Embracing the Wonder
A leukemia survivor shares how she finds hope and joy in each day.
After being exceptionally healthy and energetic all of my life, in the spring of 2008, I suddenly felt tired, chilly, and short of breath. A medical team diagnosed me with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, an aggressive blood cancer. Life as I knew it came to a halt.
We called our five children and my parents and started a CaringBridge site for easier communication with friends and family.
Get my house in order
I was immediately admitted to the hospital for multiple transfusions of blood and platelets, and chemotherapy. After the initial round of chemo failed, my doctor sent me to Mayo Clinic where a team of hematology oncologists evaluated me. They told my husband Charlie and me to “get my house in order”—which are not the words anybody wants to hear.
They said they would try a new mix of chemo to attempt to get my leukemia into remission. If that failed, there was nothing more they could do. If it worked, my chance of survival past five years was 20%, and that was only with a bone marrow transplant.
By this point, I felt so weak and tired that I could hardly think. Charlie called my parents and our children. We prayed. They prayed. Our church family prayed. I never felt right about praying to be healed, though I knew others were asking God to heal me.
How I found hope
Even in those difficult days my relationship with God gave me hope. Every day I would read the Bible, paying special attention to God’s words of reassurance, hope and love. I received cards, e-mails and notes on my CaringBridge site, reminding me of promises of God’s care and presence even in the valley of death. I felt “held.”
Even with the encouragement, I was still facing a slim chance of survival. So, Charlie and I planned my funeral, choosing songs and Bible passages that have meant a great deal to us.
It was sad to think about those I would leave behind, but I was ready. Of course, my husband had a different perspective, but I was so tired and didn’t feel well. And I had confidence that I would go to heaven and be with God. This gave me peace.
Amazingly, the prayers of my family and friends were answered. I went into remission and had a bone marrow transplant with stem cells from one of my sisters. It was a long journey with many difficulties, but over time God has restored my health.
Learning to embrace the wonder
Looking back, one thing my journey has taught me is to “embrace the wonder of each new day.” This phrase was on a card my sister gave me while I was in treatment. To me, it means that I don’t take my life for granted—that I am thankful for each moment. The phrase reminds me to be present and aware of what God is doing in my life and in the lives of others, to not overlook normal day-to-day things.
I think I was especially aware of this when I was in the hospital and isolated from my routine. In the busyness of life it is not always so easy to see the wonder. Nor is it always easy to experience wonder when you are sick—but there are always positives to be found in every day. One positive for me was having a very gifted and insightful doctor. Other positives were having wonderful caregivers, like Charlie and many others who did their jobs with excellence.
I would have never chosen cancer, but it did enrich my life spiritually and emotionally. Physically I will never be the same, but I am looking forward to having a perfect body in heaven.
Helping others embrace the wonder
These days, I still seek to embrace each new day. This helps me find purpose in my life because I know a lot of people didn’t make it through the same journey I went through. I know God has work for me to do yet.
For others going through a difficult cancer journey, I hope you can also find the wonder of each new day. Life is a gift! Look around you, notice the birds singing, see things growing. God’s beauty is all around us to be seen and appreciated.
We are all richer when we experience this wonder.
If you would like to discover hope on your cancer journey, check out this free email series, The Pathway to Hope.
If you would like to discover spiritual hope like Wilma has, read Knowing God Personally