How an expecting mother found an unmistakable anchor while facing appendix cancer.
That Sunday morning, with Christmas décor sparkling around the sanctuary, my husband held my hand and practically dragged me to the front of the church. As I listened to him share our story of the previous few weeks and facing my type of cancer, I struggled to accept the words as our story. Our nightmare.
A few days prior, we sat in a small, sterile oncology room while the doctor spoke the words “incurable, stage 4 cancer” over me. The official diagnosis was appendix cancer, which is a rare type of cancer. The cancer originated in my appendix and spread throughout my abdomen. To make matters more complicated and emotional, I was three months pregnant. Following my extensive abdominal surgery, I was grateful that my unborn child seemed unharmed, paired with indescribable grief over the reality of my health.
Because my case of appendix cancer was so unusual, the doctors were not able to give my husband and I the odds of survival for our baby. We would just have to wait and see.
My spiritual background
My relationship with God has always been important to me, even before this part of my journey. I grew up in a family that prioritized faith, so going to church in my darkest hour was a natural step, though I wasn’t sure about being so public about my pain.
As I felt the congregations’ eyes seemingly staring into my soul, I willed myself not to cry. I can’t believe my husband talked me into this, I thought. Standing in the spotlight wasn’t my cup of tea, especially since it meant sharing our broken, messy lives that we hadn’t yet had time to process.
After my husband spoke and the pastor prayed over us, the worship band began to play a song called “Cornerstone” and voices were lifted in unison around us singing words I couldn’t utter amidst the tears falling down my face.
When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
My anchor holds within the veil
Christ alone, Cornerstone
Weak made strong in the Savior’s love
Through the storm
He is Lord
Lord of all
He is Lord
Lord of all, Christ alone.
How I found hope
Looking back on my journey, when I think about what has given me hope, what has helped carry me through all of the uncertainty, I can only say it has been my relationship with God. Especially the depth of what I faced: threats to my life and also of my unborn son; I had no time for mere sentimentality or false hope. I needed an anchor—something strong and tested. For me, that anchor has been God.
That Sunday morning was a clear lesson that although I want to be independent, God wanted me to be humble and let others help me in my time of need. Meals appeared on our doorstep, a juicer was donated to juice vegetables each day, and babysitters showed up so that we could go to appointments. Christmas gifts surrounded our tree, and a photographer also captured our family in such a beautiful way during such a hard season. This is how God designed the church—one of many lessons I would learn along the way.
New life and lifestyle changes
After walking through six long months of waiting and hoping, our precious son was born with no complications—another miracle to add to the list. Following my diagnosis, our family changed our pace of life, our diet, and many other unhealthy habits we had formed over the years. The road to health has not been smooth as major abdominal surgeries have put bumps and unwelcome detours into our path, but through the ups and downs, God has been faithful. Today, even after my diagnosis of appendix cancer, I’m able to celebrate four years of NED (no evidence of disease).
And our son is doing amazingly well, living a normal and healthy life. Looking at him, you would never guess the events surrounding his birth.
I’m so glad that we gave others the opportunity to walk with us through this journey, even when it was still messy and unresolved.
As I’ve learned, brokenness does not mean the absence of goodness. God uses brokenness to not only create a desperate dependence on Him, but also strengthen our relationships with others. God created us for community but when we put up barriers between our story and others, we take away the opportunity for someone to use their gifts to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Allow others into your story and help you in your time of need.
If would like to help someone you know who has cancer, read What to Say to Someone With Cancer.
If you would like help with fear, check out Fighting the Fear of Cancer.