When my friend, Mary, posted a photo of herself skydiving on Facebook, I knew I had to ask her to do a guest blog for me. I found there was much more meaning and depth to her floating through the air than I could have imagined. Thank you, Mary, for sharing your story with us!
I have had the pleasure to meet and get to know Barbara Hettwer in our Women of the Word Bible Study we belong to. Barbara is truly a Proverbs 31 woman; within these verses we learn that if the virtuous woman will give herself to her God-called work, she will be successful in her efforts. Our Father God gives us women definite instructions in Proverbs 31 and describes what our rewards will be. Ultimately, He will “give her the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.” (Proverbs 31:31) I am honored and humbled to have been asked by Barbara to guest blog for her Life is an Adventure blog. This is a virtuous woman I am truly blessed to know.
Barbara saw this picture of me sky diving and said, “Now that’s an adventure!” My sky diving was a celebration for me of turning 40 and receiving a cancer free diagnosis. In February 2002, I was diagnosed with stage 4 tongue cancer. I had been to see my doctor every month starting in August 2001, and we tried several treatment options for what looked to be a canker sore I was told was due to stress. In December there was a four month wait to see the Ear, Nose, & Throat (ENT) specialist and I didn’t think anything of the time wait, because the sore had stayed the same size so I could still eat; and other than having a fever and what I thought was an ear infection that wouldn’t go away, I just needed to wait for my appointment.
Within the first week of January 2002, my canker sore had erupted into a full blown open tumor that filled my mouth, and I could no longer eat. My now ex-husband came home every day to find me crying on the couch; and after a week of not being able to eat, he called the ENT specialist and told them I would not make it to my appointment scheduled in April. It was arranged for me to be seen at the doctor’s lunch time. Looking at my tongue, she immediately knew it was cancer. She arranged for me to have the biopsy the insurance company needed on Saturday that week; her day off. Within a week I had a feeding tube and port put in, and I had started Chemotherapy every Friday for eight hours and Radiation every day.
I am a non-smoker and limited social drinker; I had no reason why the medical community would be looking for any kind of oral cancer. My ENT said during this time they were seeing more and more oral cancers, and they did not understand where it was coming from. Since then a lot of hard work from researchers and the medical community have linked oral cancer to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV16). I will not go more in-depth at this time, but here is a link if you are inclined to follow up: http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org/hpv/
My plan of treatment was scheduled for a 3 month period, and then would be starting all over again with another round of Chemotherapy for 3 more months. My first round of therapy took a lot out of me due to the medication and side effects. I never made it to starting my second round; I got so sick that the doctors wanted to give me time to recover before starting again. In September 2002, my colon perforated and I ended up in Portland Providence ICU for 2 months and then a care facility for another month before going home. I now had an Ostomy, and between being bedridden and the medication I was on, my right hip deteriorated to the point it needed to be replaced. I had my Ostomy for a year and a half before it was taken down, and I had my hip replaced three months after that.
My bad health had a snowball effect with one problem leading to another. Yet through it all, because of the group of women I had around me, I knew and felt I was in God’s hands, and He would never let me go. In September 2001, my son Isaac went into kindergarten. His teacher, Gloria, invited me to join her ladies bible study group. These women studied the word of God with me, were there from the beginning, took me to appointments, held my hair back while I threw up, told me not to worry when I lost my hair, and always shared their homes with my family taking my Isaac in as one of their own.
I am not glossing over this most difficult time in my life with my head in the clouds and rosy glasses saying everything was fine and my faith was rock solid. While in the hospital I flat lined, I was depressed, I was scared from one day to the next about what was coming my way and what would happen to my Isaac. I had to make a choice; our Lord taught me through these women who were there to support me that I could choose peace or wallow in self-pity and despair. Other than giving myself a five minute crying pity party when I needed to release that negative energy, I purposely chose peace, because my peace was not dependent upon my circumstances. I truly believe our Lord Jesus guarded my heart and mind through peace that surpasses all human understanding. (See Phil. 4:7) God’s word is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. God’s word will never change; perfect peace is promised, but not perfect circumstances.
A Song of Salvation in Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed in You, because he trust in You.” (Italics mine) We serve a Prince of Peace who makes a way where there seems to be no way. We can choose self-pity amongst our difficulties or look to the One who is peace. If we keep our minds on Him, He will keep us in perfect peace. Yes, I could say my sky diving was an adventure, but getting there was the adventure. Skydiving was the celebration of the way that was made for me through a very difficult time.