A large part of starting this blog is because of the season I currently find myself in. I don’t really want this to be another ‘cancer’ blog, however, that is a large part of the lessons I’m learning, the things God is speaking and teaching me about faith and trust, a large part of life right now. I realize that not everyone reading this knows the story of this part of my life so I figured it might be a good idea to go back and share that. So, back to the summer of 2016…..
It was July & I was visiting my grandparents, in Texas. My grandfather has been active for as long as I can remember, going on a run or a bike ride every day and then working out in the garage. Growing up, whenever we would visit them, my sisters and I always wanted to join him on his bike rides. He actually bought me my first bike, a small white and pink bicycle he found at a garage sale, and taught me to ride one year when we were home on furlough. Now back to 2016…as usual, Papa & I went on a bike ride and in the sweaty heat of Texas I discovered a small lump at the base of my neck.
My grandfather has himself dealt with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for the past 20+ years. I showed my grandparents the lump and they couldn’t hide their concern. I’ve never had health insurance so going to the doctor in the States was out of the question. I had a month of travel ahead of me, before I would be home in Ukraine and able to go to a doctor. That was one of the hardest months! I wanted to figure it out NOW and I wanted to get whatever it was treated and out of my body. But there was no where to go.
My next stop was Nashville, TN. I found a clinic there that was for low-income, non-insured individuals and decided to go so that I could hopefully get some peace of mind. The doctor who saw me said she believed it was my thyroid and could easily be treated but I needed an ultrasound to be sure. I got the ultrasound and the results came back – a soft-tissue mass, not my thyroid. No peace of mind came from that! I tried so hard to stay calm the coming weeks but I don’t think I was very successful. I looked to google way too much and that didn’t provide any good news either. A small piece of advice, never google health issues – there is nothing but doom and gloom there!
I finally got home, saw a doctor and was scheduled for blood work & a CT scan. I showed up the following morning for what I thought was only blood work and was informed that no, I was having the scan that morning as well! I called my parents and they came as fast as they could. By the time they made the 30 min. drive there, I had already had the scan and had just sat down with the radiologist to hear the results. Her words were, “It’s the lymph node and most likely Lymphoma due to your family history.” Biopsy was recommended and after asking to have it done at their clinic (rather than a government hospital) she called in a doctor who was able to perform it. I transitioned to his office for what I assumed would be a consultation. He proceeded to ask me to lie down, pulled out the core-needle gun and explained how the biopsy is done. So there I was, thinking I had come for simple blood work, now getting ready to have a biopsy! It was such a surreal morning and very much an out-of-body experience. The numbness from the anesthesia that was followed by pain later that day reminded me, however, that this was real.
Some time passed and the results came in. We prayed every day during the waiting, praying for a miracle that it would disappear before the results came in. I woke up the morning of the appointment and it was still there. As I walked out of my room, I glanced at my skylight and saw a sparrow come and land on the edge. Immediately, I heard in my spirit, “If He cares for the sparrows, how much more does He care for you?” As I looked, a second sparrow came and perched next to the first! To me, it was confirmation from God. He knew what the results were and He would be with me as I went to that appointment. It gave me the peace I needed for that day.
Still praying the results would be negative for cancer, my whole family went with me to the clinic. My mom and I went in to talk with the doctor and his words were, “It is Hodgkin’s lymphoma.” After getting his referral to an oncology clinic in Kyiv, we left and went to a coffee shop to process what was happening.
There we were, processing the diagnosis of cancer, not having received the miracle we prayed for. Even in the midst of that, we had peace and we had assurance in the word of God that He cared for me! Don’t get me wrong, there were still tears as the news sunk in. The next morning was especially weird for me, waking up, still feeling the lump and knowing now that it was cancer. Those coming days were filled with prayer and reading the Bible. I wasn’t angry at God. Sure, I was disappointed the miracle hadn’t happened; but I felt confident it still could at any moment. I know it sounds strange, but I was actually excited that I was getting to see what my faith was really made of; how would I weather this storm?