Today, April 6th, is a landmark day for me. I was just given the definitive answer about whether or not I have been completely healed of thyroid cancer.
It all began about 8 years ago in San Diego when I became pregnant with my third child. I was referred to a specialist because of my history with miscarriages. The specialist had a particular understanding of thyroid disorders that caused pregnancy problems. Well, in checking my thyroid, he felt a small bump: A teeny tiny nodule.
I went to my family practice doctor, who spent 30 minutes trying to find it. He couldn't, but reluctantly referred me to the endocrinologists anyway. My endocrinologist was astonished that any doctor, besides an endocrinologists, could feel this tiny nodule. It was God's hand upon my life that brought me to this OB that could feel this miniscule tumor. I believe I would not have found it for years and years and years if I had not had high risk pregnancies.
Because I was pregnant, they decided to wait until I had the baby to remove it.
A month after I had my son, I went back and it had definitely grown. Not a good sign. The doctor was extremely concerned and wanted to schedule me for surgery right away. Unfortunately, I was moving to Georgia and couldn't do surgery in San Diego.
When I moved to Georgia, I found a family doctor, who scheduled me for surgery. I went in and had my thyroid removed. The odds were that it was not cancer. Only 5% of the time is a nodule on your thyroid cancer. Yet, it was cancerous; a rare highly malignant form of thyroid cancer called Tall Cell Variant as well as a more common form of Papillary Carcinoma were discovered. I had radiation after the surgery. (Iodine 131 - the same stuff that leaked in Chernobyl). I had to quit nursing and stay away from my family for a week afterwards because I was so radioactive. I was like a walking chest x-ray machine. Anyone within six feet of me received the equivalent of a chest x-ray the moment they got near me.
Unfortunately, I didn't have an endocrinologist to regulate my thyroid following the radiation. So whatever thyroid cells that were left in my body began to increase in size over the next few months. Upon finding an excellent endocrinologists, I was informed that these cells were likely cancer because they didn't die when radiated. Within my neck formed a large tumor (about the size of a nickel). I had just found a wonderful Conservative Southern Baptist Church. The director of the women's ministries scheduled a prayer meeting for me in the prayer room. She invited a missionary who believed God still heals (I wasn't sure that I believed this), the pastor, her husband and mine to pray for me. They prayed over me for hours.
I also had people around the world praying because I was put on an international prayer chain started and led by the president of the company where my husband works. We went on a company cruise and when people learned my name, they would say "I've been praying for you EVERY DAY!" In fact, often I would be out somewhere and someone I didn't even know at all would come up and say that God had been waking them up at night to pray for me. It was unbelievable the number of people that were faithful to pray for me.
Nevertheless, I went back to the doctor and had a scan only to find out that the tumor was still there. They wanted to reschedule me for more radiation and possibly more surgery. I was willing to go. However, my husband was in intense prayer and felt God was leading him in another direction. He felt I was not to get radiation. I'm thinking, "Oh dear." Now, I had never met anyone who was healed of anything. I had never watched any healing stuff on T.V. because that all looked contrived to me. The man who prayed for me that believed in healing had seen many healings. But that just didn't happen in my world.
As a side note, my husband was extremely interested in keeping me around, he was in love with me, and enjoyed the fact that I could raise our three children. He wasn't super interested in being a widow, raising three kids - two being toddlers; yet, he was suggesting that I not get radiation (the only way one can destroy thyroid tissue). Further, my husband is very pragmatic and logical, and extremely unemotional even about spiritual things. For him to be saying this was definitely out of the ordinary. I, being the subservient wife that I am, said, "Are you crazy???" Nevertheless, I decided to pray and ask that the Lord would give me the same leading if it were really His will. It's a long story filled with miracles how God did this, but He gave me the same leading. Now, I wasn't sure if it was because God wanted to take me to heaven to be with Him or if He was going to heal me. Whichever was fine with me. For my life verse had become, Philippians 1:21-26
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me."
I realized that if I were to live, my life would not be my own anymore (not that it ever was my own once I was saved, but now I felt that my entire life was even less mine, and only on loan from God). I realized that every day of my life should be lived for Him and His purposes. I gave myself to Him for His work to be done in my life, for however many years I had left. (Incidentally, these science books are the result of that offering unto Him.)
The doctor was livid and quite frightened that I refused radiation. He begged, implored and warned me continually. It was hard to resist. But we had to obey God. I went back to the doctor every few months to measure the tumor; I always felt a little embarrassed about our decision in the face of this very strong willed doctor. Prayer was still forthcoming from all those around me. People were telling me they felt sure I was going to be fine. I was sure I was as well, especially since whether I live or die, I will be fine.
The Lord, however, taught me to pray with confidence against the cancer. To proclaim my body as the temple of the Holy Spirit and to take authority over the cancer - much like Jesus rebuked the fever in Peter's mother, Dorcas. I asked the Lord for faith; He gave it little by little. He is the author and finisher of our faith, after all. I learned also that often cancer is associated with bitterness and unforgiveness. I wasn't sure if this was true, but I realized that there were some people in my past that I had not forgiven. I went through a time of repentance and absolutely forgave everyone the Lord brought to my mind. If this cancer had anything to do with that, then I wanted that door closed. This is one reason I blog so much on forgiveness. It was an amazing thing for me to be free after that walk through forgiveness. I want everyone to experience that freedom. The Lord took me through some tremendous moments of communion with Him and gave me such a heart for His people. I was so thankful for the cancer and all that it had done for my walk with God. It really made me long for heaven even more, where I can be with Him forever and ever.
After months of this precious journey with God, on one particular visit to the nuclear medicine department at the hospital, the nurses could not locate the tumor. They sent immediately for the chief radiologist. He confirmed that there was no tumor. It had disappeared. My husband and I walked out of there in awe. It was quite a different experience than every other time we had gone into the cancer center. If you've ever had to go to the cancer unit at the hospital, you know what I mean.
Nevertheless, since this is impossible, my endocrinologist was not satisfied, even when my blood showed complete remission. Further, even though the tumor was gone (a medical miracle) there was still a tiny needle sized piece of tissue in my neck. Scar tissue, perhaps? There was no way to be certain. So, for years, I've been going in every few months and having scans and other test and procedures. In the scans there is some sign of thyroid tissue in my neck. For five years, there has been this small tissue. In my heart, I've believed it’s not cancer. Why would God miraculously remove a tumor and leave cancer still in my body? Nevertheless, I've been trotting to downtown Atlanta twice a year for all kinds of tests, MRI, thyrogen scans, multiple blood tests, always with the doctor wanting me to do more radiation, just in case.
Finally, Atlanta got a PET scan machine. The PET scan can detect cancer cells, even at their earliest stages. A PET scan can detect thyroid cancer cells easily. However, the machine costs 2 million dollars. The hospitals don't own the machine, but a mobile unit comes by and will do the procedure for a mere $6,000. Most insurance companies will not approve a PET scan. My doctor wanted a PET/CT scan for me. So, after a FNA biopsy (YOWCH!) last month, they scheduled me. I had many praying that the insurance company would allow it. They did! Monday and Tuesday I went down for prep work. On Wednesday, I got the scan. Today, the doctor called me....and... there are no cancer cells in my body! None. Nada! There are no cancer cells of any sort. Praise the Lord!
"I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done."
I felt that with this miracle, it is my duty before God to proclaim what the LORD has done. I have never been extremely vocal about it because I had no scientific evidence that I was indeed healed. I just wanted to be careful about proclaiming something that I just didn't fully understand.
I still don't understand healing. I've been sporadically reading a book called The Power to Heal. It's not written by someone in the protestant charismatic movement; it's actually written by a believing Catholic priest - of all people. It's very good and discusses some of the abuses done in the name of healing in the church, as well as how most healing God does is progressive like mine was. Jesus had an experience of progressive healing when he put the mud on the eyes of the man who could see men walking around like trees. He continued the procedure and the man was subsequently healed completely.
I truly believe that the prayers and, very likely, my walking through the repentance of bitterness were effective in the healing I received from God. From this book I've been reading, I am inclined to believe that the number of people praying for me must have been a powerful force in this.
God still heals today. I wish I could say I understand it all, why He sometimes doesn't heal, why some are healed, others are not. How much faith, prayer, collective prayer, repentance of sin has to do with it. I just don't know the answers to these questions. I suppose healing cannot be assigned to some formula, every person and circumstance is different. The Bible gives so many accounts of healing, and some accounts of those who were not healed. It's hard to understand. I think the main thing is that we should be completely submitted to His will. Whatever is His will, we want that the most - more, even, than our own lives. For, all but one of the apostles loved not their own lives even to death. They were all martyred.
With healing, I'm reminded of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who replied, "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."
Thus, we shall proclaim in all things, "God is able to do it, but if He does not, I will trust and worship Him still."
I really don't believe that I would have written these science books if I had not gotten cancer. For, though I lived for God, I was not so completely submitted to Him until after I went through the entire process. I didn't realize my own desperate need, my own lack of ability to do anything without Him. I learned how to totally give up myself and let Him be my all in all. I learned to follow His leading, even when it didn't seem the practical thing to do.
I believe the Lord wants me to proclaim to you that He does still heal. With the advent of modern medicine, we often don't need to seek Him for healing. Often, in our fear of being associated with con artists and flamboyant, doctrinally unsound preachers, we tend to push aside this part of God's work in the life of His children.
But it is my heart and desire to tell you all that God is able and - not only is He able - He does still heal, even conservative Christians like me!