Many people initially respond to trauma or heartache by asking “Why!?” Whether someone you love passes away, you didn’t get that dream job, or things just didn’t work out…more common than not, it’s “Why me?!” I challenge you to be open to hearing the answer. In some moments, God may never reveal it to us; However, if you pay close attention to what He is doing in your life and around you, you may get a sneak peek inside His purpose.
It would be easy for me to ask, “Why?”, throughout the ups and downs in my current adventure. I am human and the fact is, I hate that I have cancer. I hate that I have to endure months and months of grueling treatment. It would be easy for me to ask, “Why did you allow this to happen to me!? I’m young! I have so much going for me.” And more often than not, we are faced with that thought, “Why?” While I have only once let that word slip from my mouth, it’s hard to not have that lingering thought bury itself in my subconscious as a cancer patient.
I am learning that the less I feel, “Why me?!”, the more I learn the reasons for my story. A wise woman once said, “Don’t focus on the problem, fix your eyes on the promise.” Let that sink in. It’s powerful.
There have been several moments in my journey that God has taken me behind the scenes to see what’s really going on. It’s as if He’s saying, “Stephanie, you want to know why? Check this out. You’ll be amazed.” And it’s true. In all things God wants the glory, and I believe my story is no different. No matter what, God will be glorified. And it’s an honor to carry this torch and spread hope for Him.
Today specifically has been a day where I got to peek behind the curtain. In fact, I pulled up a [chemo] chair and watched it unfold before my eyes. This morning, Matt and I woke up bright and early to prepare for another chemotherapy day. As we were on our way to the hospital, my anxieties slowly dissolved. And once I walked into the room where all of us cool kids get treatment, I noticed one lady. Only one. This is extremely unusual, as there are at least eight chairs for patients. Any lingering discomfort fell aside, and I sat down in my usual chair which happened to be next to this beautiful woman. Soon, we discovered it was her first time receiving chemo. After introducing ourselves, we began to talk…and talk…and talk. Divine appointment? I emphatically say “YES!”
I believe that we are each given a story for bigger reasons than ourselves. We interact with others on a daily basis and encounter people who need to hear hope through every situation. I still hunger for hope, and have learned that my true hope comes from Him alone. But for those of us undergoing trials, be aware that you are a vessel. You are being used to share and help others through similar storms. Today, I was able to speak truth, life, and hope to someone very vulnerable and new in her journey. In speaking with her, I saw strength, determination, courage, and bravery in her eyes. She has a genuine spirit full of joy. We bonded immediately, and I look forward to where our journeys will take us in our friendship. As we left, I gave her a hug and shared my perspective of a cancer diagnosis and the battle to victory. “It’s going to suck. I will not lie to you. It’s going to be extremely hard and you’re going to have horrible days. But, be encouraged. Along with those bad days, there will be great ones. You can and will do this. Allow yourself to grieve, but focus on the positive and on overcoming this thing. It’s going to happen.” And she responded with tears in her eyes, “You are amazing. You have made this whole mess seem a lot less scary and much more hopeful. Thank you.” <–THAT, my friends, is the “Why.”
While leaving treatment, I was overwhelmed by the sense of joy and fulfillment in my spirit. Sometimes I yearn to know the bigger picture. I yearn to see the path that God has put forth for me. But, I am thankful that I do not know it all. I am thankful that He gives me blessings along the way. I am thankful for the unexpected surprises. I am thankful for a five-hour conversation with a stranger, who is transforming into a friend. We are going to be “chemo buddies,” we both agreed. I am thankful that she is extremely well-versed on all things baseball (Matt’s favorite sport), for she kept my husband entertained and captivated the whole time. I am thankful that God answers the “Why.” Who knew that you could discover another piece of the bigger picture whilst walking out of chemotherapy treatment!? (Proof that He shows up anywhere!)
It’s so empowering and fulfilling to know that my story is making a difference. I thank each and every one of my readers and dedicated followers for supporting my journey and rallying beside me to kick cancer’s ass. I am encouraged and deeply humbled.
The truth is, cancer sucks. There’s no way around it. If you read my blog, you know I am transparent in sharing my rough days. But those who read, also discover that I make a conscious decision to choose joy. I choose happiness. I choose life. I choose to be above my circumstance. I choose to fight. I choose to be a cancer survivor.
1 Corinthians 2:10-13 (MSG Version)
“The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along. Who ever knows what you’re thinking and planning except you yourself? The same with God—except that He not only knows what He’s thinking, but He lets us in on it. God offers a full report on the gifts of life and salvation that He is giving us. We don’t have to rely on the world’s guesses and opinions. We didn’t learn this by reading books or going to school; we learned it from God, who taught us person-to-person through Jesus, and we’re passing it on to you in the same firsthand, personal way.”
Hello friends, family, and strangers! I’M BACK! It’s such a blessing to be writing to you all from my blog again. It’s one step closer to full recovery, and it also means I’m feeling better at this moment. As you’ll soon learn, these moments are few and far between lately.
However, God is good. Always. He’s never-failing, never-ceasing, and never-disappointing. As my incredible husband mentioned in his previous posts, surgery went successfully. And while my stay at the “hospital hotel” is now over, I’d love to fill you in on my visit. And oh boy, was it a visit…
I awoke in recovery and was groggier than I have ever been in my life. Thank you Lord, for medicine! Apparently, I was in recovery for a LOT longer than I should have been. Looking back from the other side, it doesn’t matter to me, for I now know the reason. My room took a while to clean. You may be thinking, a hospital room took long to clean? They aren’t even that big. Well, I shall inform you, they can be. Lead in to yet another gift God dropped down for me: one of our closest family friends works for the hospital. He is higher on the food chain, and was able to talk to his people and get me a suite rather than a room. Seriously, wow! Even when I was wheeled in the first time, while high in the clouds on meds, I was still able to tell it was an enormous and very nice hospital room. That, among my family and friends being there, was the greatest addition to my hospital experience. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You know who you are.
For those who have been in a hospital bed for a few days, you will understand when I say my days and times all blurred into one big mess. I couldn’t tell you if it was morning or night. I couldn’t tell you if it was Thursday or Saturday. Thankfully, I could remember my name and birthday, because they asked me that frequently. Not only was I not able to differentiate times, the first couple days I really didn’t feel very lucid at all. I had just received a very invasive surgery, and required extensive doses of Dilaudid to keep me comfortable. The day after my surgery, which I now know to be Thursday, I could barely keep both of my eyes viewing the same thing! I knew I was feeling weird, but I didn’t comprehend how “weird” I was acting until my husband showed me videos of me trying to do simple things, like eat a popsicle, or apply chapstick. No, my husband is not cruel. He just knows me very well. I learn this more and more each day. These “home videos” showed me even more how well he gets what’s going on in my head. Had I been able to step away from my body, I would have recorded myself. I love knowing every step of the process, and I’m very thankful that my husband understands and accepts this. I still enjoy watching those 3 videos that are only a few minutes long of me doing “simple” tasks. Trust me, they are hilarious! And, man, was I in a Dilaudid dream!
My days in the hospital were hard. Let’s be real. You all know by now that I’m authentic. I lay it all out there. Here I go again. My days in the hospital were the hardest and most painful days I’ve had thus far. For you to comprehend my pain level, I’ll need to explain what Dilaudid is. This specific pain management medication can be most easily compared to the well-known drug, Morphine. Morphine is strong, folks… Dilaudid is as well. It’s ranked right up there with the “gold standards” of pain medication. Point is, even the constant flow of Dilaudid through my IV didn’t cut through the pain. It was hard to move. When I say move, I mean, move anything. Turning my head was painful. Readjusting in my bed, which needed to happen frequently, was excruciating. And once I got to the point where I was able to sit up, the pain really kicked in. Like I’ve said before, I’ve never experienced more than the removal of my wisdom teeth, so this was not only new, but on a completely different level for me.
My incision is right above my pubic hairline, which is very low. Once fully healed, I’ll still be able to wear “low-rise” jeans without my scar showing. It is, however, still in my abdominal region. A region we use for everything. Bending over. Twisting. Coughing. Blowing our noses. Walking. Crying. Laughing. Drinking. Eating. Using the bathroom. Getting dressed. Brushing our teeth. And more. I now know exactly why our abdomen is called our “core”. It definitely is the core of all movement in our bodies. And that sucks when it’s been cut open and is vulnerable and sore. It makes everything difficult. There were a couple of mornings when I needed to clear my throat and blow my nose, and those typically simple (and very taken for granted) tasks became hour-long excursions. Whenever I moved, I had to put pressure on the pillow on my belly. This helped- how shall I say it?- things stay in place.
Having friends and family visit was a true gift. Although, for those who visited me the night and day after surgery, it might have been sad and entertaining all at once. You special ones, were able to see me in my Dilaudid dream! I now understand what it takes for people to visit others in the hospital. You’ve got to be able and willing to see it all. You can’t be deeply irritated by sounds of moaning, sights of writhing or silent tears. And you definitely can’t be offended if the patient falls asleep in the middle of a conversation. I was privy to all of the above. And to those who stood by me, prayed for me, brushed my tears away, gave soft hugs, and encouraging words, I will always be grateful for you. Among my visitors, I had some surprises. My Nanny and Papa (maternal grandparents), and my 2 younger brothers all flew in from around the country to be with me. I am very close with my family, so the sights of these 3 had me in tears. What a gift it is to receive time with loved ones we don’t see often enough. In addition, my husband worked it out where I could FaceTime with my dad while in the hospital. For most of us, our parents voices are very comforting, and my dad’s gave me deep comfort during this time. Not only was he able to see me lying motionless in bed, but he was able to view me walking for the first time! Technology is amazing these days. For those who resist the change, rethink your reasoning.
Among my friends and family, I also received visits from my other doctors. Remember my Gynecologist who diagnosed me with cancer? The one I refer to as my personal detective? She stopped by to see how I was doing. I adore seeing her face and hearing her voice. She is the one person God blessed me with to discover my disease. She truly saved my life. I will forever be thankful for her. My Oncologist’s assistant also dropped in, and like Matt stated in previous entries, she brought with her a guardian angel pin for me to wear. These simple acts of kindness mean the world to me. They show me that people really do care. That I’m not just a patient. For those of us affected by disease, who visit doctors and hospitals frequently now, we deeply appreciate when we aren’t just another patient. When we are seen as someone other than a walking hospital gown.
Overall, my stay at the hospital hotel was a rough one filled with blessings. An excruciating one with many smiles. A sad one filled with laughter. A defeating one triumphed by victory. And God continued to be there through it all. Some times people may wonder, where is God? Why is He is making me go through this? Can’t He understand this is hurting me? But the truth is, God is always there with you. He doesn’t make you go through certain trials, He allows you to go through them. He allows us to experience pain, suffering, hurt, loss, and grief in order for us to learn something. After all, what would our lives be if they were easy all the time? Would we learn anything? Would we grow? No. We, as human beings, need to be challenged. And, as for me, I’m thankful for a God who challenges me. Even though the midst of these trials may royally suck, I look forward to the knowledge I will gain because of this. The story I will have.
You know, all of our journeys are unique ones. God gives each of us different stories to tell. Different chapters, different words, different characters, different plots. I believe He does this so we can personally learn and grow, and so that we can share them with others, so that they too, can grow. Be reminded that God also allows us personal victories, good days, and happiness. He is not only the author of the crap, but He also writes our greatest times as well. We gain knowledge through these victories, but as for me, I gain a hellofalot more knowledge through my trials. I am thankful for my journey. Don’t get me wrong, just because I’m thankful, doesn’t mean I always like it. However, my thankfulness is rooted in the fact that God will bless me for being faithful. He will bless me with things I can’t even imagine yet. These trials he puts us through will always result in reward. It’s the truth. God guarantees it.
As I have grown and gone through many trials in my life (this being by far the biggest and most difficult), I choose to view these shitty circumstances not as “Why?” moments, but rather as “What are You teaching me?” adventures. God is working in me. He is teaching me something that will benefit my future. He is honing my character. I look forward to the person I will become due to this diagnosis and the immense blessings He will pour out to me.
1 Peter 5:8-10 (Message Version)
“Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ -eternal and glorious plans they are!- will have you put together and on your feet for good.”