Listen when your body is telling you something. Pain is a language. It’s your body’s way of communicating.
This is the wisdom my doctor gave me back in July, when I called her two days after my speech in support of reproductive rights at the Indiana State House. She said to go to the emergency room if the pain got any worse. The pain flashed across my abdomen and I first noticed it during my after dinner walk.
I can tough it out, I convinced myself. No need to cause a fuss or inconvenience anyone. I’m sure it will get better on its own. This was the positive self talk I was accustomed to doing anytime a worry played in repeat in my mind. It’s nothing. It’s not that bad.
Then I spent half the night curled up on the floor of the bathroom and the other half of the night on the heated massage table. (There are some perks to being married to a massage therapist). How I managed to sleep without falling off the narrow table, I have no idea. All I know is that the heat from the table comforted me and relieved some of the pain.
My doctor called me the next morning to check in and encouraged me to go to the emergency room. I could barely walk the pain in my side was so severe and continued making me nauseous. I crawled into the back seat of the car and collapsed across the seat. My husband drove me to the hospital and when we got to the emergency room I could not talk because I was in so much pain.
I spent several hours getting blood drawn, various tests, and scans taken. At first the male doctor thought I was passing a kidney stone because of the level of pain I described. Then I was referred to a vaginal ultrasound in the emergency room because of what the earlier tests revealed.
Let me just say that nobody was having fun during this next part. It was uncomfortable and even painful at times to have this long hard plastic encased instrument poking and prodding around deep inside of me for nearly 30 minutes. All I could think about was, “what are they even looking at?” Did they fall asleep at the wand?
Miraculously the nausea and pain faded away during my time in the emergency room and I didn’t require any pain treatment. Although they prescribed some nausea and pain medicine in case the pain returned. In fact, I was feeling so much better that I encouraged my husband to keep his plans for the day, taking our son and his friend out to brunch, and insisted that I could take an Uber home. No need to be a party pooper.
It turns out my body was communicating with me. It also turns out that I was in denial. I thought I could outrun the pain. I thought I could be more stubborn than it. I thought I could sleep it away. I thought I could pray away my pain.
When the emergency room doctor returned to check on me after the vaginal ultrasound, he said he had made an appointment for me to see my gynecologist for follow up tests. The nurse said she’d call me an Uber and then she said she’d pray for me.
On my way home in the Uber I realized that my body was trying to tell me something. I wondered what it wanted me to know. I also realized that since it was late afternoon on a Thursday, I probably wouldn’t be up for preaching on Sunday. I knew I needed to take a few days to rest. My OBGYN appointment was already scheduled for that Monday morning.
What was happening to my body? Why was the pain so intense, piercing, and nauseating? On Monday the OBGYN said I’d needed to see a specialist for more imagining to see what was going on inside my body. I got an appointment for the end of the week on Friday.
I’ll never forget the look on the face of the OBGYN specialist as she looked at the imagining on the ultrasound. Right before she came into the exam room, while I was still waiting in my paper gown, I had a vision of my grandmother and my niece Sydney, both had died in 2020. One from old age, the other from suicide. In my vision they were huddled together in a bird sanctuary in the clouds, tending to the repair of the broken wings of juvenile eagles who were being rehabilitated in order to fly free in the wild. I woke up when the doctor walked in.
When the doctor described what she saw on the ultrasound, she kept referring to things looking suspicious. I didn’t like the sound of what she was saying, how she said it, and what she wasn’t saying. She said I needed to see another specialist in order to know more.
What was my body communicating? The pain began to come back, but this time a dull, persistent pain. So much so that when the doctor said I needed to see a cancer doctor I believed her.
I also believed my vision. That my grandmother and niece were hard at work, continuing their good deeds that they began on Earth there in Heaven, rescuing injured animals and encouraging the broken hearted. I believe the dead were speaking to me, letting me know that all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well. And they were right. I am lucky. All things are well for me now as I write this several months later.
But I’ve seen a few things since the “c” word came into my life this summer. How is it that my doctor was the one to help me realize that my body is blessed, my body is to be trusted? Pay attention, she said. Blessed be the body.
Our bodies are blessed, our bodies are to be trusted. Our pain is blessed because it is a language all of its own. The pain in our bodies speaks truth to us. It’s time to listen to what the bodies of women are saying and especially what truths the pain dares to speak.
For now, this is what I know to be true: Blessed is the body of the person in pain, for theirs is the realm of heaven.