In every life, there are turning points, both expected and unexpected, that will shape us into who we are, and who we will become. We expect birthdays. We hope for marriage. We pray for children. But no one ever predicts that cancer will become a major turning point in his or her life. And yet, for me, it was the biggest turning point that I have ever faced.
When I was 20 years old, I was diagnosed with a rare type of kidney cancer, which had already spread into my lymph nodes and spine. For months after my diagnosis I was in and out of hospitals and doctors offices, as the doctors tried to discover how I had gotten this cancer and what was the best way to proceed. As a 20-year-old, I had to look doctors in the eye as they told me I might not have long to live. My cancer had spread extensively, and kidney cancer itself has no cure. My worst nightmare had become the reality of my life.
I cannot even begin to describe the immense anguish of those first few months after hearing my diagnosis. I had to drop out of college for the semester, and go back home to Richmond, Virginia for treatment. Two weeks after hearing the diagnosis, I was at the hospital for major surgery to remove my kidney, a surgery that left me sicker than I could have ever imagined. I spent the following two months in bed, barely able to move or eat, and being carted to and from different doctors to hear their evaluations of my condition. I vividly remember crying with my dad one night, and telling him that I could not remember what it felt like to not be sick. In my mind, it seemed like I would be sick for the rest of my life, and I could barely remember a time when I had not felt like I was slowly fading away. I began to doubt how long I could hold on, and how much I could continue to combat cancer. I became tired of fighting.
Famous theologian and author C.S. Lewis once said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscious and shouts in our pain. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” And I could not agree more. My whole life prior to cancer, the Lord has been whispering to me, and at times even speaking to me, to remind me of His presence and love. But my diagnosis became like a megaphone, blaring the Lord’s love for all to hear. Christian and non-Christian friends alike all gathered to pray for me in those dark days. The Lord had to constantly remind me that it is He who controls my life, not the doctors or the statistics I was facing each day.
Due to the Lord’s protection, I was able to return to Furman University less than six months after my diagnosis to start another year of college. I began a targeted therapy that worked in my body like chemotherapy, and with many of the same side effects making the year a daily struggle. But I was so grateful to be back at school, and to feel normal again, that it barely even mattered. And while my cancer never left, it remained stable for a long time, allowing me to finish out my junior year and begin my senior year.
But in December of my senior year, the doctors discovered that my cancer had spread further. I am in a stage of life right now where I am simply waiting to see if it will continue to spread throughout my body, and praying that it will go away forever, although the doctors have told me that that is very unlikely, if not impossible. I am now a two-year cancer survivor, and I can undoubtedly say that these past two years have changed me in monumental ways.
Cancer has been a turning point in my life that I never could have dreamed of, and I know that my life will never be the same. But despite the hard times and the multitudes of tears, the Lord has been protecting me every step of this journey. Whether I live, and one day become cancer free, or I die, I know without a doubt that God is good, and that does not change based on my circumstances. For now, I can rest in the assurance that the Lord is looking out for me, and therefore I can simply strive to live life joyfully for every day that I am given.