Mar 25, 2019 • Written by Judy Episcopo
Battling Cancer, Questioning Faith, and Finding Victory
Cheryl began working on staff at AAC in 2007.That was also the year doctors discovered Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer in her body. Cheryl had three months of radiation treatments that seemed to take care of it, but in 2010 a remaining tumor was discovered above her left eye. Thankfully, the tumor could be removed without damaging the eye.
Oh yes, and Cheryl continued to work at AAC in our Community Care and Pastoral Care ministries. She loved working in this area by helping people and caring for those who are hurting, but somewhere around the Christmas holidays of 2017 something didn’t feel quite right. It wasn’t until May of 2018 that she received her third diagnosis of cancer.
Cheryl ~ “I was shocked! I had expected it to be a viral infection, not cancer! I expected it to be slow growing, not aggressive!"
Indeed it was aggressive. It was already stage 4 and spread throughout her body. It was so aggressive that while deciding treatment, she collapsed and was hospitalized. During that hospital stay she had to decide between hospice care or surgery and chemotherapy treatments.
Cheryl wasn’t sure she wanted to fight again. She didn’t think she had a third round in her. She was ready to die- the thought of being with her Savior gave her great peace. But as she closed her eyes, the face of her grandson came into focus- Riley, a 3 year old sweet boy, that Cheryl had prayed for and wanted to see grow up. God reminded her that He had promised her He would give her an opportunity to invest in Riley and somehow that became a turning point for Cheryl to pick up the battle once again. She kept thinking how he wouldn’t remember her if she went home to be with the Lord. Within a couple hours she went into surgery and was transferred to another hospital to begin treatment.
And a battle it was…. Treatment caused her to lose her ability to walk or think; she battled pain, fatigue and isolation.
At this point I asked: “Cheryl, what kind of questions regarding faith were you asking?”
Cheryl: “I wanted to know - God are you really a good, good Father to allow this to happen to me? Why did you allow cancer when I was so passionately serving you in ministry? Don’t you have a good plan for my life?"
Tough questions, but she did find some answers.
“I soon realized that yes, He is a good Father. We live in a broken world full of pain and suffering and God never promised we wouldn’t suffer too. BUT as a good Father He provided a way out through His Son Jesus Christ. If I trust Him, He has a place for me in all of eternity that will be pain free and always joyous. The suffering I am experiencing now has no comparison to the joy and freedom I will have for all eternity.
“I also realized that I had taken my identity from my work and ministry. My identity was not in what I do, but who I am in Christ: A beloved and chosen daughter of the King. Ironically, the place I ministered in became the place that ministered to me while I was sick. So many people from our church came to help, and it was a humbling and vulnerable place to be in. Yet it showed me how much God does love me and care for me and my family.
“Right now I am cancer free and am praising God for all the miracles and gifts He has given me. The road has been long and there is much healing to still take place. I would never say cancer is a gift, but God gave me so many blessings and gifts in the hardest of places. It’s actually taken away a lot of my everyday fears, knowing that God is so much bigger than cancer in my life."