Many people look at my life and assume since I have survived cancer and survived amputation that life continues on as normal for me. I often am asked “and now you are ok?” with a swift nod of affirmation before I can even answer. Many people do not understand or even realize that life as a cancer surviving amputee creates a chronic condition that affects every part of ones being and life. Being able to daily bounce back from the trauma which started twenty four years ago is a key part of living a happy life.
Of course “where there is a will there is a way” in life but what we are often missing when we try to apply this saying is the fact that there is always what I like to call “a story behind the story.”
The story may be that I changed the sheets on the bed today. I had a will and I found a way. The story behind the story is what it took for me to complete such a simple task. For me it involves putting my crutches down and scooting on my bottom around the bed pulling the sheets off of all corners. I then put on my prosthetic leg and shoes to carry the laundry to the basement. Washing, drying, and using a special bag to carry the sheets back upstairs. Now they are upstairs I must take my leg back off (due to the small space of my bedroom) and scoot around the bed a few more times on my bottom to put them back on. All of this is my “will” behind my “way”.
“Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble.” Proverbs 3:23 (this verse has always had special meaning to me)
Back in January I had an all around and very thorough blood work check. Being a blood transfusion recipient in the 80’s a new doctor felt it necessary to do a very thorough follow-up check. Through the process of 22 tubes of blood and then a few more tests I was given the news that I have Type II Diabetes. It was explained to me that a lot of the medications including chemotherapy when I was four years old had weakened my pancreas over the years and caused it to work much harder to create insulin. I was advised to not attempt to have children and that even when the diabetes became under control it probably would not be recommended based on my existing condition and the typical worsening of sugar during pregnancy. My dream as a wife has been to have a child. My dream has always been to pour the wisdom of the years that I have struggled through into a child of my own. Somehow I really felt it would “all be worth the struggle” if I just had someone to pass it all on to. I was crushed.
As a cherry on top for me within two weeks of hearing this I went to the dentist where he showed me an X-ray of my mouth and explained that the chemotherapy had stunted my tooth growth as a child and my teeth are very short with short roots and that while they are stable it is very important for me to maintain them with regular checkups and keep an eye for looseness.
Nearly right away I felt so devastated and depressed. I wanted a way to live life and enjoy life and have tried from the first day of having cancer to do so. I have had such a hard time doing simple tasks throughout my life and now I was being told that even one of the few carefree things in my life (food) was to be taken away from me and the effects of having cancer 24 years ago was still alive? “I am only 28 years old,” I thought, “what will happen to me by the time I am 50?” Exasperated, depressed, upset, I spent nearly a full day in tears and grieving for my loss. I grieved when I made lunch and was forced to sit on the kitchen floor and eat it because I couldn’t carry my plate to the table in the other room. I grieved when I got up to make supper without my leg (I think it was broken at this time) and grieved over not being able to do this easily and not being able to carry a nice display for my husband to the table. Later when I went outside to plan my gardens I grieved and cried because I knew the only way for me to garden would be by crawling around on my bottom to pull the weeds. And that night after my shower I stood in the mirror and cried some more grieving the way my loss has affected my marriage and dream to have a family.
It came down to the fact that I had a “way” to do all of these things and a “way” to cook, clean, and garden. Over the years I have devised a million different ways to do simple tasks. They may not be easier and they surely aren’t faster, but they are indeed an alternative way. What I lacked was the “will” to perform at this point.
“and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61:3
After grieving for a full day I decided it was time to get my “will” back. I realized that I had previously been praying asking God to show me how I could be healthier and live longer. Doctors advised I take a nutrition class and see a nutritionist to start. My husband and I attended this class together and learned how to eat, how much to eat, how often to eat, how a person with a disability can exercise in a healthy way, and how to take care of my body and blood sugar. I realized at this class that this was an answer to prayer for me. This was a testimony that God cares about me enough to allow the doctors to bring this to my attention so that I could be healthy and live longer. If it was not meant for me to have a child naturally then it simply meant God had a reason for this and a child out there that needed a home and a mother like me.
During the three months between my diagnosis of diabetes and follow-up appointment I realized that my dreams needed to be laid down. God was in charge of the process and if He promised it, it would come to pass. It would come to pass in His way and He would bring healing to old hurts and traumas (even from 24 years ago!) along the way. I realized that I had so many emotions that I have shut down for the past 24 years and He was allowing them to spring forth and be grieved in an appropriate and healthy way so that they would no longer hinder me from a happy life.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” Romans 8:35
Within three months when I returned for a checkup the doctors were astounded. Diet and a low dose of medicine had allowed me to completely turn around the diabetes to the point where my sugar wasn’t simply acceptable but it was better than the average healthy person. I had lost nearly 40 pounds and was in shape and feeling better physically than I had for years. My Doctor even smiled at me and told me that she was completely wrong about warning me not to have children and based on what she could see she felt wholeheartedly there was no reason for me to pick up my dream again.
You see, so many times we believe that we can simply repeat through our heads “where there is a will there is a way, where there is a will there is a way” and everything else will fade into the background. But that is not reality. In fact, it is an escape mechanism. God gave us feelings and he gave us a grieving process for a reason. We are not meant to circumvent our problems or obstacle but go through them. “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…you are with me”(Ps 23) is a promise for us.
“Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” John 16:20
We WILL walk through these things. Whether we walk through them in a healthy way or an unhealthy way is up to us. Whether we beat ourselves through them militarily or we allow ourselves to grieve and then stand up in courage and fight through is completely our choice. We will grieve losses whether they are large losses, losses from a long time ago, small losses, or simple changes in our routines and friendships. But to choose to go through our losses with God and finding out while we walk through God is overseeing the process is the real “story behind the story”.
So far we do not yet have a child, nor do we see evidence of this happening right now. But I do know that God has a plan and as I walk through this valley He is in charge. He is my “story behind the story” and the “will to His way”.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37