It took a mango-sized tumour to shatter my illusion of a perfect life
Koh Yun Ting // January 8, 2021, 4:15 pm
In early 2017, I injured my lower back. I couldn’t even stand up without pain or a severe hunch.
The doctor referred me for physiotherapy which was where I learnt that an x-ray had showed an opacity in my body. I was then given a referral to a urologist.
So off I went to the urologist, where I waited for the CT scan results with trepidation.
The urologist, perhaps wanting to ease my fears, told me I was probably constipated as based on my age and lack of symptoms, kidney stones were highly unlikely.
Moments later, the urologist told me the scan showed a large fibroid. One large fibroid. How did this happen? I had no symptoms except for frequent urination which I had always dismissed.
I felt punished by God.
I felt punished by God. Why me? Haven’t I already suffered enough with a tough childhood dealing with the death of my father at age 14 and an absentee mother? And just when things in my life were going so well!
I could think of others who by my yardstick, were morally inferior to me and who perhaps should get the curse of sickness, like people who have committed atrocities and heinous crimes.
In truth, my medical diagnosis revealed something deeper than physical issue – I had a rotting heart encased in bitterness.
WORRIES AND WHAT-IFS
Regardless, my tears flowed at the idea of surgery as I had always feared ill health the most.
To make matters worse, the doctor at the public hospital told me that only a traditional incision could be done due to the size of the fibroid.
This meant an invasive approach, which cuts through layers of the abdomen and has a longer downtime with much more pain.
Hearing that, I sought out a senior doctor at another hospital. I was relieved to hear he was confident of doing a keyhole surgery for my mango-sized tumour.
But I was still worried because the doctor said that even with surgery, fibroids can regrow. He also said that in the rare case the fibroid turned out to be malignant, surgery could cause the cancer cells to spread.
I was in a dilemma and felt like a ticking time bomb.
If the fibroid keeps growing, I will miss the window of opportunity for keyhole surgery, but how can I be sure that it’s benign?
If the surgery resulted in complications, I would lose my ability to bear children. Would my boyfriend still stick with me then?
There were so many what-ifs going through my mind.
In July 2017, I went for the surgery.
I woke up with searing pain, deep fatigue and extreme discomfort due to the carbon dioxide pumped into my abdomen.
I prayed through the sleepless nights of agony and pain. The love and care from my family and dedicated boyfriend also got me through the slow recovery process.
My aunt lovingly and frequently made porridge and herbal tea to speed up my recovery. I thank God for the aunt, uncle and cousins He put in my life. Their prayers and aid made the difference.
Theoretically, I knew sickness could be a trial, just like what Job went through. But I initially saw my sickness as punishment for leaving God and having spent years living secularly.
I suppose it’s natural to think of bad things as punishment when overwhelmed with pain or grief.
But I now realise the Devil was playing with my mind, whispering to me that God doesn’t care anymore.
It took me a long time to learn that trials can actually be a refining fire for our eternal good.
Suffering made me listen more intently to God. It brought me back to Him and to ponder the chief end of man.
What lay at the end of all those pleasures in my better days? When everything seemed to be going for me in every area of my life?
Suddenly, I found myself hardly stepping out of the house. At my worst, whatever I ate triggered reactions like diarrhoea, breathlessness or fainting (crashes or flares as patients call it).
I didn’t even have the energy to walk to the kitchen!
What lay at the end of all those pleasures in my better days?
Truly, a life stripped bare of the pleasures that the healthy take for granted proved to be extremely difficult.
But I give thanks for one thing: this trial made me see how I had been wasting my life on the temporal. Romans 8:18-28 sums it up.
HEALING AND HOPE
Three years have passed since my surgery, and a recent scan showed no new growth. I thank God for His blessing!
Yes, I still struggle with fear at times, but I’m learning to think with a renewed mind everyday. So even though the fear still exists, my faith has grown in God’s sovereignty and His goodness.
For those who are in a period of pain and grief, my encouragement is that there’s a purpose in suffering and eternal good waits for us no matter what. So keep the faith and keep going. Hang in there.
I have learned (and am still learning) through the school of hard knocks that God is sovereign. He is always good even if the worst happens. He still loves you.
Sometimes life hits you in such unexpected ways, and the fall from grace is very painful. But God, as Matthew West belts it out, is the God who stays with us.
You’re the God who stands with wide open arms
And You tell me nothing I have ever done can separate my heart
From the God who stays
Truly, disease and death can’t separate me from God. Nothing I’ve ever done can separate me from Him!
THINK + TALK
- What was the most difficult trial you have faced in your life?
- Where was God in that moment?
- What is one area of life you struggle to give up control in?
- Do you know someone who’s facing a tough season? How can you share love and light with them this week?