Prayer Before Surgery

doctor-650548_1280I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer three months after my mom died of cancer. My sense of urgency to remove the cancer was enormous. Terrified, I consulted with my family practice doctor a few hours after my mammogram. I was going to need help navigating my way through the maze of doctors and treatments I would need.

“Seek first the kingdom of God” ran through my mind. I had memorized the words to Matthew 6:33 years ago in Bible study. I prayed, quietly asking God to take care of me. Then I called a few close friends who I knew were particularly close to God. They had strong prayer lives so I asked them to begin praying for me. Ironically, I had just called on them two weeks earlier with the news of my impending divorce.

The day following the mammogram, my friend drove me to a surgeon’s office to have a needle biopsy. Before we began our 30-minute trip to midtown, she asked if she could pray for me. Absolutely. My friend prayed out loud asking God to work out the details of my illness and keep me at peace. As she drove, I was unbelieving of my fate. I went into the doctor’s office and had the biopsy. With the exception of needing more lidocaine, the procedure was flawless.

For the next two weeks, I desperately discussed my surgical options with four different surgeons. I had invasive lobular carcinoma and would need a bilateral mastectomy and hysterectomy. I needed to find a team of three surgeons. My general surgeon (who had performed the biopsy) called five plastic surgeons in the area. They were booked. It was, after all, the holiday season. I continued to pray, my friends prayed and I made a plea for prayer through my CaringBridge journal.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

I became a “nurse navigator” frantically trying to coordinate three surgeons’ schedules. I needed a general breast surgeon, a plastic surgeon and a gynecological surgeon. They needed to be available in one hospital, in one operating room in one afternoon. I learned not all doctors had surgical privileges in the same hospitals. I began to think I was asking for a small miracle, but I continued to pray.

By now, prayer had taken on a different meaning for me. It was no longer a quick request I threw God’s way. God was becoming my friend, my advisor, my counselor. I would have lengthy conversations with Him. I talked and then I listened. I quit watching television to make more time to hear Him. I knew my life depended on His answers and I knew He wanted to help me. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Around the third week of November, I was in despair. I could not find a plastic surgeon to team up with my general surgeon. Breast augmentation surgery was taking precedence over removing my cancer. This was a busy time of year when plastic surgeons were typically booked months, even years, in advance. Besides, cosmetic surgery cases paid cash.

God heard my pleas. The teaching director from my Bible Study had read my CaringBridge post. She called me on a Saturday morning to see if she could help. This connection would change the course of the rest of my time with cancer. Not only had she gone through breast cancer herself, but her husband was an oncologist. I felt elated as if God had placed me in that Bible study class years ago for this very reason.

After discussing my dilemma, I changed my course of action. It was obvious I would need to choose another surgeon and another hospital. I had just needed to hear those words spoken out loud. This phone call had been my gift. It was my wake-up call. And it had been orchestrated by God.

By the next week, I had scheduled all my surgeons. Every detail was covered with precision. More answered prayers. I knew God was not responsible for my cancer, but He was making things happen so He could take care of me. Even the timing of my annual mammogram had been helpful. If the appointment had been a few months earlier, it would have overlapped my mother’s time in hospice.

In the end, I was confident in the team of doctors God had prepared for me. I was humbled with their expert knowledge and skill of performing the surgery. God had been faithful even in the details of the surgeons’ schedules. My radiation oncologist referred to the timing of it all as a “small miracle”. The procedure took place on December 18, 2012 and lasted 5 1/2 hours.

The 1st Thanksgiving

This was my 4th Thanksgiving as a single, separated (not yet divorced) mother. I’ll admit, it’s become much easier. This year, my heart was drawn to all of my friends and relatives who are single. The holiday season can be a time of loneliness. I chose to keep my mind focused on those who were single or widowed and pray for them throughout my day. This brought me peace.

This year was much different from my first Thanksgiving as a separated mother. My first year apart from my daughters was a shock. It wpumpkin-704626_1280as 2012 and I had been diagnosed with breast cancer on October 29th. My plans had been to be in Florida with my family and extended family. We had planned a beach-front Thanksgiving vacation six months in advance. Instead of the beach, I found myself alone in Little Rock with breast
cancer. Devastation.

It appeared God was playing the cruelest of jokes on me. I had discovered an unfaithful husband and Stage 2 breast cancer a month earlier. It didn’t seem real to me and it didn’t seem like my life. Up until that point, I had not suffered an illness or a loss of that magnitude. But, I would soon discover, God showed up for me everywhere I turned.

The first place I discovered God that Thanksgiving was in my father. He had buried my mom just four months earlier in July 2012. My parents had been married 51 years when my mom died of cancer. She had struggled for 8 years with what began as colon cancer. Had it not been for my circumstances, my dad would have been left at home alone for his first Thanksgiving without his wife. I was so grateful to be with him. How could I possibly mope around all weekend when my father was grieving?

On Thanksgiving morning, the two of us went to Mass. The priest reminded us to be thankful. I had to dig deep into my heart to be thankful for anything. I soon discovered I was truly thankful I had a father who was still alive and could sit with me in worship. I was thankful I had three brothers who I could depend on to help me. I was thankful I was alive and the cancer was treatable.

The second place I discovered God was at a wedding. My father and I attended a Saturday evening wedding that weekend. The groom was one of my dad’s golfing buddies. I witnessed two senior citizens giddy with love. Their love offered me hope. I realized that sad times had preceded this wedding because both bride and groom had lost their first spouses. There was a moment in the wedding where the priest remembered both of their former spouses. Tears were shed.

The groom’s daughter, who I met for the first time at the wedding, was a breast cancer survivor. She shared her story with me at the reception and filled me with confidence. I knew that I could go back home and tackle my cancer. It was as if God had placed me at that wedding to show me He had plans for me. I just needed to trust Him because He had my back.

Yes, this Thanksgiving was much easier and time has helped heal my wounds. But more than time, the family God gave me has helped me heal. I have a father and three brothers who I love. I also have a heavenly Father and many brothers and sisters in Christ who sustain me in my weakness and loneliness. God has proven himself over and over to me these last 4 Thanksgiving holidays.

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9