The story

Last July, I started having some pain.

Like any rational, normal mother of three, I ignored it.

Six weeks came and went, and it became obvious that ignoring it was not going to be prudent. I could now palpate a large mass, probably four-by-three inches. It was extremely painful and worrisome.

Unsure of what it was or even what type of doctor to see for it, I took a wild guess and ended up at the office of a gastroenterologist (Dr. Google and my best guess said it was a hernia). The GI doctor took one look at it and immediately sent me downstairs to see a surgeon. He said it was an abscessed cyst and needed to be taken care of right away.

The surgeon lanced it in his office while a nurse held me down, and I laid on his table and just sobbed. It was the worst pain I have ever felt in my entire life. Natural childbirth? Broken bones? NOTHING compared to this. Nothing. It was surreal. I was immediately put on two different types of antibiotics, and given strict instructions for cleaning and packing the wound with gauze.

Weeks passed. I was in and out of that surgeon's office, sometimes daily. I was on round after round of antibiotics. The beastly thing was just not healing. Physically, I was a mess.

And mentally? I was falling apart. Tasks that had once been routine and mindless were daunting and impossible. It was a challenge just to get out of bed every day. I found myself frequently collapsing in tears. I was unable to function, and completely miserable. I lay there, night after night, sobbing into my pillow and wondering if I was strong enough to survive this.

And fearing deep down inside that I wasn't.

The Husband was a trooper. He held my shaking, sobbing body again and again, and told me it was going to be all right. He took over laundry and cleaning when he could. He prayed quietly with our children that I would heal quickly and get better soon. They hugged me anxiously, worried looks on their faces, and asked me every day if I was better yet. Hannah's tears frequently mirrored my own, and I watched helplessly at the toll this was taking on my family.

Through it all, we went through this hell completely alone. I did not tell a soul for several months. I just kept thinking it would get better and it never did. I retreated inside myself and thought I was doing a great job of hiding it from everyone. I patted myself on the back for my bravery and stoicism out in the world, all while weeping over my misery at home.

When a good friend came up to me and quietly asked if she had done something to offend me, the tears just spilled over and the story came out. I was failing at putting on a good face, and hurting others in the process. My mother and mother-in-law were called, and a few close friends told. Simply unburdening myself with the news was such a relief. It helped to have someone to call and vent to when the news was not good. It was nice (for the Husband, definitely) that I had other shoulders to cry on. Meals, hot rolls, diet cokes, and books were brought to my door. I cried at my stupidity in not telling my people sooner.

None of that changed the fact that the abscess refused to heal. It was early November, and after yet another useless visit to the surgeon, I wept in the elevator, unable to hold in the tears before reaching the car. I choked on the sobs, as I told the Husband over the phone what the doctor had said. I was defeated. I was so afraid that my life would never return to normal. I did not know how I could face it any more. I was spent.

In a whisp of inspiration, the Husband remembered a surgeon in Florida he had spoken with at a conference the week before. Laughing that he hadn't thought of it sooner, he said he was going to call and get his opinion. Bless his heart, that surgeon said I should have been operated on MONTHS ago and should immediately seek a second opinion.

The second opinion was sought, and I was in the operating room the next week. It was really bad. He said he had never seen a cavity so badly infected before. He placed a drain and said it would likely require a second surgery once some healing had taken place.

Six weeks passed, and the pain was no better. I was beginning to feel numb to my life and resigned to unhappiness. I went through the motions of Christmas preparations. I could barely summon the strength to do much of anything. The usual joy of present shopping was undertaken online and in a hurry. I felt like I was standing still, while everything else was spinning wildly around me. I felt run down and exhausted. I hated this unhappy person I had become. I wondered what it felt like to smile and laugh.

The second surgery took place a week ago today. The doctor said the wound was starting to collapse in on itself and he was able to cauterize it.

He said it was starting to heal.

And for the first time in six months, I am virtually pain-free. For the first time in a long time, I have hope that I just might be myself again. That I'll laugh with my kids and be active. That I'll take care of my family instead of them taking care of me. That I'll be happy.

For the first time in what feels like forever, I have hope again.

I have HOPE.