(Originally published on CaringBridge on 7/20)
Life has returned to “normal” again.
In the middle of June I had blood work drawn (CA-125) for my regular 3-month checkup. You might recall that my CA-125 gave us a bit of a scare back in October when it took a jump up into the low 20’s from it’s previous “norm” in the low teens. Since then it has hovered in the low 20’s…stable, albeit a bit high. My oncologist called it my “new normal.” Evidently not, as the result of the test done in June was a 9…the lowest it has EVER been! We are so thankful that despite ongoing abdominal discomforts, this provides a clear sign that my cancer is still in remission. As of July 17, I have been cancer-free for 15 months! We are praising the Lord for this wonderful news!
Just a few days after my blood test, I had the joy of traveling to Alaska on a cruise with my mom and my sister. What a wonderful time we had together reveling in the magnificence of God’s creation and enjoying sweet fellowship and LOTS of laughter together. I am a very blessed woman!
Just a few days after returning home from the cruise, I had surgery to complete the second (and final) stage of reconstruction following the elective bilateral (risk-reducing) mastectomy that was done in April. This surgery was a breeze (thankfully!)…and though I have been instructed to take it easy for a bit (no mowing the lawn…sorry honey,) I am feeling great!
So, here I am at the 19-month mark in this journey. It may not be the end of the journey, but for now life just feels normal. The cancer is gone. My treatments are done. Surgeries are done. Things have settled back into what I remember normal feeling like before cancer.
As much as I want to go back to the way life was before, I can never completely escape the knowledge that cancer is a part of my life. Ovarian cancer can be very sneaky. Several friends that I have made during my own cancer journey are walking through ovarian cancer recurrences right now. Please pray for them. These ladies–my “survivor sisters”–have become very dear to me. Their setbacks are a reminder that my own future is not certain.
And yet, it is.
Cancer taught me something so important. I cannot place my hope in my circumstances…or become too comfortable in them. I hope my cancer never comes back. I hope I’ll grow old with my husband and live to see my son graduate from high school and my daughters become mothers. But hope isn’t about wishing for things. Or wanting things to be a certain way.
I recently read a story on a blog written by a woman who was hoping for something. And after much waiting, she began to lose hope.
And hope? What used to be a sweet aroma to me is becoming more of a stench. Hope delayed is leaving me heart-sick. No matter what I believe or how I trust or how hard I fight or pray, I’m left empty of hope fulfilled. Hope has become my enemy because it has repeatedly stabbed my heart. I have nothing left but shards.
But then finally, she got the thing she was hoping for. But in her joy at this turn in her circumstances, she totally misses the point about our hope. She wrote:
I couldn’t believe it…My cries mattered to God. My pain was His pain. He is faithful…even in the darkest moments, even when we’re feeling hopeless. ‘He who calls you is faithful, who will also do it.’ Hope didn’t disappoint after all.
She is right about a couple of things. Our cries do matter to God. Our pain is His pain. And He is faithful…even in the darkest moments when we feel hopeless. But the evidence of God’s faithfulness is not found in our fulfilled “wish lists.” Life is often filled with surprises, disappointments, and setbacks. Cancer steals young mothers away from their children and rips children from the arms of their parents. Teenage sons die in traffic accidents. Fathers are killed in combat. The things we hope will happen, sometimes don’t. And the things we hope will not happen, sometimes do. If hope is dependent upon getting what we want, we will be disappointed.
And if our hope is dependent on our circumstances, what will we believe about God when we don’t get what we want? And how will we find God faithful in the midst of the struggle if we are only looking for a way out of the trial? It’s SO easy to place our hope in the wrong things and to miss the peace that God has for us when we trust in Him and in the hope that He gives us.
There are two really amazing things that we can know for certain. The first is that God will sustain us in our darkest moments. He gives hope and peace. He loves us with an abiding love that never lets us go. He is faithful. He is good. ALL the time. Even in the midst of the hard times that are certain to come.
The second is that we have a hope that goes beyond this life.
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 Cor. 4:17-18
Hope that is placed in the things of this life disappoints. Sometimes bitterly. But when our hope is placed in what is unseen…the hope of what is stored up for us in heaven (Col 1:5) we will not be disappointed! This is the hope that was secured for us by Christ at the cross. This is the hope that fills us with peace when life is full of disappointments. And this is the hope that is always there…no matter what life brings our way.
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19
Now that “normalcy” has again returned to our lives, the last 19 months sometimes seem like a dream. So much has happened.
There have been so many doctor’s appointments. So many surgeries. So many treatments. And SO many needles. So many fears and so much unknown.
But in the midst of all of that there have also been so many prayers and so many scriptures. So much comfort and so much encouragement. So many songs…so much truth. So much peace.
And SO much hope.