May 1, 2010 was the best day.
It was our wedding day, and we entered into newly married life with excitement and hope for our future together. We had plans of traveling, dreams we wanted to accomplish, and a desire for a growing family…About six months into our marriage, however, the honeymoon period and our plans for the future abruptly came to a halt.
My husband, Nathan, began to experience abnormal symptoms and a large lump appeared on the side of his neck. After multiple appointments with different specialists and undergoing a multitude of tests, he was scheduled for surgery to remove the inflamed lymph node in his neck.
More scans. More tests.
It was then that we received the devastating news that there was cancer in the lymph nodes in his neck, chest, and upper body.
I remember that moment in time freezing as those words fell heavy upon us, “You have cancer.” All the dreams, plans, and hopes for our new marriage were quickly sucked out of the room, leaving us with nothing but confusion and questions. I remember feeling like it wasn’t real and that it couldn’t be possible that it was happening to us in that season.
What does this mean for us? Would Nathan live? What are we going to do? What would our future be now? God, where are you in the midst of this?
Looking back, I can see that God’s hand was right there in the middle of the questions and angry tears; that in the darkest nights, He was even more present.
After Nathan was diagnosed, he very quickly started chemotherapy treatment. At one point, during some preliminary consultations, the oncologist abruptly mentioned that due to the type of chemo drugs Nathan would receive, we would have a low possibility – if not impossibility – to have children naturally.This spiraled us into desperate and quick appointments to the cryo-bank for the safety of the unknown. Not only were we focusing on his health and saving his life though treatment, but we were also wondering now if we would ever be able to have children naturally.
It was about one week after receiving the news that we were sitting in the middle of an oncology waiting room. I remember looking around thinking, “We are too young to be here. What are you doing God? This is all too much for us to handle – I can’t handle any more!”
Right after Nathan received his first chemo treatment, he became very sick with an extremely high fever. We rushed him to the hospital, where they told us he had pneumonia. With virtually no immune system, the situation increased our fears and questions about death, and we continued to wonder what God was doing in all of this.
He was hospitalized and quarantined for over a week until his lungs would clear. In the middle of this, God provided us with His quiet whispers of comfort and gave us special people we needed to love on our wounded spirits. I believe that through these people, He was showing Himself to us and promising that even in the depths and the darkness, He was there and would not leave us.
After Nathan recovered from pneumonia and was released from the hospital, he went into aggressive chemo treatments every other week. Once a treatment was finished, it took 7-10 days to recover and then he was returning to have another treatment again.
This was the picture of our lives for about a year – chemo treatments, pills, procedures, blood work, injections, and many sick days in bed. Thankfully, at the end of the treatment Nathan received another PET scan that showed the cancer was gone. Praise Jesus!
The oncologist suggested waiting a year to make sure everything was clear before making the attempt to have children. With little expectation, we put the situation into God’s hands and whatever plan He had for our family; however, within just a few months, we were pregnant with our first child. She was an against-the-odds child – a miracle baby, a sweet and underserved gift – Grace.
God provided a miracle that only He could do. As we look back at the story He wrote for us from the beginning, and continues to write, we can see that even through the suffering, God had been so faithful to us and even now, after almost 10 years of marriage, He has provided additional miracles with two more beautiful children.
When we got our heads above the waters, we could see that He truly was the reason we were able to float all along. It was only after passing through the depths of it all that we began to clearly see God’s provision and protection over us during our cancer journey.
We could see that God allowed us to rage and wrestle – and yet He never left our side.
We could see how He gave me, as the caregiver, the daily strength to be able to maintain my job and also take Nathan to all his chemotherapy appointments.
We could see that God allowed us to have good health insurance which was secured only months before he was diagnosed.
We could see how God was protecting Nathan’s health by his company going bankrupt at the beginning of treatment and him not having a job to perform during this season.
We could see in all the rejections in his search for a new job that He was providing safety over his health and also rest. I could see how God was giving Nathan a positive spirit and encouraging his heart during the journey.
God was so good to us.
“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27
Nothing was or is too hard for the Lord. God tells us in His Word that we WILL have troubles in this life – but He does not promise that He won’t give us more than we can handle.
We absolutely were faced in that season with more than we could humanly handle. However, we learned to rely on God’s strength and to allow His spirit to be strong in us. It was about Him giving us what we needed each day and each step to endure the cancer journey. It was not about what we could do in the situation, but what God would do through us and how He would use our story for His glory.So, after eight years of Nathan being in remission, we now find ourselves reflecting and thanking God: for being with us in suffering, for being our strength, for the beautiful gift of children, and for his continual faithfulness in our lives.
By Heidi Soderholm
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As we walk through seasons of heartache, suffering and pain, it is easy to feel alone. However, it is often in these dark times that God is working His deepest miracles. When we look hard enough, we can see His goodness and His faithfulness through even the hardest moments.
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