God Has A Plan For… Cancer?

Editor’s note: Today’s story is by Haley Bellows. For more about Haley, you can follow her on Facebook. Speaking of Facebook, do you like Prodigal on Facebook? It’s a great way to stay in the loop so you don’t miss a single post.

Cancer.

This word alone causes more emotions than any other word I know. I don’t think I knew the extent of this until a little over a week ago.

I was at the doctor’s office after finding a golf-ball sized noncancerous tumor in my uterus a couple of days prior. I thought I was there to talk about the surgical procedure I would be undergoing in order to get rid of this, but instead I heard that word.

Cancer.

I could not tell you where my mind went after that, but I know it was not in the doctor’s office anymore.

Everything has been a blur the last two weeks. My mind has been spinning with more unnerving medical terms than I have ever heard in my entire life.

Submucosal Uterine Fibroid. Noncancerous Tumor. Surgery. Leiomyosarcomas. Soft tissue cancer. Laparoscopy. Hysterectomy. Lymphoma. Radiation. Chemotherapy.

Doesn’t that just give you the chills?

After I first found out that the doctors found three spots of cancer in my uterus, I was terrified.

I am 20 years old. That was the last thing I ever expected to hear.

After my doctor’s appointment, I sat in my car for an hour just crying. Mascara running down my face, eyes burning, phone in hand. I didn’t even know where to start because I had so many people praying on my behalf that day. How do I begin to explain this to people who are relying on God to pull through for me?

I felt so confused about why this was happening and about the common theme I found in people’s responses.

“I’m so sorry.”
“Is there anything you need or that I can do for you?”
“I don’t know what to say.”

And my least favorite of all…

“God has a plan for this.”

Really? Does He? Is that supposed to comfort me?

That was the last thing I wanted to hear. In my mind, there was no reason that this should be happening to me.

I went through the weekend packing my days full of activities in order to avoid thinking about the fact that I would be having surgery soon. I was counting down days.

Six.
Five.
Four.

Monday came around and I tried to live life normally, even though I had this huge part of me that no one knew.

I found myself so bitter.

People would be complaining about a headache that caused them to not be able to do their paper, and all I could think about was the fact that I have cancer and I got it done. Why couldn’t they?

I had several appointments with professors to figure out what I was going to do with school because I only had 2 weeks of classes, finals week, and then it would be summer break. I had several coffee dates to talk about how I am doing. I never knew what to say because I had avoided thinking about it.

Wednesday came around I was leaving that day to head home before my surgery.

I went to the spiritual life house on campus and they prayed for me before I left. Then that night I had some people from my church at home pray over me. I had never felt so blessed in my entire life.

I was so certain that God was going to do something miraculous, and I had so many people believing that for me too.

Thursday morning I got so many texts from people saying they were praying for me or they were sending me verses to provide peace before I went under. I walked into the doctor’s office, uncertain of what I was going to wake up to. If the cancer spread throughout my uterus, they were going to do a hysterectomy.

They hooked me to the fluid IV and the surgeon asked if I had any last requests. I started crying about wanting to keep my uterus, and then I asked if I could have my stuffed pig on the table with me until I went under anesthesia. The surgeon chuckled.

“Sorry for laughing.” he said. I just have never had anyone over the age of 8 or 9 ask if they could have a stuffed animal on the table with them.”

The next thing I remember is counting down. 10…9…8…I was out.

I woke up not remembering ever falling asleep. The nurses quickly rushed over asking questions. I had no idea that I was just out for 6.5 hours while to doctors did everything possible to save my uterus.

And they did. Praise the Lord.

But they then began to inform me that the cancer had spread in to my lymph nodes and there was nothing that they could do while in surgery to help that. I would need to go through radiation and chemotherapy treatments and I don’t think that I fully understood that until the next day.

I found myself so angry. I truly belied that God was going to perform a miracle. I have read so many stories about doctors going in and the cancer was gone.

Why couldn’t that be me?

In the midst of my anger fit, I was texting a professor from my school. After babysitting his children and falling in love with them, I had become a part of the family. He sent me a text that has stuck with me every time my mind wanders.

“I certainly think anger is appropriate. The Bible is full of people who felt anger at God and God allowed it, even encouraged it.

Feel free to be angry.

And also try to hang onto the thread of Christ’s presence, which is there no matter how you feel.”

I sit here two days after my surgery, still feeling as if this is all a dream. I start chemotherapy on Monday and I am not going to say that I feel complete peace because I would be lying. But what I do know is that I am surrounded by people who are helping me through this.

I have been getting daily reminders that I am not alone in this. People have been blessing me left and right.

I am choosing to have a tight grip on my belief that Christ is always present, no matter whether I understand His plan in this or not.

I don’t have a happy ending to this story. I am not able to say that I am cancer-free or explain to you how I made it through this journey.

At least not yet.

Question: Have you ever walked through something that has made you angry with God? How did you respond?

  • Jerri

    Haley,
    Thank you so much for sharing. I know how difficult a time you’re going through. So much of your experience mirrored my own experience from 7 yrs. ago.

    The anger, confusion, wondering why this is happening to you, and fear can be overwhelming. My advice is just as you mentioned, hang on to Christ’s presence. When you feel all of those emotions, PRAY! He’s right there with you to love you during this battle. And one day weeks or maybe even months from now you’ll feel the anger subside. You’ll wonder when will my life go back to normal? Be assured it will. It’s a long road ahead. Just allow God to walk with you every step of the way. He’ll get you through it. I’ll be praying for you.

    • Haley

      Jerri—
      Thank you so much for your encouragement!
      It has been a long month so far and something that I have realized more than ever is that even if I am having a crying fit, pounding on God’s chest… He is there to lift me up and embrace me in His love.
      You prayers are much appreciated!

  • http://compost-blog.com Leslie

    Certainly, if you can pray, do so. But it’s OK if you can’t. I’ve been through some hard times with I was so overwhelmed, so numb, with my mind going around the same track over and over, that I was completely unable to focus enough to pray.

    At that point, God sent others to pray for me. The circumstances didn’t change at that moment, but I wasn’t alone in the middle of them. They prayed that I would know God’s presence. And that was enough.

    • Haley

      Leslie—
      I have definitely been blessed with a huge support group that has been praying for me more than I could ever imagine. My prayers are still there, but have tremendously changed through this trial.
      I have found myself in lament. I cry out to God. And through that I have found unexplainable peace.

  • http://shewritesandrights.blogspot.com bethany

    Haley, my prayers are with you. That you are going through this at such a young age and have such a firm grasp of Christ’s presence in your life speaks volumes about how God is using this experience to grow you and the people around you. What Satan intends for destruction, God uses for good. He has a purpose for you, His daughter. He will give you life abundantly, even in this time.

    And just remember, that no matter what doctors say, they DO NOT know everything, nor do they comprehend God’s plan for your life. My mom always kept that in perspective and her lifespan after her first and second diagnoses was more than twice as long as her doctors predicted. And every doctor said the same astonished things, that they couldn’t comprehend how she had managed to keep her body going through so many treatments, etc., but we knew that it was God’s plan for her.

    Every situation is unique to the person, but God is the constant. He has you in the palm of His hand, and no diagnosis can take you away from that.

    Thank you so so so much for sharing your story as you live it. Grace and peace be with you.

    • Haley

      Bethany—
      Thank you for these kind and meaningful words. I have found that my strength through this has definitely came from my deep roots in Christ and also from those that I have let love me through this. I have alway heard the quote,

      “We have no right to ask when suffering comes, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ unless we ask the same question for every moment of happiness that comes our way.”

      And I think that this is something that I have really learned to grasp through this situation. I have taken a lot of happiness in my life for granted, as I am sure everyone has, but I truly believe that God is changing my heart through this situation.

      And I think that is something that I have far beyond struggled with–God Plan vs. Doctor’s Diagnosis. I have shed so many tears after hearing bad news after bad news, but really God is constant. His plan is always 100% no matter what.

      Thank you SO much this comment and for your prayers!

  • http://thebeardedidealist.com Stephen Haggerty

    “I am choosing to have a tight grip on my belief that Christ is always present, no matter whether I understand His plan in this or not.” Incredible faith, Haley! Thanks so much for being transparent and sharing your story.

    • Haley

      Thank you Stephen!

  • http://LivingByFaithBlog.com Steve Fuller

    Hi Haley,

    I found this posting via Reddit, and am thankful that I met you and heard your story. I am grateful for how Christ’s presence is sustaining you, and for how you are continuing to press in to Him.

    I have not experienced anything anywhere near as serious as you have. But my wife and I did struggle with infertility. Maybe you will find our story encouraging — it’s on my blog at http://bit.ly/JWhd7s.

    May the Father comfort you, heal you, and strengthen you,

    Steve Fuller

    • Haley

      Thank you Steve for sharing your story.

      Although it may be a different experience, I truly believe that there is such an equality in all brokenness. And in those places… We connect.

      Very encouraging.

  • http://www.christina-hall.com Christina Hall

    Wow. All I can say is thanks for sharing, and that this intensity is not beyond you. You are amazing.

    All my prayers,
    Christina.

    • Haley

      Your prayers are beyond appreciated! Thank you so very much.
      I am blessed to have had this opportunity to share!

  • http://Www.clergygirl.wordpress.org Jen

    ((hugs)) from another survivor. I’m sorry this is happening to you.

    • Haley

      (((hugs))) back to you Jen!

  • http://brokenjargifts.blogspot.com jennifer searls

    oh. Haley…..thank you for sharing your story. I found you via Sarah Beth’s fb page. I hear echoes of my own journey. You put it so well.

    and also this -15+ years ago when my brother was diagnosed with leukemia as he finished his senior year at Fox I latched on to this: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Since you are precious and honored in my sight and because I love you….Do not be afraid, for I am with you” -Isaiah 43

    I believe God wants you to engage him with your anger, and fear and grief. You ARE loved. May you find tangible ways to “hang on to the thread of Christ’s presence” as you move into and through these next days. I am confident He IS walking alongside you. watch for him.

    • Haley

      Jennifer—
      I am blessed to have Sarah’s support on this journey, that’s for sure.
      Isaiah 43 is amazing. I have read it several times since this journey began and I am sure I will read it several more.
      Thank you so much for these affirming words. They mean so much. I will definitely be watching for Him.

  • Jennifer R

    Haley,
    I appreciate your honesty and openness about your journey. When bad things happen people often say things to try to explain them like “everything happens for a reason” or “God’s plan is perfect.” While I am extremely committed to Christ and believe in him now more than ever, I simply do not believe those phrases. I have seen enough pain and suffering to realize that life can’t be explained in such few words. First off I don’t believe in a God who desires pain an suffering or wills someone to get sick with cancer or die suddenly in a car accident. I do however believe that God allows pain and suffering often times without intervening because he created a free world. It is a world where sin has consequences, i.e. bodies that don’t work perfectly, drunk drivers, etc. If he always performed miracles or prevented bad things from happening then we would live in a perfect world, but we do not. Ever action has a reaction. Everything we do has a consequence. Some of those consequences are preventable some are not, like many forms of cancer. Through it all God’s presence is with us, yes! We find our comfort and peace in him, but I do not think there are easy answers or things we can say that will make these tough situations seem better. Prayer is still a mystery to me. I think prayer is more about changing who we are than changing the situations around us. I know God can intervene and that he often doesn’t. Right now one of my friends is very ill in the hospital with leukemia caused by radiation treatment for the thyroid cancer she had 2 years ago. She is suffering and has found little relief. I watch as people write things on her wall and that of her families’ saying that God has a plan in all of this. While I do believe that God can and does use things for good, my heart aches as I read such comments. They do not comfort her family and they don’t comfort me.

    • Haley

      Jennifer—
      I also appreciate your honesty that you have shared in your response. Personally, I would not go as far as saying that I don’t believe that there is some kind of plan in this, but I do know how painful it can be (as someone who is pain) to hear those words because I definitely do not feel it. I agree that some times there really aren’t easy words that can make these situations seem better, but I have found that being in community with those who are encouraging and supportive has really made things a lot easier for me.

      What I do think though is that we hear the same verses over and over, the cheerful, encouraging ones about God having a plan, etc., etc. But for someone in intense grief or suffering, those attempts at comfort can seem lacking, as if they are glossing over the horrific reality of what you’re facing in the here and now. I think we’ve lost, or perhaps just misplaced, our tradition of lament.

      This quote is from the book Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey that has caused me to journal a lot about and made me realize that I probably did set myself up for crashing disappointment thinking that I would go without suffering…

      “We tend to think, ‘Life should be fair because God is fair.’ But God is not life. And if I confuse God with the physical reality of life–by expecting constant good health for example–then I set myself up for crashing disappointment.”

      I am truly sorry that you are experiencing discomfort from everyone’s comments, but I think that if the roles were reversed, I would probably be saying the same things.

  • http://www.facebook.com/caseyjbowman Casey Bowman

    Haley,
    One of the amazing things that I’ve noticed is God’s ability to give people strength upon making it through difficult times, or “survival.” And by strength, I mean the courage and endurance to go out into the world and help others that are dealing with the same things. Maybe this could be God’s gift to you–with Social Work and Christian Ministries under your belt, there’s a chance you could be a light to other women facing the same trials, and show them where God is in the midst of their confusion and anger. Even if that isn’t in your future, God has truly made you stronger. You are blessed, as well as a blessing to others who know you and will get to know you.

    • Haley

      Thank you Casey!
      I have been really focusing on how God could use this in my future and that is definitely something I have thought a lot about. In fact, God has already used me in a way I could never imagine!

      http://haleybellows.blogspot.com/2012/05/friendship-in-unlikely-place.html

      This link is a blog that I posted about a girl that I met at the hospital while getting chemo. I fully know that this was all God in this situation and it was such a blessing to go through.

  • Elizabeth Peters

    Haley, I am part of the George Fox Family and so proud to call this university my alma mater. Your story was posted on Facebook and I wanted to let you know that you will be in my prayers. As a nurse as well as someone who has walked this road with my mother and two sisters, I want to encourage you and promise to pray daily for you. Don’t stuff your emotions but let them hang out there, be angry, be happy, be sad, what ever it takes but above all don’t lost hope. Our Heavenly Father is still the Master Physician and knows exactly what His plans are for you. He has put you here on this earth for His purpose and He will see you through this journey. May you know that you are not alone on this path you now find yourself and I pray that you will find peace and joy even during the times you find yourself puking from the chemotherapy or so tired from the radiation therapy you just want to sleep. May you find comfort even on the dark days but I pray there will be many bright days ahead of you.

    • Haley

      Elizabeth—
      I am seriously so blessed to be a part of this amazing George Fox community. I love knowing that the community has completely surrounded me in prayer and love. I have spent a lot of time journaling this battle, and if there is one thing I have come to fully grasp is that Christ is present, as well as everyone that I let love me through this.
      Thank you so much for your words of encouragement and your prayers.

  • Katelyn Peer

    Haley,

    I’m not sure if you remember me, but I was in Christian Discipling with you this last semester. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your story and all of the honesty behind it- even the darker sides. While I haven’t had cancer, I know what it’s like to question God’s “plan” in times of physical and emotional setbacks. Please continue to be real with God, for He wants you to be open and honest in your walk of faith. I hope you’ll remember to have a few laughs along the way, too, because I remember how funny you were those few times we got to do group discussions in class. I will be praying so hard for you. You are strong. Keep the faith.

    Katelyn

    • Haley

      Katelyn—
      Of course I remember you! I have definitely had my laughs as well as my many tears, anger fits, complaining, and questioning. I don’t think I ever realized what it means to be honest with God until this moment in my life. I feel like I always rushed past my suffering to make sure every one knew that I had faith. But that only causes a lot more grief from the depths of my heart. It has been a rough one, but I am keeping my spirits high. =)

  • Moni

    Dear Haley,

    I was always mad when people exalted suffering saying it is necessary or did good to you because it brings you closer to God or other religious sounding stuff. I used to be the “silly Christian kid” in my family, my brother was a fighter pilot. He had a wife and kids I didn’t even have a boyfriend, just God and my church. My brother died 2 days after I complained to a friend how my non Christian brother was happier without God than I was with God. I was engulfed in pain for many years, feeling guilty for complaining, being mad at God. Even now I can’t see myself wiser from suffering, or imagine his kids learning something extraordinary by not having a dad in their lives. Yet I moved on. Got my faith back. Life happened. Until I was told in a doctor’s office that my second baby had less than 1% chance to live. I tried to pray for healing knowing it wouldn’t happen, and it didn’t, while friends and family shared their opinions/ passed judgement on what we should do with our baby. Due to many circumstances and my fear to watch my baby die after birth or be on some kind of machine forever we went with the termination of the pregnancy. Took me years to forgive myself for that.(Even if I didn’t make my baby ill. God gave him to me that way. I had to forgive God for that too.) Lost a few friends who kept rubbing my face into things. Not sure if I would do it again if I could go back, maybe watching a baby die in your arms is better… I couldn’t look at babies without crying for quite some time. Then we got pregnant again and things started mellowing out again. We had a little boy. For years I took my kids’ health for granted. Until last year my son was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes and my daughter with Thyroid disease. My daughter takes pills and I give my 5 year old son two shots a day. They would both die without their medication. So, is death God’s will for them? Should I thank God for modern medicine? How about those kids in less fortunate countries where medication is not available? I wish there was only one really bad thing in my life that I had to suffer from or survive instead of several. I don’t know how many more is on the way. I am only 37. What I have learned from suffering was sometimes more sympathy, sometimes jealousy, sometimes wishing happy people they had some of my issues to deal with, but most of all I have learned to appreciate each day as is. Weird how I used to think I was unhappy many times before any of the above happened. Only to realize a day after things happened how happy I was the day before. So, now I live and try to enjoy the “day before world.” Cause it could get worse, which may not sound too encouraging for now. And of course it could also get much better. I haven’t given up hope for things. Maybe soon there will be a cure for Diabetes. Maybe soon there will be a cure for cancer. I keep telling myself I only have to be faithful just a little longer and I’ll see the light shining just around the corner. You have every right to be angry at God. It is unfair what you are going through. But you are still here. There is still hope. Be strong! Remember, maybe you only have to be faithful just a little longer until you can make sense of all this and figure out your place and your future in the hand of God.

    Love

    Moni
    GFU Alumni 2001

    • Haley

      Moni—
      I cannot express how sorry I am for how much you have gone through.
      I myself have a long history of suffering in my short 20 years. A lot that many 20 year olds have not. I have been asked countless times how I can still believe that God is good after all that I have gone through.

      And like you… I have to keep telling myself that if I continue to hold my faith for just a little longer, things will turn around. I don’t believe that God would cause this pain by any means, but His choice to not intervene is because then that would mean we live in a perfect world… And we don’t.

  • Kristy

    You have a beautiful heart!

    • Haley

      Thank you, Kristy! =)

  • Chris Jones

    I admire you for your bravery. I also had a life threatening incident requiring surgery when I was 20 and attending George Fox. One day, out of the blue, I suffered an intercranial bleed (I was bleeding inside my head.) I nearly died, and if the bleeding hadn’t stopped on its own, I would have. (I believe to this day it didn’t stop ENTIRELY on its own, God must have had a hand in it. The doctors later told me most people in my situation die before they even know to get help.) For the next three months, I underwent constant tests–angiograms, MRIs, CAT and PET scans…and then I had to have brain surgery. I understand your anger at God. I also felt angry. I was grateful I hadn’t died when I had the bleed, but angry it happened in the first place. I was terrified it would happen again and I WOULD die. It wasn’t easy, but in the end I was stronger for having experienced it. I firmly believe you will make it and be stronger in the end for it as well–and you will have a powerful gift to share with others as a result. God bless and a speedy recovery!

    • Haley

      Thank you Chris for taking the time to tell me your story.
      I truly believe that God had His hand on your life just as He has had His hand on mine.
      I cannot wait to get past this pain and suffering in order to see what is waiting at the end.

  • Nancy Marie

    Dear Haley, thank you for sharing the story of what you are going through. Your faith is so beautiful and my prayers are with you for your complete healing. Suffering is hard to understand, hard to accept, hard to endure, and I know Jesus weeps for you and loves you so much. But also remember how He chose to redeem us – through suffering. Our suffering, united to the cross of Christ, can become a participation in His work, joining with him so closely that (as Mother Teresa once said) you can feel the pang of the thorns. She called suffering the kiss of Christ. That is how close He is to you as you walk this difficult path. This is not to say that He wants you to suffer, but that everything you go through, united to His cross, He will also unite to His resurrection, to His redeeming love. He will transform our deepest sorrow into the greatest joy. Offer it to Him. So few people are willing to take up the cross with Christ. You are His Beloved. Thank you so much for your faithful witness in the midst of suffering. May God be with you and heal you.

  • Rina Maduro

    Hi Haley,

    I pray for you. Remember that God is holding you and keep asking Him for strength to go on. Don’t give up!!
    Last year in April, one day I suddenly felt dizzy. I was at the gym doing exercises. And I kept feeling that. The doctor said it is just stressed (I was ending last course and working on my proposal). I stayed home from work to rest, I eat good, I did everything that I could. Final of June when I went to a neurology, the dizziness weren’t as much so he decided that I didn’t have to do tests. But it came back. And in September it was worse. I had so much dizzy, that I couldn’t do anything, almost not even walk. And felt very nauseous. Than I did tests and everything, but they couldn’t see anything. And that is the worst thing: there is nothing to see, so it must be just “in your head”. The good advice: you have to go to Colombia to do test, you have to eat this, drink that, do this, do that. One family member said that I’m not sick, it is just psychologically. It is hard because you do not know what it is, but it is there. And when I explained it to other people, they do not really understand it.
    And yes, I ask God to take it away and to heal me. But… here I am still with my dizziness. And I have ask myself why? Why going through this? What is the meaning? Maybe I should pray harder, be braver, never give up, be nicer, etc. etc. I want to end my study and obtain my degree. I want to go on with my life.
    But I have experienced that being the daughter God, being a testimony even when I was sick, working in the house of God, loving & helping others, is the best degree I could ever get.
    As you said, me too do not have a happy ending to my story. Like today I went to the hairdresser and I felt dizzy again (so that means I was feeling really sick and like vomiting, have to walk carefully to not loose my balance and fall). And I still don’t have my Bachelor degree. But I’m not going to give up and yes, God has a plan for everything. EVEN IF WE DO NOT KNOW IT!!!

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  • Becca

    I am also a 20 year old who was diagnosed with brain cancer. I am having the same issues you are going through with God and I also am having some anger towards God for what has happened and to why things like this would happen to someone at our age. I am also choosing to keep my belief in God but I do question him at times and it is hard at times but it will get better. I have no idea why he would give us cancer, but maybe there is a reason behind it and eventually it will help us out later on in life..who knows. I just believe that God knows it is okay for us to be upset and question him and maybe this is a way of showing us to be even closer to him later on in life. I know this was over a year ago so i’m hoping all of your chemo and such went well and now you are cancer free and hopefully you have restored your faith in God. I am also inspired to read this and know what else you have gone through since these posts because it could really help me out in what I am going through right now.

    • Rose

      Haley…My youngest sister just survived Stage 4 colon cancer…and approx. 4 years ago, I was diagnosed with Arachnoiditis. This is NOT the fear of spiders. This is an inflammation of the middle protective lining of the spinal column and the brain. I was told 2 things at diagnosis. 1.”If you have no Faith, now is a GOOD time to get one”, & 2. “This disease is like having the pain of last stage cancer, with no relief of death”. You may be able to imagine my PANIC. EVERY step of the way, I have to make a choice…Better or Bitter. So FAR, I have chosen BETTER. BUT ANGER at the ILLNESS IS in MY opinion, HEALTHY, AND HUMOR & GOD have SAVED ME. GOOD FORTUNE TO YOU…My disease is at present incurable…but, with God…ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE! Thank you for sharing, inspiring, & FIGHTING with US!***