I sat in the sterile examination room waiting for another mononucleosis test. The nurse practitioner came in and began to examine me. She also noticed the swollen lymph nodes on the side of my neck. Lymph nodes I had noticed for almost a month. They were huge, almost like a large beaded necklace under my skin on both sides. She checked my body for other spots of that nature and asked me a lot of questions. After a few minutes, she asked if she could bring the doctor in. I agreed but was frustrated that I couldn’t get a simple blood test and be on my way.
I felt awful. I had already visited one doctor trying to figure out what was happening to my body. He told me I probably had mono, but the mono test came back negative. The doctor encouraged me to get tested again in a few weeks since sometimes mono tests come back negative the first time. This was the only day during missionary training school when I had enough time to go to the doctor because it was Research Paper Day.
I was supposed to work on a research paper about Austria, the country I would move to in a few months to serve on a team with Greater Europe Mission (GEM), that is, as long as the rest of my monthly support came in. Three years ago, I had started this journey. GEM told me from the beginning that support raising would be tough, but it was also taking so long. God, did I hear You correctly?
Now here I was in the middle of nowhere, in North Carolina, at missionary training school. Progress! I wanted to make the most of this urgent care outing, so I picked a location about an hour away from the school that included a Panera Bread, Target, Chick-fil-A, and a Starbucks. I was homesick for suburbia or at least something that felt like home.
After driving an hour from the campus, my energy was already spent. I got lost trying to find the urgent care center. After finally making it there, I was both frazzled and stressed. I wanted to be finished with this part of my day. I had a paper to write. I wanted to go to Target. I wanted chicken nuggets and waffle fries.
The doctor came in and examined me. He then told me how large my spleen was by showing me how far it stretched across my body, pointing all the way to the middle of my back. This didn’t alarm me because in a mono situation, the spleen is enlarged. But then he felt under my arms and noticed more swollen lymph nodes. “We’d like to do a biopsy,” he said. I froze with the sound of that word. Biopsy. Questions circled in my head. Did I even know what that meant?
The doctor mentioned that it could be an infection or it could be something more serious like a type of lymphoma. I was so done being in that white, boring, and now scary room. I told the staff at the urgent care that I would need to discuss next steps with my parents. How do I tell my parents I need a biopsy when they’re eight hours away in Indiana?
All of a sudden I felt very alone. I left the urgent care center and went to Target. I felt like I was on some kind of survivor’s shopping spree. I spent a lot of money buying easy-to-make food items, Theraflu, and several DVDs. I would sleep this thing off. Rest really should be the answer instead of a biopsy, and I wanted enough entertainment so I could stay in bed. I rarely got sick or went to the doctor. And I was a long-distance runner (my exercise of choice, so I could eat the high-calorie foods I loved so much, such as pizza). So how did I end up at the doctor two times in less than a month?
As I drove back to school, I could barely eat my Chick-fil-A nuggets. I swallowed hard as I said the word biopsy out loud. The sun was setting around the North Carolina mountains. I had to call my parents.
“Hi. How are you feeling? Did you go to the doctor today?”
“Yes, they did another blood test. But they also did a physical examination. They found more swollen lymph nodes and said they want to do a biopsy.”
I couldn’t choke back the tears any longer. I heard crying on the other end of the line. So many details were swimming in my head, so my mom and I said we’d talk more tomorrow. My body was exhausted.
Running on Empty
Most nights I found my bed by 8 p.m. Yet I rarely slept through the night. Some nights I’d wake up completely soaked. Then the pendulum would swing, and my sweaty body would be cold. I’d bundle up and hope that the wireless signal would be strong enough so I could watch Netflix.
How can I leave missionary training school? This has been what I’ve been working toward for almost three years. I pictured the stacks and stacks of envelopes I had mailed to raise monthly financial support. There had been countless breakfasts, lunches, and dinners I hosted where I barely ate because I was focused on sharing my heart for Austria and inviting others to support me on this journey.
This wasn’t the first time I had set toward a goal, sometimes out of sheer determination. I came from a long line of perseverers and performers, acquired from my mom who also loved making lists, planning adventures, and creating function out of chaos. Give us a goal and we’d get there, while seeking to perfect the end result along the way.
Even at age 3, I had the perfect performance ready for whenever guests would come to our home. I couldn’t read, but would hold the book “The Three Little Pigs” and recite the story from memory, coordinating my words with the pictures on each page.
Now, I was proud of the independent, single woman I had become. I could move anywhere, find community, and create a life there. I could be financially responsible and had even managed to raise 75 percent of the funds I needed to move to Vienna. And my new German language skills were good enough to order coffee and even make my way through big cities on public transportation.
My tendency wasn’t just to persevere or perform, but to do it in such a way that it couldn’t fail. Now, here I was face to face with my enemy — failure. And I couldn’t perform my way out of this. I desperately wanted to finish this training so I could finally get to where I wanted to go all along — Vienna, Austria.
However, I couldn’t maintain the schedule and required stamina any longer. After a few days of working out details, I decided I would need to leave school and head back home to Indiana to find out what was going on with my body.
As I lay awake the nights before my dad arrived to drive me home, I sensed God whispering Isaiah 41:10 over me, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Six days after that urgent care appointment, my dad arrived. His laid-back personality and dad-jokes greeted me as he slid into the passenger seat of my car.
After lunch, I handed him the keys. I didn’t have to force myself to keep going. I had been so sick yet continued to write papers. I was so thankful that my dad was there to pack my car for the journey home. Packing my car should not be a difficult task, but I couldn’t be strong any longer. I finally let someone take care of me.
We got on the road the next morning. And I didn’t know where this journey would lead. What would happen to this dream of living in Vienna? I felt so strongly that God had brought me this far. Where were we headed now?
I would eventually be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer. This diagnosis would change every aspect of my life and my future. Before I got sick, I went tandem skydiving; I jumped from an airplane with another person strapped to my back. I came to see my journey with God in a similar way. I was jumping into the unknown, which is never easy. But through every emotion and painful moment, God was right there with me. Each unexpected twist in my story led me into deeper love and greater adventure with Him—a tandem-living adventure.
Excerpted from “Tandem Living” (Krishana Kraft 2017). Used with permission.
Copyright 2017 Krishana Kraft. All rights reserved.