In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we asked a woman who has been a part of our community to write her life changing story, getting diagnosed with cancer and then walking through chemotherapy, during her years in college. We pray her story will bring life and hope to all of you women who are experiencing darkness and challenges you never imagined. God is the light that shines through the darkness.
When I was nineteen and a sophomore in college, I was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (a cancer of my white blood cells). My perfect, ignorantly blissful world came crashing around me.
I grew up in a loving family who raised my sisters and I to trust the Lord’s goodness and grace; but I did not see God’s goodness or grace in my cancer diagnosis.
That entire day of my diagnosis is a blur- I only remember the heaviness, sadness, loneliness, and confusion that I felt. So many emotions wrapped in one day and feeling like God was nowhere.
My dearest friends all knew something was wrong and patiently waited in my dorm room until I returned with the news. Verbalizing the words “I have cancer” instantly took my breath away and caused my body to drop to the floor and weep. I still did not feel God in that moment. As I lay weeping, grappling to process the day’s events, I became angry and confused, directing those emotions toward God.
Why would he do this to me?
I am too young for this!
This is not fair!
I am not ready to die!
Despite the sorrow of that day, I climbed into bed and had a deep, restful sleep, which was just the beginning of God’s goodness during that season.
One of my mentors, who years prior had her own cancer battle, told me that her having cancer was an experience and season she would not trade for anything. I distinctly remember staring in disbelief and blatantly saying, “I can think of a 100 other diseases I would rather have than cancer.”
I was set to start my six-month chemotherapy treatments, including monthly heart and lung check ups and other preventive tests. I was told multiple times that my body would be very different after treatment, including the possibility of infertility. I wanted to pinch myself hard because God could not be allowing this to happen to someone who had been so loyal to Him.
Despite all the terrible, scary news and updates I felt like I was continuously receiving, the one thing I never wavered on was continuing my education during treatment.
I realize now, that this was the Spirit gently whispering to me that strength and support will be generously provided. My parents and college were all on board to support me in continuing my schooling during treatment. The only person holding me back was my oncologist. He informed me that an immune-compromised patient sharing a bathroom with 12+ college women is something he could not stand behind. A couple weeks later, the dean of my college informed me that there was a small house on campus that is not occupied (or furnished) that I could live in during treatment with up to three girls. God provides.
“Great!” Now to find three college age women to live with me, and basically act as caregivers. Who in the world would sign up to live with a cancer college kid, who would be sick and miserable all the time?? He provided yet again. Three of my best friends prayerfully decided to be my roommates/caregivers. I was in awe of God’s goodness and provisions. Little did I know, God was just getting started.
That sweet little home, needed to be a refuge and a sanctuary for me as I recovered after treatments. I needed a home, the warmth of a fireplace, the comfort of a couch, and a kitchen table to gather around. The Lord knows us, and our deepest desires; He knew this is what I needed for this season. So, one of my roommates bravely stood in front of a church here in town and asked for the congregation’s help by providing any unwanted furnishings for this cancer college kid. I was not prepared for the church’s generosity. I got everything I wanted and more! He provided, yet again.
Then, the idea of losing my hair randomly struck me when my doctor began to talk about wigs and hats. My heart sank; I was not mentally equipped for that part of treatment. I was nineteen, and though my body was failing my hormones and vanity certainly were not. I wanted to be a good-looking cancer kid, with hair! I wanted to impress that boy who sat next to me in organic chemistry and became my tutor/note-taker when I would miss class for surgeries and procedures.
But, hair loss is inevitable with treatment and once I came to terms with that I decided to have a “D-day” where a friend would just shave my hair, so I would not have to watch it fall out. D-day came and I was a tear-streaked mess, I was not prepared and wanted to prolong “the moment.” And God knew that too. He knew my fears of being a college kid walking around campus with no hair. He knew how lonely I would feel being “that girl” on campus.
So, before I sat in the chair on D-day, two of my other best friends sat before me and shaved their heads, donating their hair to Locks of Love. I cried that entire night, tears of happiness, joy, sorrow, and loss.
And who knew, in the season where I was raw and had no hair (anywhere on my body) was a season where I felt the most beautiful. God provides. Oh and that boy in organic chemistry that I was trying to impress, we ended up marrying 4 years later – that story is for another day though.
Every time I share my story and of God’s constant provisions, it is as if I am sharing our love story. I learned how to fall passionately and deeply in love with my Savior. I learned how to trust in His provisions and that He will always give me strength and grace when I need it most. And in the words of my mentor and dear friend, I would never trade my cancer season for anything in the world.
Tragedy and chaos are an inevitable part of life. We live in a broken world in need of Jesus. And as young women, it’s easy to travel the road of pity, loneliness, and confusion – I know that road all too well. But, it’s in those chaotic seasons where His love and strength cut through darkness, if allowed. He cares so deeply for each and every one of His children. He wants to grant us the desires of our hearts (like my little hearth in college). Who knows, it could become the ultimate love story, if you allow Him into that darkness.