I’ve been absent from this blog for almost a year, and what a year it’s been. I have been through mysterious illness, deep depression, an extended retreat from my beloved community and my husband, a cancer scare, a major change in my work responsibilities, the death of my grandmother, a broken wrist, losing our family dog to cancer, and more than I could possibly cover in one post. It’s been trying in many regards, but I’ve come through it all and I think I can honestly say I’m better for it, though at one point the multitude of trials had me steeped in despair, and I wasn’t sure how I would ever get out.
But I fought for new life. I held onto the thread of faith I had left and would not let go no matter how many demons promised it could be easier if I would just forget the fight and join them for good. I knew better. As a recovered alcoholic, I believe I’ve already seen the gates of hell, and I have no desire to go back.
God promises to put on a show when we invite him to the party, and did he ever put on a show for me. The Koinonia community allowed me the time and space I needed to get some much-needed rest and to put down all my responsibilities here, and my husband agreed. My daughters and I went to spend 8 weeks at the Fox Hill Bruderhof community in New York state (for those who don’t know, the Bruderhof is a worldwide intentional Christian community that is similar in many ways to Koinonia). During those weeks I was allowed to fully enter into the daily life of their community, and it proved to be transformational. I’m sure I’ll have stories of my time there for months and years to come.
Also while I was there I discovered a large, terrifying lump on the right side of my neck, right over my thyroid. The physician’s assistant in their community saw me immediately and referred me for an ultrasound. Within 24 hours I received the advice that I return to Koinonia as soon as possible for a biopsy with a doctor closer to home. At 33 years old, I was faced with the possibility that I might have cancer.
Confession time: when I was in high school I was depressed enough to be suicidal, but as I grew older and the nature of my circumstances changed, the urge to harm myself subsided for a more subtle and insidious form of self-hatred. In my young adulthood I began to wish that something awful and life-threatening would afflict me so I would have a good reason for how awful I felt. I fantasized about plane crashes and car wrecks, wished for a terminal illness, and fretted about how crazy I was, wondering if I should just go commit myself and then everyone would know the truth about me. For over 10 years these thoughts had lingered in the back of my mind whenever life began to feel overwhelming.
So, here it comes, I thought. Had all those hours I spent on thoughts of illness manifested an actual tumor? For two days after receiving the news I cried and cried. The Bruderhof members lifted me up in prayer at one of their meetings, sharing encouraging words in their quiet way. And that night I was able to embrace the truth. I realized there was nothing I could do by worrying, and that even if I had wished for disaster, this entire situation was not just thought up and created by me. God was in charge of it all. And with that thought, I released every ounce of my life to his care.
I told God that if he could use my situation to do any amount of good in the world, then I knew I could willingly walk through it. I felt a peace deeper than I ever had before, and I began to trust in a way that I didn’t know was possible. Each time I lifted my hand to my throat to check on the lump, I half expected it to have disappeared. Alas, it was still there as we drove back south, still there when I got home, still there when I went in for my biopsy appointment. It was still the same abnormally large size, and I still felt physically out of sorts. A week later, the test results came back inconclusive, which meant I still might have cancer and had to go through the whole ordeal again.
The strange thing was, a week after the procedure, the lump also felt smaller. I began to look up thyroid nodules online…was it possible for them to just go away on their own? Of course all the websites run by doctors said absolutely not, but on a few of the patient forums I found sketchy evidence that it might be possible. Well maybe?…but I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high as I waited another month to have my second biopsy.
Meanwhile, the lump became indetectable. Previously visible from across the room, I couldn’t even feel it when I pressed my fingers into my throat. I even had a checkup with a different doctor, who said that whoever had felt the nodule must have had sensitive fingers because she didn’t feel anything. At the second biopsy appointment, the ultrasound showed that it was still there, but had shrunk by more than half. The doctor and attending nurse just shrugged and went ahead with the procedure. Interesting how science has no logic to explain miracles. The results that time came back negative…no cancer!
Since the day I placed my entire existence in God’s hands, I have felt a peace that cannot be described in words. My faith is strong, I know that miracles are real, and I have a hope that cannot be extinguished even by the worst of trials. Because of this fundamental change in me, it was cause for rejoicing, but not very surprising when I heard from the doctor’s office that I could get on with my life.
This is not to say that every moment is filled with warm, glowing light and that everything in my life is just wonderful all the time. I’m still human. I still get frustrated and fight with my husband or yell at my kids. I still fall short, still can’t get to everything that needs to be done in a day, and my house is still a cluttered mess. Sometimes I still feel overwhelmed almost to the point of despair.
But it doesn’t paralyze me the way it used to. It might sound minor, but to me this change in outlook is an even bigger miracle than the disappearance of the lump in my throat. It’s like I’ve finally discovered my spiritual home. No matter how far away I travel, the light of God’s love is glowing from inside, welcoming me back.