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Still Here

With clenched fists, I clung white knuckled to my dreams, plans, and new health. I pleaded with God not to take them away again. My job, my independence, my plans, my breath, and nearly my life had just been stripped away from me. I finally made peace with letting it all go. I couldn’t do it again.

Nearly nine months before, I received a life saving double lung transplant. What an incredible gift – someone else’s lungs giving me extended life! After transplant, I began to rebuild the pieces of my life. Terrified, I had to learn how to pick up everything I had put down. Was it safe to pick it all back up? What if I had to let it all go again? 

After months of experiencing the high of full breaths, I was suddenly overcome with this debilitating fear of loss. Not the usual low level fear I had faced before, but a fear that encircled me like a hurricane, paralyzing me and obstructing my vision from seeing past anything else. Physically my body was healthy and thriving, but entertaining the possibility of my health being taken away again felt unendurable. 

“Where did this fear come from?” I wondered, “and why was it so intense all of the sudden?”

“Don’t make me lay these things down,” I cried out to God. “Not again. I can’t.” 

A couple months after these conversations with God, I found myself in the ER. Tests. Scans. Biopsies. Half awake in the ICU, I heard the muffled words of a doctor… “it’s cancer.”

I had been diagnosed with a post transplant form of Lymphoma called Post Transplant Lymphoproliferative Disorder, or PTLD. Having worked as an oncology nurse, cancer was the last thing on my radar. A taunting nemesis staring me in the face. My deepest fear, now my reality. Loss of health, loss of control; another diagnosis reaching to steal my joy and new gift of breath. 

Shocked, angry, confused, and bitter. The rug of health and stability pulled out from under me yet again. On my back, disoriented and hurting; I stared up at the ceiling of my life as it caved in around me. My mind flooded with desperate cries, but no words came out. At first, I held back from asking God why. My pride told me that a “good Christian” shouldn’t question God, but instead “just trust.” But my anger and pain overflowed. Through tears, I pressed in and demanded, “how could you allow this, God, when I told you how afraid I was of loss? I told you I couldn’t handle anymore of it. And now…cancer? Really?”

Unthreatened by my questions and bitter heart, I felt the familiar and steady embrace of God in my suffering. I am learning to understand the God who takes away. It’s easy to trust the God who gives, but it’s an altogether different challenge to trust our future to the God who gives and takes away. I still don’t understand this part of Him. The whys still come regularly. The triggers and trauma return in waves, but in the midst of this wrestle, I cannot deny this – God is still with me.

How refreshing that God is not afraid of our “whys.” God wants us to engage with Him in every season – with every emotion, every thought, and every feeling. He can handle it, and He desires our honesty. 

In the months prior to my cancer diagnosis, loss was calling out to me, and God was preparing me. Loss has surely come. Fear tried to convince me that loss would have the final say. Instead, God graciously forced me to look this adversary in the eye. I told it to bow to the One who even the shadows obey. It’s power disarmed. 

I am still here!

I am still breathing! Still dancing on top of the hot coals hell tried to burn me with. 

I am still held by the One who gives and takes away.