There’s a scene in the movie Pulp Fiction (yes, Pulp Fiction again), where Vince, played by John Travolta, and Jules, Samuel L Jackson, stand side by side in an apartment to execute a couple of young punks. For those that have seen the movie, it needs no explanation. It is the “Divine Intervention” scene. There is some debate about what Quentin Tarantino was or wasn’t trying to communicate to viewers in this scene, but, suffice to say, one of the kids, initially hidden in a bathroom with a large handgun, jumps through the door, screams at Vince and Jules, and fires off several rounds at them from very close range. Only, nothing happens. He either misses or the bullets pass right through the two men (or the kid is firing blanks, depending on your interpretation). Regardless, Jules turns to look at the holes in the wall behind them and concludes that God had protected them. Divine Intervention.
A few weeks have passed since my last post. Sometimes I don’t have anything clever to say. Sometimes I don’t know how to meaningfully interpret what I experience. At the moment, it is the latter for me. Like Jules’ stunned expression as he turns to look at the holes in the wall that he believed should rightly be in him, I’m frequently amazed by seemingly infinitesimally unlikely events, the power of prayer, and the fact that I’m still alive based on medical probabilities. As I’ve written before, I’ve recently been dealing with disheartening complications about which I have concluded must be indicative of worsening or improving disease. And so I had a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis last month, and a week later I had a thorough cystoscopy of my bladder.
I had prayed for peace and trust no matter the findings. And, given the somewhat inconclusive results, I think the doctors expected me to be frustrated and discouraged, as I have been previously. Honestly, I was “low key” thrilled. I dared to report to friends and family that I had received great news: the radiologist reported stable disease. Inflammation, yes, but no evidence of worsening disease, so I remained on the current treatment. And, as far as the urologist could tell, there is no dangerous fistula that might disqualify me from subsequent clinical trials should I need a different therapy in the future. Great news.
It may surprise many, but I’m not easily convinced. In this I am growing.
The cytoscopy I mentioned was performed under general anesthesia during a procedure to have my ureteral stents exchanged. If you have no idea what this means, understand that I now need the stents in my ureters to ensure urine flow from kidneys to bladder. Perhaps strangely, I rather like general anesthesia. I like propofol, the drug that is given to induce unconsciousness. And I sometimes like another drug that is often administered, Versed, a drug that calms and makes you feel pretty good but also has the side effect of the loss of “vocal filter”, which has caused me to embarrass my wife with the things I say upon regaining consciousness (though not as funny as this guy: man hits on wife).
As I lay in the bed prior to the procedure, I felt relaxed. The nurses had no issues finding a vein and inserting an IV needle, which has often been the case. And though the procedure before mine went long and I waited in bed without benefit of distraction for well over an hour, I didn’t find myself worrying about what the urologist would find. Would he find the spread of disease which would explain my symptoms? Would he find a fistula that would disqualify me from future trials?
“It’s going to be OK no matter what,” I kept telling myself, “God has been taking care of you all this time.”
And I told the anesthetist, “I’ll pass on the Versed.” I didn’t need to be calmed.
When my turn came, they rolled me down the hall to the procedure room. I awkwardly moved from the bed to the surgical table, as one does when covered only by a thin gown and socks. I told the team to be sure and tell me when they injected the propofol, because I love to count out loud until it’s time to say good night (I think I made it to 20, this time). But I remember imagining the voice of God asking me, as they placed the oxygen mask over my face, “Do you trust me?” The question echoed in my head, even as I counted.
These 10 seconds or so played out like the reading of Walter Gibson’s “Sure Thing” poem at the end of the 1985 film of the same name and starring John Cusack (see below). In the movie, Walter’s English Lit teacher reads his poem to the class, narrating a scene where a girl repeatedly asks Walter, John’s character, “Do you love me…do you love me?”. To which, after a pause and with poetic affect, the teacher responds, “…the answer…was…no.”
“Do you trust me?”, God asks us. “Do you trust me?”, I imagined him asking me as the operating team organized the room, connected wires and arranged high-tech instruments, and absently but patiently talked to me. “Do you trust me?”, as the plunger of a small syringe filled with a milky-white fluid was depressed into my IV–the propofol. “Do you trust me?”, as I lucidly began counting. “Do you trust me?”, as my vision began to dim like an old TV powering off in slow motion. “Do you trust me?” as the crew and I exchanged “good nights.”
“Do you trust me with your life?”, our Creator and Provider asks.
And, like the carved scrawl of Joseph of Arimathea in the the Caves of Caerbannog in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, my thoughts faded out, but a voice inside responded “…..yesssssssssssssszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”.
Somewhere out in dreamland, the dialogue between Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega, as they reacted to their survival from certain death, continues to reverberate in the spiritual and material worlds:
Jules: “We should be ****** dead now, my friend! We just witnessed a miracle, and I want you to ****** acknowledge it! ”
Vince: “Okay man, it was a miracle, can we leave now?”
And then I woke up. And the doctor told me everything looked stable. And he had addressed some of my complications. And life goes on.