The other night my husband and I were watching a TV program in which a fictional medical examiner said, “I’m a doctor, I don’t believe (in miracles, in prayer, in God).” Irritated, I turned to Tim and remarked that one did not preclude the others. He rolled his eyes and said, “It’s a TV show.” Skip ahead to an exchange of emails I had with my neurologist last week. Dr. Jackson believes there is a possibility I may have a rare condition (Paraneoplastic Syndrome) in which my immune system, trying to fight my cancer, mistakenly attacked my central nervous system.
This, believe it or not, is good news. If it’s true, it means I don’t have the other rare disease she previously diagnosed, Primary Lateral Sclerosis. PLS is like ALS, only it causes the voluntary muscles to deteriorate over a much longer period of time. The point being that in the last four months during which I completed chemotherapy for ovarian cancer, my PLS symptoms did not worsen. Dr. Jackson says only time will tell which it is, but this stabilization is a positive sign. “Keep praying and we will hope for the best,” her email concluded.
Dr. Jackson is a professor of neurology and otolaryngology, assistant dean of ambulatory services, and chief medical officer at the UT School of Medicine. She is also the director of the ALS Clinic where the great majority of her patients will die within two to five years of being diagnosed. When I was diagnosed with cancer, she told me she would pray for me. Knowing my neurologist is a believer who does everything medically possible for me and then prays on top of that gives me a tremendous sense of comfort. That she can spend her days treating a fatal disease and not lose her faith challenges mine. If someone like her believes in the science of medicine, but also ascribes to the power of prayer, it’s important to sit up and take notice. Medicine is powerful; combine it with prayer and nothing could be more potent.
I rely on terrific medical teams for both of my diagnoses, but I rely on God for the ultimate cure. Researchers are working frantically to find cures for all forms of cancer, but the survival rate for women with ovarian cancer has not changed in thirty years. ALS researchers are working equally hard to find a cure for that horrendous, deadly disease, but ALS patients receive the exact same prognosis now as Lou Gehrig did when he was diagnosed more than seventy-five years ago.
I’ve been told my cancer cannot be cured and I will be in treatment for the rest of my life. I’ve been told I suffer from a chronic degenerative neurological disease that can’t be cured. Yet, there’s still hope on both fronts. What this forces me to do is walk by faith, not by sight. I find it to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Yet daily it brings me closer to my Creator. I don’t know what the future will bring, but God does. I cannot rely on myself, but I can rely on Him.
And He always lets me know He’s here. There are no coincidences. The day I wrote down these thoughts, August 31, my devotional from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling said this: “Your fragility is not a punishment, nor does it indicate lack of faith. On the contrary, weak ones like you must live by faith, depending on Me to get you through the day. I am developing your ability to trust Me, to lean on Me, rather than on your own understanding.”
If you’re struggling with a chronic degenerative disease or another difficult diagnosis like cancer, be sure to leave a comment so that I can pray for you. It’s the most important thing friends can do for each other.
I couldn’t sleep tonight and reached for my phone, thinking a glance at FB might help me pass the time, and boy did it ever. I didn’t know all the facts about your cancer, how your fight could be a life long battle. I had no idea your second diagnosis was so potentially life threatening. But then I read the blessed words of our Lord and hope for you became strong. In our weakness God is strong. Know that I have been praying for you and will continue to lift up you name to God until it becomes a sweet nectar to his nose. He has you in the palm of His hand. While you sleep He is aware of your fears and makes your path smooth. Lean into Him. You’ll find rest there just like I do. He is ever mindful of our struggles and He cares.
Thank you, Cheryl. Your prayers are deeply appreciated. I pray for you each day as well. He is the great physician!
Natalie Kreitzman, Ed.D
I know factions of your life Kelly and I also know how difficult your struggles have been. However, whether it’s the “for show” Kelly or not, you never ever turn away from your faith; you believe that regardless of your situations, the lord God is looking over you and blanketing you with love. As a ancillary medical professional, there are times when I think to myself “This child will never speak one day in his life.” But you know what? I have been very very mistaken. I know, for a fact, that my interventions weren’t the only thing at play. A higher power–a person watching behind the scenes who is never wrong and always knows the answers– is there. As far as praying goes, I have learned the power of prayer. Obviously it can’t hurt, right? I have always heard that people start praying “after” the bad things occur. Well I have learned thru friends that the praying starts and never stops. It’s a process. It’s one I have dealt with and with which I have made peace. I always return a gesture of kindness with “Have a blessed day.” This little phrase can change a crummy day into one with purpose and with renewed hope. With this I write, Kelly have a blessed day. God will make it right for the both of us.
It’s so good to hear your insight as someone who knows that God plays a role in your efforts to help children speak. Thank you for sharing. I know how you’re struggling yourself and fighting to stay positive in the face of huge, unexpected health challenges. Have a blessed day, Natalie, and keep on praying. I know I will!
What a testimony the Lord has provided you, Kelly. You’re a faithful steward of the gift. You inspire me to look to Him. Love you, Linda
Love you too, Linda. You inspire me also. You’re pursuing your dreams with such great gusto and perseverance. Gives me renewed energy!
Thank you for such an encouraging blog. I also saw that program and had the same reaction when the doctor made that statement. Infact I said almost the identical words to the tv as you did. Funny, but my husband just gave me an amused look but said he agreed 😎.
I have been dealing with breast cancer for about 9 years, and for the past 3and 1/2 years been classified as stage 4. So , like you they tell me no cure, just continual treatments.
I also am believing the Lord for healing and for wisdom as we utilize the medical knowledge available.
You are in my prayers dear sister.
I’m glad I’m not the only one who talks to the TV, Linda! My heart goes out to you as a fellow member of the “Stage 4 Club.” It’s a tough road and there are days when I just want to have a pity party, but there are good days too. We have to be thankful for the good days, don’t we? Your prayers are so appreciated and I will add you to my list too.
Linda D. McFarland
You are an inspiration. When I see your posts they are reminders to say a prayer for you. I have a rare condition, GIST (gastrointestinal stromal tumor) and have to take a daily chemo pill. Side effects are not always pleasant and because there are not many cases diagnosed I sometimes feel alone, but know I’m never alone because God is faithful and is there each step of my journey. Have a blessed week. Linda
Thank you, Linda. You’ll be in my prayers!