Here is a quick summary of events which began five weeks ago:
January 16, 2012
I arrive at the Women’s Center of the Southeast Alabama Medical Center at 8:00am. The staff are extremely kind, compassionate, and helpful as always. I receive a core-needle biopsy to the right breast. Two mammograms received the previous week suggest a “suspicious area”. There are no thoughts in my mind of cancer as I have a history of cysts. One was surgically removed; several others were drained by fine needle aspiration. Although I had never had a biopsy, it still remained in the “just routine” category of my thinking.
That night I go to bed and reach for my Bible. I like to read through a book at a time, had just finished one particular book, and was ready to begin another. First Peter came strongly to mind. I’ve read First and Second Peter many times in my life but as I turned to the book I was giving no thought as to what Peter was about. I began with verse one. When I read verse six, it felt as if it had been written there, all those years ago, just for me, just for now. “So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for awhile.” (NLT) I could feel my heart beating hard as I read the words again and then continued with verse seven. “These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold…” (NLT) It was at that precise moment, with heart pounding, and an overwhelming sense of God’s presence, I thought to myself, “I’ve got cancer.” The second thought, “It’s okay.” The third thought was an awareness of Father speaking right into my heart the words, “This is an opportunity to seize; not a curse to endure.” At this point I was aware of my mouth. It was turned into a smile. It wouldn’t go away. There was too much inexpressible and unexplainable joy, a quiet and peaceful joy, filling me up. I talked with Father for awhile telling Him He has never given me a reason not to trust Him and I wouldn’t start now. I remember thanking Him for trusting me with this opportunity. I immediately began to think of all the people I might now meet who wouldn’t otherwise cross my path. Then I closed my eyes and slept deeply and peacefully.
January 18, 2012
The hospital phones with the biopsy results. Of course I’m not surprised as God Himself has already told me it’s cancer. Therefore, the news for me is not difficult to hear but when I hang up the phone, I pray for help as I go to tell the news to my parents. For me, this was the worst part of it all. They’ve just come through so much in previous weeks. My Dad’s two heart surgeries, my Mom’s fall resulting in splints on both arms while having the most horrible cold at the same time. Dad is still recovering. I see Mom is so tired and I have to give them this news on top of it all.
I walk into the room where they are waiting. “Mom and Dad, I’m so sorry to have to tell you this,” I begin. “You’ve been through so much.” I pause and add, “I’m sorry. It’s cancer.” I remember my Mom saying, “Oh no,” and covering her mouth with her hands as she stands to come and hug me. Dad stands too and I see two single tears trickle down each cheek. Seeing them makes me cry too and I feel their love and hurt and grief as the three of us hug in a triangle. Then Dad begins to pray and a calm settles. After a while we step back and we all know we will get through this. How could we not? God Himself is in the midst.
January 27, 2012
I arrive in England. I’ve had a permanent residency in the UK for 13 years which wonderfully allows me the blessing of free medical care under the UK National Health System. I have tried in past years to get medical insurance in the USA. On each occasion my application was denied as the insurance companies considered I worked in a high-risk area of Central Asia. Therefore, medical coverage was denied, but as we see, God had plans fo my care.
February 9, 2012
I have my first appointment with the surgeon. He studies my radiographs and path lab reports from the US. He performs an additional ultrasound which reveals multiple cycts in both breasts. He informs me his team will meet, discuss the week’s cases, of which I am one, and will see me the following week to discuss a plan together.
February 17, 2012
The surgeon and I have agreed upon a plan and I am completely peaceful and calm throughout. On March 13th I am schedulded for a double mastectomy. The surgeon, his two nurses, and I are even laughing together over various things and I get to tell them some Kyrgyzstan stories. All is peaceful and even joyful. As I leave the hospital I am so exhilirated, I can’t even go straight home so I drive along the seafront. Father’s words repeat over and over, “This is an opportunity to seize; not a curse to endure.” My imagination grows in anticipation of how Father is going to use this. I find myself telling Him I so want to be able to encourage others in their own “fiery trials” that life brings to us all. Life is not always easy…but it never has to be absolutely bad. I have watched Father in so many people’s lives, going through hard times, especially over the years in Central Asia, and I have watched God Himself be courage and peace and joy and strength in the most difficult of circumstances. Watching people in Central Asia stand strong in their own faith has always been such a tremendous encouaragement to me in my own walk with God. Now I find myself in a situation unexpected, and, of course, never desired….but there nonetheless and so far…..this uninvited journey is proving to be one filled with calm and surprising joy in the presence of a storm.