A No-Brainer: My Public Thanks

I thank God for my faithful, kind husband of 25 years who still makes me laugh. In fact, on seeing my five glued abdominal wounds today, he called me his blueberry muffin. I laughed. It hurt. And we laughed and I hurt some more. It was very worth it.
The hallelujah view of The Basilica of St. Josaphat was a kindness, too, for it reminded me of where I heard my beloved Handel’s Messiah.
St. Luke’s omelette’s rate. I thanked God for one at dinner and one more at breakfast. I recommend the cheese and veg.
“Didn’t see that coming,” was Aunt Mary’s text on hearing of my unlikely post-op eye injury. I’m icing my eye here, and thanking God as I type that it’s almost all better.
This track was a sight for sore eyes, or at least the one (see above). I haven’t walked this slowly in 46 years—mom confirmed, I was quick out of the baby gate. But this week, I thank God for my slowest walks.
image of legs
These. I thank God for these. I almost didn’t want to leave the hospital because of these inflatable leg sleeves. The rhythmic compression was a major post-op perk.
My sisters are great cooks. One made this incredible Korean beef and veg fried brown rice. The other brought us kale-chicken-garbanzo salad. We devoured it before I took a picture.
I thank God for the sunset reflected in these clouds over Lake Michigan. How could I ask for more?
I thank God for good books like these: George Sayer’s, Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis and Andrée Seu’s, Won’t Let You Go Unless You Bless Me. Seu is quoted below.

Pain, Op & Post-Op

This was a big week for me. A big week for me to give thanks.

Because my pain got bad in July. Then an ultrasound found a huge mass. Surgery was scheduled for August 16th.

I had a month to wait. A month to talk back to the little aches under my arms and to wonder if the mass was cancerous. Yes, a month to learn to speak peace.

But Tuesday was surgery at St. Luke’s. My only other operation was the prodding that named the pelvic pain behind my more painful infertility: endometriosis.

That was twenty years ago. This time we knew I had a problem. By noon the surgeon had removed a 12- cm ovarian mass and a second surgeon was called in to help remove the adhesions gluing organs together that don’t belong together.

The first three things I remember upon waking were 1) the painful eye, 2) reaching my dream room on the 12th floor, where lymphoma patients come, and 3) I remember a big smile on Jim as he said,

“Dr. Kamelle removed it all and would be shocked if it was cancer, but the lab will need to confirm.”

Not Everyone Is Healed

Even as I sat in those glorious leg massagers, I thought of my friend’s friend whose bones are literally breaking with cancer. I prayed for another church friend who probably won’t live to see her long awaited first grandbaby’s birthday. Then came a text from a dear friend whose husband has fought cancer for ten years. He was just admitted due to a serious infection, and is still there as I write.

I think of these God-fearing, Christ-loving, praying people. God doesn’t always heal, on this side anyway. He leaves some mountains unmoved.

The song says,

I know the sorrow, I know the hurt would all go away if you’d just say the word.

But even if you don’t, my hope is you alone.

I want to believe I’d still sing that, and his faithful follower I would be, for by his hand He leadeth me.

But would I? Would I still have enjoyed the room with the view if the surgeon pronounced the mass cancerous? Would I still be telling you how sweet is this place?

I don’t know.

My Shout from the Housetop

But Andrée Seu wrote—and I am 💯 with her—that since she and her prayer warrior had prayed watchfully and since their request for her healing was granted:

It’s a no-brainer that I need to give public glory to God. Still I protest: Many godly, praying people are not healed. [Her prayer warrior] replies, “You were. Shout it from the housetops!”— Plus words to the effect that it’s a dangerous thing to ask the Almighty for something, and then, having received it, to flirt with unbelief.

There was no gainsaying that, and in the end I saw the truth of it, and yield the doubt to faith and that is why I tell you this.

So here receive my public thanks to God. To Him alone be praise.

Do I know I would praise God even if? No, I do not.

But I will thank Him now. To Him alone be praise.

What Makes Me Cry

What makes me cry these days? I’ve been weepy for the 48 hours I’ve been home, and it’s not because of the incisions and I don’t think it’s because I’m down an ovary.

It’s because of kindness.

God’s first, and y’all’s next. I mean it. I can’t list all the names now, because I’d forget someone. But you know who you are—you texted and prayed. You made a meal or sent a card, you drove me, or the son, home. A couple of you took a son to lunch and met a son in court. You dropped off flowers. I give thanks to God for you. You were gentle and kind.

For you all, and for strong Tylenol, a funny husband, inflatable leg massagers and a friend named Gwen; for sunshine, omelettes, and my slowest walks, I give public thanks to God.

I also give Him thanks for the call in the elevator on the way down from the 12th-floor room.

Is this Abigail? It’s pathology. We wanted to let you know: no cancer was found.

Public thanks goes to God for that too. From the housetop.

And the roadside, in my slowest walking shoes.

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.

Psalm 39:7 (ESV)

Hannah’s Hope

Her smooth cello drew me. Then, nine months ago we crossed paths again and I made a new friend. Actually, I found a new friend. Or she found me. In any case, our meeting wasn’t chance.

Because, like C.S. Lewis explained, A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to…Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others” (“The Four Loves”).

Truly.

Hannah was just finishing  her last chemo treatment when we met. But hat or no hat, short hair or no, Hannah is beautiful. Hannah exudes living hope; she laughs at the days to come.  Hannah lives her motto loud: Love Jesus. Love people. Share Jesus with people. By living this way, she strengthens my hope in God. 

Months ago, I invited her to share her story here. This week she took me up.  It is with pleasure that I share Hannah with you. 

Hi. I’m Hannah.

In the past 14 months God has led me and walked with me through stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. By His grace I am currently cancer free. I recently participated in the Leukemia- Lymphoma Society (LLS) Light the Night walk. LLS provides support to cancer patients and survivors and supports research to find more effective treatments for blood cancers. I was looking forward to a night of camaraderie and sharing of stories, a night of savoring and rejoicing in life.

And we  did “light up the night with hope.” We raised money and awareness for blood cancer research and patients. The survivors and MC at the event spoke of the support of family and friends through hard times, shared fond memories of those who died of cancer, and we all celebrated the blessing of being survivors.

Yet I left with deep sadness in my soul. Where was the real hope? The solid hope? Not the fluffy, humanistic stuff, but the kind to base your life on, the hope that gives strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. Where was that hope?

Some Trust In…

“Some trust in chariots [chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, science], some trust in horses [family, friends, statistics, positive thoughts] but we trust in the name of the Lord our God!” –Psalm 20:7

At the event, one of the women spoke of how positive thoughts, human relationships/support, and advances in science got her through treatment. I listened and thought sadly,  “Really? That’s all she’s got?” This is “hope”?  If it is, hope ends when life ends.

Positive thoughts are proven to help cancer patients handle treatment and life better, but no one  on her deathbed can save her  life by positive thinking. Human relationships have great power to affect lives, but all of us will die, and most of us won’t be remembered for long after our death (maybe a lifetime or two…).

Science provides many amazing ways to combat diseases and increase life expectancies, but no science could have predicted that I would be diagnosed with cancer at the age of 24. And this diagnosis after I’d lost 50 pounds and had really begun to live a “healthy” lifestyle. In fact, I’d run a PR in a 10k the week before my chemo treatments started. Beyond that, none of us can control whether or not the cancer returns. I know death is only breath away.

When the rubber meets the road, these sources of “hope” are just man-made smoke screens covering an abyss of hopelessness – a way for people to cope but not even come close to a permanent solution that addresses all anxieties and possibilities of an uncertain and unknown future.

But what we need, cancer or cancer free, is not hype and not “just to cope,” what we need is to hope.

Not hype, not “just cope”- hope.

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” -Corrie ten Boom

I’m not saying positive thoughts, human relationships, and science are bad. They are helpful, but they are all much too small and frail to be the basis of real hope.

So what is hope?  True hope is no wishy-washy thing. It does not look to the future with wishful thinking and “positive thoughts.” Oh, it is so much more!

God promises that those of us who have trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior have an imperishable and unfading inheritance, a 100% guarantee of hope in the future no matter what the present holds. Though we face various and difficult trials, we have this hope (1 Peter 1:3-9).

“We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory…For we know that if the tent that if our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” -2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1

Though this earthly body be destroyed, I have something better and lasting – a building made by God, perfect and eternal, apart from the presence of sin and death, in the very near presence of God…and that is the best part – to get to behold God’s glory forever.

Light The Night, All The Day

I did not survive my cancer, nor do I live cancer free, with an insecure, surface level “hope.” I thrive through cancer and can live free from anxiety. I live with a living hope and seeking to fix my eyes on Jesus, my glorious Savior. Now that is the walk I live each day, by God’s grace, with an excited, joy-filled and hopeful heart. It’s a walk full of camaraderie, sharing stories, rejoicing in and savoring God and the many gifts He has given.

Hannah with her brother and sister

It’s a daily “Light the Night” walk, lighting up the dark world with God’s light and daily proclaiming the greatness of my God and Savior who has called me out of spiritual darkness into His marvelous light.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession,

that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

1 Peter 2:9

*Abigail again: I mentioned earlier Hannah plays a mean cello.  This version of Abide With Me features a deep, sweet cello like hers. But it’s more the lyrics than the strings that lead me to thank God for Hannah’s fearless, living hope when I hear these words:

I fear no foe with you at hand to bless, 
though ills have weight, and tears their bitterness. 
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, your victory? 
I triumph still, if you abide with me. 

Henry Francis Lyte