Each Wednesday I will share stories of women who exemplify what it means to be a Woman of Strength and Dignity. In doing so, my hope is these stories will challenge and inspire us, knowing they have been written by the most powerful AUTHOR…God the Father…the Writer of the best stories ever!
I met Carol as she was sitting behind me in church. Our first interaction took place when the congregation stood to greet people sitting around us. With our church being large, it’s not uncommon to greet someone right next to you on a Sunday morning, whom you have never seen before, and may never see again. On this particular morning, I noticed Carol. I believe it was her joyful demeanor and her un-abandoned worship that initially drew me to her. Several Sunday mornings passed, many marked by Carol and her hubby, John, sitting near us, but never presenting an opportunity to chat past a short greeting.
Then, a rare Sunday arrived when we actually weren’t running into the sanctuary late, and we sat by Carol and John. Once again I noticed Carol and her pleasant and welcoming demeanor, but I noticed something else. There was an unusual sleeve-like garment on Carol’s arm. To me, it looked much like an oversized oven mitt extending all the way up her arm. Being who I am, I had to ask Carol if her arm was injured. Carol immediately smiled and shared with me that her oversized oven mitt was actually her gift, a witnessing tool. I didn’t realize it when I asked the question, but I had just walked through Carol’s door of God given opportunity. Through my curiousity of Carol’s oversized oven mitt, she took the opportunity to share God’s story of power, redemption and healing in her life.
In 2004, malignant biopsies led to a diagnosis of breast cancer. Carol was then referred to an oncology surgeon, instead of a general surgeon. Through that very divinely orchestrated decision the oncology surgeon pushed for another biopsy. That biopsy confirmed that there was indeed cancer, but not in the left breast as originally diagnosed, the cancer was actually present in the right breast. From the first moment of the diagnosis, Carol said she was marked by God’s peace. She saw God placing her with just the right doctors, guided by His wisdom and her faith grew as a result. She had an understanding that following Christ does not give you a ticket out of the hard things of life. Her heart and mind knew she was not immune from difficulties, even a difficulty such as cancer.
1 Peter 1:3-9 (AMP)
3Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant and boundless mercy has caused us to be born again [that is, to be reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, and set apart for His purpose] to an ever-living hope and confident assurance through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 [born anew] into an inheritance which is imperishable [beyond the reach of change] and undefiled and unfading, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are being protected and shielded by the power of God through your faith for salvation that is ready to be revealed [for you] in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice greatly, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the genuineness of your faith, which is much more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested and purified by fire, may be found to result in [your] praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and though you do not even see Him now, you believe and trust in Him and you greatly rejoice and delight with inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 receiving as the result [the outcome, the consummation] of your faith, the salvation of [a]your souls.
Surgeries took place and treatment followed. Treatment required hitting the pause button on Carol’s life for about a year. Enduring 6 months of chemotherapy and 6 weeks of radiation, Carol explained she felt she was soaring above her circumstance, and her heart was so full of joy.
But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him]
Will gain new strength and renew their power;
They will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun];
They will run and not become weary,
They will walk and not grow tired.
On the other side of treatment, Carol developed a condition called lymphedema. This condition is not uncommon for breast cancer survivors due to the removal of lymph nodes. With lymphedema a blockage develops in the lymphatic system, and will not allow the lymph fluid to drain. This blockage of fluid causes swelling. Carols right arm is continually swollen due to lymph fluid collecting between the skin and the muscle. Her arm is also incredibly susceptible to infection. Carol’s condition is chronic, and she will always have it. There is no cure apart from a divine miracle of healing.
2 Corinthians 12
8 Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. 9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power[b] is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. 10 So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
This is why Carol wears a compression sleeve. No, it is NOT a ginormous potholder. She refers to this as her witnessing tool. Her compression sleeve apparently provokes more curiosity than just mine. On the occasions when questions are asked of Carol in regard to her sleeve; she views that as an opportunity to share with others what God has done. Without the sleeve, the opportunities dissipate. Carol views her cancer and ongoing lymphedema as a GIFT. She explains that it took time to get there, but she did through God’s Word and His people.
On May 22nd, 2006, Carol’s birthday, she received the gift of being declared cancer free! In the last 11 years she has been blessed to attend the weddings of both of her sons, and welcomed 4 grandchildren into her life. Carol said that she feels honored that God chose to let her live and experience these blessings.
As our interview came to a close, Carol said her 4-year-old granddaughter summed it up when she picked her up from class last Sunday. Carol had inquired about what she had learned that day, and her granddaughter responded,
“God is POWERFUL!”
to which Carol replied, “Yes, He is!”
And if I might add, as exemplified by Carol’s story, a power that is magnified in our weakness!
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become tired or grow weary;
There is no searching of His understanding.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who has no might He increases power.