I remember the first time I realized God is real. I’m not sure how old I was – probably around 8 or 9 – but I remember it was a beautiful day and I was playing on the sidewalk in front of my house. I looked up to the blue sky as I breathed in the fresh air and realized that it was all created by this God I was learning about at the small church in our tiny town. Even though life wasn’t easy, I felt warm and loved and cared for and I knew. I just knew. My story started before that day, but it was then that God revealed himself as the author.
The 2022 release of the song “God is in This Story” by Katy Nichole and Big Daddy Weave was perfectly timed with some big parts of my own story. The song continues to serve as part of the soundtrack of some pretty tumultuous – and miraculous – events in my life. A lot has happened over the years since that sidewalk encounter, some of which I’ll share through this blog. If you don’t read any other words, please read and believe this – God is still healing and working miracles, and he is pursuing you. He is in your story. And mine.
Now, more than 45 years after God first revealed Himself to me, I realize that He has been with me for each sentence and each chapter of my life, even in the ones where I wondered where God was. Please allow me to share one of those chapters.
In July 2021, after several weeks of me feeling bloated, nauseous and generally unwell, my doctor ordered a CT scan of my abdomen. The results of the scan revealed a large pelvic mass, most likely a neoplasm (an abnormal growth of tissue). You don’t have to look very far in a search on neoplasm to see the word cancer. For anyone, this would be an alarming finding. For me – I struggle to find the right words to describe it here – the alarm went far beyond what the radiologist saw in the images from the scan. I knew it was bad. And I also knew that I wasn’t going to be able to do anything about it.
You see, for most of my adult life, I have struggled with anxiety – debilitating at times – and agoraphobia. I’ll write much more about this in future posts, but although the actual definition of agoraphobia is something like a fear of open spaces, I once heard it called a fear of fear–a definition that seemed to better describe what I was experiencing. My biggest fears were medical procedures and traveling outside of a radius very close to my town.
As I mentioned, anxiety and agoraphobia were nothing new. They had been a constant companion for more than 25 years. While they had been ever-present, I at least could live and function, although in a very constrained and restricted way. Now I was faced with the possibility of having a large tumor that could be cancerous along with knowledge that there aren’t any specialists for this type of condition in that radius. I had no official diagnosis because I couldn’t get to the doctor who could not only make a diagnosis, but do something about it.
Over the next several months (yes, months) I vacillated between hope that somehow God would miraculously heal me, denial that there was anything wrong with me, resolve that I would be able to make the trip to the doctor, and resignation that this was it and there was no hope. Unfortunately, resignation was where my thoughts landed most of the time. The mass and fluid grew and took over a large part of my abdomen. I all but stopped eating and lost over 100 pounds, which caused me to become extremely malnourished. I became very depressed, hopeless and detached from normal life. I gave up. Do you know who didn’t give up? My family, my friends, my church family and even complete strangers who lifted me up in prayer.
Finally in April of 2022 – some nine months after the initial CT scan – I was at an appointment with my primary care doctor and for some reason I can’t explain, I said I wanted to go to St. Louis and see a gynecological oncologist. Now keep in mind the “box” I had been living in for almost 30 years. I had not traveled any more than 20 or 25 miles from my home. This physician was in St. Louis, nearly 100 miles from the comfort of my “safe” place. Yet, somehow, I managed to say I would go. I wonder now if it was really me saying so.
Me saying I wanted to go was all it took for the wheels to be set in motion. Arrangements and plans were made–I would be taken by ambulance to St. Louis and be admitted to the hospital there the next day. The doctor would do surgery the day after that. It all happened very fast. In my state of being, I didn’t believe any of it was actually going to happen. But it did happen.
On April 14, the surgeon removed a football sized mass from my abdomen, and nine liters of fluid – NINE liters, that is almost 2 ½ gallons of nasty, vile fluid produced by the mass – along with my ovaries and any other parts remaining after a partial hysterectomy some years prior. The pathology did indeed show that the mass was cancerous. However, it had not metastasized. I laid on my sofa for almost 9 months, paralyzed by fear and resignation, and the cancer DIDN’T SPREAD! It was removed during the surgery and no additional cancer treatment would be necessary. What?!?!
Things got a little rough right after my surgery. Not physically–aside from some low blood pressure issues, I did well physically. Mentally, however, some things went awry. At a time when we should have been celebrating the good news of the pathology results, we were instead trying to figure out why I was–simply put–out of it. The doctors called it a “perfect storm” The combination of anesthesia, major surgery, malnourishment, some medicinal side effects and the sudden change in my hormones worked together to cause some serious difficulties. These were some dark days that I will share more about in the future.
We just recently passed the six month mark since my surgery and a lot has happened in that time. Even though recovery continues, so do the miracles. The work of God – His part in this story – continues to amaze me and so many others. I invite you to come along with me as I share this story with you!
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