As promised, here’s my speech from Christmas Eve. It will also be in the Cochrane Alliance website for anyone that wants to listen to it.
Pastor: Tiffany, you’ve been through quite the year, dominated by cancer. Tell us about that and how you thought God might use it for good.
First of all, I’ll just give you some background. I have a soft spot in my heart for hurting and lost people so…
a few years ago I prayed that God would use me to show people how much Jesus loves them even if it meant that I would have to go through something difficult. When I discovered a lump on October 24 of last year I was pretty sure what path I would be headed down and that it would somehow be used to tell people about the good news of Jesus.
at that time I had three thoughts go through my mind that I felt were from God. this is cancer. I don’t want you to research or stress and you will die at 33 from this disease. I was turning 33 in a few weeks.
I went in to my Doctor a couple weeks later Who sent me for an ultrasound right away even though I had zero risk factors. the ultrasound tech told me they wouldn’t give me a mammogram unless they deemed it necessary and they gave me a mammogram within minutes of the ultrasound. the radiologist then came in and said we think this is something really bad and we are sending you for a biopsy. I looked at him and said I think I’m going to puke😀 i knew that’s what was coming but I was still scared of the unknown. I had the biopsy and the results came in a week later that it was cancer. The next step would normally be surgery but the surgeon informed us that the cancer was too far gone to do surgery. it had spread to my lymph nodes…and was continuing to spread as we were going to all of these appointments. needless to say we were anxious to get the process going. We met with the oncologist who told us that this was a very aggressive cancer and diagnosed me as stage III.
The next 8 months provided a host of treatments to get rid of the cancer.
It started with the most powerful IV chemotherapy they had and I got some pretty awful side effects from that including your usual hair loss, nausea, headache and extreme exhaustion which lasted for 10 days out of every 2 week cycle.
chemo ended March 16 and it was very bittersweet for me. I was glad to be done it but really loved the time I got to spend with my husband at what I called our “chemo dates”
Next up was surgery. they removed the rest of the tumour and 24 lymph nodes, two of which still had cancer in them. I was sent home with 2 drains poking out of my side and a strict order from my surgeon to move my arm a lot! I couldn’t even lift my hand off my leg! I had a month to recover from that and then started oral chemo meds and radiation at the same time which offered up their own list of side effects including 3rd degree burns. but thankfully no pain because I was still numb from surgery!
all treatment ended November 8 of this year which was exactly one year from my first doctor appointment.
At this point, I just have the ongoing issue of tiredness and swelling in my arm (for which I get to wear this lovely garment for the rest of my life-a compression sleeve) and I’ll be getting CT scans every three months for the next two years as my oncologist says I’m still high risk for it to return. I’m thanking the Lord for continued peace on that one as that is still a bit scary.
Pastor: Tiffany, you told me that God have you some gifts during this time. That’s weird! Tell us more about that.
Me: after remembering all of the physical symptoms over the year I can see how it was really awful but this year was one of the best years of my life all thanks to God. physically, yes, this was the worst year of my life but that cannot possibly compare with the fact that it’s been the best emotional, mental and spiritual year of my life. God gave me so many gifts and blessings and I would love to tell you about every one of them in detail but Jason is only giving me three minutes so I’ll have to settle for telling you about my top 3!
when I first felt God’s spirit telling me that this was cancer and that I would probably die, the Lord washed me over with feelings of peace, joy and hope that have never left me this entire year. I can count on one hand the number of times that I cried out to God in sadness. one time in particular I was thinking about what life would be like for Jon losing me and raising the kids on his own, what life would be like for the kids to grow up not even remembering their mom who they spent every day of their life with, what it would be like for my parents to watch their little girl die when that is not supposed to be the order of things and then I thought about myself not getting to grow old with my husband, watch my kids get married or see what they would become in life. Even though those were real emotions that I was having, the overwhelming feelings that I had were the peace joy and hope. I can’t describe to you how amazingly blessed I feel that the Lord would give me such gifts during a time like this. I had such deep feelings of peace that no matter what happened the Lord had it all under control. I completely trusted Him knowing that his plan was the best plan. I remember one time Jon and I were sitting at a restaurant in Canmore after I had just had some kind of scan and I looked out at the mountains and said “God created these huge mountains and he can move them.” I just knew that if He wanted me to survive then it didn’t matter how bleak the circumstances looked he could do it and if the plan was for me to die then there was a greater purpose in that, that we just couldn’t see.
the peace That he gave me was exactly what is talked about in the Bible verse when it says “the peace that passes all understanding”. it’s hard to imagine until you’ve experienced it but it’s real and it’s amazing.
the joy that he gave me was in comprehensible as well. I was so joyful that it felt like it was bubbling out of me! I was so excited by the fact that I felt God had chosen to use me to tell people about his love and that’s why I feel that he gave me the gifts he did. to show people that he is real, he is powerful, he loves us to a depth we could never understand and he hurts when we are hurting. but that doesn’t mean that he will always fix the situation like we would want him to. when you have the joy of the Lord it no longer matters what the circumstance is or what the results are. it doesn’t make any sense to be joyful during a time like this but I can assure you that I was.
The gift of hope that he gave me is a gift I’ve probably had for a long time but it came to the surface because death was roaring it’s head in front of me and I instantly grabbed on to what I’ve always known and that is the hope that can only come through Jesus and knowing who’s got your back during hard times in this life but also knowing where you’re going if you were to die and I have the hope of both of those.
Pastor:what would you say to someone needing hope tonight?
Me:I would say to any of you that Jesus is the answer to all of your challenges. there’s no other hope to find but in him. that doesn’t mean that when you put your trust in Jesus everything goes perfectly. Christian’s still experience struggles. I struggled for five years before this with having small children but I never gave up on Jesus and he never gave up on me. while I rarely experienced the feelings during that time, like I have had this year, I always knew God was with me, that he deeply loved me and he cared about the hurt that I was experiencing.
I don’t know what any of you are going through or if any of you are faced with the thought of death but I had started to plan my funeral and had written Jason a note of exactly what I wanted him to say. I was not only at peace with dying but I was excited about it because I knew where I was going based on a decision I made years ago to ask for Jesus forgiveness and fully trust and believe in him as the one and only saviour. I wanted everyone to hear about Jesus love and his plan to save them because there is nothing that shouts out hope more than that! but now I get the privilege of sharing that hope with you while I’m still alive instead. that is so exciting to me. The hope that I have does not come from knowing God will heal me in this life, the hope that I have is knowing I’m walking this life with God present and loving me through every difficult situation as well as knowing that when this life ends for me I will be in heaven with God. now that is hope! that is amazing news! that’s why Christian’s say the story of Jesus is good news. we can have a relationship with God by accepting that Jesus is God’s Son, born to die for our sins- all of your sins-it doesn’t matter what you’ve done wrong-so that we could not only live in heaven with him but have a vibrant life here on earth! that’s true love and that’s what God did for you and me. I have made the conscience choice to walk this life with God and i can tell you, it is much better than without Him.
There is great hope in this baby that we’re celebrating tonight.
Oh, And one more thing, as for the dying at 33, I just celebrated my 34th birthday!
I don’t have time to tell you what I think about that but if you want to read more about my journey you can look at my Facebook or blog for that info.