Monday, November 14, 2016

Why did I get cancer?

This is the million dollar question.
Why did I get cancer.
Some people ask me this, and by some I mean like 65% of people I meet that find out I am a cancer survivor. They ask me why I had cancer, they ask me if I know what caused the cancer.
There are studies that show that eating sugar, using microwaves or eating Chinese salted fish will give you cancer. Some people believe that sin will cause cancer. And while yes, I use a microwave, and eat sugar, and yes I have my fair share of sinning, I don't think that is why I got cancer.
This past week I was at a conference and I was super into that the speaker was sharing with the group, but then a note fell out of my bible, it was a note I wrote myself a few weeks before I got diagnosed. On the top of the note I wrote the bible verses "To whom He loves, He disciplines. Behold He stands at the door and knocks..." Then under it I wrote "Lord I'm ready now, all my walls are down."
It hit me right then and there. In a chair in the middle of nowhere Indiana. I got cancer because the Lord loves me.
Okay, I get that some people may not want to hear that, and I'm not saying everyone has to believe that. But the Lord saw me in the state I was living in, in April 2015, and He saw that I was running fast and far away, and He loved me enough to see this broken, hot mess of a girl and REDEEM her. Redeem the hurt, the scars, the deep wounds. He wanted me to fulfill my destiny and purpose in Him, that He couldn't just let me keep on living how I was. He loved me enough to let me have a wake up call. He loved me enough to make my old self new again.
Now, does this mean I think God GAVE me cancer? Absolutely not.
Do I think He ALLOWED my body to get filled with stage 4 lymphoma? Absolutely.
And do I think He was, and is still a good God. I really do.
I believe that God is sovereign and I believe He is in control of every aspect. My cancer didn't take Him by surprise.
 I believe that when I was born almost 10 weeks early, and not given a good chance to survive as a new born, that 23 years ago while I was laying in that incubator, God looked down and knew that 21 years later I would be in the same hospital, fighting for my life all over again. He used my newborn frail body to bring my mom to salvation, and then also use my frail and dying body to bring my life into redemption and have new life in Christ. So I also believe that God allowed my 21 year old body to get filled with cancer, He allowed me to be given 1 week to live, and He is so so so good to walk me through the worst 6 months of my life, all because He loves me.
He wants me.
He chose me.
He wasn't satisfied with how I was living. He knew I had potential. He had called me to something much bigger than just a 60 hour work week and living to feel loved by whoever would give it.
That to me is radical love. That God would love me enough to show me how valuable life is, and to also ultimately show me that He is in control of every single aspect of my life. He didn't want me to be living how I was, it broke His heart.
He loved me enough to restore the joy of my salvation to me.

Friday, October 7, 2016

But What If....

Almost 1 year since I've been cancer free. What a freaking huge accomplishment. I'm so proud of myself. This time last year, I was anxiously waiting for the dr to either tell me I was completely cancer free, or that the treatment hadn’t worked and we would need to find another means of treatment. Here I am exactly one year later, sitting in a hallway of an old monastery, next to girls I have known for less than a month, and I am celebrating new life, and a new season in my life.
It's so crazy how all this is happening to me this month tho. Not only do I get to celebrate my 1 year anniversary, but I'm here at YWAM, which that in itself has been such an awesome thing in my life.

The Lord has done crazy and break through changes in my life in just these ‘short’ 3 weeks that I’ve been here in Pittsburgh. Like yesterday, I got to share about brokenness with my entire class this week, and how the Lord broke me during my walk with cancer. I would have never ever thought I was share my story and what God thought me with such confidence. Even when I shared my testimony on Easter sunday at church, it was not with confidence, but now I can say in full confidence what the Lord has done, and who I am now. To God be the glory.

Then yesterday we had a “trust exercise” and I had every intention of lying my way through this thing, not sharing my deepest insecurities with people who barely know me. But there I was shaking, and word vomiting as I usually do.  I shared my hurt and insecurities on having fear control my life. How I let the fear of cancer coming back into my life sometimes paralyze me. How I walk around seeming like the most brave or courageous person, but deep down I am a scared little girl who doesn’t want to get out of bed in fear that today could be my last.

After I was done sharing everyone was affirming me in bravery and strength, but someone said “Don’t worry, I believe the Lord won’t let cancer affect you again.” That statement seriously upset me. Stuff like that always has upset me. When someone tells me they will pray I don't get cancer again, or the tell me I was healed and cancer won't touch me again, something inside of me gets pained. I get upset, and bitter towards someone, and I wasn’t sure why. So I called my mom and processed the entire thing. We talked how I am at a place where I am content and “ok” if the cancer were to come back, and I am completely prepared if it does so. Since my dr told me the chances of having cancer again in the next 5 years is about 85%, I have really made peace with it, and I am willing to let the Lord use me til He calls me home. But the fact that someone said  I wouldn’t deal with that anymore bothered me greatly. Then my mom said something that shook my foundation of peace on which I had been standing. She said, “Jackie, You have come to terms to living with cancer, you have prepared for it and it is well with your soul, but are you prepared to live your life if the cancer doesn’t come back?”

That question, like I said, SHOOK me. Am I ok with letting the Lord use me without cancer. I hadn't even planned for the “What if I NEVER get cancer again.”
Like oh my word! Imagine what the Lord could do with THAT.
He used cancer in such a great and mighty way, imagine what He can do with a healthy, strong and able body. He is beginning a new thing in my life.

Isaiah 43:18-19
Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

Why do I not accept this.
The Lord will, and is doing a new thing, and I am the healed of the Lord. No more “for this season” or “For right nows.” I am the healed of the Lord...period.
I don’t think that by any means I am called to forget that I had cancer, because I believe in full faith that the Lord will use that for His glory.
I can not wait for this new season of life to unravel. The Lord is showing himself in such a new way, and allowing me to see the Father’s heart in every aspect of my life.

So that’s been my challenge this week; am I prepared to not have cancer, and to finally let God use me in THIS season. The old has gone, behold He is doing a new thing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Somehow my story is apart of His plan, Here I am.

What a crazy year! Just to think that this time last year I was fighting one of my hardest battles, fighting to live, and now here I am, living and loving life through the sovereignty of Jesus Christ! It's been a while since I wrote my last blog post, so I wanted to share what the Lord is doing in my life, and where this next journey is taking me.

First off, I had this AWESOME opportunity to share my story at a local 'Relay For Life.' I'm pretty sure that blessed and encouraged me the most out of anyone there. I got to stand there, with some of my closest friends standing next to me and sitting behind me, and talk about how I am a survivor through the grace of God. Then, I was able to do a survivor lap with my closest and dearest friends surrounding me. It brought me to tears to recall how they had all walked through this battle with me, and were still continuing to walk (literally and figuratively) with me.

 Also, I am excited to say that I have answered the call for the passion the Lord gave me a while ago; to reach the lost people of the world, and to travel to the unreached people groups of the world and tell them about our wonderful savior!  So, with that being said, I will be leaving this September to go to a missions school and outreach program with YWAM. (Youth With A Mission)

So, on September 14th I will be leaving for Pittsburgh Pennsylvania for a 12-week "Discipleship Training School" where we will be trained from leaders all over the world. We will cover topics like 'God's nature and Character', 'Spiritual Warfare', and 'Effective Evangelism and Prayer'. During this time, we will also be serving the Lord through local ministries in Pittsburgh, preparing for our time on the mission field. The remaining two-months is when I get to go overseas and put the knowledge and skills I have gained into action; to reach the nations.

As you might have noticed, I didn’t add my outreach location. During my time in the training school, staff and students commit to seek the Lord’s heart through prayer to determine where to go. I am fully trusting the Lord to lead me to the right nation to do my outreach phase.  Past outreach teams have gone to Mexico, Brazil, Ghana, Israel, Bulgaria, Mongolia, China, India, Thailand and many other nations. So I am very excited to see where the Lord leads me.

In order for me to participate in this training and outreach I will need roughly $7,000. This budget includes, my lodging both in country and out of country. My airfare and traveling expenses to and from my outreach location, and to the various ministries in Pittsburgh. But, I fully believe that the LORD will provide all of my needs according to His riches. (Philippians 4:19)

 I also am in desperate need of prayer. This opportunity was founded in prayer and I will be needing it during my time on the mission field.
Prayer points:
-My health, and stamina
-The Lord providing funds
-Safety traveling to Pittsburgh and then to my outreach nation
-Unity with my entire team
I am nervous, but very excited to see how the Lord uses the story He has given me, the pain He has allowed me to walk through, with him, for HIS glory. My biggest prayer has been and continues to be that the Lord is seen and glorified through my journey, especially in the past year.

Thank you all for walking this crazy, painful, but so beautiful journey with me.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

My cancer wasn't meaningless

     "Not only is all your afflictions momentary, not only was all your afflictions light in comparison to eternity and the glory there, but all of it is totally meaningful!!! Every millisecond of your pain, from the fallen nature or from fallen man, every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that. It doesn't matter if it was cancer or criticism. It doesn't matter if it was sickness or slander. IT WASN'T MEANINGLESS!! It's doing something, its not meaningless.
     Of course you can't see what He is doing, so don't look at what is seen. [focus on what is unseen] If your mom dies, if your child dies, if you get cancer at [21], if a car careens into the sidewalk and takes her out, don't say 'it's meaningless,' IT"S NOT!! It's working for you an eternal weight of glory.
     Therefore, therefore, do not lose heart, but take these truths, and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach his word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for." - John Piper

     When I heard John Piper say that, it hit me hard. My journey in life has not been meaningless. There is a meaning to the hurt, there is a meaning to the pain, even if I can't see it right now, even if I will never know the reason in this life time. Yes, it sucks. Yes, sometimes I want to give up, but I know those promises I tell myself every morning holds so much power. There are days where I just have "bad cancer days" and the only thing that I find comfort in is grabbing my bible and reading His promises over my life. His promises for me are yes and amen, and everything He does for me is for my good. Even cancer is for my good. Cancer was not meaningless.

     It's crazy how God can use my cancer in little ways now. I got sent on an EMS call last week for a 'guy with a fever', and not going to lie, when I first got the call I was slightly upset that I was being sent to the middle of nowhere for someone with a fever, but when I got there my heart changed. I walked into the living room to find a middle age guy fighting Acute Myeloid Leukemia, and as I know a little too well, a fever will send you to the ER quite quickly. So he was obviously upset over the fact that he had to go to the ER again, and I was able to sit there and empathize with him. I shared my story and he put his hand on my shoulder and said thank you. He thanked me for talking to him, and understanding what he was going through. Then he told me to keep fighting and living life. It's little things like that which makes me realize that even if it's just helping someone get through the ER visit, or talking someone through their first chemotherapy treatment. My journey was not meaningless.

     My journey isn't over yet though! I know God is preparing me for something. I'm not sure what it is, but He is definitely not done with me yet. He is still letting me walk through pain and hurt. Maybe the reason is that the Lord wanted my faith to grow in ways I can't even imagine, maybe it was so I could relate and empathize with my patients. Regardless of what the reason is. My cancer was not meaningless. God will use it for good, he already has.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Life after cancer and how God was there through it all

It's been 2 months since I finished my intensive chemotherapy, and its been one month since I have been declared CANCER FREE!  I can't even express the feeling of relief I had when the doctor literally ran into the the room to give me the good news. He said he rarely gets to give good news when someone is diagnosed with stage IV cancer, but he has full hope that in 5 years I can use the word REMISSION. If I can be honest with you all, I was ready to receive the news that the cancer was still in my body, and that I wouldn't be able to get any more treatment due to where the cancer was. So, I wasn't even sure how to react when I was given a clean bill of health. But the overwhelming messages and love I got that day, made me realized I am truly blessed. You might wonder what life post cancer looks for me now. Well, for starters my 11 medications I had to take is now down to 1 1/2 pills every night, and then the anti-nausea as needed. I only have to get blood work done once a week and visits with my doctor every 3 months, with annual scans.

I'm finally starting to get my life back. I mean my life isn't 100% normal, as I'm currently writing this while sitting next to my special vomit bucket, but slowly and surely I am getting my life back. I have refused to let cancer control the rest of my life. People have told me, I've read in other blogs and talked to former cancer survivors and they have all told me that the year after chemotherapy is still super rough. They told me I won't want to work, I wont want to get out of bed, and I wont really have the energy to do anything. Well, after having the most aggressive form of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and a super potent chemotherapy, I hopefully have been cleared and "fit for duty" again. I'm finally able to commit to my church, attend every week, and even start serving there! Yes, there are some days I don't want to get out of bed, and there are some days I feel like a pile a crap, but i get out of bed, and push through the day. I refuse to be effected from cancer any longer. It took away my independence for the last 6 months, and now I say, NO MORE cancer. No more taking my freedom, this is my life, and I am going to live it to the fullest.

Someone made an interesting comment a few weeks ago at church, and I'm taking it a bit outta context, but he pretty much said "God was there in your worst times, He was in the room with you." As I look back at my life these past 6 months, I see how God was indeed with me the entire time. He was there in the people that surrounded me these last 6 months.

From crying in the ED with my friends and coworkers when we found out I had a tumor, to the amazing squad ride that my partners gave me, and an amazing coworker holding my hand the entire time. Then, my best friends were able to be with me for the first 2 weeks I was in the hospital, sitting at my side getting the good news and the not so good news with me, even had a friend sit next to my bed holding my hand til I fell asleep.God was there, in people form, to help me through some of the hardest weeks I have ever experienced.

I see how God was there when i pulled out clumps of hair in the shower, and as I said in my first post, my aunt was able to show up at 10pm to shave my head. And as I sat there crying and eating my ice cream, God was there with me. He was in the form of my mother, aunt and my brother (who was being as supportive as he could.) I spent about 50 days in the hospital, and God showed up in the form of my awesome nurses, nursing assistant, nursing students, and doctors, some of those nights, as I said before, were super rough and I only got through the night with the help of the amazing medical staff.

Another way God was with me, and blessed me sooooo greatly, was letting my best friend and twin, who lives over 2,000 miles away be with me 1/2 of the summer. She was there through some of the roughest spots of this chapter in my life. She was there the night I was moved to the cancer floor and sobbed like a baby when i saw the word "chemo" on the wall. She took late night trips to the ER with me after only having 2 hours of sleep the night before. She was there "holding my hair" during the vomiting, and laying next to me in that dreadful hospital bed whenever she could be. She never left my side.

 Being able to look back on how God showed up, blesses me greatly. Makes me see how He never once left me in the hardest and darkest times. He was there during those nights I was so scared to fall asleep in fear that I wouldn't wake up. He was there on every night I spent alone in the hospitals. He was there in every scan, every surgery, and He sat in the room, with the biggest smile on his face when I received the news that I had no trace of cancer in my body. He is indeed, a good, good father.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Thankful for cancer

I am so thankful for this journey and walk I've had with this ugly word called cancer. You might this I'm crazy for saying that or you might be thinking "how can she be THANKFUL for cancer." But honestly, regardless of the long scary nights, the many tears and pain, I wouldn't trade these last 5 months. I have grown in ways I never thought was possible. I have seen the Lord move and work in my life countless times.

About a month before I was diagnosed I prayed that God would take anything out of my life that was hindering me from following him. Little did I know he was going to take the biggest idol in my life, my job. I never thought God would take something I worked so hard for, something that isn't "bad' but it had become something that I replaced God with. He took my health, and allowed me to walk through this. He took my security and my independence, but He hasn't left my side through this all.

I have realized that I CANNOT do this on my own, I now know that my strength does not come from myself but it comes from Him! He has made me rely and trust him to wake up every morning. And I know His future for me is good. My faith in Christ's total healing has increased. I know for certain, without a shadow of a doubt that He WILL heal me, whether it's here on earth or when He calls me to heaven. I know my worth is not in things of the earth, it's not in my job and it's not in my relationship status. My worth and identity is in Christ, and He is enough for me.

I'm still learning to be thankful for somethings, cancer has a way a leaving nasty reminders behind. I have these cute scars on my body from biopsies, PICC lines, and from my lovely mediport. But instead of hating these scars, I embrace them as reminders that I am still alive and that God is not done with me. I have cavities between every single tooth, but I am thankful that I still have reasons to smile. I lost my beautiful long hair, my eyebrows and eye lashes, but God still says I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

I may never understand  fully why God took so many things from me. But as it says in Job, He gives and He takes away. And what He has given me outweighs what He has took. He has given me a joyful heart, He has given me LIFE, and I will forever be thankful for that. He gave me the faith that I had been praying for, and He put a new song inside me, and I want everyone to see His glory and His might through this.

So, a quick update. I have finished chemotherapy!!!! (hoping and crossing fingers) I can't believe I got through it. The Lord for sure carried me through that, because there was nothing in me that wanted to continue. The night before I finished I just laid in my hospital bed sobbing, I just wanted to be finished, I'm not sure if it just all hit me way too hard, or I was just sick of being stuck in that terrible hospital room, but my mom sang me hymns until I fell asleep, and I got thru the last day of chemo with a lot of support from my lovely nurses.

So whats next? I'm not 100% sure what the future looks like, I have a doctors appointment in a couple weeks, and I've scheduled my PET scan to see if the cancer is completely gone, and I'm declaring in JESUS' name that I will be cancer free, but if not; He is still good and faithful to complete what He started in my life.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

And if not...He is still good

My sister wrote a post this week about the bible story of Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego, and how they were placed in front of a fiery furnace and how their faith did not waver. They still said, "even if God does not spare our life, He is the God we chose to serve." That made me think about my journey I'm taking right now. I feel like I've been placed in front of a pretty hot furnace, and I am expecting in full faith for my God to heal me, but right now, in the waiting, do I still say He is good, and do I still say He is the one I worship?

There are so many time I don't feel like saying that. I have to be completely honest and say the last month has been filled with me laying on my bed crying and feeling depressed for myself. God is still good though. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing everything wrong, because I still feel depressed. I mean, I'm reading my bible daily, praying constantly, listening to worship music, but maybe that's where I have it wrong. Maybe there isn't some magic formula to make me not feel depressed during this season of life. Maybe its my outlook, and if I'm still willing to say "God, you are good."

I've decided I have to be at peace with that, with this season right now. Because when I'm not, I lose focus of WHO my main focus should be. What my eyes should be set on. My eyes shouldn't be set on "finishing chemo" (even tho that is an awesome thing to have ahead of me) But it should be set on how good God is and what His plan for me is right now, whatever it is. Every morning my first thought is how can God use me. What is His plan for me today. You never know what tomorrow holds. You could get cancer and die, and you might never have the chance to let God use you. I don't want that to be me. But why have an attitude of helplessness when I have a GOOD God. A God who has yet to let me down during this journey, He is the same God who raised people to life after death, and He's my God.

So, here I am saying, that next month even if my scan comes back and still shows cancer, or even if it takes years to grow my hair back, or even now feeling fat, ugly and hairless, God is still good, and He is the one I choose to serve.