Thursday, February 16, 2012

I Know That I Know...

In the two short years I have lived with cancer, I have met some amazing people.  And have heard some amazing stories.  So amazing, that when I hear one, I think, I need to share this with you guys.    I like to call these, “I Know That I Know That I Know that God is Real” stories.  You might need to read that line again.  I know that it’s a mouthful, but it hammers it home, doesn’t it? 
So yesterday I met with a woman who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  I sat on her couch and chatted about chemo and hair loss and wigs and false eyelashes.  And God’s goodness.  Then she told me about a time in her life before cancer.  
A beautiful story I will never forget.  

I hope you never forget it either...
Sherry and her husband Rex dreamed of having children.  After many disappointments, they turned to their doctor who told them that Sherry’s ovaries did not ovulate.  And without ovulation, there would be no babies.
Regardless, she and Rex answered God’s call of serving as missionaries in West Africa.  Arriving childless, the African people of Lome´, Togo began praying that she and her husband would have children.   They prayed and prayed and prayed for them.  As the Bible teaches, they “prayed without ceasing.”  
One day on a flight home to the states, Sherry became nauseous.  She thought she had malaria and began taking medication to ease her symptoms.  But as she arrived home, the nausea persisted. Did she have malaria?  Nope.  She was pregnant!
Now here’s where the story gets good.  
Do you know how many years they were married before she became pregnant?  Wait for it......... 17 years!  Seventeen!  After seventeen very, very long years, they welcomed a son into their lives.    They named him John Mawuli (African for “God lives!”)  How beautiful, I thought.  My heart melted when I heard that the Africans had given him his middle name.   And are you ready for this?  Two years later, they welcomed a daughter into their lives.  They named her Sarah Kafui (African for “praise Him!”)  Just as beautiful.  Sitting down?  Three years later, they welcomed Rebekah Mawumenyo (African for “God is good!”) into their lives. 
Those middle names say it all, don’t you think?
(And what a testimony when their children explain their unusual middle names to their friends).  I love it.
So here’s the amazing part.  
These three babies who were born to this American missionary couple helped to change that African community in ways that Sherry and her husband could have never foreseen.   You see, their church organization doesn’t send missionaries to that area anymore.  They don’t need to.  The people of Lome´ serve as their own missionaries now sharing the Gospel to those throughout Togo.  Why?  Because their faith, though strong before the couple arrived, just exploded after witnessing the birth of their children.  God had answered their ceaseless prayers.
So what did I walk away with that morning?  That patience is key to prayer. Well, not to mention faith, but I think that one’s a given.  But God needed Sherry and Rex to be without children for 17 years.   I’m sure they didn’t understand.  I’m sure at times they felt that God wasn’t at work in their lives.  I’m sure they may have felt that God had turned His back on them.  
But He didn’t.  
If our prayers align with His will -- then Bingo.  But it may be 17 very long years before we can stand up and shout “Bingo!”
for the whole world to hear.

The Lord works according to His plan.  His timing.  He knew where Sherry and Rex would be 17 years later.  In Africa.  Right where He needed them to be. Working as obedient missionaries and living as examples for all those watching.  And waiting.  To see a miracle.  Seventeen years later.  His tapestry had been woven.  And a community in Africa was one of the integral threads.
I left Sherry’s house that morning filled with joy.  To hear that story, moved my soul.  “Coincidence?” I always ask myself.   I think not.  Why?  Because I’ve heard way too many of these amazing stories for them to be coincidences.  
I know that I know that I know that God is real.  
I know it’s a mouthful.  
But I do.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Better Plan...

If I told you I had chemo today from 8 til 2, and broke my tooth half way through on a pretzel stick, would you think I had a pretty bad day?  May I add that my bestfriend from grammar school who is a substitute teacher (and a cancer survivor of nearly 10 years!) was going to hang out with me during my treatment but couldn't.  Duty called.  She was told at 6 am that a classroom needed her.  I was bummed, but knew that we'd catch up again soon.  So knowing that she wasn't coming, I arrived early to get the one private room that has a DVD player so I could finally watch The Help.
But as soon as I sat down in the room, I was asked if I would allow a new patient to have that room for the day.  I'm kinda nice, so I said yes.

Well, things happen for a reason, right?

Because I wasn't tucked away by myself watching a movie, I noticed the discomfort on the new patient's face.  When I saw her husband step outside for a bit, I walked in and introduced myself.  I usually want to strike up a conversation with everyone around me there, but I often don't.  But this time I did.

I reassured this newly diagnosed breast cancer patient that cancer isn't always what it's cracked up to be.  Sometimes it's more doable than one may think.   
I wanted her to know that I've never thrown up following chemo and that my hair began growing back in just four months.  I told her she could buy great fake eyelashes at CVS for $4.  And I couldn't resist trying to make her laugh with my minipad/wig story.  Don't know if I've ever shared that one on my blog before, but it's a good one.   

A few hours later, her cousin came by to sit with her.  She is a breast/ovarian/bone cancer survivor.  Who better to support you through cancer than that lady!  Before long, they were laughing and I'm glad to say, she was now relaxed and comfortable for the duration of her first treatment.

A little bit later, another patient sat in the chair beside me.  
Fortunately or unfortunately, eavesdropping is very easy to do there because the chairs are so close together with few partitions.  You basically hear everything that's said to your neighbor.  As a result, I overheard that this woman's scan just revealed that her cancer had spread to her bone.  I heard that she was a little concerned about how she was going to get to daily radiation treatments, so I leaned over and told her that during my good weeks, I would be happy to take her.  I handed her my card.  Some of you may know that my cards feature my life's motto, "can't do cancer without God."  I saw that she studied the card and said nothing.  She thanked me for my offer and placed the card in her purse.

We then talked about food for two hours.  Raw foods.  Vegan diets.  Wheatgrass.  Just stuff.  She told me that her doctor misread her mammogram, telling her she was fine, only to find out one year later when she had her next mammogram that she wasn't.  She now had advanced breast cancer.

Do you know how beautiful it was to look into her green eyes and listen to this woman say how lucky she felt.   She said, "I'll tell you this because you have cancer.  You'll get this.  I'm actually grateful for this cancer because it has brought me closer to God.  I was very busy when I worked, and led a very stressful life as a result of my job.  And I kind of got away from God.  And this was a great wake-up call for me."  She agreed that cancer offers many silver linings.

My eyes were beginning to fill with those dang tears of mine.  Not because it was sad and I felt sorry for her.  But because when you face something like cancer, you get what's important in life.  And that's a gift.  A gift like no other.  And I was so glad she got it -- the meaning,  not the cancer!

I handed her a pink "can't do cancer without God" necklace from around my neck.  She studied it for a long time and then said she noticed that that phrase was also on my business card.   She then asked me what church I went to.  I told her it was basically behind us and across the street.  I told her that when we find a Sunday when we both feel well, I'd be happy to pick her up and take her.  

She said she'd be happy to go.  
And put the necklace around her neck.

Right before she left, I told her that I was so glad my friend couldn't make it this afternoon.  Because if she had, I would have been off in conversation with her and would have missed this lovely connection with my new friend.

I love when God surprises me.  

I love that my plans fall through.  
And His plans flourish.