Sunday, August 2, 2009

First night at the hospital - 30 June 2009

I have been diagnosed on 7 July 2009 with stage 4 lung cancer spread to liver and bones including pelvic bone and skull. I was coughing for 4 months before that. A full medical check up on 3 March 2009 revealed a slightly high reading of the cancer marker. The doctor at the wellness centre said I might be having first or second stage cancer and then he said he is not saying I am having cancer but all this is reversible if I changed my diet to 80% plant and 20% others. Three months later after lots of supplements, changed diet, 4 visits to GP and antibiotics, I still continued coughing although it did improve from chesty cough to ticklish cough. I went to see a sinseh who said on my first visit that the stomach gasses were troubling me and the acidity was going up the pipe tickling my throat and causing me to cough. During the one month I visited him, he recommended I stop taking fruits, supplements and soya. My cough did improve over that one month. Even Henry said the cough sounded different but I still continued to cough. I had pain on my right breast. Later, a mammogram and ultrasound confirmed no breast cancer. My gynae told me it was the constant rubbing of the rib cage and soft cartilage from my chronic coughing that was causing the pain. That was the first time I heard my cough termed as chronic. He advised that I visit a chest specialist to get an X Ray done but he’ll leave it to me to decide when as I told him my cough was improving. To get it over and done with, I visited the chest specialist on 30 June 2009. The X ray showed quite bad infection in the lungs, high probability of tuberculosis but quite certain not cancer. I was immediately admitted to hospital. A CT scan later revealed many nodular (I call it machine gun) in my lungs, the biggest about 2 to 3 cm in diameter. Even without the biopsy, I was quite certain it was malignant. There was just too many and if benign it would not spread so much. It did occur to me that there is no way I could survive this "machine gun attack". A bronchoscope showed that my bronchial tree is clear. A further CT scan on my abdomen showed there is also growth in my liver and some brightness on my pelvic bone. Then, a procedure was done on me injecting out the tissue from the lungs via another CT scan which was sent to the lab for biopsy. The results on 7 July 2009 confirmed it as stage 4 lung cancer, adinocarcinoma. There wasn’t anything new that the chest specialist told us that day except that it was confirmed malignant.

Looking back, most people cannot understand why this has happened to me, why God allowed this to happen but it is clear as daylight to me why it happened and why God allowed it to happen. It was all revealed to me the first day at my hospital bed. I normally get Henry to get lots of magazines for me when I am in hospital (yes, I have been spending quite a fair bit of time in hospitals due to my sons’ asthmatic condition). However, as soon the doctor left the room after showing me the “machine gun” scan, I pushed away all my magazines and dug out my bible from the bag. I prayed and I cried. I was scared of the things to come. I thought of Henry and my sons. As I was praying and flipping the bible, I turned to Jeremiah Chapter 1 : 4-8.
The word of the Lord came to me saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
Before you were born I set you apart:
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.
Ah, Sovereign Lord” I said, “ I do not know how to speak. I am only a child.”
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say I am only a child. You must go everywhere I send you to and say whatever I command you to. Do not be afraid of them for I am with you and will rescue you” declares the Lord.

Still praying, I flashed back 7 years ago when my mum’s catholic friend from Brunei who is prayerful said that in 15 years’ time, I would be a church leader… I did not think much of it. Another flash back one and a half months ago, I was sharing with my charismatic Christian neighbor Hamir about how lukewarm my church is. He told me he heard about our church crisis. I did not even bring it up in the first place! That day he prayed with me led with the Holy Spirit. Tears started to fall continuously. One sentence which woke me up was his prayer for First Baptist Church not to be so inward looking. It never occurred to me we were inward looking. I thought we were figuring out who’s right and who’s wrong. He cried out that there’s just so much of God’s work to be done, if we carried out His work, we will have no time for in fighting. He prayed for the Holy Spirit to come down on FBC and on me, for my mouth to open to share God’s word. At that moment, still tearing, I know I want to but how to since I was always afraid to go up to the front to speak! I can only do it if God did a Moses on me. Not on my strength surely.

Fast forward at the hospital bed, it occurred to me that I have been giving God the same excuse the past 10 years, telling God, “I am too shy”. I did well as a new Christian 10 years ago joining the CCF group in First Baptist Church. Although afraid, I would still do it for God’s glory coming to the front to share my testimony, praying corporately (even though I wasn’t brave to) and being fellowship chairman for CCF for a few years. It occurred to me I did not take baby steps beyond that or allow God to work in my life constantly giving Him the same excuse. How was He going to use me? It was a wake-up call to me. It also occurred to me that if I had been focused on God as first priority, I would not have focused so much on our kids. Henry and I have 2 boys, Ethan aged 3 and Nicholas aged 6. They are very active boys and demand so much of our energy. We are constantly stressed, probably me more so than Henry, lots of shouting and we use anger to manage our kids. It also did not help to have an inefficient maid the first 3 years of Nicholas’ life. There was so much anger built up, anger turned to resentment, resentment to bitterness and bitterness to anger. I remember I fell on my knees asking God to take this anger from me and He impressed on me that if He could die on the cross for me, why couldn’t I forgive my maid. It was a terrible time for me. The hatred did not go away. Placing kids and family as priority, I would have no time for myself shuttling between work and family. No time to dry my hair, no time for facials, no time to cut my hair, no time for supplements, no time for exercise, no time for relaxation, everything for “me time” was done in a rushed manner. I was and still am constantly amazed at how women can manage everything in their household and still find time for themselves and serve God!

So that night, at the hospital bed, it was clear to me that God is not finished with me yet. It was a wake-up call to me. Our Father is a loving God, His wrath is only for a moment but his faithfulness is for a lifetime. I knew nothing about healing then. I just knew God forgave me when I confessed my sin that night. I was still anxious and talking with Karen Tung really helped cheer me up. I smsed to friends to pray for God’s peace on us. I felt God’s peace fall on me that night and I could sleep well.

I documented the following in my journal the next day, 1 July 2009:

Philippians 4:4-7
4. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again. Rejoice! 5. Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petitions, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Liz: “Father God, thank you for your peace in me now. Praise your name. Thank you Jesus. I am so different today compared to yesterday. I know everything is in your hands and you knew me even before I was formed in the womb. Give Henry your peace too and help us to be strong in you and not to be anxious. I pray for quick recovery that they will get to the root of the problem quickly and find good medicine for me to cure me. I pray for your guiding hand on me and family and comfort us and with us closely. I pray all this in Jesus’ name. Amen”
7. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I also found Psalm 57 which was so reassuring to me. I felt nothing the doctor could say could dampen my spirit further.

Psalm 57
1 Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until disaster has passed.

I visualize myself taking shelter under His wings. Thundering wind might blow outside, arrows may be thrown but I take refuge until the disaster is over.
And that, my friends, is the beginning of my wonderful journey with God. Each day He brings new revelation as I draw closer to Him seeking His face. And living in God’s presence is far more beautiful than anything else and has even overshadowed the disease. I say, blessed be the name of the Lord. I see Him not only working in my life but in Henry’s life, my mum’s life and even in my cell group’s lives and I pray that you too will “catch the fire”.

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