It’s been nearly a year since I was given the life-changing diagnosis of cancer.
Fast forward 6 months of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgeries, plus months of recovery and learning to live again, and you find me now: engaged, working full time, finishing up abruptly ceased classes to graduate, realizing my freelancing dream, kicking ass on the rock climbing wall….
I’m in remission. Back to life. The nightmare of cancer is over – now only something to remember when it comes time for scans and checkups…
Except for one thing. One, very important thing that’s always lingering in the back of my mind.
There’s a good chance chemotherapy could have left me barren.
And for me, that’s huge.
Maybe it’s the fact that I’m getting married in a month, or that stubborn human instinct that made me instantly want with all my soul what an oncologist in a lab coat says I might not ever have, but kids have been an increasing desire in my life. A void in my future that cries out to be filled, but is left increasingly gaping as time and doubt creeps in.
To be clear, I have never wanted a family right away. I’ve always had plans, places to go and things to do, before I ever would feel ready to tie myself down with children. But I’ve always known that eventually I would gladly take up the mantle of mother – and be a damn good one too.
But now, that may never be.
Ask any barren woman and she will tell you that suddenly the single most important thing in her life – whether she knew it or not, up until that point – was suddenly, inexplicably ripped away from her, leaving a gaping hole in her very soul. As if the promise of a child, residing within her unseen like a fetus itself, miscarried and left her empty. Stricken. Hopeless.
Ask any barren woman, and she will tell you she feels like a failure. The deep, ingrained purpose of every woman: denied.
I’ll be honest, for a long time I was angry at God over everything – cancer, the timing, the particular immediacy of my disease… Because of the placement and rapid growth of the cancerous tumors in my body – then choking off my jugular over 80%, threatening stroke and brain damage – there was no time to harvest my eggs for a later IVF procedure. Chemotherapy had to begin immediately in an effort to decrease the size of the tumors and allow blood to flow freely again.
And even if there were time, however irrational, for a young woman and virgin, the IVF and harvesting procedure seemed terrifying and extremely violating. Like a brutal reminder of my own body’s failure, reduced to the cold, calculated process of injections, probes, and procedures.
Though I hate to admit it, in my shame I pleaded to receive anesthesia – so I wouldn’t have to be awake to spread my legs.
At the time it was a hard choice to make, though deep down I already knew the answer: suck it up and do the procedure, or take the risk of chemo. But in the end, it didn’t matter what my decision was, because I was denied even that choice.
6 months into remission, and I’m still left dealing with the shame and fear of cancer’s lasting scar.
Until one beautiful moment, when my perspective changed.
I was listening to a podcast of a pastor I admire, Eric Ludy, sitting alone in my room, busy sewing a quilt. The pastor was breezing over the genealogical line of Jesus, but this time with an emphasis on the women involved. Sarah, Rachel, Hannah… over and over, I listened as he listed off scientifically barren women, somehow, miraculously birthing children who would change the world, by the grace of God.
Here were despairing, destitute women, shamed by their culture and husbands for their inability to conceive, choosing to trust God in the face of impossibilities and being rewarded for it.
Time and time again.
And suddenly it hit me.
If, in the future, I find myself indeed barren, how blessed am I, above all women, to be considered such a perfect canvas for God to work a miracle? To be able to conceive, against all odds, and be a testament to His power and goodness?
Or, even if don’t birth a child of my own, to be able to remove all distractions of self or self-purpose, and open myself up to adopt the child that God has designed to be mine.
That regardless, either way, barren or not, God can use me in incredible ways – as only He can. For I trust that His plan is greater than anything I can come up with or design. He knows what is best, and what the future holds, and how every little detail will turn out. And what’s more, He always has my best intentions at heart.
So rejoice, barren woman, for we serve a great and glorious God! Our inability is replaced by His ability. Our weakness overcome by His strength. And in our emptiness, we are filled with His purpose.