After 4 months of chest x-rays and misdiagnosis’s of bronchitis, pneumonia, acid reflux, and mono I was finally referred to an ear, nose, and throat doctor because the lumps in my neck wouldn’t go down.
He had one quick feel of my neck and nonchalantly blurted out that it was probably cancer. It didn’t really register until I went to the nurse’s station. After she set me up for my biopsy she quietly said, “I’ll pray for you.” My thoughts: “Wait, prayers are for people who have problems. The doctor just told me it MIGHT be cancer and if it was then treatment would quickly get rid of it. I don’t need prayers because I’m going to be fine.” It felt like she knew something I didn’t and within seconds of that comment I understood the gravity of the situation. I didn’t need a confirmation.
That day I left that doctor’s office knowing I had cancer. I learned the hard way that there is a big difference between believing in God and trusting in God.
The Diagnosis and Treatments
Later, I was officially diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. There are four stages of cancer, I was already at stage three, which means the cancer had already spread to both sides of my diaphragm. I found comfort in knowing this is one of the most curable cancers, so I put all of my trust in doctors and medicine. That was the most detrimental decision I made while going through this battle because after convincing myself that man alone could heal me, things went from bad to worse. My first two chemotherapies failed and the next line of treatment was a stem cell transplant. I spoke to other transplant patients and they expressed that their relationship with God grew immensely while they went through their transplants. I viewed this as a sign that this was an opportunity to build my faith in God.
During my transplant I was bedridden, confined to my room, removed from my family, and left alone with my thoughts for the majority of the month I stayed in the hospital. This seemed like this was the perfect time to build my faith. But did I? No. I never once cracked open my Bible.
Ultimately, my transplant failed, the following chemotherapy failed, and the newest (and final) chemotherapy showed signs of defeat as well. I needed a new donor transplant but out of 12 million people on the national stem cell donation registry, not one of them matched my DNA. Even if the final chemotherapy worked and I found a donor and everything fell into place, my chances of survival after the transplant was still very minimal.
I was breaking mentally and every time I looked at my son I fell apart. When I thought things couldn’t get worse, I got a phone call from my oncologist to tell me that the final chemotherapy wasn’t working and I couldn’t go through with the transplant. He essentially told me I was going to die from cancer. I was absolutely devastated. I had no idea how to tell my family and friends but as I eventually had the conversation with each of them I found that their instant responses were to pray for me and I believe they genuinely did.
After diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I had a couple of spiritual reality checks before I took my faith to the next level. The first was from my uncle. He told me there was no doubt in his mind that I was going to be fine and I couldn’t understand how he felt so certain. The only explanation he gave me was, “Because God keeps his promises.”
My second spiritual check came from my doctor. My oncologist, a strong Christian, admitted to me that he never really prayed for me until the day he found out that the final chemotherapy was failing, symptoms revealing the worst (I also learned about mesothelioma symptoms then). At the time, my only hope was to participate in a clinical trial for the newest treatments available. Within 2 hours of his prayer, he found a clinical trial for me to join. That was God. I knew it and so did everyone else.
It was undeniable that God was working in my life and I had to finally acknowledge that fact. I made the decision to join the cancer support group at my church. I went in with reservations thinking I was going to encounter nothing but sob stories. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This group is filled with stories of hope and healing and it was exactly what I needed to hear at that time. The real change came when I included God in my battle with cancer. I didn’t include Him in the beginning, but I’m sure glad I did at the end. With everything in me, I can say that joining the support group was one of the best decision I’ve made in my entire life.
Despite my new found relationship with God, I knew that His will would be done and sometimes he allows death. I definitely struggled with this (and still do) but I learned that I need to build a trusting relationship with God. The message of James 4:8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you”, is the group’s guiding passage. Finding comfort in Him on earth is more important than worldly healing. After all, our purpose here on earth is to glorify His name through all circumstances.
3 Cancer Tips From a Survivor diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
I continually go back to a few ideas and scriptures that make this experience a lot easier to get through.
1. Remember that God keeps His promises.
In my life, it’s apparent that God has given me everything I’ve ever needed in His own timing. (Deuteronomy 7:9)
2. Know that With God all things are possible.
I don’t want to die from cancer and fact gives me hope to believe that I can remain here and use my experience with cancer as a light to illuminate the grace of God. (Matthew 19:26)
3. Believe There is power in prayer.
I had a hard time swallowing that praying for healing is not an assurance that I’ll be cured of cancer. I have since learned that God makes choices that I will never understand but there is more to prayer than just asking for a specific result. I’ve chosen to focus on these facets and they’ve helped to bring me through my struggle. (James 5:16)
- I pray because God has asked us to. Psalms 50:15
- I pray because it eases our anxieties. Phillipians 4:6
- I pray because It brings us closer to Him. James 4:8
I pray knowing that ultimately He will do what is best for us whether we think it is good or not.
Through fellowshipping with the members of my cancer support group at church and the pure grace of God, I’m currently in remission. I give God all the glory through all of my circumstances. God is good all of the time.