by Maj Paul Scott, USAF
It was early afternoon and things were going my way. I had knocked out a couple work-related errands and was returning to the office. As I walked to my desk, I saw a blank yellow sticky note on my computer monitor–shorthand between me and my office mates for “your wife called.” When I returned Heather’s call, her normally steady voice cracked as she said, “Come home.” Right away I knew she had received the medical results–I told her I loved her and I was on my way.
As I bolted from the office, I caught my squadron commander’s attention. Thankfully, I had told him earlier that day about Heather and the doctor’s report that there was a slight chance that the cyst on Heather’s thyroid was cancerous. I had discounted the possibility but thought I ought to keep the boss informed. “Heather called. It’s bad. I gotta go.”
He comprehended immediately and ran with me as far as the parking lot. As we parted he said, “Take whatever time you need.”
I ignored the speed limit on the rural roads to our neighborhood. I met Heather on the stairs and we both choked up. “Papillary thyroid cancer,” were her teary words. We held each other and talked in hushed tones until our two oldest children arrived home on the bus.
I called a family council–our way of informing our three children there is important family business to discuss. We sat on the living room floor and explained the situation as best we could to our eight-, six-, and four-year-old kids. We discussed the future, reassured them (and ourselves) of God’s goodness, answered their questions, read the Bible, and prayed several times. Zac, my six-year-old, assumed the worst and asked me straight-up if I would remarry when Mom died. I don’t remember my response, but I remember how that question captured my fears.
And so began a journey of rich blessing for our family. Skipping forward thirteen months, Heather’s doctor told us that he could see no remnants of cancer. Glory to God! I skip forward because I prefer the BLUF (bottom-line up front) over suspense. But skipping forward neglects the many blessings we experienced as we walked the road of cancer treatment. Along the way, God gave us abundant life.
The earliest available date to remove Heather’s thyroid allowed us to go ahead with the ski trip to Canada we had planned. It was great! God allowed us to put our fears aside and fully enjoy our children’s first ski trip.
Soon, the doctors removed both sides of Heather’s thyroid. The largest cyst was about the size of a flattened golf ball, deformed by the pressure it placed on her trachea. She recovered fast and was soon breathing easier. Two days later, she surprised the girls at AWANA when she showed up to listen to their Bible memory verses.
The remedy protocol includes repeated radioactive iodine treatments. The first radiation treatment was completed just before the Air Force moved us last summer. Then after finding a new doctor in Kansas, the December images from the second radioactive treatment revealed the possibility that the cancer had spread to two spots within Heather’s chest cavity. Our concern was replaced with thanksgiving in February when the positron emission tomography (PET) scan showed no sign of cancer. Hallelujah!!
Although we have been privileged to experience many blessings through the course of Heather’s treatment, three are prominent.
First, God’s sovereignty was impressed upon our hearts. What appeared as calamity when cancer was first diagnosed did not surprise God at all. I still hear the words of Bill Farley, a godly mentor, telling me, “This didn’t surprise God. He knew about this since before the beginning of time.” Imagine that–the same God who designed the interior of atoms, who fashioned the heavens and earth, and who made man in His own image–knew this would occur. In the midst of the unknown, I felt His peace and security. The words of Psalm 37:23-24 were further reassurance:
The steps of a man are established by the Lord;
And He delights in his way.
When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong;
Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand. (NASB)
As I meditate on God’s sovereign goodness, my fickle heart grows in steadfast confidence that all things are from Him, through Him, and to Him. Even in worst-case scenarios.
Second, our family was blessed by God’s church. Despite our tendency toward privacy in serious matters, we chose to share our need. It began with an e-mail message, followed by updates as events unfolded. The outpouring of support was incredible. Each step of the way, our Christian and military families lifted us up. Letters, e-mails, and cards poured in. People cooked meals for us. Most important was prayer. We were especially covered by prayer the day of Heather’s surgery. It was an experience of peace, even when Heather was rushed from post-op back into surgery to close a bleeding artery that swelled her neck with blood. But it was far more than just peace in the hospital. Many people have prayed for us and continue to pray for us today.
Which brings me to the third blessing. God heard and responded to the prayers in very tangible ways. We had been warned of a multitude of potential complications, but Heather was protected. It hit home when a retired C-141 pilot contrasted Heather with his coworker who was in a remarkably similar situation. The only notable difference was the people who were praying for Heather. While his coworker suffered complications, Heather sailed through the treatment. I’m convinced the specific prayers of those who chose to pray alongside us made the difference.
And yet this story is not complete unless I consider the alternative. God is not bound to say yes. He holds the length of Heather’s days in His hand. At any moment, He could take her into eternity. Should this fear be realized, God is still the same faithful God of blessing. Blessings will still fill my life. I am sure they would be different, but certainly present.
I think of Kip, my valued friend, whose wife lost her battle with cancer. I wonder why he must bear that pain while I was spared. I have no human answer-it’s certainly not because I’m more deserving.
God sovereignly chose different paths of blessing for me and for Kip. I don’t know why, but I choose to be grateful for the days He has given me with Heather. I trust He will call her home at exactly the right time. Until then, I live the blessing of more days with Heather and I am thankful for the responsibility to love her as Christ loves the church.
And so the journey continues. Today Heather has a one-inch scar, barely visible on the front of her neck. Our children are learning of God’s faithfulness as we continue to pray for Heather. And God’s blessings are new every morning.
Major Paul “JP” Scott, USAF, is a KC-135 pilot currently attending the School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.