Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
The year 2013 was marked by a long, difficult race God called me to run.
I had no idea how my story was going to turn out or what life would look like when my treatment was over. I was not confident that the cancer would be gone, or that the treatments would work. I had no idea what to expect or how life would change. I wondered if the side effects from chemo and radiation would be lifelong. I wondered how this would impact my family. My husband. My kids. I worried about the future constantly.
When I finally crossed the finish line of treatment, I knew in an instant that I was called to write my story down.
It was in that moment, in a quiet patient room at the Mayo Clinic, after an exhausting day of scans, tests, and bloodwork, that I knew in my heart I had to pick up a pen and write. I wasn’t sure I even knew how, but I was convinced that God would give me the tools I needed to accomplish the task.
In my book, Strength to Run: Hope and Strength in the Race of Suffering, I share my very real and intense battle against a disease that showed up without a warning.
No pain. No symptoms. No elevated numbers or cancer markers.
Only what appeared to be a harmless lump in my neck. This sneaky disease called cancer quickly moved in and tried to take over. It brought with it uncertainty, fear, doubt, worry, anxiety, and pain. Soon after beginning my chemotherapy and daily radiation treatments under a scary, white plastic mask, I could no longer swallow. I could not eat. I could hardly speak. I soon relied on a feeding tube to stay alive. I was weak, malnourished, on high doses of heavy-duty pain medication, and fighting for my life.
All of the sudden, I couldn’t do what I loved the most, which was take care of my family.
Suddenly, I needed help with nearly everything. I was no longer able to plan and prepare meals. I couldn’t clean my house or do laundry. I couldn’t go to some of my kid’s activities or pick them up from practices. I couldn’t help them with homework and I couldn’t plan their birthday parties. There were many times I couldn’t even stay awake. I was vulnerable. I had to allow others to help…and, wow, did they! Before long, I had an army of family members, friends, and even strangers in the community that jumped in. So many people ran this race alongside our family during this time and often carried me when I couldn’t run…or walk on my own.
Coming to the end of myself certainly changed things, and cancer changed my perspective.
The race against cancer has changed my life. It has opened blind eyes. It has softened my heart. It has broadened my understanding of suffering and is helping me to see others’ needs in an entirely different way. It has given me a new depth of compassion for others who are hurting. I can now offer compassion and hope in a completely different way than I could before. As a speech/language pathologist, many of my patients are fellow cancer survivors. Many have residual complications, swallowing disorders, are unable to eat, or are on a feeding tube for various reasons. Many are suffering alone, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of my experience with cancer, I am now better equipped to truly help them. I can help inform and support my patients as they learn to navigate their particular journey, because I have been there. I am now better able to listen to and encourage them in whatever race they are running. I represent HOPE.
My cancer “race” has taught me that sometimes what we think is our biggest problem or set back can turn into God’s greatest opportunity to draw us closer to Him, and to be used in ways we least expect. I have learned that pain, difficulties and suffering are never wasted, and our faith often grows when things get hard. I know mine has.
My story is one of hope and can be an encouragement to anyone going through something difficult.
We all experience hard things. My book has deeply touched some of its readers and given strength to people dealing with challenging events in their lives—not just cancer. My journey also showed me just how much we need each other when life gets hard. I learned that it is okay to accept help from others. It is my heart’s desire and hope that my very imperfect story will strengthen and encourage you in whatever trial you are facing.
This story is not one of individual achievement or perseverance, but one of complete and utter reliance on God’s perfect provision for me and my constant need for help. It certainly wasn’t glamorous or neat, and the finish line seemed to move on me all the time. I was forced to be patient and to trust. It is my hope that I continue running this race called life in the best, most purposeful, God-honoring way that I can.
You can find my story of hope at:
Laura is a wife and a mom who enjoys life in the beautiful mountain town of Flagstaff, Arizona. She is a speech/language pathologist who loves her job and enjoys impacting the lives of both children with disabilities and adults in a skilled nursing setting. She is also a survivor of metastatic Stage IV nasopharyngeal cancer and now an author. She loves sharing her story to help others.