Saturday, December 07, 2013

His Light Shined, and Now I'm Ready to Talk About It

One year ago today, at 22 months old, Zion was rolled away from me on a hospital bed as the doctors prepared to remove what they believed was a cancerous testicle from his little body. It all started when the previous week, he ran a 105.7 fever. After a few phone calls to the ER, we were told to bring him in, and we spent Wednesday night/Thursday morning at the hospital.

At the hospital, the doctors used two catheters on Zion to test for a urinary tract infection. After a few more tests, we were released to go home. They gave Zion some fever medicine, and that was it. Thursday evening, he kept saying, “Ouch, pee pee ouch.” We don’t use “pee pee” to describe penis, so we assumed that he was saying that when he used the bathroom, or “pee peed,” it hurt. We just thought he was sore from the catheters.

 The next day, Friday evening, KB called me at basketball practice and told me to come home right away because Zion was rolling around, screaming in non-stop fits of pain on the floor. At this point he’s grabbing himself, crying “Pee pee ouch!”

 We headed back to the ER. Have you ever been to an ER on a Friday night? It was jam packed and everyone’s wait was long, hours long; however, everyone didn’t have a kid screaming at the top of his lungs, “Ouch, pee pee ouch!” People did seem to be concerned and not agitated, though. We were asked a few times, “There’s nothing they can give him?” or “They haven’t called y’all back, yet?” KB and I even contemplated just taking him back home. I’m so thankful that we did not! I think eventually, maybe after two hours or so, the ER staff felt sorry for us and let us skip ahead of people.

 More tests were run, this time a few scans of his private areas were taken. We retold our story a thousand times, and all of the doctors just seemed puzzled. We were then admitted for a hospital stay and given a room. We still didn’t know what was wrong. Saturday morning came, doctors and interns were in and out. We thought we were staying another night, but that afternoon we were released to go home and told to come back Wednesday. Huh?

Wednesday, Zion was feeling fine, as if the previous events never happened. I took him to the Children’s Hospital at Duke, only to receive the shocker of my life.

 The doctor, in a very sensitive and compassionate way, told me that Zion has what appears to be a cancerous growth on his left testicle. In fact, it’s actually bigger than what it was Saturday, and Zion needed surgery immediately, as in tomorrow. I was too shocked to have any outward show of emotion. What?!? Huh?!? 

The doctor proceeded to show me the scans of Zion’s body. Apparently, cancerous cells have a glow to them, and as the doctor pointed out, and I was a witness to, one of his testicles was glowing, but the other was not. Additionally, the glowing testicle was obviously bigger than the other. The doctor continued, saying that a team of doctors had met several times to review Zion’s scans, and they were all baffled because they had never seen testicular cancer in a 22 month old before.

 I just started praying. Still no other emotion.

 We couldn’t get Zion’s surgery scheduled for the next day so we had to go with Friday, December 7th. I’m not one to trust doctors right away because I’ve been misdiagnosed several times. And my life would be extremely different had I listened to and followed the direction of my first diagnoses. Thus, I wanted a second opinion; however, did we have time for a second opinion? It seemed as if the doctor would have operated that afternoon had a room been available. And the growth had already gotten larger in four days. Everything was just happening all too fast!

 I called KB to tell him the news. We called our families and basically tried to downplay the situation, and we prayed. We emailed our close friends asking for their prayers. All we had was our faith. Knowing that we serve an awesome and amazing God kept us from losing our minds.

I tried to go to work Thursday and focus. I was fine until one of the guidance counselors randomly came to check on a few students. He and I have worked together previously, and we have a somewhat close relationship. We started with small talk, and then I think he asked me how Zion was doing, and I had a break down. I was bawling so hard I couldn’t even talk—could barely breathe. He was like, “Ronda, oh my goodness what is wrong?!?” Bless his heart. I didn’t mean to do that to him. I’m sure I scared him to death. But I explained the story, and he convinced me to go home. Why was I at work anyway? Who is told that their child is having a major surgery to remove cancer, and then decides to go to work? Who does that?

 At home, I started to think and process what was actually happening. I realized that I didn’t want to tell more people about what Zion was going through, what we were going through, because I did not want people speaking that my son had cancer. I did not want people giving life to that belief. I started thinking about what it meant for my son to have cancer. I prayed. I didn’t even ask God to remove the cancer, to let it not be cancer, or to heal my child. I asked for His will to be done and to give me peace over whatever His will may be.

 Friday came, and I went back with Z for the surgery prep. My mom, dad, niece, and a church member were with KB and I. I held it together on surgery day until the doctors rolled Zion away from me. I came back out to meet my family, and just began bawling, again, on my mom’s shoulder.

 The surgery seemed to last forever. Finally, a doctor came out to give us an update. The doctor explained that the surgery went well. Tissue was removed from Zion and sent to the lab. The results showed that the tissue was non cancerous. Again the doctor was baffled because he was sure it was cancer. KB and I looked at each other. My first thought, honestly, was “You mean you just cut on my baby for nothing!?!” Since that moment, I’ve felt so guilty because I should have just been praising the Lord that my son didn’t have cancer and that he would keep both testicles. It was a miracle. Zion was going to be fine!

 I think KB and I were still in shock while the doctor was talking. We didn’t show excitement or sadness when he delivered the news. We were both in deep thought, still trying to process everything that was going on. We thanked the doctor, though, and at the follow-up appointment, I had KB reiterate our thankfulness and explain our lack of initial gratitude. We wanted him to know that we appreciated all of his work and care that he provided Zion.

 We took Z home from the hospital that afternoon, and he was fine, except that he attempted to walk and his legs were still numb. Trying to keep him still so that he wouldn’t hurt himself was hard work. But he was fine. The people who came to see him were expecting to find a sickly child, but Zion would have none of that. Kids are so resilient! God is good!

So one year later, I have decided to sing the Praises of the Lord that I/we didn’t sing before. Yes we were thankful, but when God shows up the way he did with Zion’s surgery, we have to be more than just thankful. We have to share our testimonies, giving glory to God. Our God is a healer, a way-maker, a provider, and much more. And had the outcome been different, and it was cancer, or had the circumstances been completely different and my son were no longer here, all of the above that I said about God would still reign true. My son has been nothing but a blessing since entering our lives. Whether he’s here only for tomorrow, a year from now, or a hundred years from now, I’m thankful for the time that God has allowed us to have with him. The truth is, life is short, and tomorrow is not promised to anyone-harsh but real. And I’m so thankful that my steps are ordered and that God is in control no matter what may come my way. Whether I agree with His choices or not, I find peace in knowing that man is not control of this world. God is.

 So I praise you, my heavenly father, for each minute of each day that we get to spend with Zion Elijah. He is first and foremost your son, and we are just here to prepare him for your Kingdom. I thank you for choosing us as his parents. Thank you for healing my son, when you didn’t have to. Thank you for allowing us to keep our faith and sanity during that trying time. Thank you for the doctors, our family, and our friends who showed so much love and support—who prayed for us.

 Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

 With tears in my eyes at this very moment, I sing:
 Every praise is to our God.
Every word of worship with one accord
Every praise, every praise is to our God.
Sing hallelujah to our God
Glory hallelujah is due our God
Every praise, every praise is to our God.

 I love you!


Thursday, July 07, 2011

My Near Death Experience With White Water

I'm glad I'm saved and I'm glad I'm a praying woman.

Last week I went white water rafting for the first time. It was a part of my NCCAT experience with my Kenan Fellowship. If you really know me, you know that I've almost drowned 2 times (kinda 3 if I count Cali but that's another story) and you know I have issues with water because of this and that's why it took me 3 hours to pass the swim test at UNC just so that I could graduate.
Back to last week. I really wanted to enjoy this experience because I knew that I probably wouldn't do this again. So when we were given the option to go with the "timid" group or the "adventurous" group, I chose adventurous (in hindsight I should've asked for a working definition of "adventurous"). Before I stepped foot on the raft, I had already said about three prayers. I was prayed up and ready to go.

When we got ready to get in the raft, me and another fellow looked around to see who was going to ride in the front. Since no one else wanted to be up there, Stephanie and I decided we'd do it. So we're going down Nantahala River. The water was very cold, about 52 degrees. The air was cool due to the shade from all from all of the flora;) The river had a few calm, slow paced spots. But every once-in-a-while, the speed would increase and the waters would get rough. The cold water would splash against us and send sharp chills over our bodies when we'd dip or when the instructor would have us spin or bump up against a rock. Felt like an adventure to me!

Well, our instructor spotted a huge, pointy rock that jutted about 6ft out of the water. It wasn't straight up and down; it was more like an incline. She said, "I've never tried this rock before." And she added something like, "We're going to today." Stephanie and I looked at each other like, "Really?!? We don't need to be trying nothing new." We rowed towards this miniature mountain, and the instructor yelled, "Lean in." That's what you're supposed to do to keep from being tossed out. As we hit the rock, Stephanie and I leaned in, but because of how we hit, the left side of the raft turned upward and the impact tossed both me and Stephanie into the air, knocking us both into the river.

I remembered going into the water. I started flailing my arms upwards. My hands walked the bottom of raft and I realized three things: I'm trapped under water underneath this raft, I just had a baby, and I'm about to drown because they aren't going to see me. I remembered trying to move my hands so that I could find the edge of the raft and come up for air. Finally I reached a rope that ran alongside the raft and I pulled myself up with one hand. I heard people shouting, "Swim!" Someone in the raft, Carrie, grabbed me but I kept feeling myself being sucked back into the water (mind you the river current is still forcing us down the river). Carrie said she was trying to reach her oar to me but that I was still holding onto mine (which I didn't remember). Carrie threw down hers and then took my oar from my hand. She then attempted to pull me up by my life jacket. She was pulling hard but I wasn't coming out of the water. "Grab her!" I heard someone shout. I yelled, "I'm not in. Don't let me go!" Then our instructor shouted, "Kick your legs!!" I started kicking and Carrie miraculously pulled me out of the water by the shoulders of my life jacket. Later Carrie said that I should've seen the look of terror on my face. I thought, I knew my face was looking crazy because I thought I was going to drown!

Once I was in the raft, I was facing the opposite direction of everyone else. I started looking around for Stephanie and I noticed she wasn't in there (mind you I'm disoriented at this time). I turned my head from side to side asking, "Where's Stephanie!?! Where's Stephanie!?!" They told me she was rescued by another raft. Then I looked back and saw my crazy instructor. Why did she say, "That's why you're supposed to lean in!" I almost cussed her out! I'm bout to drown because you had us doing a trick that you never tried before against this dag'um mountain and you gone blame me, the English teacher who's rafting for the first time in her life? Really!?!" I had to spin around to face the front before I capsized the whole raft trying to get to her. Then I thought, "This is

why black people don't go rafting!"

A few minutes later we pulled over and got out of the raft for lunch. One of the fellows who was in the raft behind us told me that her instructor knew what was about to happen to us. He said something to the extent of, "She (the instructor) is doing that wrong. The two in the front are going to end up in the water." And low and behold we did.

I'm so thankful I said my prayers before I got in that water. It was the grace of God that pried me from the death grip of the Nantahola River. I will never go rafting again! I don't like adventures that much. Now, I did enjoy the experience and there was some amazing scenery, but I'm good.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Teaching Inference

Last night while reading Zion his bedtime stories, I had an epiphany for a lesson on how to teach inference. We were reading "Good Night, Gorilla" by Peggy Rathmann, which is similar to "Goodnight Moon." At any rate, some of the pages didn't have words (well I think I can write a children's book!), so I started making up things to say. For example, the zookeeper husband didn't know the animals were out and had followed him home, right into his bedroom. The wife had to get up while the husband was asleep and walk the animals back to the zoo. As she's walking, her head and shoulders were drooping, and all the animals were in single file trudging along right behind her. There were no words on this page. So I said, "He always do this. Why do I have to be the one to take these animals back? How many times have I told him to check his keys because that gorilla is sneaky?!?" In the book, the gorilla steals the zookeeper husband's keys and lets out the animals after he passes telling them, "Good night."

Once we finished reading, the idea came to me that this would be a great activity to help students develop their inference skills. I could give them a picture from a children's book or any picture without words and tell them to create the story using what they see. It would be interesting to hear what the students come up with.

I'm sure this idea isn't new, but I've never tried it before and my students always struggle with making inferences.

I'll try this next year and report back on how well it goes.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Looking for a new doctor's office?

Avalon Internal Medicine
Board Certified Internal Medicine

Proudly welcomes April Denning, PA-C

Cecilia McKay, MD

April Denning, PA-C

Willowcrest Building
101 Conner Drive, Ste 402 Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Open Mon-Fri 8:00am-5:00pm Same Day Appointments Available
New Patients Welcome Most Insurances Accepted
Convenient, Comprehensive and Compassionate Care

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

My Thank You Card

Check out my Shutterfly Thank You card.
Street Car Fun Thank You 3x5 folded card
Thank you and personalized Valentine's Day cards by Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Me Geeking Over a Student Response

I'm sitting in my kitchen, this beautiful Saturday morning, grading tests. After grading a few and feeling disappointed, I came across one that made me stop and create this post. This 9th grade student had a very good answer to one of the questions.

Here is the short answer question: Pick a symbol to represent Claudia from The Bluest Eye, and explain how she and the object you've chosen are similar.

Here is my student's response: I feel that Claudia is like cheap bleach. I say that because if you ever use cheap bleach on white clothes, which is like giving Claudia that white baby doll, she would destroy the baby doll, just like bleach would destroy your clothes.

After reading so many responses that just missed the mark, this was a breath of fresh air and gave me the energy to grade a few more tests before taking a break.