In the summer of 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In April of 2017 I had the last of my radiation treatments for that, and I was glad it was all behind me. That good feeling held until the fall when I had not one, not two, but three rounds of kidney stones in the space of about a week. After the last round, the pain continued in my lower back, and I was taking pain pills. It did not stop until the Women of Grace Writers prayed for me. But after that, even though I was back on steady ground, I was frustrated and I was tired. I just tried to finish out the year of 2017 without any more trouble.
But trouble would find me. I knew I needed an MRI with contrast before the close of 2017, but I simply didn’t want to do it. Not just because I have a needle phobia, but because I was hoping it was not really necessary. But my doctor was persistent and by June of 2018, I finally went. A few days later I was told I needed a biopsy before the summer was out. I cried. I did not want breast cancer again. And I did not want a biopsy. Worst of all, this one had to be with contrast so my doctor could not do it. Instead, I had to go back to Radiology Limited and people I did not know and did not trust would do this for me.
So I put it off and I put it off until I finally scheduled it near the end of summer. In the meantime, the fear would come into my head like smoke. I would be thinking of other things and then things would get cloudy. What if I had cancer again? Why couldn’t I just be healthy? How would my family cope with a second round of my weakness? My stress? My endless supply of fatigue? One day at church, Dreena noticed me crying and asked if she could pray for me. After church, she and Tancy prayed-- speaking directly to the fear, rebuking it in the name of Jesus.
Fear is not of God. It cannot rule in His presence. Fear left me that day because God is greater. These things are facts.
A few days later, I had my biopsy. There was a lot of rejoicing when the labs came back. No cancer! I was home free.
But that was in July. In August, I developed a new problem. It went on and on. I finally called my doctor. Do I really need to come in? I asked her. Yes, she assured me. So, reluctantly, I went.
Once she checked me out, I wanted her to tell me it was all going to be okay, but instead she ordered an ultrasound. I was able to do it that afternoon, and a few days later, the call came: We need a biopsy. It might be endometriosis. It might be precancerous. This is probably a side effect of the medicine you take because of breast cancer. Crying, I told my husband, and he encouraged me to stay positive. He assured me that he would go with me when I had the biopsy. I was not going to face this alone.
That day, I texted my mom and my daughter but no one else. My mother sent me a reply: “Kristen, remember how the Lord has carried you this far. He is with you and will not leave your side.” I did not answer her. I was angry with God and frustrated with myself. I thought I could handle this on my own.
Yet on the very next day when a colleague at work asked me how my health was, I almost started crying. That’s when I realized the fear was circling again, hungry to separate me from God and eager to bear down on me with its weight. After work, as I walked to my car, I thought to myself: I am not alone! I am not alone! I am not alone! Not only is God with me, but I have friends. I have family.
I texted them all. One friend called me immediately. By the end of our conversation, I was laughing. I felt light because one thing a friend can do is to put things in perspective.
Another texted me back and said she had had something similar happen to her a few years ago. She was okay. I was going to be okay. Another thing a friend can do is to encourage you.
Others said they would pray. Another thing friends can do is to go directly into battle for you, fighting powers unseen with shields of faith and swords of truth.
That night, I called an old friend. I didn’t tell her about my problem, but we talked and we laughed and when I hung up the phone, my worries had left me. Another thing a friend can do is get your attention off of yourself.
My sister called me on Saturday, and I talked a long time with her; we were laughing and sharing stories about our kids. She made me feel confident this was all just another step in the journey. The biopsy would come and it would go and we would be talking about our kids again soon after it. This was a small challenge—easily conquered. After talking with her, I was on the top of the mountain, looking down. Not in the valley, looking up.
And then I talked a very long time with my mom, who is the very best at putting things in the context of her wisdom, in the context of a whole life spent knowing Christ. Your family can help you remember who you really are, and they can remind you that you are never alone here on this earth. Your family knows the whole story and has seen you fight more than one battle. They know what you are really made of. And my mother, my precious mother, knows the God who loves us.
Pastor Frank’s sermon today reminded me of just how dangerous isolation can be. You need the perspective others can give you when it seems the deck is stacked against you --when you are frustrated, when you are tempted to entertain self-pity, worry, fear. God is with you, but so is your church family, your friends, your family.
Psalm 55 showed how David struggled in the same ways that we do. The answer is to turn to God, really turn to Him.
The answer is also to turn to those we have in our life who can lift us up. They help us replace the words coming out of our mouth with something much better than worry and despair. See how David invites others into a time of praise in the midst of his fears:
Psalm 34 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear of it, and be glad.
Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears…
The angel of the Lord encamps round about them that fear him, and delivers them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that trusts in him.”
By Kristen Welch