“What is that?” I point to an orange sponge on the screen. The Urologist doesn’t say a word. She no longer seems interested in showing me the path of the Cystoscope or explaining the noninvasive procedure. Her mouth is covered by her mask but I can see the distress in her eyes. I lean back and stare at the ceiling. After two miscarriages and the discovery of two disorders, I have learned a very important lesson: There’s a problem when doctors stop answering your questions. She removes her gloves and mask while the nurse sits me up. I wait.
The urologist softly says, “I’ve seen these many times and I’m afraid it’s a tumor.” Did she say tumor? I wonder what that means. I immediately ask, “Do I have cancer?” The doctor takes a deep breath and confirms my worst fear. “Traci, I know you have received a lot of bad news the past few months and I can’t imagine what you’re going through. Please take your time getting ready and come see me in my office. We really need to schedule a procedure to remove the tumor as soon as we can.”
With tears in my eyes and a shaking hand I call my husband. He can’t be with me; he’s sitting on an airplane holding the weekend itinerary for a group of congressmen flying to Fort Polk, Louisiana. Over the phone my husband helplessly listens as the doctor says, “While we need to get a Histopathologist to confirm the diagnosis with a biopsy report, I want you and your wife to understand there is a high likelihood she has cancer.”
In May of 2015, at the age of 28, I was diagnosed with bladder cancer.
Before my cancer diagnosis, I was grieving the loss of two pregnancies. At my first prenatal assessment in October of 2014, I excitedly pointed to another monitor, another mass on a screen. This time it was a beautiful peanut. “Is that my baby?” The doctor’s smile turned flat after the measurements revealed the embryo was two weeks behind on development. Going into that appointment I had already planned the Thanksgiving baby reveal. A bun in the oven. Instead of a thoughtful congratulations I heard, “I’m sorry but there is no heartbeat. Your baby is gone.”
A few months later, the day after my best friend’s baby shower, I woke up with blood. I was faced with the same horrible news except this time it was on a Sunday before church. This time, it was in the ER with a stranger. This time, my husband cried too. After the second miscarriage a string of tests revealed a chromosome disorder (Robertsonian translocation) and a blood clotting disorder (Factor V Leiden).
In the midst of physical suffering and loss, I felt abandoned, embarrassed, and broken.
What I Learned
My cancer and miscarriages taught me that feelings of abandonment, embarrassment, and brokenness can be overcome with God’s help. I learned that suffering isn’t an indication that God doesn’t love me. I also learned that a lack of suffering isn’t an indication of God’s favor either. Each one of us faces trials and temptations – it’s not a matter of if it’s a matter of when.
My greatest season of suffering became my greatest season of faith as I experienced firsthand that –
I wasn’t abandoned – God was with me.
On the drive home from my cancer diagnosis I had never felt so alone. But God was with me. I ran into a church friend in a parking lot – and she shared her entire infertility story with me. It was the comfort I needed and God used her words to lift me up.
Remember that God is near.
Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
I shouldn’t be embarrassed – God loves me.
I felt God’s love for me as he replaced my anxiety with truth. The more I read scripture, the more I realized that my life is secure in his hands – no matter how long or short that may be. No matter how difficult or easy the road, I realized God could use my suffering to bring him glory.
Remember God has plans for you.
Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
It’s ok to be broken – God uses broken people
It was so comforting to read over and over in scripture that God uses broken people. He uses people who feel like failures – over and over again. Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, Peter denied Christ, Sarai didn’t believe God could give her a child in her old age, David committed adultery, and this list goes on and on.
Ask the Holy Spirit to fulfill God’s purpose for your life – even in the midst of your brokenness.
2 Timothy 1:7 “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”
I read a great quote from Extravagant Grace: God’s Glory Displayed in Our Weakness that says, “We cannot change our own hearts, but neither can we resist the change that God is determined to accomplish in us.”
You see, this power of love and self-discipline are not things I needed to come up with on my own. The Holy Spirit was with me every step of the way because God hears sinners like me, broken people like me, those who just want to trust Him like me. When I finally turned my focus away from my suffering back to God – that’s when things started to change. My feelings of abandonment, embarrassment and brokenness were met with the promises of God as I read scripture and turned to him. My greatest season of suffering became an invitation to deepen my faith in the one true God.
Find out more about Traci by visiting her webpage here