My Cancer Is Back But I’m Still Trusting the Lord

Tonia Harrison-thumbnailWhen you hear the words, “The breast cancer has spread to your liver; you are now Stage IV”, your world and life as you know it are changed forever. You are faced with a crisis of belief and your faith is tested.

That was my experience in August, 2013. During the next year, I would undergo 20 rounds of chemo, 32 radiation treatments and an ablation of the lesion on my liver. In April, 2014, I was considered to be in remission.

While in active treatment, I read a quote by Oswald Chambers: “A crisis doesn’t make a person; it reveals what they are already made of.” My crisis certainly revealed what I was made of – some areas were good, some needed work.

Here are three truths that were confirmed to me at that time:

1) God’s promises are personal. I’ve always admired the Bible characters who acted in great faith during their own crisis of belief because they clung to God’s promises like Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Paul. But I never needed to claim these same promises as my own. My crisis didn’t create this truth, I already knew it and just needed to put it into action.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart (and body) and my portion forever.  Psalm 73:26

2) God’s presence is permanent. How many times had I heard and even said myself, “God’s with you; you don’t need to be afraid.” I must be honest; this crisis tested my faith on this truth. There were days and nights when I questioned and couldn’t feel God’s presence through the physical and emotional pain. Did that mean He wasn’t there and had abandoned me in my greatest time of weakness? No. Instead His promise was revealed that although He didn’t remove my pain, He was there going through it with me.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Deuteronomy 31:8

3) God’s peace is perfect.  Isaiah 26:3 says, You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you. I was reminded of this truth and promise on several occasions. When you are in active cancer treatment, your calendar fills up quickly with doctor appointments, tests and scans. It’s those days between the test and waiting for the results that can cause the greatest anxiety. It is in these times that your mind can go in a million directions of “what if’s?” You can’t let your mind wander; it must be steadfast on God and His goodness and perfect peace at all times.

Tonia Harrison and Her family
Tonia Harrison (c) and her family.

My crisis didn’t make me who I am, it just revealed and reminded me of what I already know in my heart to be true. What about you? When you’re faced with a crisis of belief, whether it be physical, spiritual, relational, emotional or financial, what does it reveal about what you’re made of?

On April 15, 2015, my faith was tested again when I was told the cancer was back on my liver and that this time it is “not curable, only treatable.” These words can shake your world and trigger a sense of hurt and hopelessness.

My first reaction was anger; not at God necessarily, but at the cancer itself. I was just getting my life back to “normal.” I was a survivor. I had fought cancer and won. I was an overcomer. But on that day in April, all those “victories” meant nothing.

The truth that has been revealed to me now is that this battle is not mine to fight! God’s plans are to prosper me and to glorify Himself and not for me to question or try to control. I Chronicles tells us of the children of Israel crying out to God: They were helped in fighting them (their physical enemies) because they cried out to him during the battle (5:20a).

I don’t know what battle you may be fighting right now or how confident you feel in defeating your “enemies”; I can only speak for myself. And I’m saying, I’m done fighting a battle I have little to no control over. I once thought I was strong enough to fight this enemy of cancer on my own. Being an experienced veteran of this nonsense, I believed I knew what to do, how to think, what to say, how to feel, etc.

That’s so not the case! I am in a battle with an enemy that is determined to destroy me. I have no control on what it does to my body. It’s not like heart disease or obesity where you can change your lifestyle and you are cured. Sure, I can eat better, think positive thoughts, pray for healing, but in the end it is God’s battle to fight, not mine (I Chronicles 5:22a).

I have cried out to Him in the middle of this battle because I know He’s going through it with me and I know He hears my cries.  I also know that God will have the final say of when and where I am healed; here on earth or in heaven; but He will heal me. So have I given up? Not at all, but I have given up using my precious energy trying to beat something bigger and badder than me and trusting God to do the fighting.

Instead, I am concentrating on living! I am determined to make the most of my good days to do the things I want to do, go the places I want to go and be with the people I want to be with. I try not to (but it’s not always easy) wonder and worry how this battle is going to end but rather fix my mind on God’s perfect peace, taking control of what I can and being grateful for the blessings I have in this present moment.

Are you trying to fight a battle you have no control over? Do you trust God enough to let him handle it? Don’t waste your time and energy stressing over the outcome. Drop your weapons and cry out to God knowing that He hears and have faith that He will answer in His time and in His way. Enjoy what is happening around you today; for tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us.

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.  Exodus 14:14

 

 

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18 Comments

  1. Tonia,
    You are such a strong person and I am so honored to call you my niece. Your story is bittersweet and I pray that others who read it, that are struggling, will gain from it. I am not good with words at all but want you to know that I think of you often and pray with you that the Lord will bless you as he works out his plans for you. I love you so much, you are my “Tonka”. Your loving aunt Linda.

  2. Tonia, I’m sending this note not only from me but Uncle Gary as well. He was so choked up he couldn’t respond to you but can see how he has to put Phyllis in God’s hand and not become so stressed out.

    You are doing a wonderful thing in putting your witness forward; you may not realize who you touch in these trying times, both physical and mentally.

    We love you and know God has a plan for you….Dad?MOM

  3. Tonia, I’m not sure if you remember me, but I am June Newton’s son. Your words are powerful. I’ve been a hospice chaplain for the past 8 years and I am well aware of the presence of God in all areas of our lives. Is there anything more I can do? I know you have felt the feeling of helplessness as we all do as we call on God to do what God does best and take care of His children when all we want is for that evil of cancer to be gone. You are in my heart and in my prayers. Phone is 708-250-9513.
    Blessings and love,
    Joe

  4. I have few words to say ,but that I’m blessed by your faith and transparency. You are in my prayers, as I have a covenant relationship with the Curtis family. Just as David took Jonathan’ s son into his home, when a member of the Curtis family needs prayer our Savior places a burden of intercession on my heart. To God be the glory and may you be blessed beyond measure! You are so precious in His sight.

  5. Oh Tonia, I will keep you in my prayers. As the new widow that I am, I am aware of so many dear ones struggling with health issues–God’s way of keeping my mind off of myself and on to others. I must tell you through Tom’s dementia and quick deterioration He told me he talked to God all the time. Now that I know he is at home with the Lord and I am the one God left here, I have to trust in God’s hand and His plan and trust and obey. I have only now completely realized that the only relationship I will have eternally is my relationship with God. All others are only given to us for an ordained number of days. Always know God is good, even if as I often told Tom: “This illness is your ticket to heaven.” Glad to hear you have decided to rest in His care for you. Love, Becky

  6. This is such an encouragement to me! Thank you for allowing God to use you in the midst of your battle to minister so effectively to others. I am in one of those in-between times – past a medical crisis for today, but unsure as to what lies ahead. But, although it is the unknown to me, I believe right down to my toes that God has walked ahead of me, that He wants the very best for me, and that, through my surrender, He will use this challenge for something far bigger and better than I can understand. Like you, I am focusing on living in the day and refusing to allow fear and uncertainty to steal my joy. May He continue to be your all in all and give you inexplicable peace. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Hi Tonya,

    Great to hear your positive words and loving heart. Sure wish God would give you some rest from that “devil”, but I know how strong you are and how much you love your family and friends. So, you do have a lot to be thankful for and I know God is beside you always. Continue to live your life as we all know that we have just so much time, and you’re probably getting it all and don’t realize that God is helping through the difficult times in your life. You are a great example to us all and I’m praying for you still, so no changes here. God Bless you and thanks for the update. Will watch for your remission message, soon. Love and hugs, Fran

  8. Wow!! What can I say? You have touched my soul very deeply. I feel that my struggles as a Cerebral Palsy(fighting for my identity in “the normal world”) is so shallow compares to your struggles.Your words are so pofoundly deep,and your faith, oh Lord thank you that it is not about me or people, but about how deep you come through the story. And yes Tonia,your amazing words came through with such power. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Would love to keep in touch with you. Blessings, June.

  9. Tonia, You are truly an inspiration to all of us. The battle IS the Lord’s. As we grow in His grace, that becomes more of a reality. May God continue to bless you.

  10. Tonia,
    This is amazing and beautiful! Lee sent it to me today. The timing is perfect and I will be sharing this with 3 people I know who are in a battle right now, one of which is my sister. You are a beautiful soul and will bless many with your words. Sending you hugs and continued prays and may God Bless you forever and always!
    (I am Lee Barclay’s wife in case you wondered.)

  11. My beautiful cousin, thank you for the rare glimpse into your thoughts. Your words are true and well thought out… Heartfelt and centered in Gods truths. Not a day goes by that god doesn’t touch my heart to pray for you… You are loved as the daughter of the Most High God.

  12. Tonia: You are a blessing to others as you share your experience and your strength in this battle. You’ve put into perspective that which most are not able to do. Thank you for that. God Bless you.

  13. that is very inspiring. Your faith is tremendous. I am praying for you in this battle but we know you already won the major battle against the enemy.

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