Lord, Is It You?
by Georganne W. Long, MD (with Mary Z. Smith)
Today's Christian Doctor - Winter 2009
“It’s a girl!” I cried, sweeping the infant into my arms as the labor room filled with tiny wails.
Glancing over at the radiant faces of the new parents, I couldn’t help remembering the births of our own three children. As a Christian, I embraced each and every healthy delivery as a gift from God. I’d delivered over 7,000 babies during the past twenty years of being an OB/Gyn.
Delivering the news to a patient that she had cancer was a different story. My own dear mother had lost her battle with breast cancer the previous October. I still missed her so. I rejoiced that she was in heaven with God. Still, it occurred to me from time to time that I might one day be delivered unsettling news about my own health, well aware of the fact, especially as a physician, that we humans are not the ones in control . . . God is.
I looked out the window, noticing the buds forming on the trees. A warm breeze drifted through the office window. A year earlier I’d had a mammogram that looked suspicious. A biopsy was taken. The results came back with everything appearing to be normal. A year later in 2004, I was called back for a follow-up after another mammogram report. The radiologist had just begun to go over the report with me when he was paged for a phone call.
Being a physician, I was permitted to study the X-ray films myself while my colleague was out of the room. I admitted to feeling a little bit alarmed at the calcifications I observed. The radiologist returned shortly. I immediately shared my concerns, offering to get an old fashioned biopsy. He reassured me that he felt everything was all right for the time being; a biopsy wasn’t needed at present. I trusted his judgment, knowing his reputation and valuing his expertise.
I felt no anxiety as I headed home that evening to be with my husband and three children; however, I did whisper a prayer asking God to help me trust His perfect plan for my future. While driving down the interstate, I suddenly felt a powerful presence encompassing me. My hands gripped the steering wheel in anticipation.
“Lord, is it You?” I asked.
The reply came as a gentle nudging . . . unspoken but just as profound.
“Georganne, go ahead and get a biopsy taken as soon as possible.”
I pondered over what had just occurred. My husband, also a physician, anxiously awaited my arrival. As we prepared dinner for the kids, we discussed the report as well as the radiologist’s opinion. Over dinner we prayed together asking God to guide our steps according to His purpose, something we always strove to do as a family. We shared a pleasant evening, retiring early.
I had no idea just how anxious my dear husband was. The next day he took the films with him to VCU, the hospital where he is a physician, having decided it wouldn’t hurt to have a second opinion. The radiologist immediately recommended a biopsy. When Steve explained to me what he had done, I responded in a very cavalier manner.
Was this really the way I was feeling inside?
I found a quiet corner in our home, reading my Bible and praying. I came away from that prayer corner with the reassuring confirmation from a sovereign God that He already had things under control. He was asking me for total submission so that He could accomplish His will in my life. As a Christian, I knew that’s what I wanted for my life as well.
I informed my husband that I would make an appointment for a biopsy in a week or so. After all, I had my patients to think of.
My husband wouldn’t hear of it. As we stood on the soccer field Saturday observing our son play, my husband got on his cell phone, making the arrangements necessary for the biopsy. The radiologist at VCU recommended having the biopsy the stereotactic way, which is the method of choice today. Steve accompanied me that Monday when I was to have the procedure.
Again I felt God had things under control, and even wondered why Steve felt the need to be by my side. When we arrived at VCU, I soon discovered just why God had sent Steve along.
A friend in the same Bible study I attended was seated in the waiting area. She’d just been given the news that she had breast cancer. She was devastated. Steve was there to pray with her, while I disappeared down the hallway for my own biopsy. God’s timing is always perfect.
As we continued on with family life and hectic work schedules, the week breezed by. We prayed together as a family, leaving our concerns in the Lord’s hands.
Friday afternoon the radiologist called, asking me to meet her in her office at 5:00 p.m. I pondered why she would need to see me on a Friday evening. Sinking into the chair in her office, I attempted to read the expression on Ellen’s face. She explained that the biopsy showed that I did in fact have ductal carcinoma in situ. She went on to explain the many options available for treating the cancer.
Being a physician, my first concerns were for my family and patients. I didn’t have time for months of recuperation. Ellen advised me on the many qualified surgeons in the community as well as plastic surgeons for the reconstruction. While she spoke, I was aware of that all encompassing Presence speaking to my heart once again.
“Trust Me, Georganne.”
I made my decision. “Ellen, I want to go ahead and have a bilateral mastectomy and surgical reconstruction,” I said. “Being a physician, a Christian, and knowing my family’s history of breast cancer, that’s the way I want to go.”
Ellen was astonished. Did I dare explain to her that the decision had already been written across my heart by the Great Physician Himself?
Driving home once again, I placed a Sarah Brightman CD into the player. The song entitled, “Time to Say Goodbye,” saturated my spirits like marshmallows soaking in hot chocolate.
Glancing down at my chest, I murmured, “It’s time to say goodbye all right . . . goodbye to these things . . . .” And there it was again . . . that feeling of peace that passes all understanding . . . that only our heavenly Father supplies if we are willing to obey.
Monday morning we arrived at the hospital for surgery. Before I knew what was happening, I was being wheeled out of surgery and into the recovery room. A week later I was back in my office seeing my beloved patients. When they asked me what I thought of the hand I’d been dealt, I answered them honesty. It had been quite an adventure, but I’d survived and beaten the cancer. I’d trusted God, knowing that He had all the facts concerning my prognosis, not I.
I’d grown leaps and bounds in my medical profession. My practice was enhanced, knowing I had trod where many of my patients would someday tread, and loving them even more because of it.
Since then, I have received calls from many women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. I am happy to call them my friends as they ask for advice and guidance. I invite them to my home, not only to share my own experience but to lend a compassionate ear and share God’s love.
I warn them that I am a paradoxical physician. I am biased by my faith-based decisions. I tell them they must make their own decisions on what to do. But then, as a Christian who loves her fellow earth travelers, I go ahead and try to sway them anyway.
My advice to women colleagues:
1. Spend one on one time with God each day, whether it be digging deeper into His Word or seeking His presence through prayer. These things keep us walking righteously, and more open to His leading.
2. Make sure to get those yearly examinations. God is in control, but He expects us to use the brains He’s given us, and to apply the same health principles to ourselves that we recommend to our patients.
3. Make sure you understand all the options that are available for someone having to undergo treatment. Do not be afraid to ask questions or pursue a second opinion.
4. Gather as much information as possible. You have a right to know as much about caring for yourself as any physician treating you.
5. When loved ones offer their support and presence, don’t turn them away. They are the physical hands and feet of our Creator. We all need the healing power of physical touch. And they may be there for other purposes we may not be able to understand at the time. After all, it’s not always about US.
6. Desire to trust God and do His will and to use the gifts and talents He’s given us. As a result, we will become the godly women He intended us to be all along.
7. Reach out to other women. They need to know they are not alone as they meet the challenges women must face today. Pray together and be a good listener.
8. Don’t forget that your children are watching you and learning from your example. Teach your kids that inner beauty comes from God. Physical beauty is fleeting and isn’t as important as Madison Avenue would have us believe.
9. Raise your children to love their Creator so much they’ll want to glorify Him by living up to their fullest God-given potential.
10. Practice good prevention. Eat well. Rest enough. Exercise daily, whether it be a long walk and talk with God under a clear blue sky or a vigorous swim at the local Y. Our bodies are God’s temple. We need to keep them healthy and fit.
And most of all . . . remember that you are never alone in your journey. The greatest physician of all is waiting to surround you with His presence and sustain you with His peace.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Georganne W. Long, MD, attended the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham, where she graduated with honors in 1984. Dr. Long continued her postgraduate training at the Medical College of Virginia, where she completed her internship and residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1988. She is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and is Board Certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In her more recent years of practice she has devoted extra time to the issues of menopause and pelvic relaxation and its accompanying surgical and nonsurgical management. She anticipates her future medical career will involve mission work abroad and within the US, as well as teaching and mentoring young physicians.
Mary Z. Smith is a freelance writer. When she’s not penning for her favorite inspiring publications such as Guideposts, Angels on Earth, and Chicken Soup for the Soul, she can be found volunteering her time with those in need, working in her garden, or walking her rat terrier, Frankie.