I will never forget the details of Friday, February 20th, 2015.
I had just woken up from the anesthesia of a somewhat routine colonoscopy. My mom was with me as I did not want my husband, Matt, to miss a half day’s work for something so routine. My doctor walked in and quickly got to the point. She explained that they were not able to finish the colonoscopy because they had encountered a tumor near the beginning of the procedure.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. In shock, I asked the mind-numbing question, “Do you think it is cancer?” Her answer back was, “Most likely, yes.” She answered a few more questions as kindly and compassionately as she could and then left quickly to schedule appointments for CT scans and surgery to have the tumor removed as soon as possible.
My mind raced as my Type A personality went into action mode…not just in processing the magnitude of the news, but in managing the details of the fallout.
How was I going to tell Matt and our three boys?
How was I going to meet my work responsibilities as an accountant during my busiest season of the year?
Two nights later, our Life Group prayed over me. I was blessed beyond measure, but at the same time, the reality of what was happening was beginning to sink in. I was emotionally drained, scared and afraid. Afterward, a sweet friend approached me in the corner of my kitchen. She asked if I had ever heard of the Giving Keys; I had not. She went on to explain the background and purpose of the Giving Keys. I learned that once you have passed through your season of holding onto the key, you then give it to someone else to help encourage them. She then reached behind her head, removed her necklace and placed it over my head.
The word on the key was “BRAVE”. I was moved to tears. It was such a simple, yet significant moment in this journey on which I was embarking. Over the next weeks and months, this simple word would prove to give me peace, courage and helped remind me that I could be brave because God loved me and He had this situation under control.
After receiving the key, the weeks flew by in a blur, full of scans, doctor appointments and finding out that the tumor was indeed cancerous. Through it all, I had “BRAVE” around my neck and many times traced the engraved letters between my fingers for strength and comfort. I remember the countless hours sitting, Bible opened, pouring over God’s Word for hope and encouragement and crying out to Jesus in prayer for healing, strength and comfort. I never doubted God through this period in my life and although it was the most trying time I had ever experienced, I truly felt a “peace that passes all understanding.” God showered me with love from family and friends. Bible verses encouraging me came in the form of daily texts, phone calls and cards.
Some of the verses I clung to were:
Psalm 57: 1-2 ~ Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in You my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills His purpose for me.
Psalm 29:11 ~ The Lord gives STRENGTH to His people; The Lord blesses His people with PEACE.
Isaiah 40:29 ~ He gives STRENGTH to the weary and increases the POWER of the weak.
Two weeks after learning of the tumor, I went in for surgery. My husband, Matt, was my rock. Even while juggling a new job, he arranged his schedule to be with me the entire time. He answered the tough and fearful questions that came from our boys and held me up when I was having a hard time being brave.
To make a long story short: 10 inches of my colon were removed along with 24 lymph nodes, but ALL of the cancer had been removed and I was labeled Stage 1 cancer with no further treatment!
Our family, friends and small group were AWESOME, praying for us and supporting us every step of the way!
GOD WAS AND IS GOOD AND FAITHFUL!
As I recount this scary period in my life, I am amazed at how God brought all the pieces together so perfectly. His hand was intricately involved in every minute of every day. This journey has shaped me into who I am today, and surprisingly, I wouldn’t change it if I could.
My “BRAVE” key was a significant piece to my story. It was something tangible I could hold onto and remind me that I wasn’t alone and that – with God by my side – I could be brave.
Two months after I received my heart-wrenching news, I was able to pass along my key to a friend who needed it more than I. Six months later, a friend reached out to me to hear my story. She was going through her own fight with cancer and had received the “BRAVE” key in the mail from the gal I had given it to. I am not sure where the key has traveled since, but I know God continues to place it with people to be a symbol of courage, strength and comfort as they face their own trials.
Julie is married to her husband of 24 years, Matt, a pastor on staff at Grace Chapel. Matt and Julie have three boys: Austin (20), Dylan (18) and Trevor (15). She is a full-time mom and part-time CPA who spends the little free time she has reading, catching up with dear friends and cheering her kids on in their various activities.