Today marks one year since I heard the words “you have cancer.” One year. In some ways it seems like a lifetime ago and in other ways it seems so recent. So much has happened in one year and I am grateful to be able to sit here and tell you that the fear and trepidation I felt that day has been covered by peace in this past year. I have grown more as a person, as a wife, a mother, a friend, and a daughter of God in one year than I had my previous 30 years combined. I still have so much more to learn and grow but I can truthfully tell you that I am grateful for this cancer diagnosis. I am not disillusioned or crazy when I say that. God has used this cancer journey to teach me so much about myself and about Him. God has been more real to me in the past year than He ever has been. It’s not that he didn’t want to be that real before, it’s that I was too busy to listen to him.
In the past year, God has directly answered prayers, sometimes within a day. A few times, the answer has been one I DIDN’T want…like “no, I will not miraculously heal your cancer” and “yes I want you to go through chemo and surgery.” You’d think those answers would make me angry. I’ll be honest, I had a number of “why me?” and “this isn’t FAIR” meltdowns. But each time, God covered me with his peace and whispered “I’m going to do something big” (to which I replied “I don’t WANT to do something big.”) or “Your struggles and triumphs will be a blessing to others.” He knew my heart. When the fears and “what if’s” would creep in, EVERY TIME, he would assure me that this is not my final chapter, be it through songs on the radio, a Bible verse, or the story of another survivor.
I’ve been asked a few times in the last week what has been my greatest struggle this past year. I’ll be completely honest and tell you that worry, doubt, and trust have been my biggest struggles. When the doctors tell you you’re stage 4 and you realize that the 5 year survival rate of stage 4 cancer is only 20%, you struggle with believing the statistics or believing God’s promises. Part of that struggle is knowing that God CAN heal me but that he might CHOOSE not to. Part of that struggle is not wanting to claim I KNOW he will or has healed me because I feel it is pompous and premature to do so.
The past year has brought extreme highs, extreme lows, and everything in between but God has held my hand and led me through it. He led me to use nutrition and supplements to keep my body strong and healthy during chemo and surgeries. He led me to the right people and led the right people to me at just the right moments. He answered our prayers for guidance on the Navy and where to move. He is answering our prayer for proof of insurance and I trust he will provide for our needs of a home and a job. I am reminded daily that He is a GOOD, GOOD Father. He has been able to turn this nasty diagnosis into a blessing. No, he didn’t heal me when I asked for it and I’m glad for that. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today if He had. I wouldn’t have met the dr’s, nurses, and other cancer patients that I have if He had. I wouldn’t have been sharing my struggles with you all so transparently if He had. I would have sang his praise for healing me then gone back to my busy but stagnant life. I wouldn’t be resting in His peace and sharing His love like I have. I wouldn’t have a desire to do something with cancer research if he had.
I firmly believe that in the near future, cancer will no longer be a death sentence, that chemo, radiation, and surgery will be barbaric practices of that past that we will compare with blood-letting. I believe it will be managed (much like HIV is now) or even healed without toxic medicines. I have seen the testimonies of so many who have healed or are managing their cancers naturally and know that the tides of treatment are changing. I know sometimes God uses nasty circumstances to change the course of a person’s life and to show them a path where their lives have immensely more impact and meaning and I feel like that is what cancer is doing for me.
A month ago, on our last Sunday on Oahu, God used a complete stranger to bless me. I don’t know yet exactly the full extent of that blessing but I will share with you what happened in my next blog. For now, I will say that no matter the outcome, I know that my life is impacting others but I will never know how much this side of Heaven. I can say with all sincerity and peace that if this IS my final chapter, that God is still good and I would gladly sacrifice my life and seeing my children grow up if THAT is what it took for just one of you to come to know Christ as your savior. As much as I have people praying for me, there are many that I have been praying fervently for. If I had the cure for cancer I would shout it from the rooftops but I have the cure for spiritual death and I want to shout THAT from the rooftops. I want you to KNOW and experience the God I know and love. I want you to know complete peace and contentment. I want to dance on the streets of gold with you in eternity. In 4 days I will be celebrating the birth of an infant who willingly left Heaven to live side by side with us and be tortured and killed to save you and I from death. God paid your debt. He suffered so YOU DON’T HAVE TO. And he didn’t leave any strings attached. Nothing you DO can earn your salvation…you don’t have to wear certain clothes, sing certain songs, pray special prayers, or any dogmatic, legalistic junk. You only have to acknowledge that Jesus Christ died for your sins and that he is the only way you can enter heaven. From there, the Holy Spirit will change your heart if you let him. He will fill you with peace and joy beyond anything you could imagine. Life won’t be a bed of roses (look at my past year), but it will be joy filled! When you are filled with joy and peace, you will be able to see the roses among the thorns and be able to recognize that trials cause us to grow and that our rewards are eternal and are being stored up for us in Heaven. Yes, there will be rewards in Heaven. You see, we can’t earn our way in to Heaven but God will bless us and reward us in Heaven once we are there for how we lived on earth. That is a concept I only truly grasped and appreciated shortly before my diagnosis…something I think God was helping me realize to prepare my heart for the diagnosis.
As I reflect on this past year and I am humbled and grateful for the challenges and triumphs, the laughter and the tears. It is my sincere hope and prayer that my journey will be a blessing to you. I hope that God will stir in some of your hearts in a way you’ve never experienced. The best Christmas gift I could receive this year is the knowledge that you’ve been blessed and maybe one of you will come to know the God who loves you more than you could ever imagine. He doesn’t want you to just live your life, he wants you to live it in abundance!