1:30. I punch the numbers and slump against the kitchen counter, waiting. One and a half minutes seems too long. My abdomen is howling, crying out for relief from the cramps. They shoot across my belly, fiery darts skittering through blood vessels and tissue and organs, a jumble of body parts fused together by metastatic disease.
It had been two years since I was diagnosed with endometriosis, four years since doctors initially missed the diagnosis. In between the two surgeries, the cancer-like disease spread to my ovaries and bladder, depositing trigger points in various nooks and crannies of my reproductive system. All it takes is a slight shift in hormones to spark the pain. It starts low, near the beltline, at the epicenter of physical and emotional turmoil, then radiates to my chest, arms, legs, back, and neck.
I lift my eyes to the microwave. From where does my help come? It comes from a loaf-sized pouch filled with beans, magic beans sent from heaven. The hot pack my mom gave me a few Christmases back is one of the few things that helps ease the spasms. Because I don’t want to take narcotics, I have to rely on over-the-counter pain meds, which are truly lame stand-ins for the good stuff. For reasons unknown, that mini bean bag provides the greatest comfort of any pharmaceutical or DIY remedy I’ve tried. It halts the pain just enough to let me inhale without wincing, relaxing muscles and ushering the possibility of sleep.
1:00. Only thirty seconds gone? Why does time drag its feet? Where is its sense of urgency? I peer through the grease-smudged screen and try to mind-meld the hot pack. Heat faster, I tell it. It has to understand why I’m in a hurry. The blue bag spins under the glow of radiation. Its tiny white stars look as though they’re dancing from one frayed corner to the other. I glare at them. They remind me of wishes and dreams and other letdowns.
Along with tearing up my insides, endometriosis ripped apart my life-long desire to carry life. Where extra tissue crept into areas specially designed for childbearing, the chances of a child growing there were getting slimmer and slimmer. Trashed pregnancy tests bore witness to this most destructive consequence of the disease. Under my breath I curse Eve for making such a costly mistake.
Every month, we practice this ritual: me, my hot pack, and the hopes I foolishly revive after each negative result. Surely the Lord will hear me this time. Maybe he lost the memo, or it fell through the crack between his desk and the wall. Or maybe he heard and didn’t care. People tell me, “Just wait. God’s timing is perfect. He’s got something better in store for you.” Clearly, they’re wrong. I keep asking, seeking, knocking, all for what? A giant aching crater that rejects life. Never filled, never satisfied, a raging fire that never declares “Enough.”
0:30. Relief is coming; I can smell it. As the beans cook, the bag starts giving off a distinct odor, like burnt popcorn and bitterness. You can do it. You can hang on ‘til it’s done. My self-pep talk game is weak, but not dead. Like my faith, it lacks gusto—a small breeze could topple it. Yet somehow, I keep breathing. Each exhale brings me closer to deliverance from evil. Oh, I know it won’t last. The beans can only work their magic for so long. They’ll cool and lose their scalding power, then I’ll have to throw the bag in the microwave again. Nuke, burn, repeat.
While I know the hot pack can’t remove the pain for good, I still yearn for its comfort. Temporary alleviation is better than continuous affliction. Of course, it won’t cure my endometriosis. No surgery or medication can. It’s a chronic disease with enduring ramifications for your fertility, overall health, and well-being. Nothing can take it away permanently, though birth control can send it into remission.
With the opportunity for better pain management, why don’t I just take the pills and enjoy the freedom from monthly torture? Scrap the pregnancy idea; take the next exit before wasting more years on this road to nowhere. Why continue pestering God about a door he’s obviously closed?
Unanswerable questions are so annoying, nearly as maddening as menstruation. Who needs to overexert their brain cells on impossible problems? All I know is that I want to keep going. Keep trying. Throw myself at the feet of the author of life, begging for mercy. Begging for the pain to end.
0:05. Almost done. Farewell, needles jabbing at my belly. Your time is short. A lumpy bag of beans will soon squash you, at least for a moment. For five seconds, I can wait for relief.
Ding. Swing wide, o sticky door! I grab the freshly baked bean bag and slide it across my stomach. Collapsing onto the couch, I sigh a heaving “Thank you, Lord.” Warmth floods my skin, pulsing through veins, soothing weary muscles. Finally, I can rest, let the heat work its balming effect.
Hope in my hot pack didn’t disappoint. Maybe I can hope for something else now.