I hardly know how to start this post.
There comes a time when life spills over the limits of words. That is where I find myself today. But perhaps moments like these aren’t for carefully crafted literary presentations. But instead, just honest, gut-level revelation.
For those of you who read Monday’s post, you know I’ve been in a not-knowing place these past five days or more. As of late Tuesday afternoon, I arrived a bit closer to an answer. Although I didn’t get the answer we’d hoped for.
The cancer is back.
Yes, I know. Hard to take. Just typing those four words saps a bit of my strength. How I wish I had different news for you. For me. For my precious children and husband. But there’s nothing to be done about it.
I’ve spent the past thirty-six hours trying to wrap my head (and emotions) around this new piece of my story. In a moment—the span of a single phone call—nearly everything about my life has changed.
I’ll spare you full-exposure of my medical chart, but here’s what these next couple months will look like. This morning, 8:30 AM, a PET scan. A few weeks from now, surgery. Followed by 2-6 weeks of oh-so-slow recovery. After that, a couple different treatment possibilities. I just don’t have all that information yet. In spite of the fact that it’s a recurrence, it’s a highly curable cancer with a good prognosis, as long as we tackle it. My biggest challenges will be the pain, multiple surgeries, and the potential it may limit my ability to speak and eat (both of which I’m rather fond of).
Now, let’s talk about you. YOU, dear friends, have become part of my greater family. Do you know how much I love you? How much your presence here, you’re willingness to read and share these words, have given me courage and purpose outside the reach of my circumstances?
You’ve given me life here. *Thank you.*
Many of you prayed. Face-on-the-floor prayed. And although I’m nearly to bursting with gratitude, I fear you’ll see this answer-we-didn’t-want as a failing of God to come through. That is why I need you to know what I believe about my story and yours, what I’m hanging onto with both hands, when we don’t get the answers we hoped for.
We are not alone in our unwanted answers. Long ago I stopped asking the question “Why me?” I used to, at every unwanted intersection. But I’ve spent enough time in third-world countries and with broken, devastated people in our own country to know the real question is not “Why me?” but “Why NOT me?” There is a vast ocean of unrequited pain in this world. Mine is just a drop in a terrible and beautiful community of suffering.
Unwanted answers are not evidence of God’s punishment. It’s tempting to “go there” isn’t it? Even those of us who believe in a loving God still feel a twinge of doubt when facing unwanted answers. Did I do something wrong? Did I not pray hard enough, believe deep enough, love true enough? Oh, friend. Sometimes rotten things happen. It’s just part of this flawed life. HEAR THIS: the child who died too young and the mama who battles cancer are not being punished for their lackings. Don’t. Even. God may be mysterious and unfathomable, but above all He is love. He will redeem ALL of this one day—every last wretched and heinous loss—and will take great pleasure in doing so.
The most powerful stories often begin with an unwanted answer. THIS. Oh, friends, THIS is our rainbow! There is something about intense suffering that produces unparalleled beauty. I’ve seen it time and again, in the lives of people I most love and admire. God does his best work in the impossible, and in people in impossible situations. It’s not something we wish for. But when we’re here, in the unwanted muck, it tranforms into a place of revelation and beauty and possibility unlike any other. I believe this to my bones, and I can’t wait to see the view.
Am I sad? Yes. I cried buckets of tears yesterday. It wasn’t pretty. Am I hopeful? Yes, buckets even bigger than the tears. There is something golden and worthy hidden within this story that I can’t uncover any other way. So I’m walking through.
Thank you for walking with me.
Have you ever faced an unwanted answer? What helped you walk through?
Praying for you!
Thank you, friend.
“The most powerful stories often begin with an unwanted answer.” Amen to that Michele. Praying for you too. The most beautiful thing in the world is to see God redeem the “hard” in our stories. Praying He reveals this to you in incredible ways. May He continue to give you eyes to see things from His perspective.
Yes, yes, yes! “The most beautiful thing in the world is to see God redeem the ‘hard’ in our stories.
Prayed for you this morning, friend.
A gift, and I’m grateful. Thank you, Michael.
I am so sorry to hear this news.
I have lived in this place of not getting the answer (the miracle) you wanted – still live it. My 12 year son, Andrew, was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer in ’09. He passed less than 4 months from the diagnosis. I wrestled with the things of God for months. I have come to know more of God in a place of suffering. Do I still have questions? YES! Do I still struggle with the suffering and in the grief? Every day. Do I trust God? More than ever. One day every tear will be dried, every crooked place made straight and every promise fulfilled. I have learned to wait.
Oh, Melanie. What a horrific loss. I can’t imagine your grief. Thank you so much for sharing a bit of it here … as well as your hard-earned wisdom and grace. It’s an honor to live this life with you.
Jesus, You see. We thank You that You see the beginning and the end, the past and the now and the future. We rest our stress in Your sovereign hands. Please bring HOPE (even more) to Michele and her family in tangible You-shaped ways. Provide beautifully, surprisingly. Be near, so very near. Sing songs over them. Enable that surgeon to get 100% of that awful tumor. Give Michele Your perseverance, Your tenacity, Your grit. Give her children peace. Calm their hearts. Thank You that Your shoulders are capable of holding this. Relieve Michele’s weary shoulders by taking her burden. We trust You. Amen.
This is beautiful. I will continue to pray alongside you for all of these things and more for sweet Michele.
Yes, Father God. Make it so. [thank you, dear mary]
You have been on my mind and heart this week. I have only just ‘met’ you, but I have prayed for as you have waited and now that you know some of what is to come. God is glorified in ALL things and this is how we can go on, knowing He pursues us, is with us, and carries us near to His heart:
“He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.” (Is 40:11)
One of my favorite verses. The heart of the Father.
I am drawn into your words…. your authenticity….your real faith walk… your hand in Jesus’…..:-) Thank you for writing… for sharing… for revealing. I know in writing, it is often for the writer as much as for the reader. That God meets us in the very putting together of honest sentences. I imagine David as he wrote the Psalms. Meeting Him in the words. Continue to write. To share. You have listeners but more so pray-ers. I don’t know you Michelle, but I am praying for you and thankful for your life today. 🙂
True, Mary. The writing of this post helped me walk (and cry) through yesterday. God does, indeed, meet us there. And somehow in the writing, he helps us unravel it, just a bit. Even absent any answers. Thank you, friend.
Oh, Michele, I am praying with you and for you–those words, that diagnosis is certainly NOT what any of us (i.e. me) wanted for you either. It seems the estrogen coursing through my body hurts more and more with each “It’s back,” or “I’ve got…” that I read. ((((HUG))))) You know thousands and thousands of us are praying for each of your sweet children as well as your husband—and, you, always.
I know, Julie. Me, too. Every time I hear of another grief or diagnosis or loss, my heart aches. I just want to cry, “When, God? When will you finally bring all this grief to an end?” He will, one day. For now we pray and love each other deeply in these unwanted places. You do this well. Glad I get to call you a friend.
Walking alongside those that are encouraging and prayerful helps me when I get unwanted answers. You’ve got an army, and I’m honored to be among them.
much love and admiration.
Love you, Sarah.
Oh Michele, you are so right and so blessed by this perspective. In His upside-down Kingdom, we are blessed when we are suffering and seeking Him for EVERYTHING. Because He. Is. Everything. Thank you for taking the time to share your heart and this part of your story. I am blessed to know you just a little bit and have a glimpse into your life and relationship with God.
Yes, an upside-down kingdom. It’s so hard some days, so “wrong. But there is good yet to be found and experienced. I believe it. Thank you for your sweet friendship, Erin.
I so love you, and your heart.
I keep thinking of how much more powerful God’s message has been spoken through you since cancer #1, and now that it’s back, I wonder, what other amazing things is God going to do to bless others through you. And then I think, it really stinks that the message has to come this way. And then I think again, who am I to say how God is supposed to speak?
So I pray, now that we know you have to walk this road, that God will just continue to do amazing things through you, and that the blessings that came the first time, will be even greater this time.
You are so precious, and I am so grateful that you share your story with such beauty and grace, and I’m even more grateful that you’re my friend.
You’ve walked with me through both. That alone is a priceless gift. Love you, D.
Thanks, Michele for being real with all of us. It may seem like a pat answer but after 26 years of marriage came to an end for me, I had to draw nearer to God. And He was THERE for me. As I walked through that, I fell in love with the books of Bob Sorge. My favorite is “Secrets of the Secrets Place”.
Praying for you and yours.
Michelle, my prayers are with you. You will succeed and be healed my friend and sister! Don’t ever doubt it! I am on round 6 (Monday) of 8 chemo’s and will face surgery in April, then radiation and more surgeries. I have no doubt of my healing – God has already shown me that. I just have to walk through it and know it. Sometimes He wants us to build up our faith to a whole new level.
I agree with you on not asking “why me” but rather “why not me?” That’s what I asked myself as well. Sometimes those answers we don’t want have a reason that we have to walk through it to find. It can be a painful walk, but still nothing in comparison to what Jesus endured for us!
God’s got this – know it and claim it! Praise Him in the hallway, as I know you will! Love and prayers!
I love your spirit, Kim! You are brave and strong and your positive outlook is inspiring. Keep fighting, girl! God is present and powerful!
Thank you for sharing your honest and raw human struggle, especially in a world where healing and perfection in life sometimes are offered up as the inalienable rights of all Christ followers. For in truth, illnesses happen. Evil exists. Suffering comes, even into just and holy lives. Yet by acknowledging your struggles, you have not admitted defeat. You’ve offered hope. Hope rooted in God who draws near to the broken hearted. May God allow you to drink in deeply of His presence and His love in all the days ahead.
Yes, true. Illness happens. Evil exists. Suffering comes. It does not have to define us, however. Thank you for your words, Anne.
Thank you for the privilege of accessing God’s Story through your story, Michele. Thank you for the beauty.
I’ve had many unwanted answers in my life. Some devastating like yours. What helps is exactly what you’re doing, looking for what is golden and worthy hidden inside the losses and pain, and remembering that some treasures, the rarest and most valuable ones, are only found by descending into an abyss.
And it’s always worth it for the treasure seeker. It must be so because good overcomes evil the way light overcomes darkness.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen. 50:20)
Yes, light overcomes darkness. Even the smallest flicker. Always.
Oh dear Michele,
I do so pray for you during this journey. And for your sweet kiddos. And supportive husband. Praying protection and encouragement from our all-loving Father. For all of you.
So thankful you are able to share this here and help so many. God’s light and grace shining through in the midst of the pain and disappointment.
Wish I were there to bring you a paleo-chocolate-yummy-goodthing. Just imagine it though. 🙂
Big Hugs from California,
I’m always up for paleo-chocolate-yummy-goodthings. 😉
You have prayers flowing your way as well as prayers for your family. Thank you for keeping all of us informed. We have walked this path with your dad and mom and our selves. Know that we will keep you in our prayers and we will continue to hold you up before our Lord and Savior.
John & Nancy Reffett
I’m just finding you and ‘meeting’ you, but praying along with you. I first went and read your post on waiting, and it so touched me. As I wait almost 7 years now for answers on where my missing brother is, I have so much of those same feelings. Waiting is hard. And now that you know, some things get harder, but new beauties of life will come too. Praying with you for peace and comfort.
Oh, Anita. I’m sorry. I can’t imagine seven years of not-knowing. Waiting is excruciating. Thank you for sharing a piece of your story here. With you.
What helped me walk through? Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! And of course praying friends, and support. I’d be honored if you have a chance to read my post – my first since John’s death – which I wrote yesterday, about trusting God when he “lets you down.”
I’ve watched you walk through, Kelly. And you’ve done so with honesty, grace, and deep faith. I admire you.
Your faith, bravery, and strengths are such a great testimony. My thoughts and prayers are with your and your family during this messy time.
Thank you, Jon. Grateful!
As I’m reading this heart felt post from you, I’m appreciating your candor, faith and hope. Many prayers are going out for you and your precious family. May his wonderfuland abundant grace surround all of you. You are such a blessing!
Now I will go on into the doctor’s office to follow up on my own appointment to see a surgeon about a lump, with your encouraging sentiments playing in my head.
Yes, God is good ALL the time.
Blessings to you.
Your words are profound, honest, and straight from your heart. Those are just a few of the reasons that God is using you in a way you never imagined through all of this!! I wish the answer had been different…..but rest assured that many are climbing this mountain with you and we won’t let you fall!! Praying for you my friend!
I feel your presence with me in this, Michelle. Even all the way from TX! Thank you, friend. Have I mentioned how grateful I am that our paths crossed?
I’ll be praying for you, for strength and favor that all will be well.
Do you remember my book, do you remember Next Genereation Photo Dynamic Therapy? They kill cancer without surgery. Please look it up. NGPDT is in China but worth the trip. God gave us light, He is the way, the truth and the light, please consider the options.
I’ve been following your journey and I’m saddened by this news. I’m sorry. But I also want you to know that I admire your bravery, your honesty, your faith. Be strong and you have a great support team and God on your side.
Thank you, Dan. Grateful.
Yes, Michele…as you know I have faced an unwanted answer. What helped me through was that God seemed to speak louder than my fear. Oh there were plenty of days of buckets of tears and anxiety high enough that I couldn’t stand a hug. But then, randomly it seemed, something would happen. I would turn on the television after tossing and turning the night away and hear another person’s story. I would be standing at the kitchen sink fretting and suddenly, peace that makes no sense would cover my shoulders like a cozy quilt. He sustains us. I know you know that. And like you, my questions about suffering have changed, although, when I heard your news yesterday I yelled out, “WHY!!!??” I think it’s a human question. I am seriously on my knees for you.
This flat out sucks! Praying hard for you and walking with you.
Well said, Lily. Well said. 😉
Oh, Michele, what an awe inspiring Jesus girl you are! Still praying for you that this shall pass soon and relatively painlessly. As a fellow cancer survivor, I understand the fear of recurrence. And as the Mom of a bipolar child who will probably always live with me and never be fully functional on his own, I get through each day by remembering how much I am loved by my Father. He must cry right along with us when we have suffering. We surely live in a fallen world and suffering happens to everyone eventually. It doesn’t negate our pain or make us rejoice, except that we know the end of the story! Victory! We are princesses, holy priests, blessed. You are so loved!
Debbie, you understand the reality of my life more than most. And yet you again and again reach out to encourage me. Do you know what a gift that is? I’m with you … so glad we have a fabulous end to this story!
Keeping you in my prayers. The Lord places you on my heart so many times during the day, so I just continue to intercede for you. Thank you for sharing your words, your story, you pain, your hope. Your words have helped me through issues we are going through here, and I have been passing it all onto my sister in law, Anne, who will be having a double mastectomy on March 6th. Please keep her in your prayers also. Your last post was so powerful, and so is this one, and I will be sharing it with her and my other friend, Amy, who is also battling cancer. He is the great physician, and now to Him who is able to do abundantly MORE than we could ever ask or imagine! In His love, Wendy xo
Hebrews 13:5 (AMP)–For God Himself has said, “I will not in any way fail you, Michele, nor give you up nor leave you without support, Michele. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless, Michele, nor forsake you, nor let you down, Michele….Assuredly not!”
Thank you so much for speaking God’s truths. I’m praying for you, your doctors, and your family. Hebrews is all about God removing the fire from our life, taking us through the fire to refine us, or taking us home through the fire. Your prayerful attitude is so beautiful.
Thank you for that, Michelle. I’m going to read Hebrews, again.
You will be in my prayers for strength and healing
Oh Michele..Just getting caught up on all this. I feel your pain. Definitely not the same circumstances of pain, but doesn’t pain feel the same? It can freeze you to the point you cannot move, it can exhaust you to the only energy you have left is to breathe, can create so much tears that you never even knew your body could produce so many of them! and then all there is left , is to wait on God, and watch Him move and carry you to where He wants you to be. I can’t take pain away, but I do know amidst the pain there are moments of laughter, moments of hope, and moments of pure acceptance. Praying for you and your sweet family. Carol
I know you understand the kind of pain that seems to tear you in two. Heart is with you, Carol.
Thinking of you all the time, inspired by you. Please reach out to all of us in how we can help. You have such a huge community so don’t hesitate. We love you!
Michele, You are in my prayers.
I am sorry to hear this news, but I thank you so much for the insight and honesty in this post. Praying for you!
Yesterday, I witnessed a bonafide medical miracle, Michel. God did the impossible! My friend was scheduled to have his leg amputated as a result of an accident. When the surgeon came out to talk to his wife, he told her, “… once again I don’t understand, I don’t understand the leg looks great today! I wouldn’t amputate a leg that looks this good.” She told him, “You are a great surgeon, but this is all GOD!!!” SO … today, I’m believing God for a miracle for you, Michele! “The Lord is near” (Phil 4:5 NIV).
“The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes!” —Psalm 118:23
I am so sorry to hear this Michele. Will continue praying for you. I am dealing with some difficult circumstances of my own and the devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young is really, really helping me through. If you don’t have this book, I can highly recommend it. God bless! You are a strong wise woman and I know you will persevere. Thanks for your honesty in your posts, it is a blessing to many of us.
A beautiful book. I’ve read it many, many times. Thank you, friend.
Dear, dear friend. I am so sad to hear this news. Yet I absolutely agree with you when you say “There is something about intense suffering that produces unparalleled beauty… God does his best work in the impossible situations.” For me, personally, I have felt the closest to God’s heart when I have been smack-dab in the ditch of anguish and sorrow and loss, head face down in the dirt, in tears. He DOES do His best work in us when we’re in those situations. It almost, in a very surreal and strange kind of way, feels like a GOOD place to be — even though, of course, we’d never choose such a place for ourselves.
God has a purpose in this – through this – for you, His dear child. He’s always had plans for you. Big plans. And He will continue to fulfill them through you, one day at a time. THANK you for sharing your journey of joys and trials with all of us who love you, Michele. Our daily prayers are with you. May Jesus be glorified through all of this. Thank you for reflecting Him in all that you say, all that you do. I love you.
Leah Ann. Yes, true. I just told someone today that it almost feels sweet or precious, this unwanted place I’m in. It’s beyond explanation.
I’ve thought of you more times than you know, as I remember the number of times you let me cry over the phone in 2010. Thank you for being with me then. And now. Love to you.
Wow. This is my first post I’ve read on your blog–and it is one of the most powerful posts I’ve ever read. You have articulated the mixed sorrow and hope that Christians face. Thank you for your honesty and hope. I am praying for you and your family. May Gods hand be very present to you in the coming months.
Nice to “meet” you, Nicole. That you would pray for a near stranger? THANK YOU. So glad we’re sisters, in this life and the next.
As you speak of God’s goodness, love, and hope in the midst of the authenticity of pain and tears, you give the rest of us permission – and strength – to do the same. I don’t know if you realize how beautifully you are living out 2 Cor. 12 for the rest of us to see. His grace is being shown as sufficient. His power is being made perfect as you share your own weakness. And in it all, I can see Him making you strong in your weakness. You are loved sister. Deeply. Loved. And you make me love Jesus all the more.
No words. Thank you, Keith. And thank you, Jesus, for the grace.
Please, would you consider sunridgemedical.com in Arizona…please.
Just a consultation, just a bit of time studying their website and video stories…
Insurance can be reimbursed close to 40-60, sometimes 80%.
There is a better way, than orthodox treatment, there is more wisdom available…
just not always in the mainstream medical community.
In Jesus’ Care,
Louise, a mother of six
I learned many years ago that what didn’t kill you only makes you stronger! My faith in God has carried me further that all the well-meaning friends and family ever could. I call adversity “tempering the steel” and I fully believe the path God has set me on is the right one. May God bless you and your family,and may His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven!
“Tempering the steel.” Love that, Nannie. Thank you!
Just met you today. Just when God knew I needed you and the wisdom you shared. Thank you. And, thank you, Heavenly Father, that You know us and our needs. Life is hard, but if we are His children, all is going to be ok!
Joining others in prayer for you, Michele.
Nice to meet you, Brenda!
Michelle, I have never been as close to God as when I walked through the valley of cancer. I had lost my mother after a 5 year battle and then I was diagnosed. I was 45 years old and I thought “This is it!” I had always had a strong prayer life and depended on the direction of the Holy Spirit through Jesus, but I started asking how? How am I going to get through this? How can I ask my family to do for me the things I had done for my mom? Jesus immediately brought me back to one day at a time and He carried me and my family through. It has been 15 years. I will say my life was changed forever.
I look at life different. God has given me many opportunities to share my experience. Do I still hate that C word, Yes! Do I think it will come again? I would not be surprised. But I thank God for today and ask What do you want me to do today?
I use to wonder why God let Paul spend so much time in prison; Paul wanted to be out preaching to the people. Don’t you know Paul laughed when Jesus showed him the Bible.
God has a plan. He will carry you through even the weakest time. He will shine through you as you walk through doctor offices, and treatment centers and He will take every step you take.
I will join all of the prayer warriors and you will know all the angels are around you.
In Christian sisterly love, Judy
I don’t know how to pray very well, but I have whispered a prayer for you today:)
Thank you, dear Veronica.
I was lead to you today and as I read your words I feel blessed to have found you. How strong you are and how faithful. I will be praying for you as you tackle this next challenge. And you will…
I will be praying for you and your family.
I am so sorry, dear friend. As usual, you are handling this with grace. Please know that Gail and I, like so many others, are holding you tight in our prayers.
You are such an encouragement and real with your life. Please know I am praying with you & your family. Be encouraged – Jeremiah 29:11 & love you my sister in God.
I will be praying for you. For strength. For direction. For wisdom. For guidance. For mercy. For grace. For opportunity. For peace. For comfort. For provision. For healing. In stressful times, scary times, disappointing and confusing times, the only thing that helps me is praying, trusting and reading our God’s Word. When nothing else can settle my heart, I get out my Bible and start looking up every single verse I can find relating to worry and fear. I should have them all memorized by now! I read them, I write them down and pray for Him to make them real in my life and I will pray the same for you! Big hugs and praying believing God has something wonderful in store for you! God bless!
As usual, God has the perfect timing. Thank you so much for sharing this about the what-if’s and thoughts of failure when you get an unwanted answer. My husband received an” unwanted answer” today and this gives such insight into the feelings. God is bigger than “this”. Praying for you on your journey and thanking God that you continually bless so many in your time of storm. God definitely sees our storms from the other side of them.
Father God, I pray for Melinda and her husband as they face an unwanted answer. Shore them up with truth and strength! Give them a perspective filled with hope and possibilty. And help them to see how wide, long, high and deep is your love, in ALL things.
I just read your blog today after reading what Renee Swope posted. My heart goes out to you. I am typing this to you because I want to give you MORE HOPE. I am a believer in our Lord Jesus Christ and know he directed our steps 16 1/2 years ago when our world was rocked when my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 terminal brain cancer. The good news is he is still here! It has been quite a journey but not the one you may think. I know you must get LOTS of emails, but I would like for you to hear how we can help you as you travel this journey. We have shared and guided many others down this road. There is no fee, but resources that we are happy to share. My husband and I have been married for over 23 years now and our kids are 21, 19 and 17. We feel God has given us another chance and we love helping others.
Michele, I so vividly remember your closing talk at Launch 2012. I literally was about to hyperventilate I was trying to hard not to audibly sob. Your story about cheering your son on so touched my heart. God has given you an amazing tenderness and ability to communicate to people. And I’m sure some of that has come from suffering. Count me on your prayer team. Praying God gives you “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”
Thank you, Jody. What an encourager you are! Thank you for reminding me of the good that comes even in suffering. Grateful for you.
Michelle, I am praying for you right now! Sending a big Hug! Ann
Prayers and God speed to you and yours. .Proverbs 3:5-6
I’m praying for you & your family. My heart goes out to you.
“God does his best work in the impossible, and in people in impossible situations.” THAT is truth to hang on to! Your words continue to give hope and inspiration to so many. Thank you for your ministry. You’re in my prayers, Michele.
Thank you, Gwen!
Praying for you, Michele.
Michele, thank you for being strong! As a cancer survivor I know.the numbness that comes from that phone call. As you have well said, God will make it good. I want you to know of the wonderful things that have come to my life through your work and ministry. Every Wednesday I listen to your podcast with Michael Hyatt and I am inspired and Am granted courage to do and be better in every aspect of my life. My prayers are with you and your family. I pray that the confidence we have together In Christ will overcome any fear, doubt or uncertainty. Daily prayers will be going to the throne room for you. God bless.