Often times, we think we can plan out our life.
My plan went something like this: go to college, then go to graduate school, find Mr. Right, get married, have two kids, and happily juggle my career with my perfect planned out life.
Life was going just as I had planned until I was diagnosed with cancer.
Gestational trophoblastic disease. Say what? This is a rare, pregnancy-related cancer that can develop in women who have experienced a molar pregnancy. In my case, I had a complete molar pregnancy. A fetus did not develop and the placenta grew abnormally. It was not a viable pregnancy. Vaginal bleeding and nausea triggered a visit to the ER on a Sunday morning in April 2015 where I received this shocking cancer diagnosis.
My husband and I had been trying to get pregnant with baby #2. Our son had just turned four and according to my plan, it was time to have another baby. The universe had something totally different in mind for my life. At the age of 37, I had to face the reality that instead of having a baby, I would now be faced with navigating the surreal experience of a cancer diagnosis. As my four-year old would say, “You have got to be kidding me?!!”
While my prognosis was excellent, the journey through cancer would shatter my hopes for another child as I underwent several rounds of chemo without success. Surgery—a hysterectomy—was our next line of defense. After 10 rounds of chemo and surgical intervention, I emerged with an official stamp of remission and a grateful heart for God’s grace, healing of my body, and a renewed purpose for my soul.
While I will never understand why I got cancer (does anyone ever?), I do understand that it had a purpose in my life. Instead of cursing my cancer diagnosis, I embrace it completely, wholeheartedly, without abandon. Through the despair emerged a passion for life, compassion for others, and spiritual strength that would have been unattainable if my life would have continued according to my plan. Perhaps it was the moments of fear that brought me to my knees, or the appreciation of good health that I was suddenly so acutely aware of. Or, maybe it was the outpouring of genuine love and concern that I received from family, friends, neighbors and even strangers that ignited a desire to let go of my plans and let God lead.
Although my dreams of having another baby were unfulfilled, I realized that I could be bold enough to ask God to place another dream in my heart. After being so fixated on my life plans for so long, I never would have thought to ask for another dream to be placed in my heart. But, sweet friend, I learned that His plan for my life is so much bigger and better than anything I could have ever dreamed or imagined. It took a cancer diagnosis for me to experience this. If your dreams have been devastated by a cancer diagnosis or other life-altering event, ask God to place another dream in your heart. Be bold. Be courageous. Keep living.
I was so grateful to be surrounded by people that sprung into action to help when I was going through treatment and recovering from surgery. I appreciated that my peeps just sprung into action. They did not wait for me to ask. Even if you’re going through something yourself, be the blessing someone needs. Make them a meal. Sit with them in silence. Send them a card. Take them ice cream. Just. be. there.
Even if you don’t consider yourself to be religious or you don’t go to church, you can still give a shout out to God. Pray. Ask God for strength to get through the difficult days or whatever you need to make it through each minute, each hour, each day. If you’re not the praying kind of person, no worries. Others around you will be praying for you. That is guaranteed.
These days, I feel like a passion for life has been re-ignited. I boldly ask for more. While I never would have picked this path for myself or planned the past eight months of my life around a cancer diagnosis, I do have to say: Dear Cancer. Thank you.
Author: Rosalinda DiTommaso
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Nic McPhee