Listen Closely

Another round of chemotherapy has come and gone since I last blogged.  That means that the beginning of a head of hair has come and gone, as well.  Actually, I’m working on what will hopefully be the last head of hair to fall out.  If everything goes as planned I’m thinking that I will have a good head start in actually keeping my hair around mid-March.  I should only lose it one more time…because I only have ONE more round of the big chemo!  It has been a full year since I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, and I’m nearly done with this part! Hallelujah!  (I should start my 3 years of maintenance chemo in OKC around mid-March)

Mom and I drive to Little Rock on Monday.  I have several days of testing, then chemo hookup on Thursday.  The LAST chemo hookup!  Looking back over the year, this day seemed so unreachable, yet here I am.  This year was full of heartache, full of pain, full of doubt, full of disbelief, full of denial and full of sadness.  At the same time, though, it was also full of glory, full of accomplishment, full of friendships, full of relief, full of survivorship and full of love.  I’ve come to realize that God did not have only a plan for my year, but a plan for many friends and loved ones, through me.

As a cancer patient, when I hear someone say “God will never give you more than you can handle!”, my mind silently screams something along the lines of, “Really?  I wonder how many people told that to the people that have DIED from cancer.”  I know that’s not nice of me, and I know that people who say this are only trying to be nice and stay positive, but people need to stop saying it.  It’s really a terrible thing to say.  When I have a breakdown because my pain is unbearable, does that mean that I’m not strong enough or over reacting?  I mean, if God wants me to feel like I’ve been run over by a truck day in and day out, surely I can handle it, right?  Or if God is not giving us more than we can handle, what does it mean when my friend’s myeloma keeps mutating so that their high risk disease is untreatable?  Because, on my own, I’ll be really honest.  I can’t handle it.  Nor do I want to.

As I look back on this last year, the toughest year of my entire life, I’ve come to realize that God gives me more than I can handle ALL OF THE TIME.  I’m no different than anyone else.  He gives us all more than we can handle.  Maybe that’s with cancer and the fear of dying, maybe that’s with the loss of loved ones, the loss of employment, disaster, etc.  It would be so easy to give in when these things happen.  Sometimes the devastating is truly more than we can handle.  Or, at least, handle alone.

I’ve received so many messages, notes, cards, and phone calls from friends and family telling me how much my struggle has impacted them.  They’ve felt compelled to do something for my family and myself or for someone else.  Without these friends and family, I would have never been able to handle this year.   Sometimes it was a kind word in the mail that came on a particularly difficult day.  Or it was a monetary gift that helped me pay a medical bill.  Or it was a prepared dinner when I couldn’t think straight enough to remember how hot the oven needed to be to bake chicken.  Maybe God spoke to that friend or family member and reminded them that they could fulfill a need.  I know that I have received those subtle messages in the past.  Sometimes I’ve heeded them, and I’m embarrassed to say that sometimes I have not.

This ‘reflection’ of the past year has changed how I will respond to that ‘gut feeling.’  I do think that when we receive them, we are hearing God.  He’s using us to help someone ‘handle’ a difficult time.  And in doing so, He is also teaching us many things.  How to be compassionate, how to know His Word over all of the other junk that filters through our minds, how to help in the healing of those around us.  I’ve learned many lessons this year, but I think this has been one of the most valuable.  I plan on listening a lot more carefully from here on out.

‘Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.’  Philippians 4:9

11 thoughts on “Listen Closely

  1. Stephanie, so raw, thought provoking and true. You have an amazing ability to share your feelings so that others grow spiritually and emotionally. Once again, you amaze me, sweet daughter. God speaks in so many ways…I too will listen more closely. Love you so much! Mom

  2. Stephanie,
    I have read and re-read your post. I perceive you realize the heartfelt sentiments from your friends, who truly are behind you will help and assist you because they love you. These individuals, who love you, perhaps are motivated on their own without any assistance from a higher entity. I know I write you from a heartfelt desire to encourage you onward and as a fellow UAMS patient, who’s father and brother died from Myeloma, I only hope OUR doctors do their very best, my hope for you is based on that alone, to me that is all their is no higher power. Perhaps your friends have thought about you on their own, without any prompting, and perhaps, their own humaness has made them so? I know this is hard, we are all behind you and hope as fellow travelers on the Myeloma road that you will prevail….

    • Oh, Keith, how I want to witness to you! Seriously, we should have coffee some time. But you and I are talking about two different things. I believe that human beings have an innate desire to be compassionate…to help. This is a desire that goes way beyond that. I can, with every cell in my body, tell you that God has spoken to me three times. Each time was about someone else. Two of them were so random, and at such a random time, that I KNEW I was hearing God. The third was not so random, but I knew it was Him anyway. These are the instances that I’m talking about. That gut feeling that comes out of nowhere that doesn’t feel like YOU. (And no, I dont have voices in my head;). It’s Holy, and it should be heeded.

      • Yes, Stephanie, you can talk to me, and as you say “witness” to me. I realize you “believe” things are revealed to you. But your friends love you as they are….and I as a myeloma sufferer … who’s father and brother died from the disease,,,,, ask you to consider the alternative that ……. humans, are on our own? Is it so foreign or alien to you that would be considered?

  3. Stephanie- you are so strong and wise! I am so grateful that you are writing and sharing your thoughts with us because they are so true and deep. I know I don’t stop and listen as often as I should, but when I do, I realize there is so much out there that I have missed…the really important stuff. Brett and I are praying for you every day. God, through His incredible mercy and grace can comfort, explain and heal.

  4. Stephanie,
    I hope all is well in your treatment. In your last post you say and and I quote, “How I want to witness to you.” My next appointment with Dr. Zangari at UAMS is next November 2015….. why don’t we make it a “date” I will agree to be open minded, since it appears we are both married that should be up to our spouses…..LOL….. I really am hoping that you are still doing well and progressing free of myeloma you are so very young and have a young family, my kids are now grown my daughter is 20 almost 21 and my son is 23. My family history with Myeloma is not good, my dad died in 1994 with myeloma and my brother died in 2007 after been through Little Rock.
    I am a devoutee of uams.


  5. GOD BLESS YOU STEPHANIE!! I am a myeloma survivor in training. I was diagnosed in 2011. That being said, I am a Christian and I can’t imagine having to fight this battle alone. I also can’t imagine why ANYONE would want to come here and try to discredit your belief, most especially when you are facing this monster. That is just so uncompassionate I can’t wrap my brain around it.

    As for the statement “God won’t give you more than you can handle”, it is not even scriptual. It seems to be a distorted version of “He will not let you be tempted beyond that which you are able”.

  6. HI Steph – Can’t stop reading your blog. So many of your posts are a reflection of my experience and emotions with my husband’s MM diagnosis. And I love that you devoted time to discussing this over-used statement: “God won’t give you more than you can handle”!!!!

    If I hear that statement one more time, I think my eyes will roll back in my head and I will collapse from shear exasperation!!! Lol.

    Keep up the good work! God Bless! XO

    • I’m so glad we met, Maura! This disease is hard on everyone, but especially difficult on those of us that are younger with children at home. Even though I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, it makes it a tad easier to know we aren’t fighting alone.

  7. Stephanie, I too have always wandered about the saying “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” Just 2 wks ago my pastor spoke on this very saying, in a series titled “God never said that.” I wanted to just share with you some of the things I took away from that sermon. Possibly you or someone else reading may identify with some of it.
    Why would God give us more than we can handle? Possibly one, to teach us to depend on him and his presence. There were many times in the Bible where people would face more than they could handle and they called to the Lord. Jonah in 2:2-7 says, In my distress I called to the Lord and the Lord answered me. We are supposed to remember his goodness, and never let the presence of a storm cause us to doubt the presence of God. Two, possibly to experience his power, and give us his supernatural power. We were never created to do life alone. We were created to need and to call on him. He never expects us to do it alone. We try to hold on with our own strength because that is how we have been programed, however it’s a lie. What he does say is that his Grace is Sufficient. His grace is sufficient to carry you. 2 Cor. 12:9-10 For when I am weak then I am strong in his power. When we can’t get it done or when we are weak, he will get it done through us, and help carry us. Not sure if this helps or makes sense. I just felt the need to share. I am praying for you and think you are a amazing person. Thanks for sharing your journey. It has opened my eyes to alot of things. Thank You.

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