What No One Tells You About Going Into the Hospital

After two and a half decades on this earth, I found myself strapped to a stretcher, my legs pinned down to keep me from kicking the cute EMT. 

Maybe an hour before that, I was in the emergency room, hurling my guts into a trashcan while precious Nurse Marco wrapped me in warm blankets and filled my IV with the medicine I so desperately need. 

Maybe four hours after the stretcher incident, I awoke to find one of my oldest Florida friends right by my side, tagging in for another friend who had previous obligations. 

For the first time in my life, I was admitted into a hospital. And my family was states away. 

But in those hours that are all now blurred together, I came out on the other side, incredibly grateful for surprising things, things no one ever told me about being in the hospital. 

1. Make sure your undergarments are comfy and breathable. I once heard you should always wear cute underwear because you never know when a firefighter will have to cut you out of a car. Three days before Christmas, I can’t tell you how many doctors saw my panties, and how grateful I am they were both cute and comfortable. 

2. Shave your legs. Sadly, it’d been about a month since I did this (it’s winter, leave me alone), and I was mortified as nurses moved about my body to clean me up. If you perpetually keep your legs shaved, it saves you the embarrassment of mumbling apologies to the kind man or woman who is keeping you alive. 

3. Count on the faith of others. Studies show patients who have faith are more likely to pull through a tough accident or illness. But I was barely coherent enough to form a prayer in my head, much less utter something out loud. But before I left for the emergency room, my coworkers laid hands on me and prayed over me. Two different pastors’ wives sat with me in the emergency room and in my hospital room. My phone was blowing up with prayers from around the world. In those fuzzy moments, I knew God had me because His body was reaching out. 

4. Man cannot live on bread alone, but a woman can manage on Jell-O and broth. Bread may have been the whole reason I was hospitalized to begin with, but Jell-O is a life saver. It’s nostalgic and delicious, surprisingly filling when you haven’t had anything to eat in a few days.

5. You don’t necessarily know the people who will show up. When I came to at one point, a new friend sat beside me. We’d hung out maybe three times prior, but she was there with a blanket and cookie pillow and socks and a coloring book. My daddy flew to me. A colleague’s husband–someone I’d never met–picked him up from the airport. My CEO called me. My friend’s mom, who is rapidly becoming a personal friend, joined me in the ER. Another colleague went to my home to feed and walk my dog. All of them I’d classify as lovely human beings, but I was incredibly touched when they stopped their lives to assist mine. 

6. God will show up. Y’all, I’ve stood on the other side of a hospital bed and watched a respirator mechanically pump my friend’s chest up and down moments before his parents pulled him from life support. I held my cousin while my family said good-bye to my great-grandmother’s lifeless body hours after her death. I know many do not equate hospital with hope. But, today, I do. God used nurses and friends and doctors and strangers to prove to me that I still matter to Him. In the pits of depression, I find myself doubtful of His goodness; but the moment I was hospitalized for chronic IBS, He was there. 

He was there in Nurse Marco who called me “my dear,” and kept my body as stable as possible in the emergency room. He was there in Mrs. Nancy, who dropped everything to sit with me. He was there in Heather, who showed up after my convoluted text. He was there in so many others, more than I even know, who lifted me up to Him. 

What no one tells you about the hospital is that it doesn’t have to be a dramatic life-or-death situation to encounter the Living God. 

Faith Can Be Scary

“Why would you share something so personal with complete strangers?” This is what the voice inside my head was saying as I contemplated writing my book. I was 41 years old and not who people thought I was. I had a secret and was about to go public; and even though I had a sick feeling every time I thought about it, I knew that God wanted me to do this. I had been called.

It all started about a year and a half earlier… I was struggling with the guilt, shame, and doubt that accompanied a life of abuse. I was an only child and had survived a life with an alcoholic mother and sexually abusive father. After being estranged from my parents for many years, I began to worry. I would be unable to sleep at night thinking about what I would do if something happened to my dad. My mom was a stroke victim and he took care of her. As much as I tried to ignore my conscience, the thoughts wouldn’t go away. My sons wanted to know why they couldn’t go visit their other grandparents. As I wrestled with this, God knew it was time for me to face my past and spoke to me very clearly one morning.

It started out as any other Sunday as my family headed to church. Our four sons went to their respective classes, and my husband and I sat next to each other enjoying the worship music. When our pastor began to speak, I froze. He started talking about forgiveness. I knew he was talking to me. The message hit my core, and I was confused and angry as I thought that forgiving my parents would release them from their actions. I talked to my husband and he suggested that I talk to our pastor. Scared to open up about my past, I was hesitant to talk to my pastor but I knew that I needed to. After telling him about my past, he told me the truth about forgiveness. By forgiving my parents, I was not excusing them from their behavior. Rather, I was releasing myself from the pain of the past.

Six months later, my father died and I was left to care for my mother. During this trial, I sought the advice of a Christian counselor. As I unpacked my complicated, messy past and current situation, she smiled and said, “You are a perfect example of God’s grace.” I thought about it and realized that I was. During our next session together, she said it again and then asked me a question that changed my life, “Would you ever consider sharing your story to help others?”

I left her office feeling scared, excited, and nauseous. I immediately made a list of all the reasons that I wasn’t qualified. I tried to forget about it but I’ve learned that when God wants to get your attention, He will keep trying until you respond. I had spent most of my life trying to avoid and deny my past for fear of being judged by others and was fearful of how the people in my life would respond when they learned the truth. I prayed and asked for wisdom and as scary as it was, I knew that I needed to trust God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5–6 (NLT)

As I timidly told my closest friends about my past and that I was going to write about it to help others who may be hurting, I received overwhelming support.

As I reflect on my journey to writing this book and speaking to groups, I am amazed by what God has done with my life. By sharing our stories, we allow God’s good works to shine and give Him the glory that He deserves.

Is it scary? ABSOLUTELY! But God calls us out of our comfort zone so that we can show others what true faith looks like. Are you willing to take the risk to show God that you fully trust Him?

Life Changes, But God Doesn’t

I have lived a very blessed and privileged life. Don’t get me wrong I have worked hard to get to where I am, but my parents were always very supportive in giving me many opportunities to grow. Some might even say I’ve been spoiled. I grew up going to church and I attended a Christian university. Some might even push to say that I’ve been sheltered. In all honesty, I can’t say I disagree.

On the day of my college graduation, as per usual, many pictures were taken to document the important day. I hate every single one of those photos because, at the time, there was severe swelling in my face that contorted my smile into something unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. My friends kept telling me to smile normally, even though I felt like I was. My boyfriend at the time was always by my side to remind me of how “different” my smile looked. In other words, I no longer had the smile that he had fallen in love with. I no longer felt like myself. Unfortunately, within the few months to come, I would start to feel less and less like myself. My life would no longer be the same.

One week following my graduation, I went to my local hospital to further investigate why there was severe swelling in my cheek. A couple days later, what I had thought was severe swelling from grinding my teeth due to stress, I was diagnosed with cancer.

More specifically, it was a tumor in my right cheek known as a malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor. You say, “That’s a pretty wild name! I’ve never heard of anything like that before!” And that makes sense because it’s an incredibly rare type of cancer. This tumor had been growing since January of 2015, but it wasn’t until after I graduated from college in May of 2015 that I was able to get the proper medical attention that I needed. I was diagnosed in June and began chemotherapy treatments one week after my diagnosis.

Once I had announced my diagnosis on Facebook and called my closest friends and family the cards, letters, baked goods, presents, and the encouraging messages came flooding in. Everyone said they were praying for me. I had visitors in the hospital. But I still felt so alone.

I was the one having drugs pumped through me. I was the one losing her hair. I was the one throwing up constantly and being stuck in the bathroom for hours. I was the one with a constant pounding headache. I was the one with such intense mouth sores that it was impossible for me to eat. I was the one crying myself to sleep at night because I didn’t know how much longer I could handle this pain.

To make matters worse, one of the people that I trusted most to stay by my side in this scary trial — my boyfriend at the time — broke up with me in July. One month after beginning treatments and the day before my birthday. I now not only felt alone but pathetic. I felt as though my life was spiraling out of control. My life was falling apart before my eyes and I felt like I was just an innocent bystander. As it is often said by those who are struggling, I too thought, “Why me?”

At this point in my walk with God, He felt more distant than He ever had in my whole life. He was a powerful enigma that was allowing my life to become a living Hell. And I was pissed.

Prayer seemed pointless. Worship seemed like a waste of time. I just needed to focus on taking care of myself because God was doing a really crappy job.

Everyone experiences pain differently and has their own unique struggles. No one can truly understand what I went through, just like I cannot understand what you may be going through right now. But there is one thing I know…

We need to keep living. There will always be pain, but we cannot let that define how we live our lives. We cannot and shall not be buried in the stresses of life such as work, failed relationships, sickness, financial stress, emotional distress, addictions. We cannot let those things defeat us because news flash: God already won. A good friend of mine just reminded me of something amazing: While there are times in our lives that we will feel very distant from God, such as I have throughout the treatment of my cancer, maybe it’s okay to not have our faith grown during the trials but after the trials. God is constantly growing and changing us, and that does not stop when life gets hard. Quite the contrary, because I believe one of the reasons God brought me through this scary season of my life to help me find my way back to Him.

So here I am, almost a year since I began treatment, a completely different person than I was before. Still just as fun-loving and spunky, but completely overwhelmed by what the future holds for me. I’m terrified and relieved, I’m confident but I’m also unsure, and most of all, I’m much more certain of the fact that God truly is in control of my life.

You know those famous Carrie Underwood lyrics, “Jesus, take the wheel”? Catchy tune, right? Well, I’ve learned that Jesus never lets go of the wheel; He’s always in control of our life. It’s just up to us to stop holding on so tightly, trying to control everything ourselves, and go along for the bumpy and beautiful ride that God already has planned for us.

Our lives are far from perfect, but that’s what makes them exciting. That’s what makes us, and our circumstances, so unique. We’re all different, and not one of us is “normal,” we’re always changing and that’s a-okay.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:9–10, whenever he began to struggle, “[God] said to me ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

So I’m not the same as I was almost a year ago, or even a few days ago; but I am stronger. I’m much more comfortable with myself, imperfections and all because I know this is where God wants me. I’m not sure where I’m going, but I know I’m not living this life on my own.

After all I’ve gone through, and will go through, it’s a blessing to be told my smile is still quite beautiful even if it is different. Life, although it may be different, is still beautiful. I promise.