At age 19, Carol felt stuck. She had lived for years with a controlling, abusive, alcoholic father. She was fearful, ashamed, and desperate to get out.
She saw marriage as her escape route.
“I got married for all the wrong reasons, and that marriage didn’t last long,” she said, simply.
After the divorce, she and her daughter, Beverly, moved on together.
“Then, I married the man of my dreams who was kind, charismatic, a businessman, and he never argued,” she explained.
They were married, became a family of 3, and began what was, in many ways, the kind of life Carol always wanted.
It seemed that she’d achieved the perfection she’d never been able to grasp as a child in her father’s home. She was in control. She was directing her life. Things were going the way she wanted them to go.
However, when Carol was 32, all that crumbled. She’d been sick for about 5 months, going to their family doctor and complaining of weight loss and pain. Again and again, the doctor told her she was probably just doing too much. He found nothing else wrong.
Finally, one day Carol left work and went to the emergency room pleading for help from the pain. Thinking the problem might be an ovarian cyst, the doctor decided exploratory surgery was the route to take. During the procedure, he discovered a tumor that he knew to be cancerous based on its location.
After the procedure, the doctor told Carol that his first instinct was to close her up and take no further action. You see, there have been many advancements in what doctors know about cancer and how they treat it since Carol’s surgery 44 years ago. For example, it was widely held that exposing cancer to the air would cause it to grow and spread quickly, so he thought twice about taking that chance.
However, he decided to remove the tumor and part of the colon hoping to give Carol relief from the pain.
Tests revealed Stage IV cancer that had metastasized to the lymph nodes. After 21 days in the hospital, Carol was sent home and told to “get her affairs in order”.
“The first Sunday after returning home from the hospital, Beverly, Kent, and I were at church and went to the altar to pray. The congregation was singing the hymn ‘He Touched Me,’ and I just totally surrendered to the Lord,” she said throwing up her hands.
“What did you surrender?” I asked.
Carol gave a small laugh and dropped her eyes. Then, she looked back at me and grinned sheepishly. “I had a reputation for being a drill sergeant. I gave orders. I was organized, and I controlled things,” she explained.
“You see,” she continued. “At age 12, I gave Jesus the keys to the door of my heart, but I kept a lot of other rooms locked because I wanted to control the course and direction of my life. Once I had the experience with cancer, Jesus became the Lord of my life. Before He was my Savior, but after that, I totally surrendered my life, and that brought me tremendous peace.”
“Were you angry at God because you had cancer?” I asked her.
“I don’t remember questioning God about why,” she said.
“Were you afraid to die?”
“My prayer was to live long enough to take care of my young daughter,” she answered. Beverly was in 5th grade when Carol was diagnosed.
That’s when God began to show what He’d been doing in the background the whole time.
Carol’s sister-in-law, Nancy, a nurse anesthetist, met Genevieve, another nurse, at a conference. After hearing about Carol’s prognosis, Genevieve, who lived in Houston, insisted that Carol go to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.
“All my drugs at Anderson were experimental,” Carol said. I could tell she was still in awe of the whole experience – God’s timing, the people He put in her path, the calm strength He gave her.
“One of the first times I met with my team of doctors, we sat around a conference table, and they told me that 25% of my treatment and recovery would be the drugs and 75% would be up to me – healthy diet, regular exercise, and strong spiritual life.”
All total, Carol traveled between Texas and West Virginia for treatment and evaluation for 10 years.
Her care included weekly blood work, 2 years of chemotherapy, 3 years of immunotherapy, and traveling to Houston every 3 months for the first few years.
“This was a very hard time,” Carol confessed. “I quit my job. I was away from home a great deal, and Beverly was young.”
She stopped a moment. Collecting her thoughts. Choosing her next words carefully.
“I’m not saying I’m glad I had cancer, but I am certainly saying that the experience enriched my life.”
The influence this ordeal had on her relationship with Christ was profound.
“I began to read the Bible more and pray more. Jesus invaded my life, and I allowed Him to.”
Carol also explained the impact having cancer had on her personal life. She shared that she learned to live each day to the fullest, appreciate her life and her family, and take time to “stop and smell the roses.”
Today, Carol is 44 years cancer-free. Hallelujah!
She fought and won the battle for her health and life, drawing closer to her Savior in the process. And she’s grateful for that because the next crisis in her path was, in her words, “worse than the cancer.”
Carol’s story will continue next week. Please join me here again.
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