…but because they had never treated or operated on someone with my condition, they miraculously made an exception and took me as a training example… To be honest, I was terrified.
Last month we began a series of articles on the phenomenal subject of “hope.” What hope is; why it’s so important and how hope is our only “anchor” when everything else in our life is crashing and burning. As we said, God is not only the Author of all Love, the Bible is His message of “hope” to a dying world.
My motive for writing is that I see hopelessness everywhere, especially in the Christian Body. And, since I am living in a similar hopeless (by world’s standards) situation right now, I pray God would use my own experience to help others see their difficult circumstances as opportunities to draw them even closer to the Lord. Without hope, we allow the enemy not only to have an entrance into our souls, but also to destroy our faith and kill our dreams. I know, because I’ve been there! Proverbs 13:12 says “hope deferred makes the heart sick.” This is exactly what happened to me last year.
The following is how it all began…
I was visiting my daughter when she noticed a bump (or a lump) on the side of my nose. She kept insisting that I go and see a doctor. To me, it really wasn’t a big deal, as I normally don’t go to the doctor. I have always been so healthy. Finally I gave in and went to see my primary care doctor. He was concerned enough to refer me to an eye, ear and nose specialist who biopsied the lump and one week later told me it was a malignant melanoma of the mucosal area of my nose (not a skin cancer). He then referred us to a cancer surgeon, who candidly and straightforwardly said that either part of my face and nose should be removed or I would have less than a year to live. That scared all of us to death. The following day he called, and I asked him point-blank if I was “his mother,” would he put her through that kind of an operation. He candidly said “no way.” But he also said that if I didn’t do anything at all, the melanoma would work fast, spreading to my brain and other organs, and I would have perhaps only a couple of months left.
I was in a total daze when I heard all of this, but I believed with all my heart that God was involved in some way and that He would do a “miracle.” And that I would somehow be healed and perhaps lead many others to Christ in the hospital, where lots of “fruit” would be produced from the whole experience, etc…
Because of the horrific news, however, we thought it probably a good idea to get a second doctor’s opinion. We then went to another cancer specialist who was absolutely adorable and encouraged us to fight the cancer in any way we could. He referred us to a radiation oncologist who happened to work closely with many of the surgeons at the famous Mayo Clinic. Because my case was so rare (1 in 100,000), the Mayo surgeons agreed to see me. Unfortunately, my insurance was not what they wanted, but because they had never treated or operated on someone with my condition, they miraculously made an exception and took me as a training example. The Mayo doctor said she might be able to get the cancer from the inside of my nose (without having to remove it and do such radical surgery). That, obviously, is what I was praying would happen. At the same time, she introduced me to a plastic surgeon who would do the reconstruction if needed. He said that in the thirty years that he had been practicing, he had never seen a cancer like mine nor had he ever operated on one.
To be honest, I was terrified.
The first miracle is that Mayo Clinic did take me and that those two surgeons operated on me. They were able to keep the top of my nose but had to remove my entire septum (the bone and cartilage that support the nose). They then put in stents to hold up the skin on the top of my nose until such a time that they could reconstruct a new nose for me. They believed they got all the cancer, as the margins around the area were clear on the scans.
My sister-in-law kept telling me: “It’s a gift. They got all the cancer. It’s a gift.” However, I must be honest and say that when I first saw my face after this surgery, I wept for hours. I do praise God for getting all the cancer at the time, and it was a gift, but I’ve had to choose daily by faith to stand on this, because over the next several weeks everything began to go wrong.
One week after the major operation to remove the cancer, we had to call 911 because we couldn’t stop the bleeding from my nose. I have an AFib heart condition that requires me to take a blood thinner daily. The doctor knew this but mistakenly told me to continue taking it. Well, it definitely was the wrong decision because the next morning I woke up bleeding so profusely that they rushed me to the ER. This also proved to be a mistake, because in the ER they left me on a makeshift (hard) table for eight hours, bleeding continuously. They checked me maybe five times the entire day (never changing my dressings or my clothes, thus I bled all over myself, the table and the floor).
Finally, at close to 5 PM (we had arrived there at 8 AM), my surgeon’s assistants came in and proceeded to pull out the metal wires (the stents) holding my nose skin in place. This absolutely traumatized me. (Picture the entire top of your nose held up by stents—small poles. When you pull these out, your nose comes crashing down as there is no septum to now hold it up.) They did all of this without any anesthesia or painkiller. It was probably the worst moment of my entire life (I’d give birth to five babies in place of this). It was horrific. I kept calling out “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” Over and over again, I cried out in pain and asked them to please stop. They wouldn’t and seemed completely unsympathetic. The young intern doing the procedure kept saying to me, “I know what you are going through,” when he obviously did not! (I almost punched him in the face!) Like Job, I cried out in agony to the Lord, “Why Lord, have you forsaken me?” It was absolutely devastating. Finally, they gave me two transfusions and sent me, thankfully, to the main hospital.
I know if it hadn’t been for the Body of Christ praying for me that day, I would never have made it through…
Things kept going from bad to worse—nurses kept getting offended and the doctors were often sarcastic and belittling. Rather than draw these people toward the Lord in us, which is what we had hoped God would do, they fled from us. It was so strange. It was as though the enemy had this huge inroad and monstrous stronghold and he wasn’t going to give it up for anything. In the midst of this spiritual battle and the intense pain, my “hope became deferred” and it became very difficult for me “to see” the Lord’s Hand. I had expected so many miracles to happen, but after time passed and things kept going downhill, my question to God became: “Where are You, Lord?”
“Cancer” (medically and personally) can be defined as something that has taken over, controlled, permeated, usurped and defiled a whole system or another person. It brings with it a spirit of disunity, anxiety, insensitiveness—certainly not the “fruit of the Spirit” but the fruit of “the flesh.” This is exactly what the cancer did to me. It was the first time that I had ever really experienced the physical part of “the flesh” (i.e., the pain). I’ve talked in all my books about “the flesh,” but never really had experienced the physical side of it. I had been through the ups and downs of huge emotional and mental calamities but never unending physical pain.
Ten days after the above incident, I was scheduled for reconstruction surgery. But I was so weak and had lost so much blood that I was worried about even making it through the operation. The doctors convinced me that the surgery had to be done quickly, because without the stents holding my nose up, it would begin to collapse and shrink on its own (like a pig’s nose). So something had to be done and done quickly. The operation turned out to be seven hours long. This time they took a strip of skin from the left side of my forehead (from my hairline down to my left eyebrow), twisted it downward to become the liner and the blood source for the new nose cartilage that they had built from a cadaver rib bone. They laid the strip of skin down first, propped the new septum on it and then pulled the old nose skin down and sewed it back in place. Pretty amazing surgery!!
The final operation was when they took away this “blood source” bridge and refined some of the bumps on the newly reconstructed nose.
I wish I could say I sailed through all of these operations like a “saint.” But I didn’t. I was sick to my stomach most of the time, not only from the surgery but also from the medications they gave me afterward. I experienced nausea, dizziness, sinus headaches and congestion, double vision, infection, diarrhea, constipation, heart pain, mouth rash (from air tubes), boils and gums inflamed. You name it, I had it! I truly thought a lot about Job during this time.
That’s why all the loving e-mails from hundreds of brothers and sisters all over the world were so precious to me at that time. I have no doubt that I would not have made it through the above ordeal without their prayers and their intercession. That’s where I did see God’s Hand! Even when I couldn’t put my glasses on, I would hold the glass frame up with one hand and read the e-mails, continually being blessed by the constant prayers, stories, suggestions and Scriptures, etc.
I didn’t have the faith to fight the fight at that time, but they did for me. Someone even wrote me: “Your ministry has meant so much to us as the Body, now we are here for you.” They surrounded me with their love and carried me through with their prayers. Another wrote: “Jesus’ face is also scarred, but it only adds to His beauty.”
Many of us, like me, have made previous commitments to trust our lives to the Lord (in fact, we probably have done this many times before. I know I have), but because everything somehow goes from bad to worse, we finally give up. In His Love, God returns to us again and asks: “Will you trust Me in the darkness this time?” Will you hope in Me now? Will you once again rely upon Me?” This happens over and over and over again, until we finally get the message and learn to trust and hope in a Father that we don’t always see, a God that we don’t always understand and a Lord that we don’t always know what He is doing.
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.
— Isaiah 55:8–9 (KJV)