Recently, I was asked to share in our Sunday School class about how the prayers of the saints ministered to me during my recent journey through cancer. Since many of you played a huge role in praying for me, I thought I’d take this opportunity to show you what an impact you had in my life. And say, “Thank you.”
Two weeks ago I walked into RMH’s Facing Forward Recovery Group and said timidly, “Hi, my name is Angie, and I’m a breast cancer survivor.” It was the first time I had used the word survivor to define where I am in the healing process, and the impact of those words struck me. I reeled with all the emotions of what that truly meant. I have fought, battled, fallen, and struggled through the mire and muck of daily heartache and pain. But I couldn’t have survived on my own without those around me who carried me when I was too battle worn to continue.
Psalm 55:18-19a says,
“He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle which is against me. For they are many who strive with me. God will hear and answer them.”
Here are small snippets, some stories, and some of the ways God used people and their prayers in my life over the past months.
August 10th. The day we learned of my diagnosis. Shell-shocked. Sitting with Dr. K after he told us the news. Him praying with us before sending us to the surgeon. Bri called the church office to let our friends there know how our lives had just been upended. When we left the surgeon’s office there was Joe leaning against our van waiting to pray with us, cry with us, encourage us.
Our final youth group when my diagnosis was announced to the kids. Sitting in the middle of a room of middle and high school students, feeling their hands touching my shoulders, gripping my hands, praying in Spanish, English and Korean. Overwhelmed with love and peace.
The morning of my surgery. Walking into the waiting room to see my parents and friends from church waiting to sit with me and pray with me. Amy, my nurse, who came in to work my prep even when she wasn’t on the schedule. Running to get Joe when the panic set in. Praying with us through the Heidelburg Catechism… what is your only comfort in life and in death?
The night after. Tim sitting with us for hours in my room, praying with us, laughing with us, sharing his heart.
The cards full of prayers. The comments on my blog. The people who stopped during their day to call, even leaving prayers over voicemail. I read prayers of saints in the past, and I made them my prayers. I read and reread prayers my friends wrote in cards and on my blog until the point of memorization. The timeless prayers of saints…
Prayer is no fitfull, short-lived thing. It is no voice crying unheard and unheeded into the silence. It is a voice which goes into God’s ear and it lives as long as God’s ear is open to holy pleas, as long as God’s heart is alive to holy things. God shapes the world by prayer. Prayers are deathless. The lips that utter them may be closed in death, the heart that felt them may have ceased to beat, but the prayers live before God, and God’s heart is set on them. Prayers outlive the lives of those who uttered them; outlive a generation, outlive an age, outlive a world. (E.M. Bounds)
Finding out the impact of disease. Stage III-B. Grade 3 meaning it was the fastest spreading cancer it could be. It was in 8 of my lymph nodes, and I had a full body CT scan to see if it had spread to any organs. The agony of waiting a week for results. Surrounded by prayers of the saints. Sitting in the surgeon’s office and hearing Dr. B say, “It’s clear.” Heading to the church office to tell Joe and Tim and anyone else around the great news. Bowing our heads and lifting our arms together in praise. As long as I live, I will never forget the look on Tim’s face! The prayers of the saints rejoicing with us.
My pain, my neediness, my reliance on the prayers of others also impacted my own prayer life to where I would lie awake at night and pray for those going through trial… Anthony & Rachel, Greg & Carol, Chuck & Jackie, Retta, people I didn’t know but had heard their stories, and so many more. I couldn’t stop praying… I still can’t. My life has become one huge conversation with God. The prayers of the saints has increased and enriched my own prayer life.
In mid-December I started a new chemo drug, and my body reacted negatively. My temperature climbed to 101 degrees, higher than it was allowed to go, and Bri and I found ourselves making our way through the icy darkness to the ER. Once word got out, I was surrounded… friends who wouldn’t allow me to be alone. Visits and prayers from friends and family. I went home after three days. And I agonized, because I still felt wrong somehow. I had people praying that God would spare me from having to return. The IV process was torture and I wanted to get a port put in before I had to have any more IV”s. That was a prayer God chose to answer, “No.” Two days later I was back in the hospital, passing out at the cancer center with a temperature close to 105. It took them 2 hours to find a vein. I was in the hospital for a week. I had already suffered innumerable needle sticks because I had to have blood drawn twice a day, with an average of three times for them to find the vein each time. I was a human pin cushion, and I was struggling. I needed to see God in a big way.
On my fifth day there, my vein blew, and I had to have another IV placed. After about 4 1/2 hours of them trying to get an IV placed in my arm, Brian’s resolve failed and he couldn’t be in the room any more with me. But it was at that moment that the Lord inundated me with visitors. The guys took Bri to the waiting room to give him a break. The girls stayed with me. Before they left the room w/ Bri, we prayed. Specific prayers. That the IV would go in this time. The nurse sat and waited, then began her routine… tourniquet, search for a place on my arm that wasn’t bruised or scarred, pull out the needles. I began to go into a panic attack. My friends surrounded me, and the Ninja (as Bri likes to call this particular nurse) put the IV in. Quick, not painless, but effective, and we were done. “Thank you.” I said to her through my tears. She pointed up and said, “I’m not the one you should be thanking.” The power of prayer. Surrounded by saints.
Specifics. Hearing, “Our church prayed for you today.” from friends across the country. Literally thousands of people lifting up my name… people I don’t even know. Meeting strangers who are sisters. People who would see Brian or me (on the days I was able to attend) at church and say, “My family prays for you every night.” Or “My children prayed for you on such and such a day.” Or “Our home group prayed for you.” Close friends sharing in my stories. Praying and crying with me over the phone. More than just the vague notion that yes, people were praying, (at least I assumed so). I knew so. And it brought me hope. It buoyed me to carry on, because I wasn’t clinging alone. I was being carried by the prayers of the saints. They continue to carry me today, because while my cancer is gone for now, every day I face the what if…? it returns. I still have treatment ahead of me. I have lingering side effects that are exhausting and painful. My life will never be free from the scans, the fear, the risks, the new normal that I must live, but it will also never be free from hope. And that hope is in Christ and boulstered by the prayers of my brothers and sisters for and with me.
Not all my prayers were answered in ways I had hoped, but that didn’t mean God’s ear was deaf. He was directing me, leading me, guiding me, drawing me to His heart in ways I had never experienced. A dear friend from Tennessee prayed specifically that I would see God in the details. That prayer has been answered over and over and over. And it continues to be answered… because I see Him more and more every day in details I would have never seen had I not walked through this trial. He is still answering her prayer and the prayers of others.
The one concern of the devil is to keep the saints from prayer. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks our wisdom, but trembles when we pray. (Samuel Chadwick)
He’s been trembling a lot the past 11 months of my life, because you “are many who strive with me.” Thank you. I am humbled
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