- Riteesha Houston
What doesn't kill you...
We were really excited…. It had been almost 3 years since we’d had a night away without the kids. It was only one night, in a hotel in the city, while the visiting grandparents stayed with the children. The weather was just about perfect, and we were thinking of ways to fit everything we wanted to do in about 24 hours. We were like a couple of kids ourselves; eager, excited, anticipating what we would do, how many uninterrupted movies we would watch, where we would eat, and most importantly, how late we would sleep in!
That morning my doctor’s nurse called me to come in and get some test results I’d been expecting, from a swelling on my neck. We were contemplating finding another day to do this, but this doctor was hard to get an appointment with, and plus, our hotel was close to the hospital. We decided a quick in and out wouldn’t ruin our night away.
We checked-in, and as most other times, tried to get a complimentary upgrade, and for the first time ever, we did! The start of this night away couldn’t have gone any better!
As I walked into the doctor’s office that afternoon, I had a split-second of spiralling, ‘worst-case-scenario’ thoughts, and almost instantly brushed them away. There had been no reason to think them, so they took me a bit by surprise. The doctor looked at me a bit oddly, and told us to sit down. I had seen him a few times before then and I can only really describe him as a really nice man. Right from the start he had been really clear, caring and reassuring about the various tests and potential outcomes. It was most likely a cyst- sometimes it goes away itself, other times it needs surgical removal. We needed to test for the sources of its occurrence, nothing alarming, just regular tests. Nonetheless, I had never been in hospital for anything other than giving birth and the odd check up here and there, and had certainly never had any major health issues. So anything of this sort was pretty foreign to me. He got to the point straight away and I’ll never forget that first line he spoke; “I’m so sorry, but you’ve got Papillary Thyroid Cancer”. Pause. I think (and I say ‘think’, because the next 5 minutes were a bit of a blur) my heart started to pound, and I felt like I had drifted out of my body and began watching a scene unfolding, about someone else entirely. I was hearing words, but not fully believing they were about me. “Mass in the thyroid…surgery…one step at a time….specialist….radiation therapy…”
My husband and I gripped each other’s hands, looking at one another, trying to be brave, forcing ourselves to silently reassure the other this wasn’t as bad as it sounded, while willing the tears to go back in. The doctor brought a box of tissues over.
That C word, cancer, is so dreaded, hated and feared. This disease that causes so much so much suffering, pain, brokenness and grief, was now a part of my story. I hadn’t had anyone close to me suffer from it, and I certainly, never in a million years, imagined I would be hearing those words about me.
It felt unreal, it felt like I was going to wake up any second and realise it was a dream. But then something else came, within seconds a different feeling, not fear, not sadness, not anger… something I can’t fully explain….a Peace came over me. I knew right then, in that doctor’s office, as tears rolled down my cheeks, as my husband held my hand, that no matter what lay ahead, God was with me. It wasn’t because I was strong person, because I wasn’t! It wasn’t because I believed I would be healed, because I didn’t. I didn’t know what was to come. But I did know, that God was with me and would help me every step of the way.
This is hard for me to explain, because it was an intangible experience, but one that I had never been more sure of. As we walked out of that hospital in a haze, the emotions running high, the confusion mingled with disbelief and shock, that peace didn’t leave me. I didn’t know what lay ahead, I didn’t fully know what all of it meant, and I certainly didn’t know how we were going to get through it all, but what I did know was that God was with me. No doubt there.
The thing about this knowledge is that it carries you through anything. You never know how you’ll manage, and you don’t know the ‘whens’ or the ‘whats’ either, but you don’t need to. He carries us, bears our burdens, gives us wisdom, makes us strong and helps us hold on. It was quite relieving for me not to suddenly feel like I had to come up with all the solutions and ‘figure it all out’. The action that’s required of us is to be willing to hold on. Trust. Faith. That’s what we decided to do. The fear would threaten to take over at times. The thoughts in my mind would often pop up when I was on my own, and before I’d even realise it, tears would be streaming down my face. But I had to remind myself of what I knew to be true, and what I had chosen to do. He was with me, and I was going to trust.
Isaiah 43: 2-3 says
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I’m a Bible reader. When I was young it started out as something my parents encouraged me to do, then it became something I felt I should do, but often found it hard and boring. Then, in my adult life it became something I wanted to do more, and now in recent years it’s something that I can’t do without. The Bible is more than an interesting book or a collection of stories, it’s my life manual, it’s wisdom for how to lead my life, and it’s truth. When nothing else holds up, the Word of God does.
Those verses above became so real to me as I went through surgery, as I lived away from my husband, my 1 year old and 3 year old for 3 weeks, because I was radioactive and couldn’t be in contact with small children. Everything that I had imagined to be heart wrenching, impossible and painful, was growing, shaping and so much easier than I imagined.
There’s so much to this story, and while I can’t go into the depths of it, I must say that it was so clear that the details were so clearly orchestrated by someone bigger than myself. Every little part of it fit like a puzzle and had a purpose. Even thinking about it now, I am amazed. Our planned night away without the kids did not turn out anything like we expected, instead what we thought couldn’t possibly get ruined, got turned upside down by news that we imagined would rock our world. That news, and how we chose to respond to it, has shaped us, strengthened us and taught us so much about who God is and how much He loves us. Ironic, right?
We often get so filled with fear and let our minds build on thoughts that break our spirit and steal every ounce of our strength. Yes, it can be a battle sometimes to ward them off, but when we do, when we look beyond our dire circumstances, and get a glimpse of the light shining through the clouds, we can see that there’s something bigger than ourselves looking out for us and writing our story.
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