Flori won the hearts of all who knew her. In her memory, we search for answers to preventable deaths from cervical cancer.
It's Friday night. Mom and I said good-bye to Flori at the hospital this evening. We both left with tears in our eyes. Hard to believe that it was just yesterday morning at 6AM that Randy said to me as I was brushing my teeth, "Anne, Flori is making funny noises." I came running down the stairs to find her having a major motor seizure. We called 911and an ambulance came within minutes....another testimony to the successful system we have here in the U.S.
The paramedics were kind, competent and very concerned. They even expressed interest in joining us on a mission trip in the future. It was all very surreal. We arrived at the emergency room where she quickly had another major seizure. It was hard for me to watch as I have grown to consider her part of my family. But the doctors stepped up and had everything under control within minutes. We then had her admitted to the Intensive Care Unit and the nurses there treated her with the kindest regard. I continue to be amazed at the number of people involved in her care and I pray,ultimately her healing.
I asked Dr. Debbie Guntsch, a family practice doctor,if she would manage her care in the hosptial. Debbie, without hesitation, said absolutely yes. You could sense her deep care for the most vulnerable and needy. Within minutes, I realized that Dr. Guntsch had a great knowledge of the diseases afflicting developing countries and so, she knew all the right tests to order. Another very kind neurologist, Dr. Saraya, also became involved and has been managing Flori's seizures successfully.
So tonight , after receiving all the results of the tests, we really are not sure why this happened. My theory is that it was the culmination of just too many things - her chemo and radiation, too much vomiting and diarrhea, inability to sleep, too much stress, God's plan?? Why???
I often feel frustration and even anger in Guatemala that there is so little medical care and the people suffer so profoundly. Yet, I look at this situation. Despite the best doctors and nurses, the best technology, the greatest research, unlimited generosity and dollars, Flori still suffers and we are still not sure why a girl of 27 would get cervical cancer and why she is having seizures. Melinda and I were down with her on Wednesday night when she was receiving her MRI. She had to lay in that loud tunnel for 90 minutes. All I asked her was not to move and she did so without complaint - no questions, no challenges - just did as asked. While we didn't have the radiologist there, the young man who was doing the test was very knowledgable and so kind. We watched as the films came up on the screen. There was that lump in my throat that you feel when you're hanging on for an answer that you know will change the course of your life. I almost felt as if I was watching a slot machine! Are the results just random? Why do some people who have cancer treatments live and some die? Is it a role of the dice? Was she going to have metastatic disease in her brain? Was there going to be signs of parasitic disease from living in a developing country? Was the tumor in her pelvis bigger?
I was amazed at the knowledge of anatomy that the technician had. As doctors, we often don't give enough credit to all the other health care workers! As the pictures rolled in, we realized that for at least this night, we could still have hope. Her brain was clear, the tumor in the pelvis is still there, though smaller. No obvious lymph node involvement. But what will the ultimate outcome be? Will she struggle along here during the next few weeks and then ultimately be well and return to raise her beautiful children? Will we all have a day in Antigua where we'll share a glorious meal with her family and give thanks to God for healing?
Or will all her suffering be for nought? Perhaps the answer to that question is the crux of our faith. Sometimes we believe that if the outcome of our efforts is not what we want - possibly death - then "we" have failed and God didn't hear Our prayers. It's easy to think that if Flori does not survive, then none of this was "worth it." We could argue that she should be home with her family now. Those of us involved in her care could be doing other things for our own families. But as I live through this, I would argue deeply that yes, it is all "worth it". Through this time, I continue to marvel at the presence of God in every moment. I see His peace in Flori's eyes and she is teaching me what real peace and faith in God is all about. I see God's presence in the hearts of each person who cares for her. One of the nurses who has been caring for her has shown such love for his work. He has all the skills to manage her high tech machines and yet, he humbly helps her through her episodes of diarrhea and vomiting.
I've come to know and love Pastor Lupina Stewart through all this. She is a missionary from Mexico who is working here in Toledo to unite Hispanic and "mainstream" churches; helping each to realize that they will come closer to God in working together. She is such an image of God's love. Somehow, she always knows exactly the right words to help Flori and all of us. Like Flori's, her faith is so beautiful and pure. In days when I begin to feel defeated, I receive a message from her that feels like it is God whispering in my ear.
I've also come to know the Pastor and his wife from the local Latino Church, Torres Fuerte. They came and prayed with Flori in the hospital and have been by her side all along. Their words always remind me that we can find the beauty and goodness of God everywhere - even in suffering - if we only seek Him in every situation.
Flori never stops amazing me with her fortitude, her patience and her humility. She has all the qualities I wishI could have! Whatever the outcome, I know that she has changed my life forever. Thank you all for your support and loving prayers.