That happiness (or "joy" as I like to call it) had nothing to do with having cancer. The cancer made me cry, it hurt my body, it stressed out my family. That did not make me happy. What brought me joy was what changed in me during that time period. How my life was different. I miss that different. Soon after that diagnosis I faced the very real possibility that I would die, and maybe as soon as within the month. When I faced that possibility, the fear of dying that I had carried with me my whole life, as most people do, it left. Don't get me wrong, I wanted to live and I thank God every day that I have another day to wake up and experience life. But during that time of illness, when I lost my fear of death, it was because I began to see God. I no longer could rely on money, or people, or even doctors. None of those things cure cancer. God does. My life was stripped away... I basically moved to Baltimore and left the comfort of my home, my marriage crumbled and with it my hopes for a future and a family, and all but one friend disappeared from my life. To most these things sound horrible, and they are. But by stripping away all that I had ever relied on... friends, future plans, and a comfortable home... I had nothing to turn to but God. And when I did that I began to see amazing things, things I had only heard of happening, things that I had never seen in my life before.
Me in the ICU right after surgery. I think this is when I truly realized my life would never be the same. That things were changing. It wasn't until about 18 hrs later that I realized God was 100% in it all, when I almost died and He met me with peace and comfort. I will never forget that feeling of true grace.
One example, I had a hard time finding a hospital that could get me in quickly. But God knew right where I needed to be. Johns Hopkins in Baltimore was the only place that would get me in immediately. And remember how I told you that ll of my friends disappeared but one? Well that one happened to live in Baltimore. And she, along with my mom and sis in law, was one of the biggest blessings God has ever given me. She shaved my legs, brushed my knotted hair, entertained me, took me to the aquarium, brought me food, and stayed in the most uncomfortable twin bed at my hotel just so she could spend time with me all the while working a full time job. My mom of course was there for every single minute of everything. My sister in law even flew up to help... she also shaved my legs and then wheeled me around the mall in my wheel chair. God gave me the exact people that I needed at that time. He met my needs.
Eunice, Me, and my sis-in-law Ashley in our hotel room
My mom with me in the hospital
Ashley and me right before I was discharged
Me and my Mom on a post-surgery outing to the mall and the pier
Me and Ashley at the Pier
Eunice and Me going to the Aquarium the day before surgery
Me and Eunice hanging out in the hotel
But that was just one way. I also saw Him provide me with the perfect doctors: Dr. Pawlik, Dr. Diaz, Dr. Giardiello. I have kept in touch with them and Dr. Diaz even sent me an email to let me know he will be in my town in a few weeks to give a presentation. I'm excited to see him.
Me and Dr. Pawlik, my colon surgeon. After our first meeting I knew he was supposed to be my surgeon, so much so that I decided to forgo my plan of a laproscopic procedure and allow him to do an open one. It was by far the right decision. God was definitely in that one.
God provided everything for me when I felt I had nothing. He provided me with hope when I felt there was none. He provided me with peace when I was confronted with the possibility of death. He showed me, broken, sinful, disease-ridden me, grace. In my sickness He gave me life. In my desperation He gave me comfort. When I lost my way He helped me find it. I promised Him that if I lived I would never turn away again.
Then I got better. My body healed and cancer became a set of scars, a new screening protocol, a few residual side effects, and a binder of medical records I now carry with me. And when I was faced with normal western culture again, I did what I promised I wouldn't. I walked away. I began living for myself. Doing and saying things that I would never have done or said just months before. I am embarrassed to look back on that behavior.
I didn't stop believing in God and I did not forget what God had done, but I did begin to explain it away. Coincidence, luck, because of doctors, because of people... because I was faithful. All of which I knew were not true. I was not faithful, God gave me faith. And as soon as I turned away, I began to see my life spiral. My peace and hope left. I saw less grace in my life. I lost my joy. I looked for joy in all the wrong places. Materials, travel, friends, boys... anything other than God, I ran to it. I once again began believing that I could plan and execute my life better than He could. I was wrong and I am still feeling the affects of it.
I began reading a book today and in this book I saw what I have been searching for since I had that encounter with God during my cancer battle. The book, "Kisses from Katie" by Katie Davis, is something I want to recommend to everyone. Katie moved to Uganda when she was 18 to follow God and care for the Ugandan people. She is now the mother to 13 adopted Ugandan children and she is just 23. But Katie loves the Lord and is living a life for Him... she knows the joy that I briefly found and desperately want back. I know that this has nothing to do with cancer, but it does have to do with pain and suffering and how one person can be used by God. That is what I want for my life, and for your life... to be used by God.
I want to not worry about life or death, health, finances, relationships, or my future... not because I don't care, but because I know deep in my heart that someone already has all of those things taken care of. "I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord." Reading that book has made me realize that God's plan will be carried out despite my plan and that what I think is good or right for me may not be what He has for me. The "needs" that are expected in the western world are not necessarily what God says we need. And I honestly want none of those things if it means not having God.
Here lately I have been missing my relationship with the Lord more than I can express in words. There are days that I cry in a way I never have cried before... it is a yearning and a cry out for spiritual help. God is speaking to me, I can feel it, but I still don't know the answer yet, I still don't know what He wants me to do. But I'm asking, I'm praying, and that is more than I have done in the past few years. I have relied on myself and I have found that I cannot provide anything for myself that I truly need. Only God can do that.
So I am searching. Searching for the way that God will wreck my life for Him. I look forward to it, pray for it... I need it. I think we all do.
Like Katie, I have been given so much... and to whom much is given, much is required. I'm beginning to realize that more and more each day.