Monday, November 27, 2017

Sometimes God opens a door before we even know we need it

Following the Leader                                                                         
By Debra Tomaselli

This story dates back over 20 years ago. The events told here took place just months before my dad was diagnosed with cancer.  (You can read his story here).  This story opens a new chapter of my continuing story of God's abiding presence and care.

Sometimes God opens a door before we even know we need it.
by Debra Tomaselli

I never aspired to be a Brownie leader. 

When my daughter’s third-grade troop leader announced she was retiring, I slipped behind the curtains, hoping another mom would step forward and play the leading role.  Helen and Carol offered assistance, but nobody assumed leadership.

That’s why, when I awoke one morning, I fought the sudden urge to become the troop leader.  Where is this coming from? I thought.  I don’t want to be the leader.  I tried to suppress the idea for days, but it wouldn’t go away. 

I finally addressed Helen and Carol. “If you’re willing to help, I’ll be the leader," I said. "I don’t really want to do it, so I hope someone else offers.  But if we still need…”  I was swept in and inaugurated faster than I could finish the sentence. 

“We’ll work with you,” Helen assured me.  She mentioned an already-scheduled event that I would oversee—a camping trip with a Girl Scout troop.  The older troop would earn a badge by hosting the camp out, and the dates were set.

“Sure,” I said.  Inwardly, I cringed.  With a husband who traveled for business, and two other children at home, this added commitment was daunting.  Why was I doing this?  What had gotten into me?

Just weeks before the camping trip, I underwent a routine physical.  Although the doctor didn't seem overly concerned, he called and asked me to repeat the lab work.  A week later, the doctor’s office phoned again, citing, once again, that it was probably nothing serious, but they scheduled yet a third lab session, saying it may be due to technical problems. 

I felt a bit annoyed. Especially when Linda, the other troop leader, invited me to grocery shop with her for the trip that same day. I explained the situation and why I had to decline. 

Linda began asking questions about my blood counts, using terms I'd never heard before.
"Are you a nurse?" I finally asked.

"No," she said. "I had cancer years ago...non-hodgkins lymphoma."

With that, she shared information about her former battle with lymphoma, admitting she didn't usually talk about it.  When I hung up, I felt a little less annoyed.  After all, I didn’t have to deal with cancer, just an incompetent medical machine. 

We went on the camping trip that weekend. The time together developed a friendship I never would have found in Linda.  As she shared her experiences with the cancer diagnosis, her faith inspired me.

Just days after returning home, the physician’s office phoned again.  My husband had just left town on a business trip. T(his, I might add, was before cellphones. There was no way to reach him.)

“Due to the abnormalities in your blood report,” the lab technician said, “we’ve made an appointment for you with an oncologist...Cancer appears…”  The conversation blurred as I struggled to comprehend the words.  The news left me reeling.

Shaking, I drove straight to my daughters’ school, even though dismissal was still an hour away.  I didn't know what else to do. The whole way I prayed, “Please let Linda be there…Please let Linda be there.”  I knew she’d understand like no other. 

When I arrived, one lone figure appeared in the breezeway:  It was Linda.  

I parked my car and headed straight over to her.  

She looked up. "Hi," she  said. "How are you?"

I burst into tears, explaining the phone call I'd just received, informing me there were abnormalities in my blood and they'd already set an appointment for me to see an oncologist next Tuesday.

"What problems?" she asked. "Did they give you any numbers?"

Yes, they did. I smoothed the crumpled piece of paper I'd jammed into my pocket, and studied my scratchy notes. When I read my SED rate, Linda burst into tears.

"Who are they sending you to?" she asked.

I read the name: "Dr. Robert Reynolds," I said.

I'd never heard of him. When it came to oncologists in my town, I might as well have opened the yellow pages, closed my eyes, circled my hand above the page and let it land randomly on a name. I knew nothing about anyone in that profession.

"I know him," Linda said. She squared her shoulders and regained her composure. "I went to him. He's wonderful. You'll like him."

I wiped my tears. A surge of hope pumped through my veins.


"Yes," she said. "He's the best. He is so caring. He called me with my (good) test results over the weekend even though I had an appointment Monday morning with him. I'd never had a doctor do that." 

We sat on the concrete step outside the Catholic school our kids attended as she calmed my storm. There wasn't anything I couldn't ask Linda. There wasn't any fear I couldn't admit. She'd been there. She knew.

By the time the dismissal bell rang and the kids rushed out to us, I was able to carry on, strengthened by her understanding and support. 

Over the weeks that followed, I was diagnosed with lymphoma.  Linda walked beside me, offering inspiration, faith, strength and hope.  I thanked God, who called me to be the Brownie leader, not only for the children, but to show me that He’d be there for me every step of the way, if only I would follow his call.  

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