I put off my decision on radiation for a while, waiting to hear from the Lord. It was a difficult wait, with mysterious health issues at every turn that doctors couldn’t figure out. Eventually, I was led to make an appointment with a radiologist, and so I did. It was great that I had waited! If I had gone immediately (as I’d been instructed), I would’ve seen a different radiologist. But, because I waited on the Lord’s timing, I had a radiologist who had taken the same treatment when he’d had a six-month-old daughter at home! So he knew better than most doctors (who would’ve spit out textbook answers,) that I needed to abstain from holding my children for long periods of time because I’d be emitting radiation. If I had acted immediately and saw the original doctor recommended to me, I would’ve held Lydia way too soon.
When I saw the radiologist, he told me he wasn’t sure I needed radioactive iodine. He said I was an intermediate case, and there was no way to tell if I still had disease in my body. It was entirely possible that surgery had removed it all or that cancer was still in my body. It was my decision.
I followed the pattern: I waited for the Lord again. After a couple weeks, He told me I still had microscopic disease in my body and I needed radiation.
Radiation proved harder than surgery.
The radiology team wheeled a metal box into my room, covered in biohazard and warning labels. They opened it, and there was the radioactive iodine pill. I took it and drank lots of water. I was confined in a room for 3 days. No visitors. Only medical personnel—and many of them came in with gowns, masks, goggles, and gloves because every fluid that came out of me was radioactive.
Within a couple of hours, the poison had taken over. It was so strong it was like something off of a movie: I would stand out of bed, and everything would jolt sideways. I had to brace myself against objects to walk; the dizziness was so severe I was almost blind. My stomach was churning and twisting and burning. I was so cold I scalded my skin in the shower trying to get warm, and I had the temp cranked up to 80 and blankets piled on me to feel somewhat comfortable. I got violently ill and prayed between heaves, but they came in rounds so quick and fierce I could only whisper “Jesus” before hurling again.
Vomiting was great; it was like the Lord’s way of removing the excess radiation I didn’t need. The radiology team measured the levels where I vomited, and it was reading quite high, so I was assured I’d purged a lot of it.
The next morning, I woke up swollen in the face. My salivary glands were so huge I looked like a chipmunk. Later that day, my tongue was scorched from the radiation and all of the lemon drops I’d sucked on, and it continued hurting for weeks.
It got easier after day two, and I went home after three days. Matt and the girls found me, and Matt lost his breath the second he laid eyes on me; something magical had happened to me with God during radiation, and he could see the difference in my eyes. Lydia (who was only seven months old,) took my extended absence hard. It was about a month before she trusted me again.
I had to stay in quarantine, away from my family, for an additional 4 or 5 days. This whole time, Matt was waking up at 6 a.m., packing up the girls and taking them to others’ homes before he went to work, picking them up, cooking dinner, and putting them to bed. (And he still found time to create homemade games on paper and fax them to me while I was in the hospital so we could play over the phone!) He was a single parent for a week. He did great, but I never want him to have to go through that again.
I had a radiation scan about ten days later, and they said I was cancer-free. (But the Lord had told me a couple of days before that!) One doctor wanted me to have a follow-up scan a year later before saying I’m cancer-free, but I’m not taking radiation again unless the Lord tells me to. Even a minuscule “tracer-dose” can do some heavy damage. (My life-experience on this carries far more weight than doctors’ book-knowledge.) Fortunately, blood tests and ultrasounds can do wonders for monitoring my health.
By the end of September, I was frustrated because I couldn’t hold my babies like I wanted to. One night in desperation, I fell on the ground crying out to the Lord that I wanted to hold my babies like a normal mom. I felt Him around me, I felt His care for me, and then I felt Him PULL the radiation out of my neck! There was a physical pop under my skin. When I went to the radiologist, they scanned my neck and my radiation levels were gone! (All they could detect was “background radiation” that’s everywhere.) Some were surprised, but not me! This is the God I roll with!
Since having radiation, I have gone through many trials with my health. That tiny gland in the neck does so much. If I get too far hypo- or hyperthyroid, I have ailments.
I’m not going to lie: I miss my thyroid, but those occasions are becoming fewer and farther between. I remember the person I used to be and see the person I am today, and I have thanked God for breaking me. I’ve learned that sometimes we have to lose something valuable to gain something precious. Since that moment, I haven’t missed my thyroid. I’m a hard-headed, strong-willed person, and it would’ve taken something powerful to snap me out of myself. God didn’t give me cancer, but He did bring good out of it. And if I hadn’t listened to Him, if I hadn’t said yes to Lydia or submitted myself to Him in prayer, I might not have discovered in time that I’d had cancer. Papillary thyroid cancer is rarely fatal, but my case was more aggressive than doctors usually see. It could had spread through my lymph nodes, and it could have spread throughout my entire body. I might’ve died of cancer in my mid-40s like my mother did.
Another believer once said that when someone makes the decision to fully commit and submit to God, they go through a wilderness period–a trial or hardship that teaches them how to trust Him. Again, God didn’t give me cancer, but He did use it to make me a better person. Before cancer, I was selfish, and fear was my strongest driving force. I didn’t understand how much so. But now, my prayer is answered: I am as fully dependent upon God as I can be, and that dependency grows each day as He leads me in faith.
Michelle ~ “We love Him, because He first loved us.” — 1 John 4:19
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