Wherever I go, I carry a small gray stone. It’s in my purse all day, tucked under my pillow each night. And on it are painted three simple words: Expect a miracle. I did expect one, and against all odds, that’s exactly what I was given.
A year ago, when I first had bloating and pains in my pelvis and lower abdomen, I passed it off as side effects from the estrogen I was taking for menopause. But driving home one day, the pains got so wrenching I nearly crashed my car.
This can’t be normal! I thought in fear. I’m a nurse, so I raced to my medical books as soon a I got home. Almost as if I were directed, I picked one from the shelf and opened straight to the page on ovarian cancer. A chill raced down my spine as I read the symptoms, bloating, pain, frequent urination…I had every one.
“We’ll have to run some tests,” my doctor said after examining me. “But it could be ovarian cancer.” Driving home, I felt so scared I could barely breathe. And when I walked in the door, my husband, Rich, took one look at me, and hugged me close. “We just need to pray,” he told me.
But my test results were terrifying: I had a large tumor, and a blood test that indicated the possible presence of ovarian cancer read 462, normal is 30. I’m going to die! I wept.
That night, I forced myself to stay calm as I told our two teenage daughters that I had cancer. But when I saw the fear in their eyes, my heart nearly broke in two. So I wouldn’t burden them with my fear, I said I had to run to the store and slipped out to my car, tears coursing down my cheeks.
In my mind, I pictured all the faces I loved: Rich, the girls, our five other children through previous marriages, parents, friends…
Oh, God, please don’t take my life, I pleaded. I still have so much to live for.
“Don’t do this alone,” my priest told me when I cried to him. “Let others help you.” And the next day, all those faces I pictured the night before were in my home, surrounding me with their love.
Their love carried me through my surgery to remove the tumor, along with my fallopian tubes and ovaries. But I was far from out of danger. “You still have only a 15 percent chance of making it,” once doctor told me. “Your only hope is chemotherapy.”
Half crazed with fear, I began making frantic bargains: if you heal me, God, I’ll be a better wife, a better mom, a better person. Just give me a second chance.
I had six chemo treatments, one every three weeks. Sometimes I thought I wouldn’t make it through them, they made me so weak and sick. But when I most needed a boost, a friend would show up with dinner or drop by to take the girls out.
Folks even organized fund-raisers to help us pay my medical bills!
Bouyed by so much love, I knew I owed it to others, and to myself, to stay optimistic. So I read books on healing and listened to tapes that helped me visualize getting well. I’m not giving in, I’d think. Rich was my strength whenever I felt afraid, praying with me and holding me. My daughters stayed positive, too. Lindsay, 14, and Sarah, 16, refused to believe I would die. “You’re going to be all right, Mom,” they’d say.
But after my last treatment, I faced a terrifying moment of truth. Doctors were going to take 100 biopsies, one in ever place they feared the cancer might have spread.
“To be honest, we don’t expect to find you’re cancer-free,” they warned. And if the chemo hadn’t destroyed the cancer cells, my chances for survival were slim.
I could feel terror creeping into every fiber of my being. I can’t give up hope now, I thought fiercely. So before leaving for the hospital, I opened the drawer where I kept a good-luck symbol a friend had given me, a small, hand-painted rock.
Expect a miracle, I read, then slipped the stone in my purse. The stone was still in my purse the next day, when I opened my eyes after surgery to find a pretty woman with dark hair and a white dress leaning over my hospital bed.
She must be a nurse, I thought. But she had no pills in her hand, no blood pressure monitor to hook up. Instead, she looked at me kindly and asked, “Are you the one who’s looking for a miracle?”
Confused, I stammered, “Yes.” But how did she know? I wondered. Then, before the question left my lips, she’d vanished.
The next morning, the woman in white was beside me once again. In her hand was a plaque that read: Miracles Happen Every Day. “Is this what you’re looking for?” she asked gently.
Tears sprang to my eyes, but before I could say a word, once again she was gone. As I gazed at the plaque she’d given me, I felt a funny tingly sensation throughout my body…
“Dawn,” Rich said as I groggily opened my eyes, “the results of the biopsies are in. They were negative, each and every one!” I’ll never know whether the woman was a nurse, or an angel but it doesn’t matter. She came to let me know that hopes are never foolish, prayers never wasted.
Today I’m 49 and cancer-free. And each time I hug my daughters, share a quiet moment with Rich or just watch autumn leaves scuttle across the sidewalk, I remember again that every new day is a blessing, a new chance to expect a miracle.
By: Dawn Stobbe