Though some November days have brought me incredible moments of joy, including the birth of my first nephew nearly two years ago, historically for me and my family, cold weather and early sunsets have also been associated with deep sorrow and grief.
One year in particular, I had been diagnosed for the second time with stage 3 melanoma. It would have been my senior year of college, and the momentum I had regained after my first fight with melanoma as a freshman was completely lost. I spent my days home alone while my teammates and friends had the time of their lives. I recovered from a first surgery, then a second. I mourned the loss of half of my ear. I anticipated getting radiation treatments that December... And worst of all, I knew that my chance of getting melanoma a third time and dying from it a few years down the road was statistically more likely than not. Not an easy situation to deal with as a 20-year-old.
I may not have had the most positive attitude during that struggle in my cancer journey, but I did have the love and support of family and friends, and I was so very grateful for that. It was a gift, and now I can see that it was God working through my loved ones to give me comfort and strength.
I did not know that my struggle was about to intensify much sooner than I anticipated – my terminal diagnosis came that January. As it did for me in that situation, sometimes life gets harder before it gets easier. But again, God gave me a lifeline – hope, in the form of the alternative cancer treatments that ended up saving my life.
We all want it, we all need it. We all can have it too.
Last November, I needed hope more desperately than ever. After being in remission for 2 ½ years and adhering very closely to my new healthy lifestyle (the one that had saved my life), I thought my cancer had returned. A routine checkup scan revealed an unexplained mass – a suspected tumor– in my chest. I was in disbelief: “How could my cancer have returned? I am doing everything possible to stay healthy – following my strict diet, detoxing regularly, getting my treatment boosters… How could this be?” Fear overwhelmed me as I again ventured into uncharted territory, with unanswered questions circling in my head.
But then I remembered…
“’Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’” (Isaiah 41:10)… “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6,7)… “God causes all things to work together for good to those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)… “’For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)… The list goes on…
The faith in God I lacked during my previous health scares then sustained me when nothing else could. I decided to trust that no matter what happened with my health, it was all according to God’s perfect plan for my life. I trusted God to make good come from whatever happened, whether I lived or died. And “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension…” guarded my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.
Miraculously, the results came 6 weeks later from a follow-up scan (after receiving no treatment) that the suspected tumor had shrunk. The rapid growth and shrinkage was a huge answer to prayer and a mystery to everyone, including my oncologist.
Maybe it was a way for God to show me that I don’t need to know how things are going to work out, that all I have to do is trust Him and He will take care of everything. I’d often heard the phrase, “Let go and let God”. Well I finally did it and I finally experienced its true power, God’s power. It’sunparalleled.
So, my encouragement to you on this day and for this month is to do the same. Let go and let God, and know that even on the darkest day, we can give thanks that there is a great plan for each of our lives.
Love you all.