He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91: 1 – 2)
My story begins with the greatest miracle that I could ever receive. It was the day when I began to know Jesus Christ on a personal level; the day when the “New Birth” (described in John 3) became a reality in my life. Before that, I had an understanding about God, knew lots about Him but there was nothing intimate about our relationship. It was as if He was far off. That was over thirty years ago, and as I look back, I often wonder what I would have done without Him beside me every step of the way.
June 14, 2005 began like any other day as my husband, Wayne and I drove to the Health Sciences Centre to meet with a hematologist. This appointment was arranged to discuss a bone marrow biopsy I had undergone a month before. That day, however, turned out to be unlike any other day. My life would be changed forever as I was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder, Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia (CMML).
The hematologist explained the disease in detail and how only one option would extend my life – a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. As the pros and cons of a transplant were outlined, I understood that I had 40 – 50% chance of survival. And if I did survive, I would have two years, three at best, to live.
A horrible feeling of helplessness and loneliness swept over me. Although I had known the Lord over twenty years at that point, and had proven Him all my life, at that moment I felt alone. That day, as I looked out the window of the Health Sciences Centre, I saw life going on as usual outside: traffic moving, people walking about – I thought, “How could the world keep on going? Surely it should all stop.”
I had always known about the peace of God which “transcends all understanding”, as the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:7, but never quite like I experienced that day. Peace slipped quietly into my brokenness and calmed my fears, even while they were still new and raw.
At the end of the day, Wayne and I knelt and placed our petition before the Lord, asking Him to take control of our situation and somehow make things right in our world again. It’s amazing how God quiets me and enables me to rest, regardless of the circumstances each new day brings.
As I read my Bible the next day, I suddenly realized why I had been reading Psalm 91 for over a year. No matter which part of scripture I read or studied all those months, I always felt compelled to read Psalm 91. I felt God telling me that I could rest in Him, that I could trust Him and not fear, that angels would be around me, and that He would protect and deliver me.
I proved this over and over in the months and years ahead. I went through a transplant in 2007, which involved intense chemotherapy, and experienced the complications arising from that process. During that time, I learned to Rest in God. I learned that His Word is greater than any medical report, and I could trust Him in everything.
In April 2015, nearly eight years post-transplant, I was feeling quite well. It was quite a shock, however, when it was discovered during a check-up for influenza, that I had leukemia again. This time it was Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
The news was very upsetting, to say the least, and I wondered what God was doing. I thought about all I had gone through previously and how He had healed me over and over and here I am again! God healed me, this I knew to be true. But I felt the peace of God even though the odds weren’t in my favor.
The hematology team felt that I needed intense chemotherapy administered very quickly followed by another three more rounds (weeks) of chemo. If remission could be attained, then another stem cell transplant would again be my only option for extended life.
I went into the hospital April 10, 2015 and started the chemo treatments. After the first treatment, I contracted the Norwalk virus due to my weakened immune system. I was to the point where it was highly unlikely I would live. I had developed an intestinal blockage as well as several internal bleeds and my heart was very, very weak.
In this weakened state, I needed regular blood transfusions and even breathing was an effort at times. I was unable to eat or drink for six of the nine weeks I was hospitalized. It came to a point when we knew the hematology team could do nothing more without causing even more complications. The team of doctors called a meeting with our family to decide the plan of action.
Our pastor was called for prayer around the same time that I was having yet another scan done and I really was too ill to undergo any more tests. I knew it was enough. I said to the doctor, “Don’t do anything else with me; I don’t want any more testing done. You can’t fix what’s wrong with me, I know that, so just let me be. I know where I am going and I’ll be fine.” The doctor looked at me and said, “You don’t know what you’re saying.” To which I replied, “Oh yes, I do know. I’m going to be ok.” And it was during this time that heaven was where I felt I was going and I was fine with that. My husband, on the other hand, didn’t think this was what would happen. He felt that if he could take me home, then I would get well.
Even in my weakness I knew that “no one can snatch us out of Jesus’ hand” (John 10:28). I knew God was in control and it was a safe place, no matter what would happen. Verses of scripture, that I had memorized years earlier, would rise up within me and I knew He was with me. What would happen? I wasn’t sure, but His presence was enough.
I was made as comfortable as possible in a palliative condition for a number of weeks. Healing came very slowly and then it was decided to try feeding me by intravenous. Miraculously, I was able to tolerate it and strength started to come back into my body again. It was June 7, 2015 and we felt it was time to go home. Everyone was amazed that I was well enough to go but it was months before I could eat well and moving around was a challenge. The AML would come back, I was told by the Hematologist, probably within three months.
After the first week at home I had to get another bone marrow biopsy and the result was 100% remission. The doctors were happy with this result after just receiving the one round of chemotherapy, and we were so thankful for God’s intervention once again in my life.
After only months of recuperating the medical team talked about next steps. This meant that a transplant was a possibility, now that I was well enough to undergo this procedure. Wayne and I met with the hematologist in charge of transplants and we discussed again, the pros and cons relating to another transplant. He told me I would have a 20 – 25% survival rate and that, should I survive, my quality of life would probably be poor. So, again we had a decision to make and, with much prayer and seeking God, we decided that I would not go that route this time. I didn’t feel like it was the right thing for me.
Will I change my mind in the weeks and months ahead? I’m not sure. I just wait upon Him for direction, and for right now, I stay as I am.
As I look back over the past ten years since transplant (June 2007), I can only marvel at how God has shown his faithfulness and how God has a plan and a purpose in this journey. I’ve seen Him work through the wonderful medical practitioners, who have played such a vital role in my treatment and recovery process; through my loving husband and family, who walk this road with me and who never cease to amaze me with their tenderness and abiding faith; through the love and support from my extended family and friends; and through our faithful pastors and church family who continue to pray for my healing even today. I feel so blessed and thankful to have each of them in my life.
There have been many obstacles, but there have also been many joys as I’ve gotten to know others who are going through similar situations. I have seen God orchestrate situations so that someone’s life could be touched through me, and vice versa. I’ve had the opportunity of sharing my faith with those who had no hope and seeing them develop the peace which surpasses all human understanding. I’ve learned that someone without hair and a face swollen from medication is no different from anyone else and just needs to be loved and accepted despite their looks.
Above all, I’ve learned that I can trust God in everything, that He loves me beyond measure, and that, no matter what I have to deal with, He’s right there to guide me every step of the way.
My focus has changed as I have experienced His goodness: to be more about Him and less about me; the more I get to know Him, the more I want to know Him.
Currently, I am being tested every three weeks. My results are excellent and I feel very well. My Hematologist is always so pleased at how well things have gone, but she always cautions me that the disease is lurking within my bone marrow – it just hasn’t shown itself yet! It’s a little disturbing at times to hear this repeated when I visit the doctor, but I understand where she’s coming from. It is at those moments when I have to intentionally focus on who I am in God and how faithful He has been all my life.
I am still on the journey that began June 14, 2005. I live in remission, but some days I face uncertainties and doubt. I continue to learn that there is rest for those who dwell in the shelter of the Most High. I pray that my testimony may help others in the battles and conflicts of their own lives. In scripture, God provides all the answers we need to face life’s challenges with courage, faith, and hope. We give thanks for each new day He blesses us with and rest in the assurance that, whatever battles might come tomorrow, He will fight them for us if we will just trust Him.
[“This Is My Story” was first published in a local church magazine (Engage – Bethesda Pentecostal Church).]
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