This is a quote from one of my favorite pastors, Rev. Mark Pitton. The quote plays a significant role in the latest story from The Cities of Luna, Pastor Pastornack’s Sabbatical. The story is dedicated to him.
By the way, a PDF is available for free to any and all members of the clergy and/or seminary or anything remotely resembling the profession. Just ask me on facebook or send Gmail to USNessie.
My husband and I tried for eleven years to have a baby. Our church in Montpelier, Vermont, followed along through the years as we eventually became foster parents to a wild little redhead. Her adoption was finalized a few years later, and she was baptized with her new name the Sunday after. It happened to be Easter Sunday.
Besides enjoying the attention from her baptism, our daughter had the boon of announcing to the congregation that day “And Mommy’s pregnant!”
Our lives were filled with overwhelming joy and trepidation. Yes, the adoption was final at last, and we no longer had to sit through the hearings for termination of parental rights, listening to all the awful things our daughter suffered with her birth family. But there was still a long road ahead, dealing with the ramifications of that abuse. Yes, I was finally pregnant, but the list of things that could go wrong echoed in my brain.
Our younger daughter was born healthy, quacking like a duck, by unplanned C-section very close to her due date. I was induced due to preeclampsia, After thirty-six hours of labor, I still hadn’t progressed, so we decided to do the C-section. Other than an odd little dimple near her tailbone, she was healthy and happy and we spent the next month in baby boot camp.
It wasn’t until she started walking that we noticed something wrong. There seemed to be a lump on her back. However, as any mother of a toddler knows, they’re too squirmy to be able to check something like that for sure.
I took her to the pediatrician. Our doctor is very good at checking out any and all of Mom’s concerns. She, too, felt the lump, but it was pretty small.
She told us to check back a few weeks later at the baby’s regular appointment, so she could compare.
At that appointment, the pediatrician said that the lump had grown, and she wanted my daughter to have an ultrasound. After that appointment, the technicians told me to wait.
They were sending us over to pediatric oncology.
That word made my heart freeze. I knew what lumps could be…the dreaded “C word.” But my baby? After such a long journey to have her?
So we went to oncology. Not long after, my baby was scheduled for an MRI as part of a pre-surgery preparation.
Back to church.
I’ve never been shy about sharing joys and concerns. This time, I told the congregation that my baby, not even a year old, might have cancer.
The pastors are a husband and wife team. Pastor Amy continued to lead the service. Pastor Mark came down, sat next to me in the pew, put his arm around me, and said…
It was the most comforting thing anyone could have said at that moment. Yes. Crap. Crap indeed.
I just cried.
I’ll summarize the rest, and hurry on to the Happily-Ever-After. The MRI showed that, yes, there was a lipoma. But there was something else…a tethered spinal cord. This is when the nerves at the end of the spine, instead of spreading out where they need to go, are stuck like someone put a piece of gum on her tailbone. Left untreated, she could eventually be paralyzed.
It was good we found it early. This happened seven years ago, and she’s a healthy, active eight-year-old now.
The lipoma was a side effect of the tethered cord. One surgery to remove the lump was relatively simple, just an overnight in the hospital to make sure she’s OK, and it turned out to be benign.
The second surgery was more complicated. A couple of months later, she was admitted again, and the pediatric neurosurgeon operated to fix the tethered spinal cord.
For a scary three days, I watched as my daughter, who had just learned to walk, lay quietly in bed, flat on her back, with strict instructions posted over her crib that she could only be moved by a ‘log roll.’
After those three days, though, she was able to sit up. She didn’t seem to be in any pain. She enjoyed being pushed around the pediatric ward in the little pink car.
A year later, her follow-up declared her to be fine. Seven years later, she remembers some of what happened, but mostly because we’ve told her the story. She knows she has not only a weird dimple, but two surgical scars on her back.
But she’s fine.
This is how I take incidents and observations from real life and put them into fiction. Pastor Amara Pastornack isn’t dealing with the prospect of a medical procedure on her very young daughter. Her daughter has grown and flown the nest. But life has dealt her with plenty of crap, much of which is much too personal for anyone in her life to offer any real condolences.
No one’s going to sit next to her and say “Well, crap.”
Not every story in The Cities of Luna is this heavy. But the stories are all about the people…the Loonies…and what they go through in their everyday lives. Some of it is heavy, like in the upcoming story Backbone. Others, like My Weird, Beige, Foreign Neighbors are much lighter.
But they are all very real, even though they are fiction, even though they are science fiction.
Because they are about humans. And whether those humans live in Europe, Asia, or on the moon…
They are people.
Like you and I.
And Pastor P.