A Tale of Two Cities: Ambiguity and Clarity


Two cities: poor and rich, sick and well, self-absorbed and selfless, Charlotte and Florence, good news and bad news, ambiguity and clarity. Which city will I live in? I’m not rich but I am blessed with much more than I deserve. I feel so poor emotionally tonight, but am so blessed by the friends and colleagues who have called or corresponded today, plus the fact that Bishop Taylor observed a time of prayer and the Chair of the Order of Elders, Larry Hays, a good friend, prayed for Narcie, exactly at the time she went into surgery. I miss being at Annual Conference, but my life is in Charlotte right now, and will be for a few days. Florence and Charlotte are both great places, but one is where I’m hanging my hat today. The worst place in my gut right now is the land of ambiguity, the place between the doctor’s words and those of the Great Physician. I want clarity, answers, just the facts, please ma’am.

Narcie’s doctor, Dr. Mark Smith, is great, don’t get me wrong. He’s compassionate and straightforward, a good blend between the two. His message in the consultation room (don’t you just hate consultation rooms) was tough and yet it was open-ended. He said that Narcie had a astrocytoma tumor, no known cause, which usually strikes adults between the ages of 20-40. Well, Narcie just turned 30. He gave optimistic words about her age and her vitality which I felt might be a harbinger of bad news, good cop/bad cop and it felt like it sort of was. He talked about us looking this type of tumor up on the internet and survival rates and how they are skewed – so don’t do it, and that every case is different and that Narcie being her age and strength was an asset. Back and forth, my mind was weighing, hanging on every word and asking, “Is this good news or bad?” He said this kind of tumor can come back and that the pathologists would tell us in a few weeks (or did he say “days”) what stage she has (but I thought he already said “low grade.” Ambiguity, ambiguity. Well that’s the rub and the challenge, and challenge makes us stronger because God says His power is made perfect in weakness and through trials – that perseverance gives hope.

Anyway, Dr. Smith said that tomorrow or sometime tonight they would do another MRI while Narcie is in the Neuro Intensive Care Unit to get a better look at whether he got as much of the tumor as he hoped. Then he told us of potential complications which demand she be under such good observation: brain swelling, motor skill weakness, bleeding, and a lot more what-ifs than I wanted to hear – more ambiguity.

Mike asked him about prognosis and reasons to hope and this is where I needed to start switching to listening to the Great Physician as much as I appreciate Dr. Smith. Maybe I heard the answer wrong. This has been the great debate ever since the post-surgery consultation. I thought that the doctor said that he really couldn’t give us much hope at all, but before you fixate, like me, on what sounds like a worst-case scenario, you need to know his next words were that every 3 months, more or less, he will do an MRI and keep an extremely close watch on her and hope that she has the kind of astrocytoma that doesn’t grow fast, or at all. So was he answering Mike’s question of “Is this thing fixed and we’re done?” or was he answering what I thought was Mike’s question, “Is my wife going to live?” So the debate, “Did he mean there’s not much hope that she’s going to live to be a old lady, or there’s not much hope that this was an easy quick fix?”

I have been assured by the women in my life and Mike that he meant the latter. Their take on the Doctor’s words is that it is not going to be an easy quick fix, but it’s doable with effort.There aren’t any easy quick fixes in life. Hang around the hospital waiting room or corridor or cafeteria for a few minutes and you’ll find out there aren’t any easy quick fixes. Suffering abounds, but so does the Great Physician. My hope is in that DOCTOR, so I want to trade in ambiguity for clarity.

SO, here’s what’s clear and I’ve seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears: Narcie is talking, moving everything, eating, and, yep, more than a little nauseated. But she’s herself and not a vegetable without any motor skills. She has TRUE GRIT of John Wayne fame, and was ready to snatch a knot in my head a time or two as I tried to straighten her pillow. So my JoJo is on the mend with a long road ahead, with unknown variables, ambiguity, more MRI’s than I can imagine for more years that I sincerely want to imagine, with a pathology report that is scarily due with… A BIG NEED FOR MORE PRAYERS – PERSISTENT CONSISTENT PRAYERS. DON’T GIVE UP NOW. WE’VE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT!!! THANKS EVERYONE FOR LIFTING US UP, FOR EVERY ACT OF GRACE.

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