“There are three words I did not want to hear and never thought I would hear. ‘You have cancer.’ My heart sank. Tears started. I had no words. I didn’t know what to think. I was stunned. What do you say?”
Those are the words Abby heard in a doctor’s office in October 2016.
That night in bed Abby said, “I let the tears go. I was crying and asking God, 'Why me?' Then, without skipping a beat I said to God, “Let me glorify you through this journey you are taking us on. May I shine my light for You that others may see You through me.”
Abby and her husband Jeshua have three young children. They began attending New Covenant back in 2010. As a young active family, cancer was the last thing they thought they’d have to face. Yet God showed up and Abby’s relationship with Jesus gave her the will to push forward. But emotions are real, and she experienced the full range.
“Was I angry? You bet I was! Was I sad? Yep. Was I scared? For sure! I’ve never been so scared in my life! Did I have doubts? Of course! But I knew that God WAS and IS always for me and not against me.
"My life verse has always been Jeremiah 29:11. 'For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.' Since my diagnosis, I have added Jeremiah 29:12-13. 'Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'”
By Thanksgiving, they knew what kind of cancer Abby was dealing with. The long version is well-differentiated neuroendocrine tumors (For short, NETs or Carcinoid). It is a slower growing type of cancer. This cancer does NOT have a cure.
Abby and Jeshua were ready to get that primary tumor out and start moving along on the treatment train. But their excitement was dashed. The surgeon said while he’s able to do the surgery, it’s too risky. So new plan; oral chemo.
Abby began the exhausting grind of chemotherapy. At the beginning of April 2017, her follow-up tests revealed, to their surprise, the cancer had actually INCREASED instead of decreasing. Optimism was shattered. A clinical trial of an un-approved FDA drug seemed the best option in Houston, Texas – where they have a Right to Try act allowing the drug to be administered. They knew they wanted to act quickly so the cancer didn’t have a chance to continue to grow.
“Since this treatment wasn’t FDA-approved, we had to pay for the medication out-of-pocket. That was overwhelming and made me feel like I was becoming a financial burden for my husband. But God put us in an amazing community of believers. He blew us away with the amount of money people were willing to donate to us. God provided more than we could have ever imagined. We were blessed. All the treatments and travel were covered by our brothers and sisters in Christ. Prayers had definitely been answered regarding our finances.”
And finally! Prayers for the Houston treatments to work were answered! Each treatment continued to kill cancer cells and when complete, Abby’s tumor burden decreased from 60-70% to 20-25%! It was amazing.
Fast forward to June of 2018. Abby was ready for surgery to remove the tumor. Recovery was long but she made it!
Abby said, “Today I am NOT cancer-free, but I am leading a somewhat normal life. The doctors believe they turned back the clock about five years. I praise God for that. I am NOT my cancer. In the midst of all of my treatments and appointments, I chose joy. I chose to surrender control of my life.”
Abby found that God is faithful and God is always for her. Abby explained, “God’s Word, friends, and family helped me find joy, peace, and my fire. Community came around us like we had never experienced before. God showed us His goodness and how much our church family cared about us despite not actually knowing us personally.”
This journey has changed this young couple in many ways. “We strive now to be that community for those in need. God has moved us to give in ways we would have thought twice about before. We are learning to trust Him more and more each day. So many have served and continue to serve and bless my family in small ways. Now, it’s my turn to serve and bless others. I may not be able to serve every need that comes along but God sends us ways to serve that I can manage!”
"My theme verses this year are Romans 12:11-13; Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality."
Abby shared her journey with cancer this spring at our Mothers of Preschoolers ministry. May you be challenged and encouraged by God’s faithfulness and love, and the power of community.