The skin cancer was about the size of a pea on the outside, but as you can see from the picture, it went a lot deeper inside!
We are safely in our house at Arop village. Since I haven’t had much time to blog in the past few weeks, I thought I would write about my travels all in one go.
Just a little tidbit that I found amusing at the beginning of my trip: when I went up to the checkin counter in Port Moresby, the computers weren’t working. Both of the checkin guys slid down behind the counter. Most of us standing in line could all see the tops of their heads the whole time (!) I wanted to get a picture of them but decided against it I thought they were hiding from the shame of not being able to serve us yet. Incidentally, I wasn’t worried at all because we still had over two hours before the flight was supposed to leave and it looked like no one else had been able to checkin for that flight either. They eventually got it working and we all checked in.
I arrived in Brisbane later that day and met my big sister Jenny at the domestic terminal. From there, we took a taxi to the Wycliffe flats and spent the weekend talking, eating, shopping and sleeping. I haven’t had that much kid free time just to hang out with another adult in 14 years!! It helped that it was one of my favorite people.
On Monday I dropped off Jenny at the airport and my friend Lilah and her husband Lyall picked me up. They hosted me for the rest of my time in Brisbane and believe me, they fed me well the whole time. It was fun to stay with people who love to cook and eat spicy/flavorful food!
Lilah went with me on the bus to my first doctor’s appointment so I could go again myself the next day. It worked just like she told me it would, and I found the staff at the hospital really helpful. The first day was just a checkup, where I met the doctor and he told me about the procedure I would have. The second day was the actual Mohs surgery. From what I understand, they took a little bit out of my forehead, and tested it while I waited in the waiting room. They called me back in for another round of removal. After the second testing, they said it was all gone, and that they had cut through the fat layer into the muscle and took about 2.4 cm circumference out of my forehead. I ended up sitting in the waiting room for a cumulative of 3 hours and was really tired by the end. That day I didn’t have much pain at all, so I rested on my own and took a bus back to Lilah’s. However, I accidentally got on the wrong one. Thankfully Lilah set me straight before I ended up on the wrong side of Brisbane!
The next day I took a taxi to the next appointment because it was in the city and at a different location. This time, they had me put on a hospital gown, slipper socks and a cap. When I got to the operating theatre, they knocked me out. The next thing I knew I was really drowsy and nauseated and could barely keep my eyes open. Another friend Keiyeng came and picked me up from there and took me back to Lilah’s, where I ended up sleeping most of the day.
I didn’t think that I was anxious about any of the procedures except that I didn’t sleep very well Monday night through Wednesday. Thursday I started sleeping much better and I realized it was because I didn’t have any more appointments hanging over me.
I did miss my family intensely during those days, especially when Ben would send me a message asking to Skype because Jenny Beth was crying for me. He told me that the twins both learned how to pray by themselves while I was gone as well. However, I knew that this opportunity to rest was a big blessing to me, so I made an effort to focus on that during those days.
Friday was a splendid day because Cori, a friend of mine from college, had Lilah book me a massage—this was my first spa massage ever! I thoroughly enjoyed it. Afterwards, Lilah and I went shopping and had one of my favorite things, Subway sandwiches, for lunch!
Over the next two days I was able to shop some more at a spice shop and Ikea and have fish and chips with Lilah, Lyall and Lyall’s mum for mother’s day.
I left Brisbane on Monday, the 14th. The checkin line at Virgin Pacific took an hour, so I had 15 minutes at the gate before boarding (a little too close for comfort in my book.) When I got to Port Moresby I couldn’t find my bag. It looked like everybody else had found theirs. Eventually I realized someone had taken it off the conveyer belt. Phew!
At this point, I started feeling a little panicky because I only had 2 hours total in POM to get to my flight to Wewak where I was planning to meet my family before leaving for the village together. I saw that they had checkin signs for different flights so I texted Ben “I think Air Niugini is more efficient than Virgin Pacific!”
This is where it got not so funny….I got up to the counter finally and the lady told me “just go over there.” So I went to another counter where another lady was being trained and seemed to be very confused about filling in the computer forms. People were putting their tickets/passports on the counter and being served so I spoke up and said “I’m going to Wewak.” They looked up at me and told me “the plane is full” I replied (a teeny bit on the loud side…perhaps a bit teary too?) “I have to get there today!” I didn’t have anything organized in POM in case I was stuck there. So they took my passport and weighed my bag, telling me that they couldn’t give me a boarding pass until I paid overweight charges. I had 7 kilos more coming into PNG than I had domestically. I ran over to the overweight baggage counter and when the man finally was able to help me, he kept clearing and retyping the numbers over and over into his calculator to find out 23-17. By this time I was so nervous that I blurted out “my plane is leaving in 15 minutes!” He finally got the receipt made, I paid it, and ran back to the counter to get my boarding pass.
The story doesn’t end here folks…I walked up to the open doors and asked “is the flight leaving for Wewak?” A lady told me “yes! Hurry, go to gate 10.” Well, there was no gate 10 marked anywhere, and I ended up going all the way to the end, and started getting on a plane. A man who had been in line behind me told me that I was on the wrong plane because he was too! I guess being the loud white woman made me memorable that day?!
So I made it to Wewak, and had dinner and breakfast the next day with our good friends there…and pretty soon it was time to greet my family at the airstrip. Jacob and Jenny Beth seemed a little dazed when I saw them, maybe they were wondering if I had disappeared forever while I was gone. They kept asking about my owie and did I see the doctor. Then Jenny Beth told our friend Chris who was the pilot that day, “dat mine plane!”
We got back to the Wycliffe center in Wewak and found out fairly quickly that the car that Ben had booked to take us to the village couldn’t pick us up after all. He ended up finding two other cars and told them that he would go on whichever one arrived first. At 2:00 pm, one showed up. We put all our cargo in, and with the exception of having to wait while they changed a flat with the spare from our car, we were off.
The trip itself was probably one of the hardest trips I’ve ever been on. We were on some pretty hard seats for over 7 hours on very bumpy bush roads. I spent a good deal of the time trying to absorb the bumps for Jenny Beth and prayed that my backside would just fall asleep. By 9:00 we were all feeling exhausted so Ben asked the driver if we could please overnight in Aitape. He agreed readily and Ben found out that we could stay at a guest house. I am so grateful for this, because after a good night’s sleep, I didn’t feel like leaving Papua New Guinea for a more comfortable existence. I often find that things look so much better in the morning, especially after a nice breakfast of scrambled eggs made by our teammate Jessie. J The kids, Jess and I took a little walk to a small grocery store and bought snacks for the journey and also to the market to get some kau kau (sweet potato), cucumber and tomatoes for our first couple of meals in the village.
The next car ride was only 1.5 hours, and Ben had secured the cargo so that it wasn’t falling on him and Jessie like it was the night before. Also I had bought a pillow at Papindos to sit on so the bumps didn’t affect me as much.
As we were driving, I told my kids how I was proud of how flexible they are. The night before I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and wondering how they were faring. Apparently they did much better than I did, because Noah blurted out, “it’s fun to be bounced around!” During the night when we were travelling Jacob (2 ½) kept looking out the windows and looking for stars. He said “I’m painim stars!” (finding) He would then sing his version of “Twinkle Twinkle” and proceed to get mad whenever the trees would cover them. Jenny Beth did well and stayed happy as long as she had Jessie’s fleece wrapped around her in some way.
When we arrived in our village, we walked a short way from the car to our house. Even before the twins saw our house they started shouting “dat mine house!!” It really warmed my heart to know that they knew where we were going. Noah and Ellie were fantastic about looking after the little ones while we swept out the cobwebs and wiped down all the shelves, counters, tables and bookshelves.
This afternoon, Jacob woke up from his nap crying and covered in sweat so I said “let’s go outside and you can have your drink out on the veranda.” While we sat on the steps of our house, four different ladies came up to us at different times and said hello and chatted for a bit. In all of my 10 years here, I haven’t had that many ladies purposefully come over to me and initiate a conversation in such a short time. (Well, one stood and smiled and let me ooh and ahh over how big her baby had gotten! She’s not much for talking but she does have a beautiful smile.) I know it might seem like a small thing, but I think God gave that to me today to encourage me that people are noticing that we are here and are glad for it.
Tonight Ben is working on getting printed copies of Acts ready for our consultant and the mother tongue speakers who have come to help in the checking process. I have to say I am really grateful to be here, sitting underneath my mosquito net with my incision healing nicely, and the ability to use the internet in the village. J I really feel like the whole experience of me getting the skin cancer removed and the pieces that fell into place along the way evidenced God’s mercy to me and to my family as well. I have never seen Ben so happy to see me as he was yesterday, after caring for our five children on his own! One thing he said was “it’s hard to think about yourself when you are looking after so many other people.” (He almost forgot to pack his own things for the village). That made me smile. He gets motherhood!
Tomorrow will be a flurry of unpacking, pulling out homeschooling materials for Noah and Ellie, cooking and chasing down the twins and mopping our very dirty floor. But I will at least start the day grateful (I hope!) for all of the things God did for me these past two weeks!
If you made it all the way to the end of this saga, I’m impressed, I didn’t mean for it to be this long! Thanks for listening in….