Before I was married, I got the privilege to live in Joplin, Mo and it was one of the most enjoyable periods of my life. While there, I attended a church called Christ Church of Oronogo and met an incredible man named Mark Christian. He is a remarkable speaker, and brings truth and love to the pulpit straight from the scripture. It's not watered down, or stories shared solely of him and his life experiences. It's just simple, straight up scripture and truth. Over the years, the words the Spirit has filled him with have helped me in more ways than he’ll ever know.
On Monday, July 16, I walked back into the chemo ward at the Mills Breast Cancer Center in Champaign, IL. A place I have been trying to avoid since I walked out in 2014. When I rang that bell upon completion of my first round of chemo, I fully intended to never return. I don’t like it there for a number of reasons. Some are a bit more obvious, while others are hidden and unknown only to those who have walked through those halls. I don't like it there mostly because I don’t feel like I belong. The majority of the people are older, frail, and sickly. That’s not me. I'm quirky and energetic still. I don’t like it because it makes you sick. The drugs they give you make you feel weird, like you’re not yourself. I don’t like it because there is no end this time, no goal to work towards, so I feel lost. That’s not the case this round. I don’t like it because in a way it takes away my freedom. I am bound to the chemo chair every Monday, until further notice. Every part of my body wants to avoid this place, and yet, I feel like this is exactly where God had called me to be.
Three years ago, while I was in chemo the first time, the chemo ward wasn’t nice. Still though, I made some amazing friends while I was there, and I got to spend quality time with people I love. This time, before I entered back into the chemo ward, I spent a week at a Christ In Youth conference with a few students I have been working with for the last two years. During this week, I, along with several others, challenged my students to grow in their faith, and share the gospel with others. Some of us made promises, confessed our fears and sins, and made plans to walk out of the darkness of our lives and into the light.
During this week, as I'm asking my students to grow and spread the love of God, it dawned on me my hypocrisy as I had not been doing as well as I can during this time. So I made a promise to them, and I'm making a promise to you. I'm not saying this to boast or to brag, but rather to help keep myself accountable and to help me follow-through. As the chemo ward is not the happiest place on this earth, it still can be a place of joy and hope. So I ordered encouragement cards, beautifully designed, and with verses of hope written on them. I am going to make it my mission to encourage as many people in that dreadful place as possible. I'm going to share the love of Christ as best as possible, and hopefully make the chemo ward less dreary. I have no idea if this is going to help, or work, nor am I sure if anyone has ever done anything like this before. I've never seen it, but I'm sure I'm not the first. But, I promised my students that I was going to use this as my new mission field, and I fully intend to do that. Bring it on Satan.
When I made the decision to enter back into the chemo ward, I was crushed. I was broken. We have been trying to gain access to a variety of clinical trails, anything but traditional chemo, with no luck. I have been denied for various reasons, I'm "too healthy", I don't have the right immune system, I don't have any genetic disorders. I've had a couple of oncologists tell me I'm unfortunately just not a very drug-able patient. My chances of having cancer are .1%. POINT ONE PERCENT. Not even a full percentage, and yet, here I am dying from this terrible disease with limited treatment options. I remember saying to Charlie that I didn’t understand anything anymore and that I felt guilty for asking people to pray for me. Simply because nothing was working, our prayers weren’t being answered in the manner we had been seeking. It seemed as if everything we had been praying for, the exact opposite kept happening. And yet, still, I can't walk away.
This world is ugly, brutal, not what God intended, and yet, there is still so much beauty and joy amongst all of the pain and sorrow. It all depends on how you look at it. During the decision process to enter back into the chemo ward, people would ask me how I was doing, and all I could do was cry. Words could not express how I felt, until Mark Christian.
My husband and I still listen to Mark and CCO's podcasts online when we can, and they're always such a gut check. They're the types of sermons you listen to and walk away knowing you need to be doing more with your life. Compelling, and gut checking words hit you almost every time. (You can check it them out here if you want: https://cco.church/podcasts) One night, on my way from Sullivan to Monticello, I was alone in my car, crying, I decided to listen to one of these podcasts. And as always, the perfect words came through my car speakers.
The podcast was called, The Gospel: When It Doesn't Fix It. Focusing on Mark 9, the question is posed, "Is your faith in Jesus because He did something you wanted Him to do, and proved Himself, or because He's good even when He leaves you in the condition you wish you weren't in?" Honestly, I can answer that I believe in Him, even if He doesn't answer, but boy, would it make it a whole lot easier if He did answer our prayers and provide a miracle.
Mark continues, and in the podcast you begin to hear a story about a father who brings his son to Jesus to ask for healing. His son is possesed by a Spirit, and the disciples cannot cast out this demon. The religious leaders argue with Jesus and say that He can't heal this boy, they mock Jesus and His disciples. Both parties are in a back-and-forth debate as to who is right, and who is wrong theologically. During this time, the father desperately waits for help. He doesn't care about who is right, and who is wrong. HE JUST WANTS HIS SON TO BE HEALED. HE JUST WANTS TO KNOW THAT JESUS IS WHO HE SAYS HE IS. That father, and I, we both just want Jesus to fix what is broken.
Jesus though, just doesn't alway fix our physical problems. He builds our faith, and He cares more about our issues than we do. He can do anything if we allow our faith to believe that He can do what He says He can do. It's not about how much we trust Him, but what we put our trust in. If we believe in Him, we would be amazed at what He can do. So here is my prayer. Father, I do believe. Help me overcome my belief. Do it your way, not my way.
Church. Listen. At this point in my life, I don’t care about the little things. Those who are desperate don't care who's right. We don’t care about how much money we have, We don’t care if you’re rich/poor, cool/uncool, old or young. We don't care if you worship in a cool church building, or if the church has the coolest band in the land. We don't care if you drive a fancier car, or about what’s happening tomorrow, or what we're doing that day. We don’t care about what’s happening in the world or news stories. We only care about Jesus. I (we) need to know he’s real. I need to know His love. I need to know He cares. I have an unqunechable thirst for a hug from Him, and these simple words, “It will be okay. I got this.” That’s all I need. That's all I really want. Things on this earth temporarily distract me, but at the end of the day, when I’m lying in bed awake at night, all I truly need is Jesus and the reassurance of His love. I need to know at the end of this battle, He is there waiting for me. That's it's not just a made up story. He is real. That's all.
At the end of the podcast Jesus explains to His disciples why they couldn't cast out the demon in the little boy. He tells them how little their faith is, and that this demon could only be cast out by prayer. If you have faith in the source of your power, not yourself, God will get you in on things you cannot do yourself. And how does that power arrive? Through prayer. Humble helplessness is the first step. Admitting that I cannot do anything outside of God. Without you God, nothing I do matters. I don't know what to do next, I don't know how to trust well. I'm scared. Fear overwhelms me, or doubt creeps in saying that I'm not good enough or worthy enough of His love and power.
So, I need help. We all need help. We need to fully trust. To know God. We need prayer to overcome our disbelief. Even when He doesn't do what we ask Him to. There is nothing I can control about this situation. And I need to give it ALL to God. I'm not sure what that looks like, but I'm going to work towards that goal.
During these next few months, I'm not sure what's going to happen. IV chemo has begun, and it's going to wreck my body in a way I'm not excited about. After one round, I already feel weaker, tired, sick, and worn out. But I do know I'm not going to give up. No. I'm going to ask to all of you to prayerfully remember us and ask for us to overcome our belief. Pray for continued growth in my faith and for a miracle.
We will also need help with chemo treatments and visits if you so desire. I've listed a schedule below, and while I have a massive family willing to help, my chemo schedule can be daunting at times, and somewhat of a burden to only my family. So if you want to come hang out with me in the chemo ward, I WOULD LOVE to spend some time with you.
I am on a three-week chemo cycle. Two weeks on chemo (every Monday), and one week off. The week off allows my body to hopefully recover from the various side effects the drugs will bring along with hopefully (Lord willing) the destruction of my cancer. My current chemo schedule is listed below:
- Monday, August 6th
- Monday, August 13th
- Monday, August 20 - OFF Week
- Monday, August 27th
- Monday, September 3rd
- Monday, September 10th - OFF Week
- Monday, September 17th
- Monday, September 24th
- Monday, October 1 - OFF Week
The schedule will eventually change over time, but for the moment, this is where we stand until further notice. Like I said, if you have some free time, and want to come hang out with me, I would LOVE to see you. Even if it's just for a few minutes. It helps pass the time, and for the chemo ward to be less terrible.
One major positive note in all of this, we FINALLY paid off all of our medical bills from Mayo!! To say they were daunting and huge stress in my life is almost an understatement. After a whole year of fighting with insurance, and Mayo, we finally reached an agreement, and because of all of your support and love, Charlie and I no longer have to worry about this piece of the puzzle. Truly. I wish I could express my gratitude and thankfulness for everything, everyone has done for us. We cannot stand alone, and we aren't. We are blessed and loved beyond measure, and we thank God for the overwhelming amount of love and support we have already received.
So again, thank you. For everything. Your prayers, support, and love help carry us through. And we couldn't do any of this without all of the help we've already received.