And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28
GOD’S PERFECT TIMING
When I got married at 17, I wasn’t planning on starting a family any time soon. My husband and I had what most newly-weds refer to as the “5 year plan”, although ours was more like 8 years. So you can imaging the rush of negative emotions that came over me staring down at that positive pregnancy test after only 4 months of marriage. My husband was working at a take-and-bake pizza store and I worked at our apartment complex for free rent and had just enrolled for a full credit load at Portland Bible College. We were poorer than dirt. Needless to say, this pregnancy could not have been worse timing. We spent our first anniversary in 2004 in the hospital bringing our beautiful son into the world who was followed shortly by his brother in 2005, and their baby sister in 2007. In the midst of it all I knew that one day I would be able to look back and see God’s hand in interrupting my plans and know that His timing was perfect, in spite of what I felt at the time.
March 28, 2009 I went in to the emergency room with a terrible case of bronchitis. I had some blood taken during the visit and could not believe my ears when the doctor told me that the pregnancy test they had run came back positive. It just wasn’t possible since my husband had a vasectomy a year prior. But there was something wrong. My hCG numbers, (pregnancy hormone) were way too low. The ER doctor consulted with the on-call OB/GYN* who wanted me to come back in two days to ensure that the numbers were going up the way they were supposed to. Of course, after having 3 perfect pregnancies, I wasn’t worried one bit about this one and decided to blow the test off. 4 days later I received a call from that doctor I had never met asking why I hadn’t come in for the test, and that call saved my life. I agreed to get the test just to make this guy happy and my heart sank when we discovered that the numbers, which should have more than doubled, hadn’t changed at all. Whatever I had, I was not pregnant. For two months it continued: weekly blood tests followed by phone calls from a baffled doctor telling me that the numbers weren’t going up or down, and failed medication treatments. It was a frustrating mystery.
WHEN GOD SPOKE
Shortly before my diagnosis, my husband and I were sitting on the sofa in our top floor apartment when both of our boys came running into the room very worked up. They were trying to say that the window in their room was broken, but we dismissed them for a while because neither of us had heard anything that sounded like something breaking. Donnie finally decided that he would get up to see what on earth they were talking about and I followed close behind him. Somehow, the boys had unlocked and opened their window, pushed out the screen, and our 18 month old daughter was proceeding to crawl through it as we walked into the room. The image of my husband’s hand reaching down and grabbing her by the back of her shirt to pull her to safety as she hung half way out of the window will forever be burned into my memory. Had he been even a few seconds too late, she would have fallen into the parking lot below. He gave her to me as I sat on the floor and burst into tears, squeezing her as tightly as I could. That night as I was laying in bed I kept playing the image in my head over and over again. And that is when I heard the Lord speak. I can only remember a few times in my life when I have heard the Lord so clearly, and that night He told me that He gave me that image so that I would know what He was about to do in my life. I knew then that whatever I was about to go through was going to be scary, but that God would pull me back in, and it would be for His glory. That’s why when the diagnosis finally came, I wasn’t surprised at all. I had been waiting for it.
THE “C” WORD
June 2, 2009 was the diagnostic surgery where a camera placed inside of my uterus captured images of the malignant tumor. Some cells remaining from my last pregnancy a year and a half prior had become radical, forming the tumor that put low levels of hCG into my bloodstream. When I woke up I was told that I was going to need a hysterectomy. There was not a lot that my doctor could tell me about this particular disease called a Placental site trophoblastic tumor (Or PSTT) because it is so rare. I began to do some online research which turned out not to be a great faith-builder, or a good idea. The prognosis for this particular kind of cancer is largely dependent on timing because Chemotherapy does not work. Chemo is effective by attacking rapidly dividing cells, which is what most cancers are, but this was a very slow growing type, so the only treatment is to remove the organ that it is in before it spreads anywhere else. After watching my husband’s father pass away from colon cancer only a few years before, “Cancer” wasn’t a word that we liked to let into our home and the reality of what could be was very haunting for both of us. That weekend I flew back to Vancouver from Spokane to visit our church, get prayed for, see friends, and refresh my faith. I had my CT scan to look forward to upon return to determine if it had metastasized and I needed to surround myself with people who were going to speak words of life and encouragement.
The first of many real hopeful moments came when we went out to lunch with some Pastors from Coeur D Alene. The Pastor’s wife is a 4 time cancer survivor. I talked at length with her about the fear battle I had been waging, between having faith in the plans God has for my life and the reality of what was growing inside of me. Some days I was full of faith, other days full of fear, and some days I would go back and fourth several times per day, and asked her how she had dealt with it. She told me, “Scary things happen in this life, you just keep moving forward in the purposes of God.”
THE 10 YEAR PRAYER
One week before my scheduled hysterectomy, I was anxiously waiting by the phone for the results of my CT scan when it rang. But it wasn’t my doctor, it was my sister. I had come to know the Lord when I was 13 years old, but my older sister, Kim, wanted nothing to do with it. I had been praying for her salvation, almost daily, for 10 years and most of our conversations about the Lord did not end so well. I listened to her on the other end of the phone that day, she had been crying, and finally, a purpose for this trial was beginning to come into the light. “You know, I had blamed God for everything that has been happening to you and I was so mad at Him. I went into my room and began to yell at Him and pray and He actually spoke to me. He told me that He loves me and He loves you, and that He’s got you and that everything is going to be okay, and that your scan is going to come back good and He wanted me to call you and tell you. I gave Him my heart today and you needed to know.” Only a few seconds after we hung up my Doctor called me to tell me that the results of my scan had come back, the tumor was completely contained to my uterus and surgery should cure me with no additional treatment needed. I cried, not because of what he had said, but because I was in awe of what God had just done.
The surgery went off without a hitch on June 16th, 2009. Two years later, I am still testing cancer-free! In the middle of my trial, I thought it was all about me, what does God want to teach me? What is He doing to me? But nothing is ever just about us. God is the master of “several birds with one stone” and He used that season to put something eternal into many people. God is love and is always out for our good. If we hadn’t had our children when we did, we wouldn’t have them at all. God always knows. As my friend said, scary things do indeed happen to us in this life, scripture even promises us that. But we have a God who is just that: God. And we have to keep moving forward in his purposes no matter what. We may never know who God wants to touch through our trials.
*Update: My Sister, Kim, was diagnosed with bi cornial uterus and polycystic ovarian syndrome at age 14. I had always told her that I would be happy to carry a baby for her if she was married and living for the Lord. in May of 2012, she and her husband welcomed their daughter, Molly, into the world after a flawless full-term pregnancy and delivery.
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