Three Things I Learned In My Journey through Cancer

This blog post is a special guest post by Denise Halloran. Denise was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in November of 2012 and shares some powerful lessons of God’s faithfulness and working in the post below.

Over the past ten months God has taken me on a journey through treatment for my ovarian cancer.

Early on in this journey, I decided to keep a notebook with the blessings that I have experienced during my cancer experience, filling in when I experienced a blessing or thought of something to be thankful for. I have since filled that notebook and the first half of another!

Here are three things that the Lord has pressed upon my heart during my cancer journey:

1. I learned how to wrestle with the Lord.

I had a week that I had no “good” days.  When I went to chemo I mentioned this to the nurse and he said that because my chemo was weekly that this was how it would be for the duration. I was about halfway through 18 weeks and in that moment I could not think of even one thing to be thankful for. I cried out to the Lord and told him that I would not be leaving that room without my blessing.  They would all have to go home and lock me in, but I was not leaving without it!

Then I thought of one thing to be thankful for: my friend, Melanie, had moved her mom the day prior, but would most likely get a text if I sent one. I also knew it was my daughter’s day off and she would also “be Jesus with skin on” for me.

Once that first blessing was identified, the dam broke!  I was flooded with thoughts of what I could count as a blessing.  The “garment of praise for a spirit of fainting” (Isaiah 61:3) is real!  The heaviness was lifted!

2. I learned the meaning of lament.

Both David and Job unapologetically cried out to the Lord for help and were so honest with Him. “The bad guys are winning and I’m stuck here living in a cave!  Where are YOU?”

Then they both completed their cries with a very important word: BUT.

BUT–this is Who the Lord is. BUT– this is what He has done. BUT–this is what He has promised He will do.

One especially bad day I couldn’t even get up off the sofa.  I did not have the energy to wrestle. I was so tempted to give in to despair…the heaviness was just too much.  I decided I could sing praise songs that I knew and once I began my feeble singing, they just kept coming!

I asked the Lord if he was requesting me to sing songs He wanted to hear—and that made me laugh!

Again the heaviness lifted.  My nose was still bleeding, my head still pounded and I was still gasping for each breath—but the heaviness was lifted!

It became the most precious time with my Lord I have ever experienced.

3. I learned how to really surrender.

Throughout this tough journey the Lord taught me to pray “Thy will be done” and really mean it stems from believing “to live is Christ and to die is gain”, thus making cancer a win-win situation for the believer. That is how I came to understand true surrender.

After my fourth and fifth rounds of chemo I became very anemic. That caused me to gasp for each breath as my diluted blood attempted to do its job. Both rounds ended with a blood transfusion and the following week my platelets got so low I had problems with spontaneous bleeding. My doctor said it was likely to be more of the same going into the sixth and final round.

The very day I woke up with the angst of facing that, my Charles Spurgeon Morning and Evening devotional reminded me that “not a valve or vessel is uncared for” by the Lord.  In that moment I realized that He would see me through, and peace came.

In His mercy, my sixth round of chemo was delayed for two weeks because my counts were taking a long time to come back up.  After I finally had the sixth round, the anemia and bleeding never happened!  God used what I initially saw as a delay to strengthen me for that sixth round!

Because of this whole process, my prayers have become a lot less about the words I say and much more about eagerly watching and trusting.

He is the God who hears each thought as a prayer and each cry or feeble praise I offer.  He sees each tear and wastes nothing; He uses my tears and blood and groans to make something beautiful.

Through this painful experience, this daughter of his has learned how to crawl up in her Father’s lap and bask in His presence!

Thankfully, God has helped me get through my surgery and chemotherapy, getting good news from the doctors thus far. Even though this journey has been difficult, I would not trade it for anything! It is often through the most difficult situations that the Lord imparts His most precious lessons.

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