Time Warp

Posted on: Fri, 05/03/2019 - 10:59 By: akpratt
Watercolour of the beach at Deception Pass

The time between having a scan/biopsy done and getting the results back stretches to infinity. Like a time warp. Writing and getting caught up before the next storm hits helps pass the time.

While the news that there was growth in the tumour in my left lung was unexpected and it took a few days to recover equilibrium, I have been feeling pretty good.

Sneaking down the street to a United Church on Palm Sunday for their Jazz Vespers service made me feel slightly guilty. That soon passed with the comfort of Greta Matassa (For those who haven't heard her)and the Easter Scripture. The experience gave me a sense of the beauty and rhythm in the world.

Reading the Tenebrae scripture on Good Friday evening brought tears to my eyes. Tenebrae is a service of Christianity characterized by gradual extinguishing of candles, and by a "strepitus" or "loud noise" taking place in total darkness near the end of the service. Really it has been a privilege to read for the all the Lent services.

I love Easter, the celebration after the darkness and sadness of Lent. Our church has an Easter tradition of the churchmen serving a pancake breakfast. The camaraderie and laughter is special as a gang of men tell stories as only they can. The subject of sunrise services came up. Blaine had one when we first moved here but not any more. Getting out on to Semiahmoo Spit to hear the service at O'dark hundred and then watching as the sun rose behind magnificent Mt Baker. Moving.

And that got me thinking of other memorable Easter sunrise services. On the beach in Panama, an empty old rugged cross held in place by a pile of sand with the surf crashing behind us. Or traveling through the fourteen stations of the cross with a young pastor in La Ronge in the bitter cold as the sun slowly crept above the horizon.

Technically not a sunrise service but a memory of an Easter service that 30 years later still has the ability to raise the hair on the back of my neck thinking about it. We were attending a church in the old Canal Zone in Panama. A young southern songstress chose to sing the Sandi Patty song "Was It a Morning Like This?" She was using an accompaniment tape for music. As she reached the crescendo chorus the power went out. Not an infrequent experience in most of Panama though unusual in the Canal Zone. She didn't miss a note.

Did the grass sing?
Did the earth rejoice to feel You again?

Over and over like a trumpet underground
Did the earth seem to pound, "He is risen!"
Over and over in a never-ending round
"He is risen, hallelujah, hallelujah!"

Without music. Acapella. In those few words I find the essence of Easter captured. And I rejoice to feel His presence in my life.

Easter was a good distraction as I was waiting for the call to schedule my biopsy. I knew that the day I chose to change the Macpherson struts on my car would be the day they called so I carried my phone with me but still I didn't hear it ring. Sure enough, I found a message on it late in the day.

"Your CT guided lung biopsy is scheduled for Monday April 29th at 10:00am. Check in 45 minutes early. Don't eat or drink for six hours prior to arrival. Confirm your appointment..." at a number and extension that it took me three tries to hear because she said it so fast. I called to confirm hoping for a live person but no such luck. Another automated message saying "Leave your details. If there is a problem we'll get back to you."

Big sigh. Such is the age of automation.

On Monday, as usual, I left myself plenty of time to find parking and the department I thought I was going to, Medical Imaging. I was concerned given the brevity of the instructions that I may well have misunderstood where I was to be. All I knew about the procedure was the description from my oncologist. I would be given a local anesthetic; they would slide a needle into my back; check to make sure they were in the right place with the CT machine; and grab the sample. Simple. I thought it shouldn't take more than an hour.


Somewhere I missed the full scale briefing. There should have been preliminary lab work done to make sure that I wasn't going to bleed to death on them. The procedure was short but there was prep stuff and a recovery period afterward. I would be there for at least five hours. Oh and the final question - who was going to drive me home? My first thought? "Oh no! I parked in a two hour zone. I'm going to get another parking ticket."

I should have taken it as an omen when the nurse who welcomed me to the recovery area had her name tag upside down. She chuckled when I pointed it out and mumbled something about it being a Monday...

The preliminary Xray was done while I was waiting for the lab tech to come up and take blood "STAT" which I have learned is a magic word that makes things happen fast. Except it didn't. It took forty minutes as she got lost trying to find me. While we were waiting for the results they let me go out in my hospital jammies and move my car to parking safety and pay for a full day. The jammies made me feel like an escapee.

The turnaround on the lab results though was phenomenal - under ten minutes - so as I got back the surgeon found me and asked if I knew what was going to happen. "The lung is like a big balloon and we are going to prick it with a needle. Sometimes the lung collapses. Actually about 1 in 5 times that happens. If it happens we stick a little tube in, create a vacuum and the lung reinflates. But we will want to keep you in the hospital overnight." Great. So that is why they wanted a driver. I signed the consent because what else am I going to do at this point?

The tech came in to wheel my stretcher cot and I down to the CT machine. As we went he explained in more detail exactly how the needle would be targeted. The cot stayed outside and I walked in. He had me lie tummy down and get comfortable on the scanner "conveyor belt." As we waited for the doctor to appear he suggested that I turn my head so that I could see the screen that the doctor would use to guide the needle. After a preliminary scan the doctor used targeting developed by the machine to mark my back. A couple of injections of local anesthetic to make the procedure painless and in went the needle. Back into the scanner to check the location. A small adjustment. Back in again. And then a pop and the sample was taken. A bandage was put over the hole. Done.

There was no walking now. I had a hole in my lung. The tech had me sit up and rotate slowly and gently back onto my cot. I was wheeled across the hall to Xray where the first of my followup shots was taken. There would be two more taken after an hour apart to ensure that there was no air bubble developing in my lung.

Xray one went well. And I half expected to be released as the recovery room was fairly busy and they could have used one less patient. However that "missing driver" issue cropped up again and I was required to stay for the third and final Xray. But they fed me the deluxe meal - cheese and crackers with apple juice. The nurse helped pass the time with her discharge briefing. Watch for unusual pain or a fever. Coughing up excessive amounts of blood is not good either. Oh and you have a hole in your lung so you shouldn't fly or lift anything heavy. After the final Xray I waited an extra hour because the surgeon was in another procedure and he needed to see the final Xray to release me.

I didn't fly anywhere and just had a nice slow evening at home following instructions. The next morning came the moment of bandage removal. I reached around to my back and discovered that despite my remarkable flexibility for my age, I couldn't even touch the bandage. I eventually figured it out, lifting a corner and then pulling with a pair of pliers. Stubborn old "do it myself" Scotsman. Everything appears to be healing well.

I'm staying distracted. Paying the tiny bit of GST for my business. Responding to a jury summons, asking to be excused due to treatment requirements. A physiotherapist appointment that went well with no lymphodema showing up and answered lots of questions. Follow up in a year. A camping trip at Deception Pass with Ed, my brother-in-law. Drawing and painting. Grief support group. Life is full.

To say that I covet your prayers that God's will be done during this time would be an understatement.

Thank you