Just before her marriage, Elizabeth had developed a tumour on her shoulder which was causing her some degree of pain. Eventually, her doctors decided action was required:
In April, Elizabeth's doctors decided that the lump on her shoulder had to be removed. In the days before anaesthetics, all operations, however minor, were horrific. This one was mercifully quick, but even so, Elizabeth was not able to sleep for a week afterwards, and lost an alarming amount of weight for someone who was so slender. Worst of all, the wound did not heal properly and she continued to suffer pain throughout the summer. In September she and her mother travelled down to Boston, where a leading surgeon, Dr John Warren, agreed to operate again. He told her that the operation would take about five minutes - a bad enough prospect. Instead, it took and hour and a quarter. Julia Willis was with Elizabeth throughout, and was awestruck by the patient's self control. Elizabeth spoke only once during the procedure . 'After the knife was laid aside and the threaded needle was passed through the quivering flesh to draw the gaping edges of the wound together, she asked, after the first stitch had been completed, in a low, almost calm tone, with only a slight tremulousness, how many more were to be taken.'As I read about this I was struck by how fortunate we are to be living now, in the age of medical technology and advanced anaesthetics. After my first daughter was born, I required an operation for the removal of a benign tumour and although an emergency procedure, I had excellent local anaesthesia and good post-operative pain relief. In Elizabeth's day this would have been a potentially life threatening condition and surgery to remedy it would have been well-nigh impossible, yet I was feeding my baby after an hour and home two days later.
We are currently watching the DVDs from the 2005 Desiring God Conference "Suffering and the Sovereignty of God" in our church mother and baby group. This week we watched the message given by Joni Eareckson Tada. Among many powerful things she said, one in particular stood out for me. She explained how every morning, it was a struggle for her to face the day and be able to greet her caregiver with a smile as she came into her room with coffee. She had to pray each day to God for his strength and enabling to get through the day. She then asked the audience who they thought the really handicapped people were. She answered that those who were really handicapped were the people, many of them Christians, who jump out of bed when the alarm goes off, rush into the shower, gulp down breakfast and run out of the door without giving any thought to the God that enables them to do all this. I can certainly see myself in this picture she painted.
So let's stop and remember who gives us all good things and ponder just how many good things God gives us; from the privilege of living in a country with modern medical care to the very air that we breathe each day.