A Collection of Essays

In Times of Uncertainty

Dear Reader,

“He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” – Psalm 91:11

Sometimes when I am reading my Bible it feels as if the words leap off the page. In those moments, I do not often know why but I write the verse down. File it away. And God often brings it to my mind later when it is most needed.

Ps 91:11 is that verse. Years ago, when we were first moving into our home, I found a little metal plated plaque with the words of Ps 91:11 inscribed on it.  I bought it and placed it in my home office on the bookshelf – deep down I knew I was going to need those words someday. I just did not realize at the time how significant they would become.

It has been almost a year since I found out that I had cancer. The emotions associated with that experience have taken a while to piece through – I think when we hear the word “cancer” our brains go into this “flight or fight” mode where deep emotions are often tempered.

At least that is what happens to me – I am a problem solver so in moments like this I go into full blown solve this problem mode. Except this was not a problem I could really solve.

In the summer of 2014, I as diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. 45 days later my son would receive the same diagnosis.

It was a strange time, but I have never once felt like it was a problem I could not solve. Sure, some things in our lives have changed. And yes, sometimes I am annoyed when my blood sugar does things for absolutely no reason whatever so ever! BUT I have always felt this special grace about it – like no matter what it was all going to be ok.

But about six months after my diagnoses, I began to have problems. I would get these bouts of intense pain in the upper portion of my stomach right next to my rib cage. The pain was so intense sometimes that I felt like I could not breathe. It would last for about twenty minutes and then just subside.

This happened a few times and I just ignored it. I know that sounds crazy BUT listen I had no time to be sick! I just started in real estate. I was learning to be a working mom again and I just could not stop moving. So, I would have an episode. Chop it up to something I ate. Adjust my diet and just move forward.

This went on for a while.

Then, in the summer of 2016 the episodes were happening more frequently and began to last longer. I decided to see my primary care physician. He told me to stick with a liquid diet for a bit and see if that helped.

But that recommendation created a problem – one of my very best friends was getting married that weekend and I was NOT going to miss out on all the fun. I thought I would get through the weekend and start his recommendation on Monday.

It did not make it to Monday before I had one of the worst episodes I had ever experienced. So, against all my better judgement I went to the ER. I literally hate the ER.

Once I got back to a room, they ran a ton of tests – they even did a CT scan. It was determined from my testing that I had something called pancreatitis. I had never heard of that before but quickly learned it was an inflammation of the pancreas.

My levels were through the roof!

AND the ER doctor was less than kind about it. Typically, pancreatitis is caused from the overuse of alcohol. The night before I had been at a wedding where I had enjoyed a few glasses – not realizing this would make the inflammation worse. I explained to the ER doctor this but told him that I did not drink alcohol frequently just on occasion.

He did not believe me.

In fact, he noted in my chart that I was an alcoholic – a classic case of alcohol induced pancreatitis.

At this point they told me that I was going to be in the hospital for a few days hooked up to IVs and that I would not be able to eat until my levels improved. I kept thinking this felt like a temporary solution. I knew something was wrong and could not understand why they were not doing more.

My primary care physician ended up coming to the hospital. To this day, I am so grateful for him. He would later serve as the catalyst for finding my cancer.

He told me about the note in my chart. That because I was being treated as an alcoholic they were not doing more. He ended up having that removed from my chart and suggested my gallbladder be taken out. I went in for emergency surgery that night.

I thought that this would resolve my episodes but about six months later they returned.

The episodes would come and go. Sometimes I would land in the ER. Each time they would do a CT scan. Only to say they found nothing. Since my gallbladder was gone – they kept telling me I had acid reflex. So, I was prescribed medication. Told to change my diet and sent on my way.

This went on for two years.

Until April of 2019.

I began to have an episode like I had never experienced. The same pain was there like before BUT this time I was so nauseous I could barely move.

After days of this I went to the same ER. The first night – they did NOTHING. Did not even perform a CT scan. They pumped me full of fluids and sent me on my way. The next day I returned. I told them there was something wrong and they HAD to do something.

They ended up doing a CT that night but said they saw nothing. I was frustrated. I just knew they were missing something, but I felt helpless.

Again, they sent me home.

The next day my primary care physician called and said he saw something on my CT scan. He said there is small stone in your pancreatic duct that seems to be blocking the fluid from flowing freely. He also explained that the tail portion of my pancreas was also significantly smaller than it should be. He said I do not know what is going on, but you need to see a specialist in Seattle.

I felt relieved and scared at the same time – someone was finally listening to me but being referred to a specialist in Seattle gave me the impression that this was more serious than what we thought.

To this day I cannot tell you why I went alone to my appointment in Seattle. Sometimes my fiercely independent side annoys me – in hindsight I should have taken someone with me.

After I checked in for my appointment and was taken into the exam room, one of the attending doctors came in and asked if I wanted the conversation recorded. I thought that was the strangest question ever.

I remember thinking – I do not have memory issues, dude – I just have stomach pains we need to resolve. So, I declined the recording and said I would be fine.

The physician came in a few minutes later and began to say that I had a tumor. A tumor that had blocked my main pancreatic duct which caused the pancreatitis and destroyed fifty percent of my pancreas.

The room start spinning. The doctor said a lot after that BUT honestly, I just felt like I was standing outside of my body watching some scene from a movie.

I think perhaps this why they ask if you want a recording.

The word cancer also kept getting thrown around. IT was all A LOT to take in.

That weekend I thought a lot about dying. What that would mean for my family. How life felt so incredibly fragile. It is strange to feel like your whole entire life sits before you in some minute to thinking it might all end quickly.

It was just so much to process. There were so many unknowns. I felt like I was standing in limbo not knowing where life was going to take me.

By the next Tuesday I was having surgery to remove a portion my pancreas from the place where the tumor sat to the area it had destroyed.

At this point they did not know whether the tumor was cancerous – they just knew it needed to come out.

I found out that Friday after surgery that it was cancer. The particular tumor I had was a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (PNET). They call it the silent tumor – it often sits quietly in the pancreas undetected and spreads like wildfire through your body.

BUT mine – it had not really grown. My surgeon was able to pull all my records from the previous three years at the ER and see that my CT scan showed this tumor every time.

The tumor had sat there undetected for three years and yet, had not grown.

It did not spread.

It was contained right there in my pancreas.

The other thing I found out later is that this tumor does not respond to chemo.

It often spreads quickly throughout your body, does not respond to chemo and goes undetected so by the time it is detected it often too late. This is why the mortality rate for pancreatic cancer is so high.

It really is a silent killer.

To this day I feel intensely grateful for this moment – I do not know what would have happened had I waited. Had my primary care physician not stepped in. And had not went back to that ER a second time.

But what I do know is this – Ps 91:11 is real. God sent angels to watch over me when I did not even know I needed to be watched over.

When I did not know I was walking around with cancer in my body.

God protected me.

I share this story today because we are in uncertain times. The world seems a little off its axel and we need hope. We need hope in knowing that GOD is watching over us. That He has sent his angels to protect us. This we can be certain of.

When all else seems uncertain we can be certain in God. In His protection.

Rest in that today my friends,

Kara Jess

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