I have a history of cancer.
I was 29 and pregnant with our daughter Shelby when I faced my diagnosis. That was nearly twenty years ago.
I reframed it. I now have a “HIS story of cancer.”
I have written volumes about this battle and spoken and spun and published the miraculous story a time or two. A ministry was born from it all. When rustling through that file for the way to explain it to you this one arose. Penned by our precious Shelby nearly four years ago. She was fifteen at the time. She wrote these words for an English class.
I’ll let her tell you.
29 November 2012
“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.” –Proverb
One crisp day in October, a bright-eyed couple was waiting in a crowded hospital room for an ultrasound. Thoughts of disease or sickness were far from their minds. The first ultrasound had shown an innocent little baby, perfect in the eyes of its parents. In fact, everything was perfect to them. They had a nursery at home for their baby, decked out in all its “Winnie the Pooh” wonder. The father had even painted the walls himself with all the famous characters. They had stacks of frilly baby clothes and colorful pacifiers at home. This was their fantasy. What could go wrong?
That couple was my parents, the baby was me. This is our story.
On that fateful day, my parents got the most amazing news of their life and also the most devastating. They were told that they were going to have a baby girl. But with the doctor’s next statement, their dreams were shattered into fragments and replaced with cold tendrils of fear. There was a cyst on my mother’s left ovary and it could be cancerous.
My mom had a haunting intuition that day that the journey through her pregnancy would be long and hard, but she also had a sense of peace and knew that things would turn out okay.
At thirty weeks the cyst that had become my unwelcome neighbor had grown so large that it was making my mom go into labor, even though I was still premature. The doctors decided that the best option was to remove the tumor and try to keep me inside. On December 10th, 1997 my mom went into surgery. My dad, grandparents and many doctors and nurses anxiously waited. The surgery was a few hours, but to my Dad it felt like forever and then finally they got the news. The doctor emerged and told them that the surgery had gone as planned. Mom and I were doing fine. However, the tumor was cancerous.
So there I was, an infant cradled in my mother’s womb snuggled up with a six-letter word for death, cancer.
The doctors gave my mom two weeks to heal. I was given time to develop. An induced labor was scheduled and then chemotherapy would begin. My mom went home on December 15th. She knew that she would most likely be in the hospital during Christmastime, so she wanted to experience the festivities early. It was important to her that they get a tree, decorate the house and open presents as a family. They celebrated their shortened season with joy, all the while with daunting sickness and fear lurking behind the corner.
On the night of December 23rd my mom was induced. Her body was so confused because she had been on anti-labor medicine for so long. It took thirty-six hours for me to be born. I was born on Christmas morning 1997. The next day, my mother started chemotherapy and her battle with cancer.
My mom and I both went home on New Year’s Day. My mom finished chemo in April and out of this immense struggle a beautiful baby girl and an amazing ministry were born.
As I sit on the couch now with my mom she tells me how she remembered being in her hospital room and how she counted the number of states where people were praying for her with my dad. She realized how lucky she was and how many people didn’t have the support that she did.
As a healthy 15 year old, I now realize how quickly my life could have been cut short even before I had entered this world. The cancer became our caterpillar. It was our personal darkness that came close to ending our world, but somehow became a butterfly. Many years later when my mom started the Lydia Project (www.thelydiaproject.org) with her friends to provide tote bags and prayers for women going through cancer, she realized how the butterfly had emerged from a time of darkness.
I have witnessed, through newspaper clippings, radio, television and personal accounts the way our journey has blessed the many women going through cancer and how a caterpillar can be shaped by darkness and become a beautiful butterfly.
Shelby’s favorite verse? Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Amen my beloved.
I will never forget Shelby interviewing me for this English project. She had heard my testimony many times but never in our living room. Lydia is her sister, in every sense of the word. When she asked me to read her paper for accuracy I cried fresh cancer tears. She nailed it.