Tag Archives: Cancer

Mission Accomplished


The scriptures say that when David had completed all that God planned for him, he died and joined his ancestors.  Sometimes we are surprised when death comes to someone young, or someone who appears to be doing everything right.  But the Bible makes it clear that there is a time for each of us to die.  It is not a random thing, nor is it preventable.  The Bible says we die when we complete the mission that God has made us to do, whatever that may be.

This should be an amazingly liberating idea for a Christian.  You can basically do that whole Matrix thing around bullets if it’s not your time to die!  This should essentially set you free of all kinds of fears that might have held you back before.  But sometimes there is actually a purpose to the WAY and TIME that we die.

Lately, a friend of mine has been posting updates about another missionary who is dying of cancer in a “closed country”.  Stewart and Bev* have worked for 20 something years in this hard place, and not one person has been saved.  They spent years traveling into the interior of this country, ministering among the lost, yet no one has responded to the message of Salvation.  They just plodded along faithfully, loving people and hoping that the message was coming through loud and clear.  Then Stewart was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

As they prayed together, the family felt that the Lord was telling them to “live out this death in the eyes of your neighbors.”  So they began to make preparations for Stewart to die in that country.  When they heard that Stewart was dying, the people in the interior where they had ministered all those years asked the family if they would move in with the tribe and allow Stewart to be buried where they live.  The family was deeply touched by this, but it would be impossible without government permission for a foreigner to be buried in the land.

That same day, a lawyer for the tribe came to the house to consult with the husband and wife.  “Let me take care of everything.  And is there anything else you need?”  He asked.  They needed to transfer the title of their vehicle into Bev’s name so that the government would not seize their property once Stewart died.  The lawyer agreed to handle that paperwork as well.

Within a few days, the family received permission to move to the interior, buy a burial plot, and for Bev to keep the car. All their concerns had been handled with minimal stress on their part.  Now they could focus on dying well, as God had commanded them.  Even as he grew weaker and weaker, Stewart continued to receive visitors.  They would sit at his bedside, sometimes talking, sometimes crying.  They marveled at Bev’s peace and strength in the face of her husband’s failing health.  They began to ask Bev about the source of her peace.  The door creaked open.

Women who had been cautious about the foreigners brought food and sat with them in their grief.  One woman confided to Bev that her husband had passed away that year, and she was so angry and scared.  She asked Bev how she could be so calm and strong.  Bev shared her source of strength and offered peace to the woman.  The door swung wider still.

The family contacted the grown children and asked them to come home to say good-bye.  The children left college to return to the mission field.  The village people surrounded them with love, like members of their own family.  The children are comforted as well as being a comfort to others.  Stewart is living out his death in front of the community.

Precious is the death of the Saints in the eyes of the Lord.  This is a homecoming with a purpose.  No one knows the kind of impact that Stewart’s death will have in this closed, barren mission field.  But there is a purpose, and there will be a harvest of souls.  A peaceful and strong Christian is powerful in death.

*Names have been changed because the country is a Muslim country, closed to missionaries.

Thank God for Your Weaknesses


Ever since I had cancer, I have had to accept that I have a new “normal” level of energy.  I used to be able to work hard for very long periods of time, and I was proud of my strength.  Now I wake up every day at 5am, and the first words in my mind are a prayer asking God for the strength to make it though today.

I just don’t have the stamina that I used to have.  I fight against my own inclinations to be angry about that.  I quit asking WHY long ago.  It’s pointless to ask that.  No one ever gets the answer they want.  It makes me sad to think that the older I get I can expect my strength to continue to wane.  That’s natural.

So today I’m going to share a few clips from the devotional book that I’m reading in the mornings for my “quicky devos”.  I do a longer Bible reading at night when I have quiet time to myself.  In the mornings I am reading Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  Here are a few sound-bites that have ministered to me:

Bring to Me your weakness, and receive My Peace.  Accept yourself and your circumstances just as they are, remembering that I am sovereign over everything.  Do not wear yourself out with analyzing and planning.  Instead, let thankfulness and trust be your guides through this day; they will keep you close to Me…

Come to Me for rest and refreshment.  The journey had been too much for you, and you are bone-weary.  Do not be ashamed of your exhaustion.  Instead, see it as an opportunity for Me to take charge of your life.  Remember that I can fit everything into a pattern for good, including the things you wish were different.  Start with where you are at this point in time and space, accepting that this is where I intend you to be.  You will get through today one step, one moment at a time…

Thank Me for the conditions that are requiring you to be still.  Do not spoil these quiet hours by wishing them away, waiting impatiently to be active again.  Some of the greatest works in My kingdom have been done from sick beds and prison cells.  Instead of resenting the limitations of a weakened body, search for My way in the midst of these very circumstances.  Limitations can be liberating when your strongest desire is living close to Me… My strength and power show themselves most effective in weakness.

Thank you Jesus for being in control of every circumstance of my life.  Even though it’s hard for me to do this because I’m still learning how, I thank you for my weakness.  I don’t understand it, but I trust you.  This is what you’ve given me, and I thank you.  Glorify yourself in my weakness.

Beautiful Ugly Scars


This is a reblog from a blog I read regularly called Communicating Across Boundaries.  I connected with this on an emotional level because I too have a scar where cancer was cut out of me.  I also have scars on my tummy where babies pushed me beyond my physical limits.  I wouldn’t give a single one of them back in exchange for a tight, smooth stomach.  They are my badges of courage and war and love and sacrifice.

The wound did not heal well. Though it was small with only five stitches, it has healed into an angry red scar with jagged edges. By anyone’s assessment it isn’t pretty.

But to me this angry,red scar is beautiful. This ugly scar is a reminder to me every day that the biopsy was normal – it showed “no residual melanoma”.

Because I recently had the “M” word thrown at me – thrown in my face with a smile and a “you’ll probably be fine”. But is anyone fine when the word “malignant” enters their life? The “malignant” word was the first result of a biopsy of a mole. A  mole that seemed so small. So innocent. So benign.

Only it wasn’t. It was malignant.

And the second visit was to take more skin, find out if the melanoma had spread. It was this visit that produced the ugly scar. I saw the chunk of skin go into a small container, undoubtedly labeled with my name and the source of the tissue. Five stitches closed up the wound. The day the stitches came out was the day I heard the news that this mole had no residual malignancy. The bad tissue was gone, in it’s place an ugly scar.

So this ugly scar is beautiful. Like the scar on the woman’s face that makes her appear slightly deformed – beautiful because it is a survival scar from a fire that could have killed her. Instead every day her husband kisses that scar with all the love a human can possibly feel. Like the scar along the leg of the gentleman, for without it he would have been in the grave six years now. Rather, that angry, ugly scar is a beautiful war wound of survival. Like the ‘bikini’ scar low on a woman’s stomach, a scar that ensured a baby would be born healthy, not deprived of oxygen.

My scar is going to grow in size. They didn’t get enough tissue, and they want to do all they can to make sure the ‘M’ word is gone from my body. It will be long, and red, and initially painful, and beautiful ugly.

And as I lay waiting for a surgeon to look at my skin, to assess that ugly scar, to determine just how much longer and more ugly it needs to be, it comes to me, almost like a physical punch: I can enter eternity because of angry, red scars.

Ugly, brutal, angry, red scars on the hands and feet of the Saviour; the ugly become beautiful offering me a hope. an everyday wonder of grace, an eternity of God.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
    and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5


My Thyroid tried to Kill Me


Roses on a cloudy day

January is the month of resolutions and new leafs to turn over for most people.  But for me, January is the month that I celebrate surviving cancer.  I am a cancer surviver.  I discovered that I had thyroid cancer in 2009.  Though in my everyday life I don’t define myself by this, it actually effects me every single day.  Nobody thinks much about their thyroid until it goes bad, but if you can still eat carbs without having them turn to fat the minute they touch your lips then you should drop to your knees and thank God for your healthy thyroid!

It all started in 2006 when I got pregnant with our third child.  We were living in Costa Rica at the time, studying Spanish and preparing to move to Mexico.  It was an uneventful pregnancy and we moved to Mexico without much concern about giving birth overseas.  After all, this was my third child and I was a pro at this, right?  Lulu was born on May 1st which is Labor Day in Mexico.  (I tried to explain the pun that I was in labor on Labor Day, but it just didn’t translate.  My friends just smiled tolerantly.)  Naturally, in the first few weeks of adjusting to a new baby and nursing round the clock, I was tired!  Then to compound the facts we started noticing that Lulu was having some health issues.

Lulu rarely slept more than a half an hour at a time.  When I started focusing on why she was waking up so often, I noticed that she would stop breathing and then suddenly gasp for air and wake up.  “Well that’s not normal!”  I thought.  The next year and a half were filled with doctors’ appointments, visits to specialists, sleep studies, experimental foods, poking and prodding of the baby, and hours spent on the internet searching for answers.  In the mean time, she continued to micro-sleep and gasp for air… and I didn’t sleep at all.

I kept Lulu in bed with me and dozed with my hand on her tummy feeling her breathe.  A few times I woke up and suddenly realized that she was not breathing and starting to turn grey!  We even got into CPR position 2 or 3 times when normal rubbing and pinching didn’t wake her up- then suddenly she would gasp and breathe again though she was lethargic after each of these episodes.  So I wasn’t sleeping and I was feeling worse and worse as the weeks went by.

Shortly after her first birthday we decided to contact the Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota.  They scheduled an appointment with a child sleep apnea specialist for NOVEMBER!  I thought, “Didn’t you hear me say that my baby quits breathing at night?  I don’t know if she will still be ALIVE in November!!  How does this not constitute a crisis?”  So all fall we kept working with specialists in Mexico while we waited for our November appointment.  And I still wasn’t sleeping.

I knew something was wrong with me shortly after giving birth, I just wasn’t bouncing back from this pregnancy.  I told my husband, “I think I’m low on some hormones or something.  After I’m done nursing I’m going to go to the doctor and have my hormones checked.”  I was tired all the time- but I was a new mom with a baby that wasn’t sleeping well, so that was explained.  My hair was falling out by the handful- but that happens after pregnancy sometimes.  I was cold all the time- and that one I couldn’t explain away.  I lived in Mexico!  Even when it was 90 degrees out I was sitting outside in the sun wearing a polar fleece just to keep warm!  That was odd.  So I tried exercising more to get my circulation going and to lose the baby weight, but I just got more and more exhausted and the weight continued to go up.  I had no energy.  I remember sitting on the couch holding my lethargic baby watching hours of children’s programs, neither one of us had the energy or desire to play.   She just cuddled with me and sucked her fingers.  The dark circles under both our eyes grew deeper and deeper.

Waiting all fall for our appointment at Children’s was terribly stressful.  I was on the verge of tears every day and I was barely holding it together.  You know that feeling you get in your throat when you are holding back the tears… the lump in your throat?  Yeah, that’s what I felt like for several months.  I had a lump in my throat.  I thought it was the stress getting to me.  When we arrived at the Children’s Hospital the sleep specialist took one look at Lulu and admitted her immediately.  Finally, someone was taking this seriously!  I remember a conversation I had with her doctor.  He said, “How can I help YOU through all this?”  I paused and told him, “I’m tired of trying to be the doctor.  We have all these symptoms and I don’t know what they mean.  It’s like having a handful of dots and not knowing how to connect them.  I’m at the end of my knowledge and the end of my strength.  I would like you to be the Doctor and I’ll be the Mommy.  How about that?”  He smiled and said, “That’s what I do best.”  I started to relax for the first time in months.

We moved back to Minnesota in December and continued Lulu’s treatments, she was already starting to improve on her new diet and medicine!  In January we began our standard rounds of physical exams for the whole family which are required by our missions agency.  Then the other shoe dropped.  During my routine physical exam the doctor found the lump in my throat.  “That’s not normal!” she said, and sent me to radiology for the first of a million tests. I wasn’t too worried yet, probably a vocal nodule or maybe a cyst.  In April, the doctor said the word “Cancer” to me.

They operated to remove my thyroid and found a second form of cancer in there.  Radiation was mandatory at that point.  Weeks passed with me laying weakly on the couch with a more energetic Lulu bouncing around the living room.  I watched the movie Wall-E with her every morning… well, more accurately, I fell asleep watching Wall-E every morning.  The lilacs were in bloom the week of my isolation for radiation treatment.  I missed them so badly.  After the radiation I lost my senses of smell and taste for almost 2 months!  I filled my house with lilacs even though I couldn’t smell them.  I ate almost nothing and still the weight crept up.  “Be patient” everyone said, “It takes time for them to get your medicine to the right level.” (Now it’s been 2 years and they are still tinkering with my levels.)

Slowly, slowly life returned to normal and I felt like I was slowly rising from the dead.  I was unthawing.  Waking up from a bad dream.  I still struggle with fatigue and my weight will always be an issue.  I think about all the stuff I could accomplish if I didn’t have to fight through this brain-fog every day.  But every night I take my pills and I think about how my thyroid tried to kill me.  It might not be the last time I hear the word “Cancer” from a doctor, but every January I can celebrate having a clean cancer screening and normal tumor markers in my blood work.  Every January I start a new year with my precious family and rather than looking back, I look forward.