“Cancer was found in the mass removed,” said the doctor. Hobbling into the shared cancer and chemo treatment waiting room that morning, I had pictured the meeting with the oncologist much differently. It involved balloons and a big banner in blue letters spelling out, “Benign!”
The deflated balloon of hope dragged behind me down the hall and back into the waiting room. Looking around at patients with varying degrees of withered bodies, pale features, varying stages of hair loss, my heart set on an elderly woman with a crochet American flag headband covering the front of her beautiful bald head. Only white wisps of hair were left on her blueish cranium. She sat alone.
As my best friend and husband of 21 years held my hand and we sat waiting for the appointment setter, a sort of peace accompanied the words replaying in my mind. The doctor spoke of 18 weeks of chemotherapy. I heard, “there will be trials you must endure.” The inevitable loss of hair and handing me a tissue in the same sentence; audible was the sound of, “store not your treasures on earth.” Words describing the way my body would be tired most days as it slowly adjusted to the chemicals being flushed through veins; precious railways of nutrition would now carry the most toxic of loads to even the very smallest of toes; whispers of, “the body does not survive on bread alone,” filled my ears. I was not alone. God was there. In the breaths in between talking about the future, God assured both my husband and me of his hand upon us.
I confess… I hate Facebook. Social Media Anxiety is what I have diagnosed my disdain and fear of this seemingly innocent communication platform. It is anxiety provoking to have any information about myself out there on social media. But as I sat there in the waiting room, not knowing anything else but to pray, I reached out to warriors to join me. Thinking about our church and the many interactions with godly women who walk the walk and talk the talk, the women who brought God into every conversation and situation, I made a list on Messenger. Once I was done, I knew there were more women, but these were the first to notify. Most I served side by side for the past 9 years in one form or another. Rationalizing about needing to let them know I wouldn’t be able to serve in the same capacity for a while, I wrote the following, “Asking for prayers for all involved on this journey. It’s so humbling having to let go of the tight grip of control and give it into God’s ever-strong hands. I love you ladies thank you in advance for prayers.” Pressing “send”, into the nebulous it went.
My first encounter with God’s mercy and grace took place 30 years ago, and it was not my story. It came when my mother walked on this path. We rarely went to church nor talked much about God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. But I witnessed the Spirit in the gathering of community, the embracing of many women in my mom’s life. There were flowers, cards, cookies; visible, tangible items reflecting how much she was loved, but they did not make as much of an impression as when my mother told me when her friends said, “Our church is praying for you.” Their church? The whole church? How? How did they get the word out to an entire church? But we didn’t go to church, how would they know my mom?
My mother was told by the doctor she had one month to live. Mom just celebrated 30 years of remission. Prayer, I believe with every ounce of my being, worked.
The day I sent the message, I was not sure what I would encounter. It was a risk. Putting not only myself but also my mess online. What I received back was not only heartfelt prayer, but the most amazing display of love, grace, mercy, and ultimately, community. Community as I have never witnessed before. My heart was full, God was there in every encouraging word, every silly sticker, every heartfelt relay of a promise found in God’s Word.
The months following diagnosis, I experienced so much about God, the Holy Spirit, and the ever presence of Jesus. “God made a million, million doors in the world for his love to walk through. One of those doors is you,” Jeremy Gray wrote in the song, With Every Act of Love. His love walked through an amazing group of women. I look forward to writing more about this group, this community, these sisters.
Written by Jennifer Love