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Monday morning.  December 17, 2012.  My husband and I sat waiting in the doctor’s office.  Several long days had elapsed, and I was anxiously awaiting the biopsy results.  That morning I turned to Romans 8:28:  “And we KNOW that ALL things work together for good GOOD to them that love God...”  The moments were awkward.  My husband offered reassurances.  God knew what our needs were.  He had not forsaken us.

The door opened, and my pleasant but serious physician entered.  Lab report in hand, she stated the results were “positive for breast cancer.”  As tears welled, I stared at the words and numbers on the page.  Trying to decipher the medical terminology was dizzying.  Patiently, Dr. Baerman answered my questions and offered that this appeared to be early stage cancer.  She briefed me on the life-changing decisions I needed to make and the coming months of treatments.  Suddenly, my calendar, which had rarely included personal doctor visits, became filled with scans, tests, surgeries, treatments, and endless doctor appointments.

The fall of that year, my mom and dearest friend had made her entrance into heaven.  She and my dad had planned to retire from ministry at the end of that year, so accepting God’s timing for her homegoing was both unexpected and difficult.  Additionally, my husband had accepted the responsibility to step into Dad’s ministry shoes.   Everything seemed to be falling apart.  With this new cancer diagnosis, how was I to carry on as wife and helpmeet to my husband in ministry, as homeschool mother to my children, as an only daughter?   How was I to cope with all that was to come?

During the days that followed, I pondered God’s Providence.  Just a few weeks prior, the radiologist reviewing my mammogram testing and ultrasound had told me that the mass was benign!  I was very relieved.  Even so, the following week I kept a pre-scheduled appointment with my CNM.  She wisely recommended that I see a surgeon for a second opinion.  I brightened at the mention of the name of the doctor.  Why this surgeon had been Mom’s own surgeon!  I was comforted.  God’s loving, protective hand had led me to this very place!

Surgery was scheduled for January 18th.  God gave me peace as I claimed Isaiah 43:1-2: “But thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.  When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”  The words of a song comforted me as I waited in the pre-op room.  “I have redeemed you.  You are mine.  Don’t be afraid.”  God was tenderly teaching me about trusting Him.

Dr. Baerman reported that the tumor was larger than originally thought.  Perhaps the stress of losing Mom had caused the tumor to become more aggressive since the original diagnosis.  Cancer cells had invaded the lymph nodes.  She was compassionate, answering my hard questions.  What were my chances of survival?  I learned I would have to undergo 8 chemo treatments, 30 radiation treatments, and 52 immunotherapy treatments over the course of a year and a half.  This was Stage 3B cancer.

Introspectively, I again questioned why God suddenly was allowing my world to be turned upside down.  Had I committed some sin?  Was this punishment for something I had done?  My husband tenderly reminded me of the man from John’s Gospel who had been born blind.  The disciples asked whether the man’s blindness was punishment for his or his parents’ sin.  But Jesus responded to them that the blind man’s impairment was for the glory of God.  “For the glory of the Lord”--this was the theme that our Pastor had chosen for our church for 2013.  And this was the theme that the Holy Spirit began to write upon my heart!  This suffering was for God’s glory.  It was His will for me at this time in my life.  It was good.  I only had to submit and trust His “perfect” plan. 

February 1, 2013.  I was scheduled that day for outpatient surgery to get the port by which I would receive chemotherapy treatments.  I claimed Psalm 16:8-9:  “I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.  Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.”   “Rest in hope”--this was my task through all of the unknowns that lay ahead!

I began weekly visits to the cancer center.  Biweekly, I would receive chemotherapy over the course of four months.  Medical personnel seemed to know just how everything would happen--which days in the cycle I would be nauseous, how my blood counts would rise and fall, what day I would begin to lose my hair.  This part of God’s will was certainly not glorious! 

God spoke to me that first day of treatment:  “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14) Resting and waiting…I’m not very good at that!   Yet these were the ingredients that God was using in my life to help me to grow in my faith and trust in Him during the months of chemo and radiation treatments.  Amazingly, I experienced minimal side effects. In fact, my oncologist told me I could be the poster child for both the chemo and radiation treatments because I had done so well.  I reported to kind Dr. Hathorne, God was honoring the prayers of many people!

The fall of that same year brought some unexpected complications.  An infection undid the many weeks of reconstructive procedure that I had been going through earlier that year.  Further complicating things, the radiation had destroyed the blood vessels and slowed the healing process considerably.  Before the year’s end, I had undergone three additional surgeries, two of them unplanned.  My strength was certainly zapped!

Dr. Ray, my surgeon (and another one of God’s excellent provisions whom I came to know rather well!) patiently explained my options.  The best choice seemed to be a muscle and skin graft from my back that would provide new blood supply. 
Today as I sit writing my story,  I am overwhelmed by God’s inexplicable goodness.  I have reached another milestone, having completed the final reconstructive surgery.  Although I still regularly visit my oncologist, I believe God in His gracious mercy has provided healing.   I am both humbled and grateful. 

My mother’s words of wisdom still echo in my mind today.  Many times she told me as I was growing up, “You must learn to trust God no matter what!”  Through suffering, God has taught me more about what depending on Him is all about.  He has been faithful.  And while God does not always promise healing in this life, He does guarantee His divine presence and strength in every circumstance.  Although I do not know what the future may bring, I know that I can count on Him!  It’s all about His glory!

-By Elizabeth Perreault