At some point in your life you will come face to face with the deadliest disease of all, cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, one out of four people will experience some type of cancer in their lives. Approximately 745,180 men and 692,000 women are diagnosed with some form of cancer each year. Whether you are one who will fight it personally or watch a relative or close friend go through it, cancer affects us all. Unfortunately, there is still no cure.
On October 1, 2009 Sharon Andersen went in for a full hysterectomy, a routine surgery. Upon waking, she learned the doctors had found cancer and that it had spread into the surrounding lymph nodes. The doctors were able to remove most of it, but there was one tumor that was wrapped around an artery. If they had tried to remove it, she could have bled to death. Nobody would say how much time she had, but her oldest son was present and saw the look on the surgeon’s face. The prognosis wasn’t good. She was told that she was in stage three with tubal cancer, cancer of the fallopian tubes. The doctors did say this was similar to ovarian cancer, and just as deadly. Over the next few weeks, Sharon was pressured by her doctor to do chemotherapy and radiation. She held her ground and stuck to her beliefs and said no. She has always believed that people do not die from cancer, they die from the drugs and treatments they are given.
Sharon is a Christian; she is the strongest, most faith-filled person that I have ever known and she told her friends and loved ones that she has lived a long good life and if it’s her time, then it’s her time. Her joy was in knowing she would be with Jesus in Heaven no matter what happened to her here on Earth. She believes that the Lord spoke to her when she was just a small child. He told her that she will not die, but will be raptured with the rest of the Church. Her friends and family would nod their heads and pray that she was right, but I’m not too sure if any of them believed it, including myself. After raising four children in the church, her children walked away from their personal relationship with God. Years later, like the prodigal son, Sharon believes she was told that each of her children would restore their walk with Christ. In the last few years, this prophecy has come to pass.
After going through menopause, Sharon had begun bleeding. She and her doctor knew something wasn’t right. They believed if they removed all of her female organs, her situation would improve. Both women knew they were dealing with symptoms of cancer. Sharon has never smoked a day in her life. She is a tough, strong-willed woman who has been living by herself in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She raised horses, helped build her own log cabin, and if needed, could fire a gun at cougars that dared to come onto her property. She was not a woman who would go down without a fight.
Throughout the next couple of months, Sharon got weaker and began losing weight quickly. She gave up her job of over ten years with the same company and moved home to Minnesota where all of her children and grandchildren live. This devastated her more than the cancer as she knew she would be walking away from her dream, a home in the hills; a home she had planned to leave to her children as a vacation home. She loves her children and is now privileged to be able to spend so much more time with them and her grandchildren, but this was a decision she knew was in her best interest. As I write this now, Sharon and her children are in South Dakota packing, cleaning out the home, making necessary repairs, and preparing the home to be placed on the market. Upon settling in Minnesota, Sharon met with several oncologists. He told her, “You have six months with treatment. We’ve done everything we can for you here if you don’t do chemotherapy.” She had already begun making arrangements to go to Mexico where they use proven supplements that are not allowed in the United States.
In December 2009 the family made plans to spend Christmas together at her youngest son’s house where she was staying. Sharon called me just a couple days before Christmas and told me she wasn’t feeling well. After hanging up, I cried. This wasn’t my mother-in-law. She was strong. She is the strongest person I’ve ever met, both physically and emotionally. This couldn’t be happening to her. She didn’t deserve this. Those that weren’t sick gathered around her in her hospital room instead. Sharon did not spend one day or night alone in the hospital as each of her children took turns spending time with her. Her bowels had stopped working. Her kidneys had begun shutting down as well and were working at less than twenty percent. The treatment center in Mexico required a minimum of 40% function of the kidneys before they would take her. She knew it was going to be an uphill battle. The doctors did surgery to put stints in to help the kidneys release some pressure to hopefully improve their functioning, but even that wasn’t helping.
Just a few days after Christmas, Sharon called each of her four children and told them she was letting go. One of her doctors had told her that any time she wanted to she could have the stints removed and she would be gone within one week. This was not news her children and their families wanted to hear. She removed the decision process from any of them when she signed a “do not resuscitate” order. That night when she called my husband, her son, the Lord spoke to me very clearly, “Pray and lay hands on her.”
The very next day her family and close friends were gathered around her once again. Once everyone had left the room and I was alone with her, I told her what I had been told the night before. She laughed and told me positively, “Well, it’s your turn. I’ve been praying with you for years, so it’s your turn now.” With one hand laid upon her stomach and holding the other, I prayed to Jehovah Rapha, the God that heals, as she stood in agreement.
Many people have been praying for Sharon and continue to do so. Her daughter had set up a Caring Bridge website and people were praying across the nation. She has been listed on numerous church prayer lines as well as individual prayer lists. My husband called me from the hospital a few hours later and told me that his Mom had her first bowel movement! While I would like to believe that my prayer had something to do with her miraculous turn around, only God gets that glory. Each day she continued to get stronger and better. Even her kidneys had begun improving daily, but she still needed to have a minimum of 40% functioning for the clinic in Mexico to accept her.
Because she knew it might be her only chance for survival, Sharon agreed to do one treatment of chemotherapy. She was incredibly blessed with minimal side effects. Day after day she continued to get stronger and have more multiple organ functioning. With ports and multiple tubes sticking out of her, Sharon was finally allowed to leave the hospital after being there for two and a half weeks. She chose to stay with her only daughter, whom she felt more comfortable having help her with her daily care and bathing needs.
Now that her kidneys were functioning at over 50% and her bowels were working daily, she filled out all the necessary paperwork and prepared for her two week stay in the Mexican hospital. After the initial stay in Mexico her tumor marker score was over 500, these measure the progression of the cancer. Normal, meaning no cancer, is around thirty five so she still facing the good fight of faith. The numbers began to drop at a rapid and unbelievable pace. She was required by the clinic to receive two more chemotherapy treatments before she could come back for the final week. She went to the hospital for her next treatment and had her tumor marker score checked again. She was down to ninety. After arriving home from her final stint in Mexico, her tumor marker score was down to forty. Again, thirty five is normal.
Her doctors here in Minnesota were elated and baffled as they could not explain her drastic turn around. She explained it very matter of factly to them as only the Sharon I know could, “I know exactly what happened, God did!” While it has only been six months, Sharon Andersen is still in remission. Sharon’s courage and faith has taught everyone who has followed her journey that God is the only one in charge. When the doctors had exhausted all of their efforts and even Sharon herself had lost some of her hope, God was able to begin. For years I’ve been told throughout my life struggles, to “Let go and let God.” While admittedly I have never fully understood those words before, God showed us all how just a mustard seed of faith is all that He needs to work miracles in our lives.
If you ever feel alone in your darkest moments of life, know that He is there with you. While we know He could heal us all instantaneously, we know He doesn’t. His Word is very clear that our lives will be filled with tests and strife that each of us will have to go through. He promises that we will not go through any of it alone. He will never leave or forsake us. Remember, all His promises are Yes and Amen!