Cancer, Pain, Treasures in the Darkness, Trust, Words of Endurance

A Treasure Prepared in the Darkness

An outgoing and gregarious teenager, Michelle Dacus was president of her school’s Christian Club and active in her church. She looked forward to graduating from high school and heading off to college where she planned to prepare for a future in social work. But just weeks before graduation, excruciating kidney pain sent her to the emergency room. For the next six months, Michelle’s life was dictated by trips to the ER, catheters, and kidney infections.

This was not Michelle’s first encounter with pain and suffering. When she was just eighteen months old, she had an advanced, life-threatening cancer that engulfed several of her internal organs. For four years, doctors tried to arrest the cancer without harming those organs. It was a delicate balancing act, and much of her treatment was experimental. Doctors told her parents that she probably wouldn’t survive. Yet Michelle survived those difficult years and credits her recovery to “the doctor’s wisdom and the Lord having a plan for my life.”

More than a decade later, however, Michelle’s life was again threatened, this time as a result of the experimental treatments that once had saved it. She needed major surgery to rebuild and repair several damaged organs. Surgery was scheduled for the winter break of her freshman year in college.

Although Michelle did not know how long or difficult her recovery might be, she remembers the drive to the hospital. “I was at peace and ready to get everything taken care of. I knew God was going to come through and be faithful once again.”

After surgery, she remembers seeing her mom’s tears of relief. And she can never forget the pain. “It was as if I had lightning bolts running through my legs. It hurt so much I didn’t want to move a muscle.” The surgery had stretch the nerves in both of Michelle’s legs, leaving her nearly paralyzed and in constant pain. “It was the most severe pain in my entire life,” she says. “I would just lie there, crying. My mom would rub my legs day and night trying to soothe the pain.”

The darkness continued closing in. Instead of returning to college after Christmas break, Michelle returned to her bedroom. For the next three months, she lived in pajamas, unable to walk. She was on such strong pain medication that she was barely able to eat. Her weight dropped to 86 pounds. “I was completely helpless. My Mom had to do everything – even brush my teeth. I had a walker in my room, and with my Mom’s help I would practice standing up and leaning on the walk. It took every ounce of every I had just to do that. There I was, a lively 18-year-old who was supposed to be in college and I could barely get out of bed. I just couldn’t believe how far down I’d gone.”

Like many others who have walked a similar path through suffering, Michelle desperately wanted to feel God’s presence during those dark months. She wanted to focus on God’s Word, but she was too weak even to hold her Bible. She was in too much pain to read. “That was such a hard time mentally and emotionally. I knew God was doing something, but I didn’t know what and I couldn’t feel His presence. But I knew He was there and working.”

God knew exactly what He was doing. Years before, He had prepared a treasure for Michelle that would help her through the overwhelming darkness. Michelle’s only memory of her battle with childhood cancer is a brief moment in a hospital isolation room. “I was only two or three years old, and I remember being alone in a very quiet room. I could see my parents on the other side of the glass and I wanted to be with them. I put both of my hands on the glass and looked at my mom on the other side. She put her hands on the glass opposite mine and whispered, ‘I love you.'”

Michelle considers the memory of her mom whispering to her through the glass to be a gift from God. “God might have given me that memory because that’s how He is. He’s right there, on the other side of the glass. Even though we can’t feel or touch Him, He is there.” Just as she saw her mother on the other side of the glass so many years before, Michelle sensed God whispering to her, “I’m here with you, and I see your suffering. This is in my hands. It will not last forever.”

That image was a priceless treasure that gave Michelle hope. “My natural tendency was to lie in bed and never get out. But the image I had of God saying, ‘Push through, this isn’t going to last forever,’ gave me hope. I knew that God was with me, so I knew that the pain was either going to end or I was going to go home with Jesus.” That treasure gave her a glimmer of hope that no darkness could overcome.

Now we see a dim reflection, as if we were looking into a mirror, but then we shall see clearly. Now I know only a part, but then I will know fully, as God has known me.
1 Corinthians 13:12(NCV)