“Hold on, I can’t quite hear you…” I said into my phone. The doctor was on the line, but my kids were (not quietly) playing video games nearby.
“Sorry, go ahead, you said you had bad news. I’m ready.” I was sitting at our kitchen table with a pencil in hand.
And the doctor started talking…
And that’s when I started taking notes that looked like this: CANCER.
It’s amazing how a 6 minute phone call can completely change your day.
I wrote down all of the words he was saying… not quite understanding all of the information coming at me. The BAD NEWS. “We’re all very surprised, we really thought this was nothing. You were put on the NOT URGENT list.. We thought this biopsy was a waste of time… it wasn’t even supposed to happen for at least 6 months, it’s actually crazy that you got in so early. Yes, papillary thyroid carcinoma. It’s very treatable, it’s a bump in the road, we’ll remove your thyroid, you don’t need any chemo, you’ll get some radioactive iodine… you can start replacement pills that you just take for the rest of your life…”
My scrawled on piece of paper was full. I said, “Thank you for calling?” and hung up the phone. My boys were waiting behind the door. My hands were shaking and I sat down on our little kitchen stool with them hovered around me, and I started to cry.
The boys knew.
One son burst into wailing sobs while holding onto me and saying, “No…. oh no…” Another son choked back tears attempting to be brave. Another son angrily started asking a string of questions. “What? How does cancer even get in there? How do we get it out, we should get it out!” And my 4 year old? He was like, “Whennnnn can we play video games again?!”
“Guys.. I know this is scary and crazy, but God is with us, he loves us, and he’s NOT surprised by this.” My 6 year old volunteered to pray something along the lines of, “God. Please get this cancer OUT of Mom’s neck. In JESUS’ name, AMENNNN.”
The most sincere 13 word prayer he’s ever uttered.
And then I called my husband.”I’m coming home.” He said.
It all felt so surreal.
Two months ago I woke up with this big lump on my neck. We had nicknamed it Gordon the goiter, and we collectively agreed that it was literally, a pain in the neck. It made me tired, and sore, and slow.. and it was just plain weird.
“It’s a swollen gland.” The first doctor had said.
“It’s not cause for worry.” The ER doctor said. But I was suspicious.
We prayed. A lot. We prayed with our friends, our church, our families. Over and over, “Anything to pray for?” And I’d be like, “Yes, me… still with the neck thing…” Feeling much like a broken record. But we continued to pray for dates to be moved up, for doctors to have wisdom, for strength in the waiting, and patient endurance.
And then one day another doctor called. “Hi, I’m not completely sure why you were referred to me… I wasn’t going to take your file, but I did and here we are… We’re recommending a biopsy, but rest easy, 95% of these thyroid nodules are benign.
Great. Those are magnificent odds. I passed high school with a solid 80%. Our prayer team kept faithfully praying.
And then as we waited some more, I started to notice this Bible verse kept popping up everywhere I read anything. It jumped out at me in my Bible. I’d flip to it by ‘mistake’ looking for a different book entirely. It was the featured verse in several ‘random’ articles I read… I told my mom and she said, “Oh that verse was in our reading last night too!”
I’d had this reappearing verse thing before. It’s so cool, as though God is putting his word in front of my face until I FINALLY hear Him speaking it.
This time around I wasn’t going to skip the bad news part, but I was being told to NOT FEAR IT. Boy, that’s a simultaneously weird, and sweet spot to be in. A space where I can literally do nothing but trust the Lord to care for me.
He is such an anchor for our souls, regardless of the circumstances.
I wish I could say that it was all easy… but following the doctor’s delivery of “You have cancer,” were several very difficult days. I started having a series of anxiety attacks that caught me completely off guard.
Ugh. A homeschooling mother of 4 young boys does NOT have time for this.
My blood circulation was a joke, my hands were freezing, my arms felt numb, my tongue was tingling. I’d wake up in the middle of the night with such a tight chest I could barely breathe. I started sobbing uncontrollably, I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and yet I was so exhausted. My body had just finally had enough. I found out later that the biopsy had rudely stirred everything up, and my poor thyroid didn’t know what it was doing anymore.
“Don’t fight it, work with it.” My dear friend said. And so I chose to rest, to eat at regular intervals, to take iron supplements with rigidity, and to sob uncontrollably in hot showers while listening to The Battle Belongs to You, (way too loudly) until the anxiety would pass. I spent several nights sleeping restlessly on the couch listening to passages from Isaiah and the Psalms through my earphones.
7 days after the phone call, almost to the hour, our pastor knocked on our apartment door. She prayed with our family, and she spoke courage and faith into us, just as so many others had been faithfully doing throughout the bad news week. She said, Jesus is the name above all names, even the name of cancer. And with that, the battle seemed to dissipate.
“You know Mom, the older I get, God is feeling more and more real to me.” He said.
Stop it. I have been praying since my kids were babies that God would reveal himself to them at an early age. To have my son say that made the weeklong battle worth every minute.
A reprieve has hit our home now. This earthly life of cyclical battle followed by blessing is truly something else.
This week there have been so many blessings, we can barely set one down before the next one comes in.
“God is so good,” we say. “Our community is so kind,” we say.
“My energy is low” I say, “but my hope is high.”
We are learning that we can homeschool from every couch, bed, floor, table, and countertop.
We are learning that things that seemed like a big deal a few weeks ago, don’t actually matter.
We are learning that every breath we take is a gift from God, and we are currently very mindful of how we are using it.
There’s a new song on repeat in our home right now, House of Miracles. It’s the most fitting tune for all of us to be humming right now.
And our hearts? They’re hopeful and full of faith. And they are confidently trusting Jesus in all the things, fully relying on his strength to do each and every day in front of us.
Thank you for praying with us.
Beautiful photo by: Katie Mills Photography