An ugly duckling: My cancer journey begins
Suffering - May 15, 2021 Author: Jeanette Green

An ugly duckling: My cancer journey begins

Since I could remember, I had this ‘beauty spot’ above my left knee. But the beauty spot became an ugly duckling (kind of the opposite to what happens in fairy tales). Slowly it expanded, then it darkened, then it turned into an irregular flower-shaped blob. I became worried. Had it checked out by a GP, who insisted I had no need to worry. Still, I had this niggling sense I should be worried. However, each year my medical aid quickly got depleted by my epilepsy and other health issues, and I couldn’t pay to see another doctor about the growing spot.

Financial difficulty forced me to drop my medical aid, and I became reliant on public healthcare.
At that stage, I was experiencing a setback with my epilepsy. So, for a year, I had to make at least one trip (and sometimes up to three trips) a month to a health-care facility, for doctor’s appointments, tests, and to fetch my chronic medication. I couldn't have other health conditions checked out, during the same year. I hadn’t the energy or time.

By 2020, although my epilepsy was still not under control, all that could be done to manage it has been done. So, I gathered my strength and set out on my journey to have the spot above my knee checked out.

The clinic referred me to the dermatology department of my local public hospital. The next step was to go there and book an appointment. The date I got was the 30th of July. So, I waited. Another five months.

I finally had my appointment with the dermatologist, who referred me to the dermatology and plastic surgery departments at the regional public hospital.

From there, things went a lot faster. Within a week, I have had my appointment at dermatology, and the week after, I had my appointment with plastic surgery, and two weeks later, a biopsy of the mole had been done.

The month I had to wait for the results of the biopsy was torture. And then the day arrived, when I heard the word I dreaded to hear, the ‘C’-word. The spot on my knee was cancer. Melanoma. I was admitted to have a CT scan, and a month later, I had a PET scan and LDH test. No wide-excision of the mole was done, also no sentinel lymph node biopsy.

Mid-November I got the news – the melanoma has already spread to the lymph glands in my groin and to deep abdominal lymph nodes. I tried to get onto a clinical trial for treatment, but I was not a suitable candidate for the available trial.

By December 2020, I was told I was not going to receive any treatment for my cancer. I could receive pain treatment when it became necessary. But because melanoma doesn’t respond well to chemotherapy or radiation, such treatment was not given to melanoma patients. And immunotherapy, because of the hefty price tag of the treatment, wasn’t an option.

So here I am, now five months later, walking this cancer journey, with Jesus. I don’t know what is going on in my body. With each new symptom, I wonder if it is the cancer that has spread. Some days I wonder how much time I have got left. Then I panic! Will I die and still have done nothing meaningful with my life?

But the days I am bogged down with fear, and am wondering, are few. God holds me tightly and carries me forward, through my days. He lavishes me with love, fills me with joy and peace.

Over the past few years of first suffering with undiagnosed psychological problems, and then with undiagnosed chronic pain, perhaps God has prepared me for this trial of fire. Because, now, like the past seven years (since 2013), I survive each day, by keeping my eyes on Him. More, He shows me how to thrive despite this cloud of death that hangs over me. From my history with the Lord, I have learned that He is more than enough for me. Nothing can separate me from His love, not even my suffering.

This diagnosis was a wake-up call. I can’t live with the idea that I have decades to do all I must. (Although I still might end up living decades more!) Every day is a gift. This is true for each of us. We don’t know when our time will be up. I have been warned to grasp every day, every opportunity with both hands.

I am certain that I will live each day that God has planned for me. What that means, in terms of my cancer diagnosis, I don’t know. God might heal me, completely. Perhaps, He has already. Or, like I do experience, He might hold me up with His strength so that I continue to live with the threat of death in my body and in my mind, yet can fulfill all He needs me to do. I have this peace, that by the time God takes me home, which really is complete and eternal healing, I will have completed the purpose for which He created me for.

But for now, I live another day. And another. One step at a time, grateful for each breath, each chance to love Jesus, to love loved ones, to love strangers, to do everything God brings me each day.

Scripture:
Php 1:21>For what is life? To me, it is Christ. Death, then, will bring more.

Act 27:21-25>After everyone had gone a long time without food, Paul stood before them and said, "You should have listened to me and not have sailed from Crete; then we would have avoided all this damage and loss. But now I beg you, take courage! Not one of you will lose your life; only the ship will be lost. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship came to me and said, 'Don't be afraid, Paul! You must stand before the Emperor. And God in his goodness to you has spared the lives of all those who are sailing with you.' So take courage, men! For I trust in God that it will be just as I was told.

Act 28:5 >But Paul shook the snake off into the fire without being harmed at all.

Prayer:
Father God, You know that our lives are fragile and so very brief. Help us, too, to be conscious of this and to treat each day we have as the precious gift it is. And pour out Your healing over anyone suffering from chronic illness or cancer, oh God. You are the Healer. We look to You, for our healing. I thank you that Your grace is enough for each of us, in all circumstances. We praise You, God. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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