canal. This growth was then tested and we received the diagnosis of plasma cell myeloma, a form of blood cancer that affects the production of plasma cells.
Dad was later transferred to Canberra Hospital where he has been able to continue his physio and commence chemo treatment for the cancer. He was discharged the day before Canberra went into lockdown and has been continuing his treatment plan as an outpatient.
About two weeks later (and about a week after we announced that we were pregnant) I experienced some heavy bleeding. This was our first pregnancy and we really didn’t know a lot, but I knew that I shouldn’t be bleeding. Unsure of whether the bleeding would continue, I called an ambulance and went to tell Mark. The ambulance arrived very quickly and after a few preliminary checks I was taken to the Royal Women’s hospital to get examined and to check that baby was doing ok.
At the hospital, a bedside ultrasound and doppler showed that baby was still active and had a strong heartbeat. That and a physical exam did not reveal any obvious reasons for the bleeding. The doctor told me that although there is no obvious cause that any bleeding comes with the risk of miscarriage, that there isn’t anything we can do other than wait & see. It could get better or it could get worse. His words were gentle but realistic. He asked me if I was ok and if I had someone coming to pick me up. I said yes and thanked him.
Numb is the only word. Overwhelmed is a close second.
The following week is a bit of a blur in my memory. There were many tears, many prayers and questions, all the while we were waiting. Waiting for the bleeding to stop, waiting to see how things would turn out. The biggest questions that kept coming back to me were ‘If we lost this baby, would I question the goodness of God? Would it break my faith? Would I stop trusting in him?’
No. The answer came as a quiet whisper in the stillness of waiting. I knew that all that we are and all that we have are good gifts from God. If he chose to take the gift then it would still be for good, even if I didn’t understand the reason. God was calling me into a deeper level of surrender than I thought I was capable of and I’m so thankful. How could I not be when God had already been working around our family for our good?
I’m thankful that Dad’s back pain started before the sun set; that the ranger was found quickly and that paramedics could access them in the open clearing where they happened to be.
I’m thankful for the doctor who noticed something amiss and requested an MRI.
I’m thankful that my parents were in Tasmania when so many other states were entering lockdowns. I’m thankful that Dad was discharged a day before Canberra lockdown began.
I’m thankful that Mark has been so calm and filled our house with a quiet assurance in God’s provision.
I’m thankful for the strength of my parents’ faith & trust in God.
I’m thankful that baby is strong and active and now reminding me daily of God’s precious gift to us.
I’m thankful for every single person who has prayed for our family and listened to us.
It has been a few months since this all happened. Dad is doing well, taking his treatment one day at a time. I have just had my 20 week ultrasound and baby is strong & active.
Amongst the first messages that we received from Dad was one written to my brother and I. As is the case in many Chinese households, words of affirmation were not often exchanged often in our house growing up. Within the thoughts expressed to us are the following sentiments, which have been paraphrased as I am choosing to keep his words for our family.
‘Through all my knowledge and understanding of Science*, I have not been able to accept that we are merely a collection of atoms, not dissimilar to the rest of creation. There is a God who created us; one who is in control and actively seeking his created – us.’
How can we have peace through uncertainty, through the give and take of life? Our family trusts in God who created us, who loves and cares for his creation and makes us whole again through his son Jesus.
If you want to hear more about Jesus, the reason for our faith & peace, please reach out either in the comments or you can email me at email@example.com. Please also reach out if you would just like to chat or share your own story.
*My dad originally studied Engineering and later completed his doctorate in physiology and continued his research in this field in both Australia and the US. He later retrained to become a nurse, working in the ICU in Canberra Hospital until his retirement earlier this year.
Header image by Mark Vegera
3 thoughts on “Give and Take”
1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Thanks for sharing. Your insights about whether you would question the goodness of God and your response are inspiring.
Praise God both your Dad and pregnancy are going well. Will be keeping both in prayer.
A blessing to read.
So open and inspiring.
So discreet and discerning.