Probably every family is touched by cancer. Mine was melanoma, the kind that spreads quickly throughout the body. It started with skin cancer about 30 years ago, except I didn't know it was skin cancer and neither did the first three doctors I showed it to. Each one dismissed the itchy spot behind my right elbow as of no importance.
So, time passed and one night I woke up and the itchiness had become sharp pain. In the middle of the spot was a dark shiny spot that had grown since I first noticed it. It was hard to see because it was behind my elbow so I hadn't given it much thought, especially after seeing a string of doctors who had dismissed it. But now that it was hurting I became alarmed and made an appointment with another doctor right away.
When I saw this new doctor, she took one look at it and said I must have it cut out and immediately. She called a surgeon and he agreed to see me right away. She wanted me to go right that minute but my daughter would soon be getting off the school bus with no one to greet her or let her in so I set up the appointment for the next morning.
Why am I writing all this now, almost three decades later? Because three years ago I had a growth appear under my right arm. An ultra-sound showed it to "have no signs of malignancy." As the months passed it continued to grow so that surgery became necessary. The surgeon did another ultrasound with the same results: "no signs of malignancy." I asked him if he had noticed on the "Patient History" form that I had previously had a malignant melanoma skin cancer removed on that same arm. Despite that, he guaranteed me the growth was not malignant. My second guarantee.
The surgery was no big deal but the aftermath was. I have a history of reacting to drugs, especially if they cross the "brain barrier," and there was a list of everything I had ever reacted to on my hospital bracelet. But I had never been exposed to morphine before. What a trip! The result was out of this world. First off, it did nothing to stop the pain. From far, far away I heard a voice saying, "What is your pain level, from 1 to 10?" So I answered "7." She kept asking that same question and I kept giving the same answer. I felt stranger and stranger, like I was traveling through space. Finally I had the good sense to say, "No more pain medicine, no more!" While in that condition I had visitors standing around my bed. They all had on white tunic-like garments over jeans. One sat in a chair next to my head. As I reflected on that later, I realized she looked very much like my mother who died some time ago. They all carried on very quite conversation with me. To this day I can't remember a word they said but at one point, in my fatigue and confusion, I said to them, "You aren't real - you need to leave." They did leave but they came back and continued their quiet conversation. My nurse said I wasn't doing well enough to go home, and that was true. But I did not want to stay in this place that made me feel so bad and was praying God would help me get out of there. Despite my dizziness and disorientation, with my husband's help - and that of the mysterious visitors - I was able to walk out of the hospital. Much later I realized my white-clad visitors had been angels and I felt bad for rebuking them for talking. I am sure angels are not usually that talkative but I believe they were answering my prayer to make me alert so I could go home.
Because it took a while to recover, I didn't schedule the required follow-up visit right away. But the doctor's receptionist called and asked that I do that. I still didn't think I had anything to worry about. But I was wrong. It was hard for the doctor to tell me but the required lab test on the tissue he removed came back metastatic melanoma. For most people, that is a death sentence. But I didn't know that then. I just knew it was serious.
I am very much an internet junkie, using Google several times a day. But I did not search the internet, I did not frequent related chat rooms to research my condition. I just cried out to God. And one day I heard a loud voice speak these words to me: "You will not die but live, and you will bring glory to God." I knew right away that it was an angel speaking although I did not see one. I learned later that those words are found in Psalm 118. The words quieted my soul and brought faith to me.
My husband, unknown to me until after I got healed, did search the internet about Yervoy. He was dismayed to read that the average benefit of Yervoy at that time was estimated to be only an additional 6 months of life. He didn't tell me that until I was healed, for which I am very grateful!
The lumps appeared two more times. The second time I had surgery again, but not the third time. When they re-appeared that time, my husband and I were in Redding, CA. We made the trip there because we heard that the Christians in that city had declared it a "no cancer zone" and were having great success in seeing those they prayed for healed of cancer. My oncologist had approved our trip but had told us to be back by a certain date.
After returning home, I had more scans. The results were not good - the melanoma had spread throughout my body. into my lungs and even into my bones. We had gone over the options available before but now my doctor added a new one, a new drug just released to the general public, specific to melanoma: Yervoy. She had been selected to use it on a test group and therefore was familiar with it. But the public release had just happened and we didn't know if it would be covered by Medicare and our insurance.
When I heard the bad news of the widespread melanoma in my body, I went through a really hard time. I cried a lot! I wrestled with God for several days, reminding him He had said I would live and not die. And now death was staring me in the face, a very painful death. Someone I respected, who was concerned about my downward spiral, told me that wrestling with God wasn't wise. I thought of Jacob in Genesis and continued to wrestle until I got my faith back. The dangerous place I was in didn't change what the angel told me: "I would live and not die." I determined to simply believe those words.
I started the Yervoy treatment and found that the treatment itself wasn't bad. They called it an infusion. Basically it was just an IV. The standard protocol was four treatments, one every three weeks, with less-frequent boosters after that.
The melanoma tumors continued to grow and I began to decline. It was my habit to walk every morning and evening. One day I began to have trouble breathing on my morning walk. So I was put on oxygen 24-7. That worked for awhile but not for long. I was soon gasping for breath even with the oxygen. So I called my doctor and she recommended we stop the Yervoy and do immediate surgery, dangerous surgery. My third treatment with Yervoy was just days away. After praying with my husband, we decided I would not have surgery but would proceed with the scheduled infusion of Yervoy. So I went to bed and concentrated on taking one breath at a time. I couldn't exert myself much. I can't say I prayed beautiful prayers or made faith filled declarations. What I did do was remind myself and the Lord of the angel's words. And I made it in to the clinic to have the scheduled treatment.
A few days passed and I became aware that the external tumors under my right arm were shrinking. Every day they got smaller and were soon totally gone. I went in to see my oncologist not longer after. I showed her my smooth underarm, now absent the large tumors and asked her, "Have you ever seen anything like that?" And she said, "No!" The nurse that had administered the infusion was quick so say, "You got a miracle!"
I wish I could say that was the end of my troubles but I had a severe reaction to the Yervoy. It acted as a host to an unusual and extreme case of ulcerative colitis. Except that we didn't know at first that was the problem. I became so nauseous I couldn't retain any food or drink. Various treatments were tried but nothing helped. In that state I quickly lost over 50 lbs. On my best day I could only keep down one or two boiled eggs. Things got worse instead of better and I collapsed and was hospitalized. A gastrologist was called in and he recognized what was wrong with me and began proper treatment. I was in the hospital for a month and back and forth between there and a nursing home. My wonderful husband then decided to bring me home and I began to very slowly regain my health. Only recently the gastrologist said this to me, "When I first saw you I said to myself, "this person is dying."
Once again, God chose life for me.
ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY
My oncologist continued to do regular scans routinely and nothing unusual showed up. After one year of clear scans she said this to me, "You would be dead now except you got a miracle."
TWO YEAR ANNIVERSARY
My last checkup was also great. In six months I will have a PET scan and after that one is clear, there will be no more scans. YEAH!
HOW GOD BUILT FAITH
Many people rallied around me to pray, including my family, friends, church intercessors, Facebook friends and Healing Room ministers. Some spoke into my life in ways that brought faith and I am grateful to them all! Following is a testimony from my daughter-in-law Jenny about how God built her faith as she stood with me for healing. I didn't know about it until recently when I asked her to read over my testimony and she shared hers. The Mary she refers to is my daughter and Chris is my son, Jenny's husband.
I want to share what God did to maintain faith for your healing even when there were no outward signs of healing taking place.
On December 29, 2010 after you got your PET scan results, I called my friend Jennifer to pray with her on the phone. The most powerful thing we were both
left with was, "We will believe the report of the Lord." After the call, I sat down to read my Bible (I was reading in Amos). I had an impression of Mary with child and I felt God say that "sign" of Mary with child would be a sign of your healing. I wrote it in my journal, and I shared it only with Jennifer, because I wasn't sure if it was my own hope or God speaking
MONTHS later, on June 5, 2011, Mary sent word that she was pregnant. I then jumped up and shared with Chris what I had heard and had been holding on to for six months. That was before there was any sign that the tumors were starting to shrink. Much to the contrary, you were struggling increasingly to breath even though you were on oxygen.
But that sign was enough for me. Jennifer and I continued to pray in faith for your healing, bringing before God the things He had already said and shown to you and to us.
Six weeks LATER you shared that the tumors had began to shrink!
And of course, that was before the second part of the battle for your life began. But for me, that sign from God was unmistakable - and gave me such conviction that your healing was coming - and it helped me to pray in faith through the darkest days, with a KNOWING that I can't explain other
than as a gift of faith.
I can't even describe the joy that rose up when you shared about the tumors
Your battle was still far from over,but at that point I had seen enough
and heard enough, that the enemy's taunts to cause unbelief just would not stick.