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4 things to remember when you're worried about what's ahead

Facing the unknown has been the hardest part of my health struggles. Here's how I'm trying to make space for uncertainty while I wait for whatever's next.

I impatiently check my phone… for the third time in the last five minutes. I’m waiting to hear back from the doctor. Last week the brain MRI came back normal. Now a full spine MRI is supposed to be scheduled. It’s been almost a full week, and still I wait. The tingling started over three weeks ago. (Yes, another medical ordeal. And no, I don’t make this stuff up. Though I wish I was!)

The sensation of tiny pins and needles started in my hands, spread to my right foot, then finally settled in my right hand and foot going up both the arm and leg. Yeah, weird. In a matter of days, weakness - along with some other strange symptoms - added to the tingling and for the second time in four months, I started having difficulty walking. That’s when I decided something was definitely not right.

What came next was the usual. What’s become the usual for me these days, anyway. Doctor’s appointments. Blood work. Tests (which really are just a bunch of acronyms that represent finding a babysitter, pokes, prods, noise, and so much anxiety - before, during, after.) Not to mention, the inevitable waiting. Waiting to hear back from the doctor’s office. Waiting for the next test to be scheduled. Then waiting some more for the follow up appointment where the results will be given. Then waiting again for the next test to be scheduled. Oh, and while I wait, I can’t walk.

Well, I can but with an uncooperative right leg, it’s more like hobbling than walking. Along with the occasional fall, when my leg unexpectedly gives out. “Can you try to fall more carefully?” my husband asks, as he helps me back to bed and inspects my bruised knee. That’s when I wondered if our life (and relationship for that matter!) would ever be “normal.” It feels like life’s on hold while we wait for a diagnosis. It could be something easily taken care of or it could be life-changing.

Either way, I want to know. Because a diagnosis means information, treatment, and most importantly, a plan. And hopefully a way to walk more than ten feet without limping or collapsing. My phone finally rings! “We’re calling to let you know your insurance has declined the MRI your doctor ordered. The doctor’s office will let you know when things have been worked out and we can schedule the test.” And that’s when the positive vibes ran out. I could almost see my patience fly out the window, literally taking with them the glue that seemed to be keeping my objectivity and sanity in place. Waiting for the MRI means waiting even longer for answers.

Let me just say, I’m extremely aware that my situation could be worse. Much worse. I’ve repeated that reminder in my mind so many times that it’s practically on repeat all on its own. But can I also just say, I’m really ready for a break! And I’m sick and tired of waiting… and being sick and tired! The days and weeks seem to painfully progress in slow motion. Like trudging through mud. Actually, trudging through mud might be a little easier. Trudging doesn’t feel as helpless as waiting. And that’s when I realized the struggle isn’t entirely hinged on the wait - but rather the uncertainty.

The helplessness that weighs on me every time another symptom surfaces, with no explanation of why or what to do about it. Yeah, it’s the unknown and lack of answers that’s killing me. I’m hard-wired to want control and to want a plan. Uncertainty… I really want nothing to do with it! But despite everything, uncertainty is exactly what needs to be given more space in my life right now. So, for the moment, I’ll stop venting and try to be better. Here’s what I’m working to instill in my mind as I hobble around the house, waiting for my phone to ring.

  1. Planning and preparing for a possible outcome does not guarantee a quicker outcome.
  2. Giving space to uncertainty includes giving space to faith.
  3. With faith comes certainty (ironically) that even when things go wrong - or at the very least, unexpectedly - everything will be okay. Always.
  4. Oh, and the best cure for positive-vibe deficiency: stop zeroing in on “me” and start focusing on those around me.
What else can I say? I’m working on it. Meanwhile, I think I’ll go check my phone to make sure I didn’t miss any calls :)

For more encouragement for facing the unknown:

Hard lessons on patience - Patience isn’t about just clenching your teeth and making it through the day. Lessons found in the healing, the enduring, the waiting.

Miracles happen. They really, really do. - The future's full of unknowns, but this I know... miracles happen. My baby girl is proof they do. This is her story.

Or for the next part of the story:

The MRI was finally scheduled... and came with a spontaneous encounter with a stranger that'll stay with me forever Despite normal results, things got worse. Life as a stay-at-home mom became impossible. Then came the unexpected.

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