Saturday, June 28, 2008

This is My Story (Part 1)

This Is My Story

Well....part of it. We all have a story to tell. We can all give a first person narrative of triumph and tragedy, joy and sorrow, victory and defeat, life and death. Each part of our story has meaning and significance. Perhaps to help or encourage someone else, perhaps to propel us forward, growing into the mature son or daughter of God we were planned to be. I believe God allows us to go through certain things in our life, not because He wants to bring us harm, but so that others can see His provision, healing, goodness, mercy, love, and faithfulness. So today, in hope that you will somehow find encouragement, hope and healing, I open my book, flip forward a few chapters, and allow you a glimpse into the novel of my life, my journey, my story.

I was reminded several times this week of God's indescribable magnificence and goodness. Everywhere I looked, I saw His reflection or heard His voice. I knew it was Him. In the breeze. In the trees. In the sound of my kids laughing. In the birds singing. In the beauty of His creation. We don't have to look far to find Him.

As I was glancing out of my dining room windows, I noticed a banner that I had made last year. It was draped across the top of my bay window. It simply says "CELEBRATE". I made this on one of my "creative days". (For those of you who know me well, know that I have been known to - on occasion - turn my dining room table into a mini art studio, filled with fabrics, paints, papers, and all sorts of embellishments and supplies.)

My brother-in-law was visiting a few weeks ago and asked, "Why do have that hanging there? What are you celebrating?" I just smiled and said, "Life". Because I am.

Almost four years ago, I was pregnant with Logan, my third child. During my sixth month, I went to the doctor to have a mole on my shoulder removed. No big deal. (Right?) I left the office with a few stitches and glad to be rid of the ugly mole. About a week later, I came home to find two voice messages on my answering machine from my doctor urging me to call him as soon as I returned home. He had followed procedure and sent the mole to the lab for testing. There was something in his voice that made me very nervous. I knew something was wrong.

The next morning, my mom drove me back to my doctor's office to hear the results of my lab and the reason for his concern. Unlike a routine visit where we sit and wait in an exam room, we were escorted to his personal office and sat down in front of his very large, intimidating desk. I knew now that the mole was in fact, a big deal.

Melanoma. That was my news. And almost more than I could bear. And because of the size and depth of the tumor (mole) that had been removed, they did not receive clear margins large enough all the way around to their satisfaction. I was to be referred to an oncologist to discuss additional surgery, further testing, and possible treatment options if the cancer had spread. Thank God my mom was there. All of the strength drained from my body and I buckled under the weight of what I had heard. I was devastated. I felt like I was going to be sick and excused myself to the restroom. I remember feeling like someone had punched me in the stomach and I couldn't catch my breath.

I found out later that my mom set my doctor straight on a few things while I was gone. Although we appreciated his professional opinion and advice, we had a higher authority and a greater physician. While my earthly doctor was very gloomy and negative in his report, my Heavenly Father, the Great Physician, said by the stripes of Jesus I was healed! (Is. 53:5). And Jesus said that He came that I might have life and have it more abundantly! (Jn 10:10)

So for a few days, I could only cry. I knew what the word the said, but I was struggling in my emotions. You can imagine the things running through my mind. I had two children already, and was six months pregnant with my third. All I could think of was what if? I was tormented and consumed with negative thoughts and the feeling that I might die. I remember thinking about the movie, Stepmom, where the mother gets cancer and was dying. She began to prepare her children and leave momentos and videos for important events in their life that she would miss. I couldn't bear this thought. I had drifted into a place of utter despair and had to pull myself out of it.

After I'd had enough of feeling drained, hopeless, and full of despair, I decided enough was enough! I got out my bible and my praise CDs and did what I should've done from the beginning. I immersed myself in the presence of my Lord. I even had headphones and baby praise CDs for Logan (in my tummy!). Even when I didn't feel like it, I praised Him. One morning shortly thereafter, I was kneeling beside my bed and heard God speak more clearly than I ever have before. It seems now like it may have been an audible voice, but I don't think it was. I heard it but I don't think anyone else could have. I just knew it was Him. I will never forget what He said, "I have already taken care of it." And that was it! As I let the words sink in, I was transformed in His presence. The negative, hopeless thoughts that had been clouding my mind and destroying my faith were gone. My negative emotions disappeared. I felt my spirit strengthen as I replayed His words in my mind. Words that were not unfamiliar to me, but that had now become personal. They were now part of my story.

The next few weeks were busy. My sister was getting married and I was in her wedding, big belly and all. I had much to distract me from my upcoming doctor visit. I kept trusting God and believing His word to me, but it was a task to keep the negative thoughts from returning. I continued to praise Him for what He had already done. The praise music took me out of my circumstances and into His presence. It was the safest place for me to be.
After the wedding, I came home and braced myself for my visit to the specialist. I knew God was in control. I initially met with an oncologist who my primary physician referred me to. However, my OBGYN was doing some research and making some phone calls on my behalf. He wanted to make sure I saw the best doctor and got the best care possible. He was concerned for me and my baby. He referred me to a dermato oncologist who then referred me to a surgeon. Both doctors were very positive and confident that I was going to be okay, but we did need to do the additional surgery to remove a larger area around where the tumor was. They would also have to inject radioactive dye into my shoulder to see where the cancer would have most likely spread to - IF it had spread - lymph nodes under my arm or in my neck. After talking, praying, and getting reassured over and over that neither procedure would harm or affect the baby, we decided to schedule the surgery right away. This way, I would be healed enough to be able to breast feed without pain and discomfort from my arm and shoulder.

So about five weeks before my my due date, I arrived for my surgery, accompanied by the best family and friends a girl could ask for! The radioactive dye determined that IF the cancer had spread, it would have most likely affected two lymph nodes under my arm. The surgery was performed and the two identified lymph nodes were removed for biopsies.

After one and a half weeks of waiting, I received the news that we had been waiting for. Cancer free! Clear margins and lymph nodes! No further surgeries or treatments of any kind! I would only have to visit for my checkups with both doctors every six months, then every year, which I continue to do today. He had already taken care of it. :-)

And on December 13, 2004, baby Logan weighed in at a whopping 9 lbs 10 oz! And loving his praise music! But that's another chapter...... :-)

Here's Logan today at 3 1/2 and full of joy!

So I said all of that to explain my banner. CELEBRATE. Not just on special occasions, birthdays or holidays, but everyday. Through this chapter of my life, I have learned how valuable and fragile life is. And how every moment of every day is special. Although I am FAR from perfect, and still get frustrated, lose my focus, and sometimes take the little things for granted, I try to remember to celebrate. Celebrate the dirty dishes and my house that is too small! Celebrate my children when they obey and when the don't! Celebrate Him. Celebrate life and every morning that I get to wake up. I am thankful to hear His voice, and thankful that He is taking care of me.

My soul waits for the Lord. He is my help and my shield. For my heart shall rejoice in Him, because I have trusted in His holy name.
(Ps 33:20-21)
I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
(Ps. 34:1)

5 friends had this to say:

Martha said...

My sweet Shelly - I wasn't sure if I could comment on this one or not. It is such a delicate area still. I read it and cried like a baby. It was a very hard season in our lives but I somehow knew all along that it would be okay. As a mother, I could not allow myself to expect anything but that. I knew that I could not get into fear,that I had to be strong for you and that I had to make my declarations from the very beginning. I had to believe that we served a big God and that nothing would be impossible if we could only believe.God has given you a great testimony.I know that it was probably hard to share your private thoughts but I pray that someone will be touched and encouraged in their faith through this blog.I celebrate you today for the woman of faith that you have become and I celebrate my precious Logan who has brought so much love & joy into our lives. I know that God has great plans for the both of you! I love you, Mom

Quiltermama said...

I am so moved that I don't think I can put words together very well. But, I must say what I can, anyway. What a testimony, what an incredible faith, and what an AWESOME God!!!

I am SO thankful that the Lord healed you, sweet friend. I had wondered about your story...I thought I had overheard the word cancer mentioned in our group (maybe the day I met precious Logan?), but wasn't sure if I should ask, if I could ask. I hate to admit that I was caught in my own fear.

I cannot even bear the thought of losing another dear friend to death...even though I know there's SO much more beyond this life. It still feels like there's a part of myself gone that I'll never get back again.

And, I felt (and still do) feel shame for not being there for you during that season. I should've been there with you, praying over you, hugging you, encouraging you. If I get that lost again, wandering in the confusion of my life, please, please pull my head out of my butt and remind me to take notice. I do love you SO much, and all my girls!!!

ittybittyaddition said...

Words can not express how grateful I am to still have you and Logan in my life. That time was by far the most scared I have ever been in my life. I love you so much and without you my life I would not be complete. I thank God each and every day for you and that he let me be priviledged enough to be your sister. Even though I cried so hard after reading this I know that the people that read it will be touch and will begin to have faith like they have never before. We do have so much to celebrate in life. Just the fact that we are breathing is a blessing. I love you sis and know that God has BIG THINGS for you.

jthom03 / Jan Thomason / said...

Shelly, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog and I look forward to reading more in the future.
Do you think you'll ever talk about me?
That was a joke, dear.
But anyway I do look forward to reading more in the future and I can see this blog going many places.

So now I'm going to eat dinner and then work in the studio this evening.
I'm jacked!

Love you and so very glad we're back in contact - who thought all it would take was for me to celebrate your birtday.

I should have known......
xoxo, jan

Amy-Razz Pizazz Boutique said...

What an amazing testimony to God's undeniable love and goodness to us. His word does NOT come back to us void and his promises reign! This past couple of month have sent some challenges my way... I haven't blogged about it, not sure if I will. BUT I know this, I am so grateful for God is my life and HE has been there for me every moment. I am so thankful for the husband and children He has given me.... His mercies endure every morning and his love for us never fails!
God is already using you... and will continue to use your testimony to help others. It was just beautiful and I was blessed to be able to read your words of strength and courage... it is refreshing to my soul.
lots of love and blessings,