I have been taught in my Christian circles to put my feelings in their proper place through the truth of God’s Word, the Bible, and I absolutely believe that to be valid and wise. My emotions are often a runaway train heading toward certain destruction, so pulling back on the brakes of those and letting the calm cool reason of truth smooth the track makes perfect sense to me and has served me well.
When I was diagnosed with cancer a year ago, this came in very handy. My mantra became life, not death; hope, not despair; truth, not lies. And those three handles kept me tethered solidly to God and not to my wildly roaming feelings.
However, sometimes God has used the remarkable to cement my faith as I cling with all my might to his grace and goodness. And in those times, he has let me know that my emotions matter to him.
A year ago, I found out that I had stage 3 ovarian cancer. The surgeon removed my ovaries, uterus, appendix, part of my colon, and part of my diaphragm in an effort to eradicate cancer from my body.
When I came out of surgery, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. I was so weak that I didn’t even feel particularly alarmed at the news of my massive surgery. I threw myself on God’s mercy and just wanted to rest and sleep. The really good news was that I had almost no physical pain. The only drug I had to be on was Tylenol.
I seemed to be recovering just fine when I began to throw up. My surgeon determined that I had a blocked bowel from the massive amount of swelling from my surgery. That meant that I had tons of waste floating around in my body, so I had a tube put down my nose to pump it out.
After more than a week of giving me no food or drink, the doctors thought it had worked and so they took the tube out, and I ate and drank. Unfortunately, it hadn’t worked and the whole thing started over again, and they had to put the tube in a second time. That was when I hit despair. We were just trying something again that hadn’t worked.
I told my husband to leave me alone and I went to sleep. I didn’t sleep long, but I immediately had the most vivid dream of my life. I was by a river and desperately wanted to get into it. I could hear children playing and it looked so inviting. But in my dream I was as weak as I was in real life, so I tried crawling toward it but collapsed still far from the shore. I felt exhausted and discouraged, but suddenly something, or more accurately someone, swooped in, picked me up, and plunged me into the river.
It was extremely exhilarating, like a magic carpet ride in and out of the river. It felt almost like an electric jolt through my body. I had never experienced a feeling like that in real life or the dream world. I was deposited on shore naked and covered in grime, and I had earthworms in my hands. In spite of that, I knew that something wonderful had happened. I knew that God had somehow intervened, but I had absolutely no idea what it meant. Yet, I wanted to tell everyone about it, so in my dream, I began looking for someone to tell. I saw two people in the distance, but I couldn’t catch them. Then I woke up.
The experience was so remarkable and real, that I was surprised it hadn’t really happened. I was definitely confused about the meaning, but I was extremely happy—a complete reversal from my mood a few minutes before when I was in despair.
It didn’t make any sense, but I felt God’s touch and it was enough. In my dream, the river hadn’t made me clean, so I didn’t know if it had anything to do with my health at all. I just knew that God loved me and had intervened remarkably to let me know so. Of course, I knew he loved me intellectually before that experience, but he allowed me the sweet gift of feeling that love and that was an incredible gift to me.
By the next day, I had definitely turned a corner. All my nurses kept commenting on it. So, I finally understood that my bowel was no longer blocked, and that God had unblocked it during that dream. The surgeon gave the order to take the tube out and for me to try to eat and drink again. When they handed me a glass, I was terrified. I didn’t want to drink it for fear that the nurse would have to put that tube in a third time. But my husband confidently said, “You know your bowel is no longer blocked.” His confidence gave me courage to drink and then eat.
I have had to face many difficult things in my life, and God has never intervened in such a remarkable and specific way before. But I am humbled that in my complete helplessness, he saw fit to miraculously help me. It gives me courage and hope as I face an uncertain future as I continue to battle cancer, because I know I am seen and heard.