26 October 2013

Things I Learned When I Got Cancer

When our life is in God's hands, He does not promise there will not be suffering. In fact, He tells us repeatedly that there will be suffering, why there will be suffering, and how we should handle it. He gives us many examples of His people suffering for us to learn from, and follow. When I was little, the church used to teach that once you became a Christian everything would be great. There are some churches that preach that message still, but I think most of us know better.

I started to feel sick in 2009. It took a little more than two years for them to figure out what was going on. By the time I had surgery, the tumor was the size of a basketball. The surgeon told me this rather casually. I wish he'd taken a picture. I wouldn't have wanted to see it then, but now I wish I could. 

The kind of cancer I had was a very rare type, a granulosa cell tumor ovarian cancer. I have a pretty good chance of never having that kind of cancer again, but it characteristically does not return until five to ten years later. So, today is two years. I have a few more to go. I won't dare say I have faith it will not return, because I don't. I had faith I'd never have cancer in the first place. My faith was misplaced. 

Instead, I have faith that if the Lord allows me to ever have cancer again - a granulosa cell tumor, or any other kind - that He will walk with me through that difficult time just as He walks with me through every other difficulty He allows. I am His. I can trust Him. I do not want to ever lay in a hospital bed again, but I will trust Him no matter what. In so many ways, He has proven to me He is trustworthy. My goal in life is not to protect myself from suffering, but to be sure I am in His will. 

When I could once again attend the Sunday night chapel services at The Farm, Doug asked me to share a testimony. He even gave me a few minutes warning, which he normally never does. So, I had the chance to jot down some notes. I am going to share those notes here, all rough and ugly. Maybe, what I learned can encourage someone else who may be in the midst of a time of suffering and challenge themselves. If you are, and can use a praying friend, you know where to find me.

Things I Learned When I Got Cancer

Lesson #1: God Gets To Do Whatever He Wants To Do 
I really did not think God would allow me to have cancer, because I had too much going on - the Fall is the busiest time for me in the ministry. Plus, there is no cancer history in my family. And, didn't I have enough to deal with all ready? 

I really did think these very dumb thoughts. 

Lesson #2: Just Keep Trusting
A few days after being released from the hospital, my incision opened and I was bleeding profusely. I was in the worst pain, and fear was rising. I remember laying there in that E.R., so scared, asking Doug to help me make sense of this. He simply told me, "You just have to keep trusting God." 

When things are so hard, but just keep getting harder, remember Dorie, from "Finding Nemo," and just keep swimming. That is, just keep trusting.

Lesson #3: Pain Happens
We cannot prevent pain, but there are things we can do to stop it, or at least ease it. So, do what you can, and hold on tight to a friend's hand whenever possible. And, remember Lesson #2. It will eventually pass. This applies to physical pain, and emotional pain.

Lesson #4: Do Your Best
You may not have another chance, so do your best right now. And, when it comes to other people, give them your best. It matters. Maybe not to you, but to someone. And, ultimately, to God, who put you here to do it.  

Lesson #5: Always Assume The Other Person Is Having A Worse Day
I could cry right now, remembering the way I was cared for at the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care. But, it wasn't only them. My visiting nurses - Robyn and Karen and Wendy, especially - they blessed me in so many ways. I remember the look on the face of my anesthesiologist, the last thing I remember before waking up in recovery - the kindness and assurance in her eyes. Yeah, they all knew I was sick. They had an advantage. But, we don't have an excuse. We encounter people every day who are facing serious troubles. When I consider how much the kindness, warmth, and gentleness of strangers meant to me, I pray the Lord help me always extend these same gifts to others. People giving their best made all the difference for me. Refer to #4.

Lesson #6: God Doesn't Have To Give You Cancer To Kill You
Don't wait for a terminal diagnosis to take life seriously. We have all been appointed a day to die (unless we are raptured). Live every day with meaning. (See #4.) Besides, when you get that diagnosis, you may not have the time, or strength, to do those things you keep putting off. And, it feels really bad to think you might not get another chance. See #7.

Lesson #7: Do It Now
Why are you putting it off? We don't get credit for our To Do List.

Lesson #8: You Cannot Be Too Polite
See #5. 
See #4.

Lesson #9: The Little Things Matter
If you have been paying attention, you've all ready learned this lesson. Please, review #s 4, 5, 7, and 8.

Lesson #10:  Trials And Suffering Mature Our Love
For God, and for others. So, don't be afraid of them. Don't resist them. Don't buck against them. One word I learned well during this time in my life was y - i - e - l - d. Yield. Yield to God, even as He takes you down a dark and frightening road. You see, His will only works when He is in full control. We must be fully surrendered. Remember Lessons #1 and #2.

Lesson #11: The Worst Thing That Can Happen Isn't On This Earth
The worst thing that can happen is not getting to Heaven at all, or arriving in the presence of the Lord without a treasure to present your King. (See #10, #7, #4, and #2.)

Lesson #12: Don't Forget What You Learned The Last Time
When the Lord allows suffering, it is for a purpose. He has a reason. An objective. So, write down what you learn. Tell others. And, keep living those lessons out every day. Live it as long as you have breath. 


  1. Thank you, Caroline, for sharing this. This is beautiful and encpuraging to others who may have to walk through something like this. Much love in Him.

    1. From Deborah, who prays with you all on Monday nights

  2. The look on the face of the anesthesiologist, that is amazing. It's not always like that, we have an anesthesiologist in our family, now that he's been in practice for a while I wonder if he's still the same sensitive person. I do know he has (had) such sweet concerns about sweet patients in the beginning he would share with us. What a Gift your anesthesiologist was! A Gift from God. Jesus with skin on.

    I'll be back to read more Carolyn, I just wanted to check in with you and I see you have quite the life story that will help soooo many. You are a precious friend here online. I've wondered what had happened so I'll be back to read in detail.

    I know you are helping so many here. A Gift. So great you are using Life for the Lord in the typing fingers He has given you dear one. love, amelia

  3. I found this incredibly refreshing. Thank you for sharing *HUGS*

  4. I'm back as I said. : ) Such wisdom and truth here as how to channel these things to the Lord. I know this must have been sooo difficult, if nothing else just having to face the medical establishment but it seems God had His hand even in that for you. That is huge to me. You have a lot of hard earned wisdom here Carolyn, you have been through a lot. A. Lot.

    Words here are just not adequate, my typing fingers are just helpless here. If you were here I would give you a long sister hug and we would sit and talk and drink tea and coffee and laugh and love and live...We would tell our stories, (our girls and us) and we would laugh so hard we would even slap our knee in mirth. Blogs are great things but there are times when typing keys just don't cut it for me...Hear my heart and please know and feel the care.

    Please know you have a sister in the Lord and friend who is praying for you and thanking God for you from afar, love, amelia


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