Fragmented. This is how I would categorize my thoughts and emotions on the day I received life-altering news. Swirling around were so many thought-pieces to consider. What would my future look like? Do I have a future? How long will I live? Will I see my our grandson grow up? My spouse and children, will they see me as broken?
It was a typical Thursday night. I had been carrying around our precious little grandson earlier in the day and was feeling a little sore in my back. When my husband and I decided to turn in, I mentioned I was painfully uncomfortable and asked if he would crack my back because something seemed out of place. He had done this many times before and as I laid down on my stomach, my husband pushed lightly on my upper back. As he did, something sounded terribly wrong and pain shot through my body. We quickly realized I needed to head to the emergency room where we found out that a bone lesion had compromised the strength of my rib causing a fracture. This would later reveal I had cancer.
As my normal schedule was replaced by doctor visits, my trust in God became a question I continued to flesh out. When a death date seemed to have a time stamp, how do I walk with faith and trust? It would have been wonderful to make a one-time blanket statement of trust in God, apply it to every part of my life, and walk it out in confidence, but I found at times it came down to a moment-by-moment decision to trust.
From a child, I never had any reason to doubt God’s sovereignty in my life. With any unexpected situations I had never struggled with trusting God. I grew up in a pastor’s home and we lived out our faith through many difficult seasons. If we had a need, we prayed, believed, and trusted the answer would come. Even later in life when my husband and I were expecting our third child, at 24 weeks pregnant, we found out there were complications that would result in a one hundred percent chance of mortality. During this devastating season of losing our baby girl, we prayed, believed, and trusted God. He showed up in a tangible way as we grieved.
The day the cancer diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma came, I would love to say I had great faith and complete trust, as I had in previous life experiences, but I definitely struggled through those first few moments. I was seeing everything through this lens of an undeserving shortened life and radical change to my current existence. Without treatment, I was guaranteed two years of life. With treatment, there was no promise of a specific length of life, just a hope of more time.
As I began praying for healing in my body and wisdom for my next steps, my faith and trust in God was stretched. Was I prepared to walk this journey if he took me through the valley of the shadow of death? I began taking each step with my prayer being, “Whatever path I am on, God, I trust you.”
My inward focus turned upward the day I walked into the cancer clinic for my first consultation. I sat in the waiting room along with all the other patients, and it hit me, I am in places and with people that I would possibly never cross paths with on a typical day. What if going through the valley wasn’t only about what God could do for me, maybe, just maybe, God wanted me to connect him to those I came in contact with. The Bible does say, “Go into all the world…” (Mark 16:15). I had this open door to be in a clinic, a part of the world where I would not be included, unless I had cancer.
If my life began and ended with just me, it wouldn’t be an impressive story. I may do good things throughout my life and impact a small part of where my feet fall, but if I am only walking this journey for me, I have failed as a Christ-follower. This is not my story alone. This is God’s story and I have the privilege to be part of it. When I realize it is all about God, it steals the power from fear and doubt and instills faith and trust into the only One who is worthy and capable to change my existence and perspective.
Each time I walked into the clinic for treatments, I would ask God if there was anyone he wanted me to talk to that day. On many occasions, I had opportunities to connect with people through a word of encouragement, and even, at times, prayer. I took down names of people that I met so I could continue to pray for them. When the focus was turned towards God and doing what he has called each of us to do, it immediately gave this journey of cancer, purpose. If I had stayed in the self-wallowing stage, I would have never been ready to experience God reaching into a world that was saturated with fear, searching for hope.
On one occasion, I was going in to the hospital to have bloodwork done. As I sat in the waiting room, I was exhausted and overwhelmed with treatments and doctor visits. I breathed a silent prayer, “I’m tired, I don’t want to speak with anyone today.” As my name was called and I walked into the hematology lab, a twenty-something, young nurse, directed me to a chair. I sat quietly for a few moments and then immediately felt rejuvenated. We began chatting and the conversation quickly turned toward our faith journeys. We spoke about the Bible and how she had been drawn to read it more. I was able to share with her about my life and love of Jesus. Earlier, I was willing to miss out on this beautiful moment because of exhaustion, but I quickly realized God had other plans.
Later that day, I happened to make a phone call to a friend and found out that a couple of ladies from church felt impressed to pray for me that morning. I discovered the moment they began praying was the very moment the nurse and I were speaking. God took away my exhaustion and replaced it with supernatural energy, even when I was initially an unwilling participant.
I don’t believe any of us are completely prepared when devastating news comes. What we can do is begin exercising our trust in God with little areas of our lives so that when unexpected events happen, we are practiced and faith has been built towards trust in him. If we are already allowing God’s story to be front and center in our lives, it removes the doubt and fear that comes with uncertainties.
Whatever struggle you are facing today, God is big enough to handle it. He can take your fragmented pieces and hold you together. In the Bible, Colossians gives a great description of the vastness of our God. “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17).
The first step in walking with faith in God is preferring that your story not begin and end with you alone. Allow God to be the center of your life and become part of his story! Start each day with trusting him to lead you. You will find that the fragments you have to give God are replaced with wholeness and purpose; and your decision to trust God with your everything is life-changing. He is faithful and so worthy of our trust!
With all your heart you must trust the Lord and not your own judgment. Always let him lead you, and he will clear the road for you to follow. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Note: If you want to share your myeloma story like Shellie, please send an email to email@example.com
about the author
Myeloma survivor, patient advocate, wife, mom of 6. Believer that patients can help accelerate a cure by weighing in and participating in clinical research. Founder of HealthTree Foundation (formerly Myeloma Crowd).