Nine years ago, at the age of 29, I was diagnosed with Non-Hogkin Lymphoma. After four months of chemo and radiation therapy, I was put in remission. Even so, for the next seven years, the possibility of relapses led me to live in constant fear.
In 2004, I met my husband at work. He brought me to the Lord and I got saved. We were married in 2006 and were excited to start our new life together. Three months later I went for my yearly follow-up and discovered that the cancer had returned. As a newlywed couple, we were devastated to learn the news. But what made it worse was that the cancer did not only come back, it had spread to advanced stages. My doctor recommended clinical trials which involve intensive chemotherapy followed by stem cell transplant. We were informed that this treatment is not only hard on my body, but it is also a long process. Even though we knew the clinical trial did not promise results, we agreed to go forth because we had faith that God was in control.
I was forced to leave my job in preparation for the treatment. My mother came from abroad to help since we could not afford my husband leaving his job at this critical point. For the next few months the intense chemotherapy brought me to my knees. The treatment was so severe that I do not remember most of it. I only remember being hooked up to multiple chemo machines at one time, passing out often, waking up and be conscious for a few minutes, then passing out again. When the treatments were over, I was so traumatized by what had happened that I felt like I had lost all the bones in my body and could not even sit up in bed. Before my body had a chance to recover from the chemo, I had to start the stem cell transplant. I was hospitalized in isolation for three weeks. Before they could start the transplant, they gave me a week straight of chemo to further knock down my immune system. I had ports put in my upper chest so it’s easier for the doctors to administer the chemo and the transplant. Part of my vision was temporarily impaired and the other side effects that followed made things seem dire.
But God was never short of miracles through it all. He is a God of persistence. All He requires of us is trust and patience. As difficult as the process was, God kept performing small miracles to show me He was with me throughout the journey. No victory is too small because in the end, all the small victories add up to God’s grand miracle.
Six months later in mid-2007, as I was just about fully recovered from the transplant and started working part time from home, the cancer came back again. And this time, it nearly destroyed me before it was discovered. The cancer had spread, affecting my liver and other organs. I could not be treated before the doctors sorted out the complications with my organs. I was hospitalized for two-thirds of that summer to treat the complications. After that, a three-month chemotherapy and second transplant followed. This time though, a bone-marrow transplant was required since my own stem cells failed the first time. A three-month, worldwide bone-marrow donor search started, and I began chemo.
By the time I was done with chemo, no adult-match was found. But God came through again with a match of baby’s umbilical cord blood. I was saved yet again by this miracle. This time, since the transplant was from an outside source, the procedure is more dangerous and the side effects are much more severe. For six weeks, I was hospitalized in isolation again. Since I needed blood and platelet transfusions frequently, my church started a blood drive for me. People would take time off work and drive two hours to donate. Many of them didn’t tell me. I only discovered their kind acts later when I got a list from
the blood donor center.
The transplant was hard. But what was even harder was after the transplant. With little physical strength, I was required to come back for follow up twice a week for three months. The reason was that my body was at great risk of infection and complications after the transplant. I live in New Jersey and the hospital is in New York. The trip and the visit is easily a six-hour day. I wasn’t allowed to drive and my husband worked full time. I was in great distress finding a way to get to the hospital for the weekly visits.
As soon as I told my pastor, my church got people together and started a sign-up sheet. From that point on, every week someone would show up at my front step to accompany me to the lengthy doctor visits. The people donated their time and generosity so I didn’t have to worry about a thing.
In March 2008, on my first CT scan after transplant, it was confirmed that the cancer had returned yet again. And this time, I was given no real treatment options. For three days, I wanted to turn away from God because all the anger and sadness were just too much to bear. I could not imagine putting my husband and my family through this again. I questioned God on giving us such a hard life, I wanted so much joy and happiness for my husband. We have so many dreams to fulfill as a couple blessed by God. We did not understand the hardship that was put upon us. But the faith rooted in my husband, my family and my entire church lifted me up and their encouragement had renewed my faith in God.
After all had failed, my doctor treated me with a drug that she had never used before. A month later, she ordered a CT scan to check the results. In her office we looked at the scans on the computer screen together. After scanning the images quickly, she screamed: “Oh my God, this is a bloody miracle!” She stood up and took my hand and we started dancing, in joy and celebration. What seemed impossible, wasn’t impossible after all, thanks to the healing power of God.
This miracle did not happen overnight. For three years, while I went through numerous chemotherapies, blood and platelet transfusions, one stem cell transplant and one bone marrow transplant, my family and my church had never stopped praying and believing in what God can do. I’ll always remember when my pastor and his wife (Pastor Tom and Sister Karen Berninger) visited me, I asked: “Sometimes I feel like I just can’t go on any more. What do I do?” Pastor Tom said: “Hold on to your faith. Hold on to the hope. Keep holding on.” As I look back at the photos of me, bald, bony and tied up to three chemo machines 24/7, I know it was only by God’s grace, that I am here today.