[Guest Post by Dabney Hedegard – Her story inspired me and I couldn’t wait to share. Through her story, God showed me how proud I had become towards my future children. If God could allow Dabney to have her first child while battling cancer, what’s my excuse? I hope you enjoy. You can purchase a copy of her new book, When God Intervenes here.]
We brought Madison home after a week in the NICU.
I finally learned how to cradle and dress her five-pound preemie body without feeling as if I’d break something. I couldn’t kiss and snuggle with her enough.
A week and a half after Madison’s birth, she and Jason kept me company during my oncology appointment. I had prayed so long for this moment that I fully expected my doctor to slide my first-trip-to-the-ER films and my most recent scans into the light box and proclaim—hands extended—“Dabney, it’s a miracle. Your cancer’s gone!”
I’d clap joyously and jump about, praising God. I saw the vision; I just needed to hear the words.
When Dr. McGarry smiled and said something along the lines of, “Dabney, it’s a miracle,” my heart quickened. “Your cancer is about the same size today as it was the day you walked through the ER doors six months ago.” He pointed with the end of his pen, examining the oddity.
My shoulders slumped, and I stared at my misshapen lungs, compensating for the cancerous growth that still entangled them. He compared the films and continued on about the size of my tumor and his amazement at how I had carried Madison so low and how my breathing wasn’t affected until the end. He confessed that he hadn’t thought I’d be able to carry her past thirty weeks. And he certainly had not expected that I’d be able to wait to start treatment until the middle of my second trimester. He paused. “You don’t look as amazed as I do.”
“As silly as it sounds, I prayed that God would heal me. I really thought the cancer would be gone.” I looked at the floor.
“Did you not hear what I said? Your tiny chest and abdomen carried a 14.5 x 17 cm bulky mass and a baby nearly full-term with limited complications. And now your tumor is measuring 9 x 16 cm.”
But that wasn’t the miracle I had prayed for.
I didn’t hear much more of what my favorite doctor had to say, although he kept talking about the new treatment and when I’d start and how the odds seemed to be in my favor.
What had happened? I had believed. I mean, really believed this time. Everyone had prayed. I had kept the baby. I trusted God. Jason massaged my bony shoulders until they hurt, trying to be the compassionate husband. He whispered, “Don’t worry. God has everything under control.”
When Dr. McGarry left, Jason turned me toward him. “God told me your illness would get worse before it improved. Then he’d restore your health.” His eyes locked onto mine because he knew from my crossed arms and deflated body that I was playing the pouting game. “Remember that? Don’t get discouraged.”
My hope—the one I could almost touch if I stood on the tips of my toes and stretched my fingers with the determination of a five-year-old reaching for a forbidden cookie—had been pushed out of reach.
Dr. McGarry had expected my tumor to increase in size each month I waited to begin treatment. I, on the other hand, had presumed my cancer would vanish and God would be credited. But the greater miracle, I knew, lived and breathed and had survived thirty-four weeks until she could be born.
On Sunday morning our pastor brought us forward for the congregation to pray over us. After the service I stood in the walkway with a renewed sense of peace, until a friend pulled me aside. “We’ve prayed hard for you,” he said, patting my shoulder with his weathered hand. “But I’m trying to figure out why God isn’t healing you. Do you think there’s any unresolved sin in your life and maybe that’s the reason?”
I blinked. “Uh.” My mind went blank. “No, none that I can think of.”
“We love you guys, and we’ll continue to pray. But I feel God wants you to have more faith than this. He can heal you if you truly believe.” He smiled, and the creases around his mouth deepened.
I twisted the strap of my purse, trying hard not to let tears fall.
When I arrived home, I thumbed through the Scriptures for some sign that resorting to modern medicine to save my life wasn’t a sin.
First I stumbled on John 9:1-7, the story about a man born blind and how the disciples asked Jesus who had sinned, the man or his parents, that he was born this way: “‘It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,’ Jesus answered. ‘This happened so the power of God could be seen in him’” (John 9:3, nlt). I wanted so badly to encounter that same man at church so I could tell him, confidently, from the Scriptures, that sometimes people go through sickness so that God’s work may be shown to others. Only I had no idea what my cancer had to do with bringing God any glory.
Who was I kidding? The disciples, of all people, had just asked Jesus who sinned. What made my friend at church any different for asking the same question?
But what I found in Isaiah 38 blessed me more than anything else I’d read in a long time. The prophet Isaiah told King Hezekiah that he would die. Hezekiah begged the Lord to save him, and God mercifully granted him fifteen more years to live. Isaiah instructed the king to prepare an ointment from figs and apply it over his boil. The king recovered as promised through the use of a common medicinal practice of the day: a poultice.
That clicked with me. God uses miracles, medicine, or any combination of whatever he likes to bring about his will.
God used different healing methods throughout the Bible. Had he chosen one specific formula for each miracle, my type A personality would have duplicated the procedure. Spit in mud to form paste. Smear globby mess across the diseased area . . . In other words, I wanted the easy way out. God, show me a formula to cure my ailment so I can get on with a normal life, which doesn’t necessarily include furthering your Kingdom but will bring about temporary happiness.
No. God’s plans were bigger than my simple mind could conceive.
Relying on him required weakness.
Dabney is a wife, speaker, and professional patient. However, her most important role is managing The Hedegard Academy (est. 2003) where she instructs four gifted children. Writing, speaking, jogging (more like a fast walk with a hop), and chasing kids are her passions.
[Photo: annakwilliams, Flickr]