HIS FACE IN MY JOURNEY
A Question of Recurrence
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
In July 2013, I celebrated 7 years of survivorship. I don't usually celebrate the anniversary of my diagnosis (because I
prefer to distance myself from any identifying marks of cancer), and I didn't throw a bash this year either; but, because
"7" is the biblical number for "perfection" or "completion", this one felt significant. I did not sense the Lord speaking
anything new to me about my healing; I didn't hear Him say, "Yes, Joellen, NOW your healing is complete", because He's already spoken that to me, and I shouldn't need to hear Him speak it again to believe it (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Nonetheless, I took the opportunity to agree that my healing is complete, with thanks and praise to the One who healed me, and I sent notes of thanksgiving to a few significant people who encouraged me during my trial, blessing them and inviting them into my 7-year celebration.
And, wouldn't you know it, one month after my 7-year cancerversary, I began having terrible bone pain in my back rib area. I didn't immediately think of cancer, but it was a gnawing, constant, localized pain that woke me up at night, and since I had never felt anything like it before, my mind eventually went there. Was it possible that metastatic breast cancer had invaded my bones? I've never been one to jump to a conclusion of cancer and, in fact, this was only the 3rd time in my 7 years of survivorship where an unusual pain in my body caused me to even consider cancer recurrence. But after a few sleepless nights (from pain, not worry), what else could it be? I tried to think of all the possibilities, but nothing fit. I was concerned and slightly anxious, but my overwhelming sense was peace.
I have learned from experience as a cancer survivor that peace is the voice of God reassuring me that I am o.k. It is His way of saying "don't be afraid" (John 14:27). And I am learning to trust His voice instead of mine. I am human and will always be vulnerable to fear, but I don't have to come into agreement with it. Fear is a tactic that the enemy uses to glorify himself. But I can choose, instead, to glorify God by coming into agreement with His heart for me -- life and health and peace.
After a rash broke out across my side, I visited my doctor and found out that I had
SHINGLES!! Shingles is known to cause the type of significant pain I'd been experiencing.
In fact, my doctor informed me about one of his patients who went to the emergency room
with symptoms of a heart attack that turned out to be shingles! Never in a million years would I
have guessed that the bone pain I was feeling was caused by a rejuvenated Herpes zoster virus lurking
in my central nervous system!
Questions of recurrence and the ensuing anxiety confronts every cancer survivor. But God is much more trustworthy than our emotions (Jeremiah 17:9). Over time, I have learned how to keep my fears in check and they no longer have power to consume me. Each time I experience a question of recurrence that turns out to be something other than cancer, my faith in my healing is increased to a new level. Each encounter has ended in victory, bringing glory to the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
And, so, I want you to remember this story the next time you experience your own inexplicable symptoms that tempt you into fearing a cancer recurrence. Remember that there could be one hundred explanations for your symptoms, most, like shingles, that will never cross your mind. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).