As I stood in front of the door of our new living quarters, I had Jamison on my hip, while holding Julian’s hand. Taking a deep breath and then blowing out the heaviness from my sorrow, I opened the door to my new life. In 2009, I unexpectedly had to move from Florida to the Philadelphia region; it was not a move I desired but was due to the circumstances in my life at that time. I was let go from a job I loved and was leaving the beautiful weather and the strong support system for my young and growing family, headed to a place where I once vowed to never return.
As I prayed about my unknown future, God assured me that He would take care of me and bring people into my life to help raise my sons. During the move, I was pregnant with my third son, and my other two were three and four-and-a-half. With no job, very little support, and a new baby on the way, I lived in my best friend’s basement for six months.
I was scared, angry, resentful, and struggling through a host of emotions. How did I end up like this? Through no fault of my own, my personal and professional life was in shambles. On top of that, I was about to be a single mother with 3 children under the age of five, of which one with special needs. Despite my despair, I still maintained my strong foundation of faith in God. He reassured me that He would take care of me and bring people into my life to help me raise my boys.
One day I noticed a new property was being built. I prayed, “God, if it’s your will, please open up a space for me here.” I continued to pray for a place to live. In God’s perfect timing, I received the keys to the exact place that I had prayed months for, and one week later on March 19th, Justice was born. Two days after that we left the hospital and moved into our new home.
As my family grew, I was blessed to find two churches that helped me in different areas. With no family nearby, they each met a different need. One church allowed me to rest and was a place where my children were flooded with love while they learned the Word of God. I was blessed to find my tribe at the other church, with friendships that have remained strong to this day. As I slowly rebuilt a new life, I was so happy that God put people in our lives who helped in various ways, including special needs support, mom-friends, and children’s programs.
Little did I know that the journey I was on was only preparing me for what was still to come. God blessed me with a job at Boeing and as I was finally getting back on my feet, I was laid off. I couldn’t believe it, after everything I had been through, things were finally looking up. I didn’t work for another year and a half. It was devastating to not be able to provide for my family. Unemployment helped for a little while, eventually running out with no other income coming in. Looking back, I can truly say that nothing, except the hand of God sustained me during this time. He used others to provide for me – family, friends, extended family, and even strangers. There is no other logical explanation for how our needs were met throughout that difficult period.
Eventually, I was blessed with my dream job working for the Department of Defense. I was traveling for work; the children were thriving and then my world came crashing down as I got the big C diagnosis. I broke my left foot at the Philadelphia Zoo, and while, I had been having pain in my right hip for a while, I thought it was me getting old and since I’m on the heavy side, I truly chalked it up to that. But, while I was in the ER, I asked them to take an X-ray of my hip since I was already there and knew there was an issue.
After my X-ray, I was sent to the orthopedic doctor for an ultrasound. After reviewing the results, the doctor told me to get dressed without saying another word. When he came back into the room, he informed me that I was being referred to an orthopedic oncologist. I was like…wait a minute…Oncology is Cancer! Cancer had taken my mother at the age of forty-nine, and here I am at forty-eight facing a diagnosis after a fluke accident.
My first appointment with Dr. Kim was one of the craziest days of my life. He looks at the film, looks at me, and tells me, “I need to put you in the hospital today for more testing and a biopsy.’ And I’m like, “NO! I have three kids; I can’t just go to the hospital.” His response let me know just how serious it was. He told me I had four hours to figure out my childcare, and if I didn’t come back, they would come to get me. I looked at my best friend Kiren, and she returned my stare with fear in her eyes.
Ewing sarcoma is a rare type of bone cancer, normally found in Caucasian boys between the age of 5 and 20. As a middle-aged African American woman, the doctors were dumbfounded. For the next three years, I was in and out of the hospital fighting bone cancer. I had a hip replacement, and staph infections threatened my life multiple times. In all, I endured twelve surgeries and countless hospital stays for complications from the infections.
Let me tell you how God works – I had an amazing village who really loved me and my children. Despite all my protests for moving back to his area, I know God placed me in exactly the place I needed to be, surrounded by a circle of angels on Earth. I am continually in awe of how God orchestrated provision and protection from the moment we arrived here, broken, unsure and dejected.
Through my entire treatment, my children were loved and cared for by generous and loving people. I never once had to worry about them while they were in the care of others. It still doesn’t make sense how God was able to orchestrate everything for my family and my home while I spent so much time in the hospital.
When I tell my story, people always wonder how I could have possibly made it through all that I experienced. Honestly, I don’t even understand it, even though I lived it. All I know is that the Grace of God kept us through it all. This is also a story of how God allowed my journey to impact others. I joke all the time, all those trips to the hospital weren’t just for me, but they were purposely for the people that I met along the way. There were countless people who prayed for me and who I prayed for.
Days upon days in the hospital allowed me to sit in prayer and meditation daily. During that time, God revealed so many things to me, including that our pain isn’t always about us. Our experiences allow us to speak and connect with others who are going through similar journeys. My biggest joys have come from knowing that God has used me in moments of my own brokenness to minister to someone who just needed a simple reminder that He is Faithful.
How has this changed me? I am in pain, every single day of my life, although I am learning how to navigate through the pain. I stopped taking so many drugs because the level of brain fog was numbing. I am constantly aware of how God uses my story to speak life into those that are in pain, who are scared, and who feel alone. My purpose is to speak life and hold space for people to feel what they feel without judgment. God loves us and He will challenge our Faith to strengthen us. Cancer is a manifestation of many things, it’s not just physical, it’s especially mental and emotional. We must focus on the love of Christ to help us get through whatever challenges we are facing. And He will.
I pray that anyone going through Cancer, has a Tribe that prays with, and for them. My prayer is that they mentally, and emotionally allow themselves to be vulnerable and stay in prayer through the process. I pray for their wisdom, and discernment to be activated. I also pray they get the resources needed to beat Cancer. May God grant our children the ability to feel safe in our absence and grow in Faith, Courage, and Love.
In Jesus Name, Amen
My “Moms Night In” conversation with Jewel:
Or watch on Facebook here.