A few weeks ago at church, I was chatting with a friend and her oncologist husband. He noticed a rash on my arm and neck and said, “You know, sometimes people get a rash like that when they have a low platelet count.”
I brushed it off, saying I’d had a rash much like it when I was pregnant with Jane.
That afternoon, I worked for a bit in the yard, pruning our out-of-control mock orange tree. When I stopped after maybe 40 minutes (okay, it might have been 50), I noticed that the veins in my hands and arms were swollen to twice their normal size, bulging grotesquely through my skin—and the rash stood out in stark and scary-red relief against the blue of my veins.
As I stared at my hands and forearms, all bulging blue veins and tiny red spots against pale, pale skin, I remembered Brian’s comment about the platelet count and I just knew I had leukemia or multiple myeloma and that we wouldn’t be able to treat it till after the babies were born and by then it would be too late because I would die mere days after the twins’ birth and Jack and Jane would be devastated and their little hearts would break and poor Doug would be left alone with four children, two of them just babies, and I wouldn’t get to see my children grow up and my twins wouldn’t even remember me, and it was all so sad that I sat there, hypochondriac freak that I am, and cried.
Sometimes, having a vivid imagination is a curse.
When I woke the next morning, it was once more grabbing me by the heart, this fear that I was dying. I knew it was irrational. But you can’t reason with irrational fear. It just is. And boy, that morning, it really was.
Then I read Ann Voscamp’s blog post for the day, in which she said, “Fear is the fleeing ahead.” And I realized that’s exactly what I was doing: feeling afraid not because the present is scary but because the future is or, rather, might be; because I was trying to guess and prepare for The Next Bad Thing.
But in truth my life at that particular moment was good, and I was missing out on its goodness, on God’s presence in the present because I was fleeing ahead.
I stopped running. I sat in the moment. And each time the fear came that day, I remembered Ann’s words and returned to the present and started counting the blessings of that moment.
I ended up having a pretty good day.
(By the way—low platelet count sometimes occurs in late pregnancy and has nothing to do with cancer. Also, I don’t have a low platelet count. I know this, of course, because I went to the doctor and asked them to do a blood test. Said blood test showed something far more prosaic: I’m not eating enough iron. I don’t know how that’s possible, given that I eat enough meat these days to make Dr. Atkins himself (may he rest in peace) positively green with envy, but I guess it’s time to go gnaw on a skillet…)