Ringing in the new year had me feeling sorry for myself. Everyone gets excited for the start of a new year. Conversations revolve around fresh starts, resolutions and great expectations for the coming year. All I could think about was how hard my year was going to be continuing on chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer, with a major surgery and several small surgeries looming in my future throughout 2019. It was hard to get excited about the new year and I had slipped into a “woe is me” state of mind. I complained to my husband about this being another year of putting off trips I’d wanted to take and things I’d wanted to do. I lamented again about my precious New York trip at Christmas I had to cancel because of my health condition. I even complained on Facebook about how hard it was to get excited about the new year. I was truly disheartened and in low spirits those first couple days of 2019.
It didn’t help much that physically I was deteriorating, just days after my 4th chemo treatment, as my side effects were kicking in and fatigue was setting in unlike anything I had experienced to date. This time something was different. I was so weak, I could barely stand for more than just a few minutes without feeling like I was going to pass out. I couldn’t walk around the house or climb the stairs without getting winded and my heart rate racing into the 140s. This was not good and it wasn’t going away.
I had a near fainting spell a few weeks before, the week after my 3rd chemo infusion. I then learned that I was anemic and my hemoglobin was dropping with each successive treatment. So with all my current symptoms matching anemia symptoms and not subsiding, I was pretty confident that my hemoglobin had dropped even lower and was responsible for my worsening condition.
After three days with no improvement and barely functioning, I called the nurse triage line at City of Hope to report my symptoms. The nurse wanted me to come in to be evaluated as soon as I could. For several different reasons, we decided to wait until the next morning before we headed to COHs ETC (Evaluation and Treatment Center), a fancy name for urgent care.
I woke up around midnight on Thursday January 3rd and couldn’t fall back to sleep. It came to my mind that I had fallen several days behind on my first5 app, which is my daily devotional and bible reading. Since sleep was alluding me I decided to catch up on my app. I am studying the book of Jeremiah presently and read a chapter each day and then the commentary from the app that coincides with each chapter. I had 4 days worth of chapters and reading to do.
I’ve learned that timing is everything with God. Ive also learned that he will do what it takes to get my attention, even when, and probably especially when I’m in self-pity mode. So it isn’t unusual for him to wake me up to get me quiet and alone with him. As I began to read through these chapters and devotions in Jeremiah, God got my attention in that incredibly personal, “let me speak directly to your heart, exactly where your at, through my Word,” kind of way!
So many times in the past when I have gotten a little behind on whatever study I am doing, and I finally sit down to catch up, the message ended up speaking directly into my situation at that precise time. If I had been “on time” doing my study, the message would have come too early for my circumstances or experiences and I may have missed the bigger impact that the message contained for me. That is what I mean when I say, Gods timing is everything, and this time was no different. If I had been “on time” spreading these 4 days of study out on the days they should have been done, I would have missed the clustered message. God knew the perfect window of timing when he could get me alone and quiet during the middle of the night in my woe-is-me state of mind, so he could speak directly to my heart and lift me up, shift my perspective, teach me a lesson I needed to hear and replenish my joy! He is just so good that way!
These several days worth of teachings spoke directly into my circumstances in huge ways and I won’t go into it all, but the key verse and message that really struck me, was a message God gave Jeremiah to deliver to Jeremiah’s good friend and scribe who was bogged down in self pity. (See the correlation?)
“This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to you, Baruch: You have said, ‘Woe is me, because the LORD has added sorrow to my pain! I am worn out with groaning and have found no rest.’” “This is what the LORD says: I will demolish what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the land! Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don’t do it! I will bring great disaster upon all these people; but I will give you your life as a reward wherever you go. I, the LORD, have spoken!'”
For real…this is in the Bible! I can’t make this stuff up! God was speaking to me directly:
“Rebecca, you say, ‘Woe is me, because of my sorrow and pain! I am worn out with groaning and have found no rest.’ But I, the Lord says: Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don’t do it! I will give you your life as a reward.”
My self focused, poor me attitude was self defeating. God was telling me: “Don’t do it!” When I fix my eyes on Jesus, trusting and resting in him and don’t pursue “things” for myself, but look outwardly at my true purpose in glorifying the Lord and resting in him, than he gives me peace and fills me with abundant joy. Besides, knowing that God is giving me my life as a reward in the midst of what I am going through currently, was extremely impactful having him speak this into my heart! Amen! If I never get anything else or go on another trip…my life is enough!
He asks us to exchange our heavy burdens for his yoke:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
So after spending the night talking with and learning from the Lord, the morning came and I was renewed spiritually, mentally and emotionally and filled with joy and peace and a shifted perspective. I could now be excited about the new year! I easily wrote out my New Years goals and found my new purpose in 2019:
I will not wallow in self pity. I will keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. I will do more than survive, I will thrive. I will rest in Him. I will trust Him. I will give God the glory.
I was so excited, I shared my revelations with my husband as we headed to City of Hope in the morning to have me “physically” evaluated. No longer feeling sorry for myself, I was resting in and trusting God for the outcome.
14 hours is what I spent in the ETC on Thursday January 3rd. My hemoglobin had dropped to 9.4, but not low enough to need a transfusion according to “textbook” requirements. So the doctor was determined to find some other explanation for my new and worsening symptoms, even if it meant chalking it up to, “well you are on chemo!” So after ruling out dehydration and bladder infection, the easy answers he was hoping for, I pushed for a deeper answer. I couldn’t imagine being sent home in such a physically weakened state to live like this.
Drawing on 20 years of nursing experience and being armed with my own background of medical ailments and family history, I was ready to challenge him on every turn. He was a trooper. I was extremely impressed with his willingness to get to the bottom of this with me, exchanging ideas, calling in consults, ordering tests and doing his own research into things most doctors would discount immediately.
To make a very long day and long story shorter, we ruled out anything heart, brain or lung related. Which was good to know, of course, that the most vital parts of my body are in good shape and have been spared damage from chemo. Praise God! In the end, he relayed my arguments and concerns to my medical oncologist who approved the blood transfusion despite it going against the medical norm.
So Thursday evening I was transfused with 1 unit A- PRBCs. It’s amazing what additional red blood cells (the cells that carry oxygen throughout the body) can do for a person in such a weakened state. There IS POWER in the blood! I could physically feel my extremities warming up during the transfusion, my energy was improved almost immediately. After an additional trip to CT (as I said, he wanted to rule out any possibilities) and then being treated for an allergic reaction to the contrast given during the CT scan, I was headed home and to bed. Loaded with IV Benadryl my eyes couldn’t stay open.
Friday I was nearly bouncing off the walls with energy. The first half of the day you couldn’t have got me to sit down. I was talking a mile a minute and full of exuberance. I felt a lightheaded, giddy feeling of euphoria that is hard to describe. I literally felt like I had been infused with someone else’s energy. And in fact I had!
Thursday in the early morning hours I had been filled with supernatural peace and abundant joy and purpose through a different kind of transfusion made possible through the blood of the cross, renewing me spiritually and mentally. Thursday evening I was physically transfused with life giving, oxygen carrying blood that revived me physically. Oh the power of the blood in that day of my life, renewing me in body, mind and spirit!
For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. Colossians 1:19-20
So bring on the new year with all its struggles, pain and challenges. I have a God who will take all my burdens and exchange them for rest and give me peace.
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
There is hope beyond this, to God be the glory!
Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last–salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth–the one who accuses them before our God day and night. And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Revelation 12:10-11