Finding Hope After a Cancer Diagnosis
I grimaced as I struggled my dark blue jeans over my hips and painstakingly attempted to thread the black leather belt through each loop, one-handed. My left arm was still secured in a plastic, sky blue colored splint and wrapped tightly in a tan Ace bandage, assuring very little movement from my wrist, and preventing any damage to the skin graft that had been taken from it. My left thigh was still burning from the graft that had been removed to cover the wrist.
I paused to rest my arms, scrutinizing myself in the mirror. Oral cancer, its subsequent major surgery of removing half of my tongue and reconstruction, ten days of recovering in the hospital, and three weeks of healing and laying low at home with a very strict diet had drastically changed my appearance—from incredible scars around my neck and arm, to the amount of weight I'd lost.
As I stood there, I felt like I was staring into the hollow eyes of a stranger. A mere two months before, I was full of energy and ready to take on the world. Things weren’t easy. I had known my share of heartbreak and loss, but I thought I knew where God was calling me. I had been pouring myself day in and day out into that calling. But then, the unthinkable had happened. That dreaded “C-word.”
Prior to the diagnosis and surgery, I was active, a non-smoker, singer/songwriter, guitarist, worship leader, speaker and mostly healthy young woman. I saw my path in front of me as continuing to grow in worship and ministry, and unintentionally, I completely defining myself by those titles that I held. This extremely rare cancer was not in the plan…at least not in MY plan. And that day as I stood in front of the mirror trying to catch my breath, my brain was spinning.
“Who am I?” I thought timidly.
Strength returns, scars start to fade, and lifestyle changes occur. I have been throwing myself wholeheartedly into learning everything I can about alternative medicine, holistic living, diet changes, and living intentionally. My days are consumed by resting, healing and research, experimenting with a plant-based diet, and writing my story as much as I can. I want to remember everything. But the pain still lingers, and I’m not the same person anymore. I feel older and wiser. I'm grasping a deeper understanding of our God, of unfailing love--more than ever before.
Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity? -Job 2:10
In the Bible, there is a book in the Old Testament named after the man who inspired it: Job. There have been times I felt somewhat able to relate this man who led a life of submission and trust in God, and one day had everything stripped away from him. Through it all, he never once turned away from God—if anything, his faith was strengthened through the pain. But he asked questions. He wondered why. He tried to figure out the purpose for the pain. And in the end, he was blessed for his unwavering faith despite the trials he endured.
There is an incredible author and speaker that I absolutely love—Holley Gerth—who wrote a book called “You’re Already Amazing” (I highly recommend this book, by the way!). Mid-way through the book, she talks about being encamped, drawing examples from the Israelites who had left Egypt and were traveling to the land—and the future—God had promised them. Sometimes, the circumstances we are experiencing in life, especially the unforeseen and painful ones, leave us feeling exhausted, weary, and struggling. In those times, God says very gently, “Daughter, it’s time to rest.” Restoration, renewal, relief. For me, right now, it’s a time of “encampment” while God prepares my heart for what’s next. A place of waiting.
Encampment and rest do not come easy to me. I’m a “doer,” and I don’t like to dwell on things. I’m a fighter, and being strong in the face of hardship is second-nature. But this time around, I feel like a boxer in the ring who just knocked out her opponent—but she’s swaying back and forth in sheer exhaustion from the fight, bloodied and bruised, as they hold her arms up in victory. She has to smile for the cameras flashing, cheers from an ecstatic, supportive crowd…but all she wants is to lie down and sleep.
And in this place, God is telling me there is no guilt or shame in rest.
Two and a half months later, I’m still trying to understand my journey. But I know that it is MY journey to embark on—and no one else’s.
Are you feeling weary, uncertain, and beaten down by life’s unexpected twists and turns? Then maybe it’s an opportunity to step back and breathe. To rest in the arms of Jesus and allow Him to heal you—mind, body, and spirit.
We are more than conquerors. Imagine what beautiful blessings and opportunities are waiting for us if we will just take the time to heal!
I remain confident of this; I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. – Psalm 27:13
Continuing in this journey, God has been revealing to me His incredible love, mercy and grace when it comes to living out my faith, confidence and trust in Him. It reminds me a lot of the story of David and Goliath, found in 1 Samuel 17. You know the gist of the story, probably by heart, whether you are a Christian or not. On the surface, it's a triumphant tale of a young teenage boy who primarily took care of his father's flock of sheep, and had the courage to take on a well-seasoned, war hero giant ... and won. While everyone else quaked in fear, David was willing to test his faith in the one true God and defeated the champion of the enemy with just a slingshot and a pebble. Pretty crazy, right? How does that story fit in to our every day lives? Is it even relevant?
Digging deeper, I've found that it is absolutely relevant. And it is crucial to our walk with Christ and the battles we face in this life.
There is no way to avoid pain or suffering here on earth. No matter what, you will be faced with struggles, mountains, and seemingly hopeless circumstances. When we receive that phone call from the doctor with bleak test results, when our bank account is so low that we are wondering how we will even have enough to eat this week, when our relationship is falling apart, when we are faced with our own inner turmoil of depression or anxiety...it all feels so big and terrifying.
But God. The two most powerful words you can ever speak over any situation you may be facing. Because we have the confidence that despite how difficult things may seem, we have put our faith and trust in the One who already claimed the victory for us. We do not fight battles in this life desperate for victory, instead we fight our battles confidently from victory.
The Enemy's plan has been thwarted. Walk confidently in the midst of your trials today, because you are so very loved and fought for by Jesus Himself. Rest in the truth that you are never alone in your trials; you have the God of the universe by your side. You are a conqueror!