Her cell phone rang. It was a number she did not recognize.
“Lucy, it’s Dr …, I am calling you about your results from the test we did on you. It’s bad news. You have cancer and it’s aggressive. You need treatment right away. I’m sorry.”
Lucy looked at me as she told me about the phone call over coffee, “What else was I to say in that moment? All I remember is that he was direct and his voice held no emotion, hope or silver lining; it was a voice I had never heard before. The word ‘cancer’ instantly transported me to the ‘Valley of the Shadow of Death’ and darkness started to creep into my world. All I knew to say in that moment was, ‘Thank you’.”
Lucy and her family were in Toronto visiting her family for Mother’s Day when she received the phone call. She had her yearly physical a few weeks before and they sent her to the Woman’s Center to undergo more testing. They ended up doing a biopsy on her uterus. Lucy is not an anxious person so she was not worried about further testing. She thought it to be routine or more so the Dr. was just being thorough. So when she got the phone call from the hospital’s Woman’s Centre informing her that they had found a rare and aggressive cancer in the uterus, she realized the original test was not just routine.
She hung up the phone. The thought of, “Who do I run to in this moment?” ran through her mind. Lucy a woman of faith had a choice in that moment and she turned to God. Even in the swirl of emotions that were surrounding her, due to the words that were just spoken, she knew which way to turn. Her history with God had prepared her for this moment. She knew that God had been faithful to her throughout her life and He always had a plan for her. This would be another battle that she would need to trust Him; this was a battle for her life.
She walked outside and told her husband. He embraced her and they cried. Their hearts didn’t understand in that moment what was going on, but their spirits knew there was a plan. The first few days Lucy tried to digest this new reality. Questions started to flood her mind. “How would this affect my family?” “Will I be able to continue working?” “Will I live long enough to see my youngest graduate from high school?” It wasn’t fear that gripped her but a sense that she needed to prepare herself and her family for the battle that was ahead. She started to read up on the Internet about the cancer the Dr. had told her she had. The most common type, making up about 90% of uterine cancer cases, was very treatable if caught early. “There is my silver lining”, she thought. As she researched studies and medical journals trying to understand her prognosis, perhaps out of self-preservation, she had forgotten that the doctor had described her cancer as “aggressive”. Lucy was about to find out her cancer belonged to the second type; it was the cancer with extremely low survival rates due to its tendency to spread early in the process and it also held extremely high recurrence rates.
When she arrived home from her trip she made an appointment with her family physician. Lucy had made a point that fear would not shape her life. During the appointment the Dr. went over the facts with her. She had UPSC, Uterine Papillary Serous Carcinoma and it was aggressive. Remember before she went into that appointment? She had made a choice not to let fear grip her life, no matter what she heard. Now it was put to the test. She knew she had to have faith in this situation, faith that God could heal her and change the situation. She chose faith. She also had to fake it until she made it. The negative report she had just received was her enemy in the challenge to remain full of hope that maybe God could perform a miracle for her. Lucy prayed for peace in the storm. She asked her family and friends to join her in prayer and believe that she would receive a miracle. The fight of faith was on!
Lucy met with the Oncologist and learned she would need to be scheduled for surgery. She would undergo a “radical hysterectomy”: the removal of her uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, appendix, abdominal and para-aortic lymph nodes and surrounding tissue to determine if the cancer was limited to the uterus. In most cases, the cancer spreads to surrounding organs and tissues, lowering the chances of survival.
The operation was scheduled to take place in 7 weeks! She would have to wait with cancer in her body for her surgery. What would you do, knowing that cancer was aggressively attacking your body and you couldn’t do anything about it? She prayed. A lot. It was an exhausting journey for her. She was tired, not because she had no hope or she had given in. She was tired because she was warring against a thief that was trying to rob her life. She would wake up various times in the night and go to her walk in closet to pray. That closet became her “war zone” in prayer. Her refuge in the storm. There was a storage bench in there that she would kneel over and plead her case to God, fight with words of truth from the Bible, cry in His love, cry in her battle. She fought hard and she reminded God that she was a partner in this journey. Most nights that bench was soaked with Lucy’s tears. There was nothing Lucy could do in the natural to help her body heal. Nothing she could eat or take. In the darkest moment for her, all she could do was believe in a higher power, a higher Love, and know that her life was in His hands. She wasn’t powerless in this journey.
The first miracle happened! Lucy’s surgery was bumped up. She no longer had to wait 7 weeks for the surgery, it happened 10 days after her initial consultation! Her surgery took place and it was 4 hours long. Due to the large number of organs and tissue they removed, her recovery was expected to be 4 to 6 weeks. Another miracle, she recovered in 1 week! Lucy was happy as she was able to keep her commitment to a flower planting day at her church. Lucy helped plant a flower bed that spelled the word “HOPE”, because in the deepest core of Lucy that is what she had, she had hope.
Her appointment to go over the results of the surgery was scheduled for July 30th. The Psalm that Lucy and her husband, Sal, held on to was Psalm 30.
“O Lord my God, I cried out to you, and You healed me.
O Lord, You brought my soul up from the grave;
You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.
To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God,
I will give thanks to You forever.
Lucy and Sal had purposed Monday’s to be a day of prayer and fasting. Lucy had received the original phone call on a Monday with the words, “you have cancer”. On Monday, July 27th, while Lucy was at work, she received a different phone call.
“It’s Dr…, calling from the Cancer Clinic. I’ve got really good news!! We’ve received the results from the operation. It’s unbelievable. We don’t understand, but we checked all your tissues and we can’t find any cancer. You don’t need treatment! Go, go and enjoy your life. Celebrate! Go and celebrate with your husband.”
Lucy hung up the phone and immediately called her husband. She told him they needed to meet for coffee right away and over coffee she told him the news! They re-read Psalm 30 right there in the coffee shop! The news was wonderful. They were so thankful! They broke their fast to enjoy lunch together! However, Lucy was still a bit puzzled, she didn’t know if it meant that the cancer wasn’t as bad as they thought, maybe she still had it in in her uterus and it just hadn’t spread. She would find out for sure at her appointment that week.
When she arrived at her Dr’s office she could sense the air was different. The staff were looking at her, they were smiling in a different way, the air felt supernatural. The nurses were asking her how she felt. Lucy went into the appointment with her Dr. “We don’t understand what is going on, this makes no sense. As a standard procedure with this type of cancer, we performed an extensive operation and removed a large number of organs and tissue. This type of cancer is aggressive, most people are found to be more advanced than originally thought”. The doctor paused in disbelief, “But look at this report…every tissue that we took out came back 100% clean. No cancer! Not even in the uterus, where it was originally found. This doesn’t happen! We were so confused that we had to go back to the original biopsy and had it reevaluated to see if the diagnosis was accurate. It confirmed the original diagnosis was accurate; aggressive endometrial cancer. Then, we considered the possibility of a mix-up of the biopsy specimens. This was investigated at our laboratory with DNA testing, and both the cancerous biopsy and the healthy organs from the operation belong to same patient! To you.” Lucy and Sal held hands and could barely contain their happiness at the wonderful news, God had answered their prayers! The doctor continued, “We don’t understand. We know you had cancer. Something happened in between the first biopsy and your surgery. You are 100% cancer free! You don’t belong in this hospital. No need for treatment or follow up! Go and enjoy your life!” Lucy could not leave the doctor’s office without telling them about the miracle God had just done! Confidently she told them that God had answered their prayers!
Lucy said to me with thankfulness beaming from deep inside, “To me the definition of a miracle is when science can’t explain it!”
“So the week I was supposed to have chemotherapy treatment, I planned our family’s vacation to Disney World. I am enjoying life! Every day is celebration mode. I don’t complain now when I have to do the dishes or sulk when the laundry needs doing. I am thankful!”
Lucy lost her mother to cancer years ago and also watched her father survive cancer. She cannot explain why one lived and the other died. She can’t explain why God chose to grace her with the miraculous. Lucy does know that she trusts God’s plans for her life and for her family’s lives. This battle that she walked through brought her closer in her relationship with God, her love for Him grew in a way she didn’t know it could. “I would never take it back, what I went through. I gained a new perspective, a new appreciation and a closeness with God I wouldn’t have if I didn’t walk through this dark time.”
Lucy: a daughter, sister, wife, mother and friend. She now holds the key to help those that are in the difficult season she had to go through.
I am sure the tear stained bench in Lucy’s closet that she walks by daily will always be a reminder to her of the darkest yet most beautiful time she walked through. It is still her favorite place in the house. It is a place where she will pray for other battles she, her family and friends will have to fight. We tend to fear the darkness, when in reality it can be our friend. It’s in the dark when you see that God is all you have and you learn, He is all you need. The darkness reveals the truest form of intimacy, if you choose to look at it that way.