And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
I would like to introduce a friend to you – “JD.”
She is not a patient of mine, but she is battling and surviving cancer. In fact she is young, battling stage 4 cancer which started in her uterus. Her story is compelling, after her cancer was diagnosed in later stages….Let me explain her background.
The spread of her cancer was the tragic result of a procedure performed before she even knew she had the diagnosis, a procedure known as morcellation. To explain, “power morcellation” is sometimes used for women undergoing laporascopic pelvic surgery and it allows uterine tissue to be more readily removed through small minimally invasive incisions. The procedure on the other hand can unwittingly spreading malignant cells throughout the pelvis in patients who have malignancy but do not yet know it. This is rare, with less than 1 out of 1000 women having occult cancer at the time of surgery using morcellation. Should occult cancer be present however, the cancer stage can go from stage I to stage IV just by having the morcellation procedure.
That was the tragedy for JD. Ultimately she developed such severe abdominal pain that she was taken back to surgery when a softball size tumor was discovered, confirming the diagnosis of stage IV leiomyosarcoma. Leiomyosarcoma is also quite rare, occurring with an incidence of 1 in 10,000 women. So JD is the rare of the having an very rare occult cancer, now in stage IV. (Learn more here: http://www.contemporaryobgyn.net/modern-medicine-feature-articles/power-morcellation-uterine-fibroids-what-you-need-know)
She is in the throws of treatment always, and her outlook and strength are an inspiration to those who know her. She has also suffered the difficult battle of infertility and after six years of being unable to conceive, God blessed her and her husband with their adopted son in 2012.
I am sharing with you a letter she recently wrote to her family just before Easter. Her letter is the front line truth about prayer and she speaks to the culture we live in, with her rich experience of how prayer has been her life line. Her words will melt your heart. Our prayers matter. Prayers move mountains and change lives. When you think no one is listening or that God doesn’t hear your prayers, or that what you pray doesn’t really reach anyone or anywhere, just remember what JD wrote in her letter to her family. You will realize your prayer is the most important utterance from your soul to your God your Creator who loves each and every one of us relentlessly and completely.
“This is a hard email for me to write. I’m normally what I refer to as a “Quiet Christian” – I’m not overtly religious, I don’t have bumper stickers that shout my beliefs, and I can’t quote scripture. I was raised “Protestant light,” meaning we rarely attended church unless the whole family was going on Easter or Christmas. We didn’t pray at meals, attend VBS (took me years to figure out what that even was) or discuss religion. I did attend Catholic high school, so I do have a solid background in this history of many religions, not just Christianity, and an intellectual understanding of religion, for which I’m grateful. To talk about religion on a personal level, however, makes me uncomfortable – especially in our highly charged and polarized society. Honestly, I fear being judged, or labeled as a “creepy Christian.” In other words, I’m a big chicken when it comes to admitting that faith plays a big part in my life, which really is a terrible cop out.
I feel compelled to be more open about my faith as it is central to how I am coping with this diagnosis, and I’m being open about everything else about this journey so it’s only right that I include how I incorporate faith. I am especially moved to do so because so many people have said that they are praying for me, I’ve asked for prayers, and said that it’s really the only thing we as a family need right now. I want it to be known that I do not say that lightly – prayer is incredibly meaningful to me and is as nourishing to me as any other treatment – more so, even. Let me explain.
Having cancer, for me, has been like being stuck in a haunted house – the really scary kind you encounter during Halloween. You know, the ones that they don’t let little kids into because it’s actually scary – people with chainsaws popping out, lots of loud noises, chaos, and darkness. It’s all very well and good to choose to be in that situation; cancer, however, has placed me in this haunted house without my permission. So, I feel trapped in this scary place. I have no idea what’s around each corner, or where I’m going. Every step brings fear of what’s next – what terrifying surprise will pop out of the dark? A bad prognosis? Another tumor? Worry about leaving my son too soon, or how my family will live without me? Am I doing the right thing – did I choose the right doctors? Are they considering all the options and making the right calls? Was something missed again? I can go on and on about the things I fear – they really seem endless. This haunted house has no way out – it goes on and on, or so it feels to me.
Prayer changes that dynamic. It doesn’t lift me out of the haunted house – I’m still very much in the thick of scary stuff. But what prayer does is provide voices from outside the house that remind me that I am not alone. I hear every voice that prays for me, and with every voice, I become less fearful. I know the haunted part isn’t real, and I also know I will find a way out eventually. I know there is more good on the outside than there is scariness in the house, and that once I’m out – and I will get out eventually – I will be safe. So, I feel more confident while in the house. Sure, some things are still frightening, but because the prayerful voices are louder than the scary noises, I get to choose what scares me, and how much I allow the fright to rule me. Prayers remind me that I am not in charge, nor are the scary things – God is in charge, and He has surrounded me with others who have faith that is stronger than fear. I can face a lot of scary knowing that.
Faith is powerful. The faith those who pray for me have in God, the faith that I have in God’s plan, and the surrender I give that I am not in control of everything – there’s incredible strength in all of that. When someone says I’m in their prayers, they are reminding me of that power, and giving me that strength. I suppose if I were a runner, it would be akin to being in the middle of a marathon, and having friends along the way cheering me on – not saying “you’re going to WIN!” or even “see you at the finish line!” but “we are here for you – at mile 20, when we know you want to give up. We believe in you and no matter what – even if your legs falter or you don’t have the strength to cross the finish line – we showed up to cheer for you when it was the hardest part.” That’s how prayer feels.
I hope I can get away with being open about my faith during Easter/Passover week – when most of us are at least aware of the role of religion in society. It seemed an appropriate time to bring it up, and maybe to stop being so shy about how integral it is to me especially in this journey. Mostly I just want to express how grateful I am for the prayers, and why they matter so much to me and my family, and why I will continue to ask for them. I know they work – I’ve been in haunted houses before, and it was faith that led me out. Once I surrendered to God’s plan and stopped believing that my own plan was better, I was free. It was hard to do then, and even harder now, but your prayers give me the courage I need to believe that God’s got me and my boys. Thank you for that, and thank you for hearing me out on why prayer matters. Hopefully it wasn’t too creepy. 🙂
Love to you all, and Happy Easter/Passover! JFD