To say that 2013 was a roller coaster ride for our family would be an understatement.
Last year, on December 10, I went to my doctor because of a symptom that I was concerned about. Three days later, I had surgery and was diagnosed with stage 3A ovarian cancer. Twenty days later, on January 2, I began an 18-week course of chemotherapy. During those 18 weeks I lost about 30 pounds, all my hair, and some of the feeling in my fingers and toes. Nausea and fatigue made doing even the simplest tasks seem difficult. Fear of infection kept me from venturing out of the house. I spent the better part of January-May on the couch. I lost almost 5 months of “normal” life.
But in the end, my prognosis was good. My CA-125 level (CA-125 is an ovarian tumor marker) came down very quickly after chemo began and stayed down. That was a great sign that the cancer had responded well to the chemo. It is also often considered a positive indicator of the long-term success of the chemotherapy.
My energy returned. My hair grew back. And the feeling in my fingers and toes began to come back too. Hope returned.
But the months since chemo ended have brought many bumps in the road. And with each bump, it grew more difficult to feel hope.
In June I had an episode of tachycardia (racing heart beat) that wouldn’t stop. When I got to the emergency room, my heart rate was 215 beats per minute. A beta blocker was administered to stop my heart (literally!) and bring it back to a normal rhythm. Though I have had problems with tachycardia in the past, this was the first episode that required medical intervention. Thankfully, a benign arrhythmia was determined to be the cause of the problem, and I have been fine ever since.
In July I tested positive for the BRCA-2 gene mutation that Angelina Jolie recently made famous. Women with a BRCA mutation are at significantly increased risk of both ovarian and breast cancer. Children with a BRCA-positive parent have a 50/50 chance of carrying the mutation.
In September my oncologist moved to a new practice in Michigan–a tremendous loss.
In early October two of my daughters tested positive for the BRCA-2 gene mutation.
In late October I began to experience some abdominal symptoms which I grew increasingly concerned about. A trip to my oncologist brought the troubling news that my CA-125 was slightly elevated. One week later, another retest showed another slight increase. A CT scan revealed no evidence of cancer, so my doctor recommended that we wait about 6 weeks and run the CA-125 again.
During the early months of the battle, I had felt so much hope. But when it became clear that the battle wasn’t over, hope became more elusive. The last 6 weeks of waiting and wondering “what if” have been a crisis of hope. Though I had placed my hope in the Lord, I realized that to a certain degree, my hope had been misplaced. I had hope because my prognosis was good. I desperately wanted to have the kind of hope that promised that everything would be “okay.” But that’s not really hope. Because it’s an impossible hope.
There’s a promise in the Gospel of John that I really didn’t think about much before I had cancer. It’s the promise of trouble.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.
That’s real life. We are a fallen people and we live in a fallen world. And that means trouble. But thankfully the verse doesn’t end with the promise of trouble. It also promises hope.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Sometimes that means a temporary hope for the troubles of this life. But not always. The hope that scripture usually speaks of is a future hope. As earth-bound creatures we can be so caught up in the earthly, that we can completely miss the eternal. And that’s exactly what I was missing. Six weeks ago when it began to look like things might not be okay, I began to feel my hope melt away. I had to throw myself hard on the Lord…looking to Him for the kind of hope that would replace my anxiety with peace. I have spent the last six weeks striving to cling to the kind of hope that promises something beyond this life. I’ve been learning to trust more fully in His sovereign care over my life and the lives of my family. I’ve been learning what it means to surrender my life–my physical life–to Jesus.
Though I have grown in my ability to trust Him over these last six weeks, I still have much to learn. Today I am VERY grateful that on Thursday, the results of my CA-125 provided an indicator that my cancer is still in remission. But despite this week’s good news, trouble most certainly lies ahead. If it doesn’t come in the form of recurrent ovarian cancer, it will be something else.
That’s REAL LIFE.
But thanks be to God. For real life, he has given us REAL HOPE.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
(This post is linked up on the “Real Life Reflections Link Up” on the 2:1 Conference Blog)