The short story is that God performed a miracle and healed me of cancer. The long story follows.
We were home in the U.S. after four years as missionary doctors in Nepal, intending to spend one year here before going back. Six months into the year, in October of 2013, I began to have abdominal pain. After four days the pain became severe; we went to the emergency room. So began an unexpected journey – full of cancer, depths of God’s love that I had yet to plumb, and seeing God do something in our day that I would not have believed if beforehand I had been told.
The emergency room doctors ran a battery of tests when I came in, not expecting to find two large masses in my lower abdomen. I was admitted to the hospital, and within days we found out that it was cancer. More tests were done. I was transferred to one of the top cancer centers in the nation. The cancer in my body had already spread to my lymph nodes, was growing quickly, and was like nothing any of my doctors had seen before. My pain was getting worse despite being on heavy doses of pain medications. We started chemotherapy because there wasn’t time to wait for a firm diagnosis. And we cried out to God.
“From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” Psalm 18:6
It is challenging for me to briefly summarize all that God did from this point onward. It is hard to do him justice. Thankfully I have a Caring Bridge site that we had started when I first got sick, which quickly became more than just a way to share information about my illness (so that my husband Doug wouldn’t have to answer fifty calls and emails a day). It became a chronicle of God’s faithfulness to me as I walked through the valley of the shadow of death. You can read about how he sent a faith-filled chaplain to my hospital room to give me a message of hope in him here. How in my distress and in response to my cries, he told me that he would show me his glory – more than once, for emphasis. How after two cycles of chemotherapy – after my oncologist had gently but honestly told me that they didn’t know if they could cure me – my CT scan showed no signs of cancer whatsoever.
“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.” Psalm 18:16
That was amazing and wonderful, but my story did not end there. I continued on with chemo for a total of nine long months. We counted down the days until chemo was over, ready to get off of that horrible ride. Two months after finishing chemo, some further testing showed endometrial cancer – cancer of the womb, and it looked completely different from the first cancer (which we still did not have a diagnosis for). We were shocked. I had to have surgery. Surgery showed that the endometrial cancer had been caught early and that no further treatment was needed. Of course we were thankful, but there were so many unanswered questions. We asked God, “Why?” many times. He did not give me clear answers to my questions, but he gave me more of himself. Still, it all felt like an unfinished novel.
In April of 2015 I had a routine follow-up CT scan. We held our breath when my doctor told me that they saw an enlarged lymph node in one of my lungs. We hoped for the best as I had another scan, followed by a biopsy. Instead our worst fears were realized – the biopsy showed cancer. And the bottom dropped out of our life once again.
There is a interlude between the moment the bottom drops out of your life and the moment you land into the everlasting arms of God that are always, always underneath you. Sometimes the freefall lasts a very long time. Sometimes – often? – our cries of “Why?” are unanswered. But do not equate being left to wonder with being left. The everlasting arms are always, always underneath.
Hard weeks followed. When was this going to end? How was this going to end? As a physician I knew what this recurrence meant for my prognosis. I had to revisit and reinspect my foundation of faith in Christ – and found it firm despite my terrible circumstances. Though I did not understand what was happening and why, what I did know was that God is good and he loves me. Life as I knew it was crumbling all around me, but the Rock I had chosen to stand on had not changed. His love and his promises endured, regardless of my circumstances. Along with other people of mustard seed faith, we asked God to heal me. The incredible thing is that he told us all in a number of ways over the next few weeks that he would.
Some of you just read that last sentence and are thinking that I am crazy, or making this up. That’s okay. Stay a while and keep on reading. Because if what I am telling you is true, then you have some thinking to do.
Meanwhile, my doctors proposed more chemotherapy to treat this recurrence. I requested another CT scan. The night before the scan, before we had objective evidence that I was healed, the Holy Spirit made it clear to me that I needed to share what God was about to do. This was not without some hesitation; there was a constant little voice in my head saying that what I was hoping for was all wishful thinking. The next day my CT scan showed that the cancer was gone. The enlarged lymph node was back to normal size, and no treatment was necessary, and there was no other explanation for it other than God had done it. God had done it. Follow-up CT scans done six months later (in November 2015) and one year later (in May 2016) still showed no cancer whatsoever.
We throw the word miracle around in our American culture like we do the word love. When a team wins unexpectedly in the last seconds of a game, it’s a miracle. I put Miracle Whip on my sandwiches. If a patient beats the odds and gets better after an experimental treatment, it’s a miracle. But this, friends, was a miracle. There is no explanation for what happened here other than God.
“You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” Psalm 18:28