Pardon my French.
I don't use that word lightly. As a matter of fact, that word isn't allowed in our house, so I don't use it at all.
But there are days when no other word can truly capture the moment.
I'm not talking about bad days...when you lose your keys and are late to work, or you forget to pick up your child from school. I don't mean bad hair days. Or even "feeling fat in my fat pants" days.
I mean kick-you-in-the-gut-and-take-your-breath-away days.
When you've lost your job.
When your child doesn't come home, and instead, you get a phone call from the hospital.
When you sit across from your doctor and hear the words "the cancer has come back."
I've been reeling from that last one for a few weeks now.
At the beginning of August, I went for yet another "routine follow-up scan." I've done this dozens of times: we drive four hours, wait to have the scan, wait to see the doctor, then he says, "It looks great, see you next time!" and we go home.
And it happened that way again.
Until...we got a call a few hours later. The radiologist had noticed "a suspicious spot" under my arm that had increased in size since the last scan. So back I went for a biopsy.
The biopsy confirmed it was the same type of tumor that was removed from my leg in 2010. After almost three years, I could no longer say I was "cancer free."
They immediately ordered a round of scans: more CTS, PET, MRI. The scans showed two other tumors in different locations. The cancer had not only returned, it had spread.
We've spent the last few weeks gathering information, praying, talking to doctors, praying, asking others to pray, and did I mention praying?!I We've talked to specialists and asked questions of doctors and of God. We eventually settled on a treatment plan, and I had my first chemotherapy treatment last week.
There have been a lot of questions, a lot of prayers, and a lot of emotions. But in the midst of it all, God has given us peace. It didn't come right away, and it hasn't always been easy to hold on to, but it's there, because God is there...walking every step of this journey with us.
At first, the emotion of it all was overwhelming. It took a few days for me to talk about it with anyone other than my husband and God. Even then, I rarely did so without crying. It also took a few days for me to pray anything other than, "What in the world?" or "Why?" But God's big enough to handle my emotions, my questions, and even my doubt.
I learned a long time ago that trusting God does not mean you deny or ignore your emotions. It means you don't camp out there. Faith is not the absence of emotion, it's the presence of Hope.
"The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see (Hebrews 11:1, The Message).
So there came a moment when I had to decide if I was going to wallow in my sorrow and emotion, or if I was going to lean into the strength and hope of God.
I have talked a good talk most of my life. I can recount stories of God parting the Red Sea, raising Lazarus from the dead, saving the three Hebrew boys from the fire...and on, and on, and on. It's one thing to read, talk, or write about those stories and believe they are true. It's quite another to believe that the same God who intervened in the lives of His people in the Old and New Testaments will do the same for you in your situation.
For me, it came down to one basic question: Do I believe God's Word is true? If I do, then cancer is no big thing for Him. So it was time to put my walk where my talk is and to focus on what I know to be true:
God is good. This whole scenario would be much more difficult if I thought God was "out to get me," or was completely detached from my situation. But the truth is, God is not only aware of my situation, He is deeply involved in it. I will go into more detail another time, but God has so obviously gone before us in every step and given us wisdom and peace.
"You are good and do good" (Psalm 119:68, The Message)
God loves me. Our pastor recently spoke on the heart of God as a Father. I am blessed to have a very loving earthly father, so it's not difficult for me to see God as a loving Heavenly Father. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt my earthly father would move heaven and earth to take care of me. Why would my Heavenly Father do anything less?
"The Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion" (Isaiah 30:18).
God has a plan. No, cancer was not on my agenda for this Fall. As a matter of fact, the news came as quite a shock to us. But I know it did not shock God. God did not give me cancer, but He can use it in my life, and hopefully the lives of those around me, for His good.
"This is God’s Word on the subject: “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for" (Jeremiah 29:11, The Message).
God is bigger than cancer. If I had to face cancer and chemotherapy in my own strength, you'd find me in the fetal position, sobbing uncontrollably over in the corner. If I had to "beat this" with my own ability, I would be hopeless. If my only hope was in my doctors and their knowledge of cancer (as vast as it is), I would be devastated. There are still more questions than answers when it comes to cancer. But to the One who spoke light into existence and who knit together every cell of my body, cancer is no big thing.
"God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!" (Ephesians 3:20, The Message).
So, yes, life "sucked" for a while, but my hope is in God, and my strength is renewed. I can rest in the fact that God is good; He loves me; He has a plan; and He is bigger than my circumstances.
I will be writing from time to time about the journey, because for me, writing is a form of therapy. But I promise it won't all be "heavy," because in addition to writing, humor and sarcasm are also forms of therapy for me. 🙂 And since Fall is my all-time favorite season, I'll still be sharing some of my favorite recipes and family-related ideas and activities.
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Hang on, it's going to be a wild ride! 🙂
This post is part of the series, Embracing Hope where we are exploring why we can put our hope in God, how we put our hope in God, and what we can do when it feels all hope is lost. To view the entire series, click here.
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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.