Exactly six years ago today I was in a Chicago suburb hospital waiting to have my thyroid removed. Just two weeks prior the doctor had given me the greatly unsettling results of my biopsy. The dreaded “C WORD” of cancer was suddenly part of my life. I remember hearing him say the word “cancer” and then all I saw was the movement of his mouth. I think I just sort of zoned out after that until I heard him finally ask if I had any more questions. I blankly stared at him for a few minutes and then the tears came. But in that moment believe it or not the only thing I could think to ask was, “So how big a scar will that leave on my neck?”
My husband was sitting next to me and the look on his face said more than words could have. I knew he was thinking, “Are you kidding??? The doctor just said you have cancer and you are worried about a scar!!!” But being the loving, gentle and wise man that he was and is, he just put his arm around me waiting for the answer to my rather dumb question. I can look back now and chuckle at how silly my statement was at the time but there was no humor in that moment.
The surgery itself was the easy part. It is really pretty amazing to know that you can go in early in the morning on a day, get cancer removed from your body and be released to go home to your former happy life the following morning. Uh…not so much! Little did I know that I was about to embark on a very rough journey back to regain my health. The four months that followed after the surgery were some of the worst I had ever endured in my health. The plan was for me to have a radiation ablation about 8 weeks after the surgery to insure that any possibly hidden random cancer cells in my body would be destroyed. In order to do this I had to get to a point that I had no thyroid function left.
Did I say NO THYROID FUNCTION?!? I remember in nursing school reading and learning all about that little thyroid gland and of its importance to the body. But trust me, reading about a lack of thyroid and living it out are two very different stories! All I can tell you is that my body pretty much shut down to a minimal reserve of energy over the weeks of waiting for the ablation. I had never experienced such a lack of stamina. The word “weak” did not even begin to describe how I felt. By week four after the surgery it was all I could do most days to force myself out of bed, take a quick shower and literally fall back into bed to sleep again. Even trying to blow dry my hair was a task. My arms felt like they were hanging from thin rubber bands ready to break. By week six I was in a deep fog and I could not even sleep for more than an hour at a time. My blood pressure and pulse would drop so low when I tried to sleep I literally felt like I was “slipping away” and would simply never wake up. When my sleep deprivation was so bad I thought I would lose my mind, my dear husband actually would lay awake to watch me sleep for my own peace of mind to know that I would wake up. The foggy state of mind forced me to quit driving or do anything that required clear thinking because I could no longer trust my decision making. I was in a struggle to just make it hour by hour by the time my ablation was to be performed the Monday after thanksgiving that November. I felt like my mind and body were in the midst of a raging storm and could not even begin to see my way out.
Finally by nothing more than God’s grace I did make it out of the storm and the struggle to survive was coming to an end. Without a doubt I know that my faith in God, the countless prayers of so many people, and the love and support of my husband and children were the things that kept me going and finally pulled me through to the other side of my battle. I have learned over the years that I have always found God to be closer to me in those stormy seasons. It is not that he is not with me only in the good times because I believe his presence is always with me. What I am saying is that in my times of greatest weakness I have found his presence to be with me in a way that is more tangible than ever. I have learned that…
…the truth that God shows me in the light is still true in the darkest moments.
…the truth that God reveals to me on the mountain top is still true in the deepest valley.
…and the truth that God gives me in my moments of laughter is still true in the flood of my tears.
The day that I received the cancer diagnosis God spoke to my heart and gave me a promise of healing. But he also told me my healing would come through a test of “fire” and that once the trial was over I would emerge stronger in many ways than I could imagine. To those who do not know God or understand his ways this may seem almost sadistic. Why not just say a word or do a miracle and make the cancer disappear? After all He is God, right? I want to say that I HAVE seen God do miracles. Not just in my life but in those of others. Yes I know he is well capable to do that. But I also know he always has a plan and purpose beyond what I can see in the immediate future. That is where faith comes in. Faith requires two things on our part. First we must BELIEVE that God will do what he promises. Secondly—and this I believe is the key—we must TRUST God enough to allow him to do things in HIS way and in HIS time. The answer he brings may not be the answer we thought it would be but it is always the best for each of us. So here I am six years later as a cancer survivor who goes once a year for a follow up. Every year my doctor says that my tests are so clean it is though the cancer was never there! All I can say is, “Thank you Jesus for being my Healer!”
I know as some of you read this you too are in a terrible struggle, a fierce storm and you see no way out. Your battle may be physical but it could just as well be emotional, mental or spiritual. It really does not matter what you are going through because God is bigger than anything you face today. He sees each of us every moment of every day. I promise you that not one single tear nor one solitary cry in your struggle is ever missed by God. I wish I could tell you when your storm will pass but that is not for you or I to know. I can tell you that it will pass. Hold on…press on…do not give up. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Weeping may endure for the night but joy does eventually come in the morning.
If you are going through a difficult time right now I invite you to leave a comment at the end of this story. I want to pray for you that you will see the loving and sovereign hand of God move on your behalf very soon. You don’t even have to give any details if you do not want to but you can just say: “Pray for me.” God knows the details and I know and understand the power of prayer. That is what really matters.
“And we know that God works all things out for good for those who love him…” Romans 8:28