"Hey, how are you?" my childhood friend, Laura, cautiously asked. She had called from our hometown of Birmingham to check in on my progress as I was recovering from a an eight and a half hour cancer surgery at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. It's called The Sugarbaker Procedure, which involved the full removal of my spleen, appendix, uterus, cervix, both ovaries/tubes, omentum, ileum, right colon, part of small intestine and pancreas and here's the part where I feel like I should start singing AND . . . . a par . . tridge in a pear . . tree! It ended with a grand finale of a hot chemo wash in my abdominal cavity, and I spent two weeks on the ninth floor of Emory Hospital physically recovering, while undergoing a spiritual and a mental makeover as well.
"There was an interesting article in The Birmingham News about the type of surgery you just had, but don't read it!"
It was so good to hear her voice and then she, like a good friend, said something that made me laugh out loud, which came with a jolt of pain like a dog shock collar (I'm guessing), but made me smile big anyways. She said. "There was an interesting article in The Birmingham News about the type of surgery you just had, but don't read it!" This instantly gave me a flashback of when she told me how great the movie Beaches was, with a strict warning not to see it. This instruction was to protect me from having an emotional breakdown after my mother's passing of breast cancer in 1989. (Okay, for you younger folks, Beaches was a movie that came out in the year 1988 with Bette Milder, Barbara Hershey and a young child actress, Mayim Bialik, nowadays recognized from The Big Bang Theory.)
Anyhoo, she was right, but did I listen? Noooo! I thought to myself, I can handle it. Sweet movie, but didn't see the rest of it because my eyes were almost swollen shut from crying so hard. The kind of crying where my head hurt along with my neck and chest. I later confessed to her, "You were right, I should have listened."
"You were right, I should have listened."
Several friends and family members also told us the same the thing about the article. "Great article, really gives a lot of detail and explanation, very interesting, BUT don't read it! Here, we saved you a copy." Ah, laughter is indeed good medicine!
So, from time to time I would glance at the article below, start to read a paragraph, wince, look away and think, Okay, I not ready. I carefully placed it back in the drawer and walked away.
Then one day, around six months post op, I pulled a Beaches. I thought, I can handle it. Great article, really gave a lot of detail and explanation and was very interesting, but could hardly swallow as I got close to the end, especially the part where it mentions the survival rates being just five years (for only 50% of patients) after having the Sugarbaker Procedure, which was up from a survival rate of only one year with conventional therapies.
Took me less than sixty seconds to call my brother, who had just graduated from medical school, to ask what the doctors had told him and my family about my chances. He was very reassuring and so was my husband and father, who had also given their accounts of what my doctors had communicated with them. They thought my chances were good, they thought, they hoped.
Then I remembered! I remembered all that God had done. I remembered the prayers prayed over me. I remembered how excited I was when I first walked into my surgeon's office and saw this writing on the wall down at The Winship Cancer Center at Emory.
Then I remembered! I remembered all that God had done.
I remembered how several days after my surgery, I called out to God in severe pain and desperation in middle of the night. I told Him how I needed to feel His presence and know that He was with me. Without pushing the call button, a nurse came in my room and asked if there was anything she could do for me. Crying, I said, "Could you pray over me?" It was all I could think to say. She placed her right hand gently on my shoulder and lifted her other hand up in the air and prayed with such a sincere, heartfelt voice to the Lord on my behalf. She prayed earnestly with boldness, love and authority. Tears ran down my face as I knew God was confirming that He had heard my call.
She prayed earnestly with boldness, love and authority!
As the nursing shift was changing out for the morning. Rena, a Christian nurse from India, asked me how my morning was. (We had talked before when she helped me stand for the first time with Scott. She told us that when she was growing up in India, there was a Missionary couple who had come to share the gospel with several families in the area. She said her family was one of the blessed families and talked of how those Missionaries gave up a lot to minister to them and others in their area.) I told her about how I felt scared and was hurting and called out to God. Then I told her about the night shift nurse that came in and prayed over me at my request. Rena had the biggest smile on her face and laughingly said that God definitely heard my prayer. She said Kemi, the night shift nurse, was an anointed minister and had written a book on prayer. I smiled from ear to ear just hearing that.
That morning a young student nurse walked into my room and introduced herself. (I wish I could remember her name) She said that she was assigned to me and could help me with whatever I needed. That turned out to be a huge blessing because the physical therapist was unable to come work with me on walking that day. This sweet student walked with me and we had some great conversations throughout the day. Her mother was at MD Anderson as a cancer patient and as soon as her nursing exams were over, she planned to be with her mom. I told her what happened that morning with Kemi. She responded, "You know, I prayed this morning that God would put me with the right patient and He has. I know that God has put us together today to encourage each other!" Indeed He had.
I told my husband and family about Kemi. She never bragged or told me about her book, but I wanted a copy and so did several of my family members. The best thing about her book, was it just kept pointing my focus back to God and His Word. The book is titled Molding Your World Through Prayers by Kemi Oluwakoya. I kept her book close to my bedside and would read it especially when I felt challenged, which was quite a lot.
As I learned to walk the hallways with drain tubes and bags hooked to a walker and pushing an iv pole, I thought about Christ carrying the cross and that He willing went through so much suffering for all of us. I became overwhelmed with what a loving God we serve. I didn't want to walk the hallways, every step was painful and my throat would dry up to the point I couldn't swallow. I had to go eight days with no food (which was fine because food in no way appealed to me) or water, which was the hardest mentally and physically. Yet I had the support of family, friends and nurses, doctors and techs. No one was mocking me as I walked, cheering on my execution or spitting at me. It was on my mind a lot that God relates to our sufferings way more than we can imagine or think.
God relates to our sufferings way more than we can imagine or think.
There were many more God stories that happened during my recovery and in the past two years. As I have gotten back into the everyday grind, I realize the importance of what one decides to focus on in life. When Peter stepped out of the boat, he looked at his surroundings and started to sink, but when he got his focus back on Jesus, he was fine.
So Laura, you were right! There are things I don't need to watch or read. Most importantly, there is someone Whom I need to look to and keep my eyes on at all times and His name is Jesus.
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Philippians 4:4-8
As I got into His word today on the two year anniversary of my surgery, I noticed many wonderful things. One thing in particular was the word humble. The words humble and bold had been on my mind ever since my surgery and I thought it pretty cool that the reading for today's date, April 16th, of The One Year Bible had scripture with the words, humbled and humble on the same page as the date of my surgery. God is so awesome!
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
So again Laura, you were right! There are things I don't need to watch or read. Most importantly, there is someone Whom I need to look to and keep my eyes on at all times and His name is Jesus.
Stay humble & BOLD!
"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105
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