On the shock and the blessings


I have cancer.

Just writing those words…

It seems crazy. Silly. Fake and unreal. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I’ve said them in the last ten days…

To nurses, and hospital technicians. To close friends. To my parents. To members of the church and school community here. To friends on the other side of the world. To my hairdresser. To strangers. To my children.

It feels like they belong to someone else.

But they belong to me now. I have cancer.

On April 18, we got the news. Neuroendocrine carinoid tumours. Cancer, in my appendix and metastasized to my pelvic wall. Two tumours removed. More to go looking for.

This kind of cancer is rare, and the average age of diagnosis if 65. I’m 28.

This kind of cancer grows slowly (good when dealing with cancer!) but that makes it sneaky. It’s usually misdiagnosed, and found by accident, when looking for something else. That’s how they found mine – we were looking for endometriosis. They found a little endometriosis. They found a lot more cancer.

On average, this cancer is found after 3-5 years. Based on the size of one of my tumours, and it’s rate of growth, we estimate I’ve had it for 8-10 years.

Years of cancer. Years of walking around with this growing, oh so slowly. Years of never quite being all the way well and never quite understanding why. Now we know.

There is comfort in that. Validation. I wasn’t just weak, of crazy, or lazy, or whatever else my hypercritical self threw at me. I was sick, I was unhealthy, there was something wrong.

There is shock, and there is grief.

There is also relief. We have an answer.

Coleman asked my worst fear, before I went in for surgery to look for endometriosis. I told him that my worst fear was that they wouldn’t find enough endometriosis to explain my symptoms, but that they also wouldn’t find anything else, and that I would just go on being ‘not well’, getting sicker and sicker with no explanation.

I’m so glad they found it. I’m so grateful we know.

I do much better with a plan, able to face things head on and move forward. I do really well in crisis mode. Major emergency? I’m the girl you want next to you. I function fantastically in the immediate, the short term. The long fight? I guess we’re about to see how I hold up.

There is hope and joy and peace.

They come in moments of intense gratitude, of humbling awareness of the hundreds of people holding us in prayer, people who love us. They come in moments of focused time with my children, watching them work and play and love. They are in my husband’s eyes, full of compassion and sorrow and grace, as he looks at me and as we look together towards the Lord. I see the Lord’s eyes reflected back in his gaze and know that God does not will this – this cancer is not from Him and it is evil – and I see already the blessings that He is bringing about by allowing it.

I am more patient with my children. More intentional with my time and energy. More loving with my husband, kinder (I hope!) to the world around me. I pray that God make me slower to anger, quicker to bless. More patient, more loving. In short, more like Him!

And I see it in the responses and reactions of those around us – the love and grace poured out on us, the compassion. If there is one thing you can do for me, dear readers, it is this: let God use this for good. Let Him use the awful thing to make beautiful things. Beautiful moments, beautiful relationships, beautiful grace.

Thanks for walking through this with me.

– Anne Grace

Here’s the song playing in my head while I wrote this post. (Beautiful Things, by Gungor)


7 thoughts on “On the shock and the blessings

  1. Anne:

    We have never met. Your words, however, fill me with awe and admiration.

    One of Swedenborg’s Rules of LIfe is: “Be content with God’s providence and its dispensations.” Your post suggests that you are doing this,

    I love this Rule of Life. It brings peace, It allows you to see beauty in life. But it is not easy. You have to put aside your the hopes and dreams of your ego and allow the Lord lead. The thoughts you share direct us to this higher good.

    “May the Lord Bless you and keep you,
    May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
    May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”
    Num. 6: 24-26

  2. Hi Anne,
    Just wanted to let you know that I’m following your blog. Arlene Angel-Blair told me about your illness. I’ve been thinking of you a lot since then and wondering about you… and so I looked on-line to see if I could find your parents’ blog about life in Singapore. And I found yours, instead. What a lovely, sensitive, talented, wise woman you’ve grown up to be. Well… no surprise there. In my head, though, you’re still the fourteen year old avid (and speedy) reader who tried to hide her larger (was it a fantasy?) book inside To Kill a Mockingbird in grade nine English… because she’d already long since finished reading the novel we were studying. I’m smiling as I write that.
    Your blog posts are lovely, poignant, beautifully written… and very hard to read without tearing up. But what a gift to those who care about you and wonder how you’re doing.
    So… I hope you don’t mind but I’ll be following along. Hoping and praying that all goes well for you and your family.
    With sincere best wishes… and sending good thoughts your way… and a virtual hug or two,
    Sue Burpee

    1. Thank you, Ms. Burpee! It’s great to hear from you. Your comments made me smile, and my husband laugh. I don’t mind at all that you are following along, and I’ll try to curb my continued over-use of commas. 🙂 Thank you for the wishes, the thoughts and the hugs.

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