catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 1, Num 6 :: 2002.11.22 — 2002.12.05


Lessons learned through crisis

This article first appeared in The Banner magazine. The picture to the right is of Sheri and her high school art teacher, Jim Kamphuis.

It's amazing how life can change so quickly. In just a few weeks, I went from my carefree high school existence to the life of a cancer patient.

I was diagnosed with cancer on August 3, 2001. I had mixed feelings when they told me what was wrong. Part of me was relieved to finally have a diagnosis, but another part of me was afraid of the unknown that lay in my path. Up to that point, I had thought of cancer only as a terminal illness, not something that thousands of people live through and recover from. The few reports I'd heard about chemo made it sound more miserable than Chinese water torture. I had no desire to undergo such misery. All I wanted to do was to lead a normal life and head off to college like the rest of my friends. God had other plans, though.

A few days after my diagnosis, as I sat in the hospital nervously awaiting the first of my 17 rounds of chemo, my legs began to feel as if they were falling asleep. By evening, I was paralyzed from the armpits down: the cancer had invaded my spine. The doctors informed my parents and I that, though there was a slight possibility that I would regain a bit of movement, I would never walk again. When, after surgery, I found I could wiggle my big toes, one of my doctors cried for joy. A few days after surgery, I was shuffling up and down the halls, clinging desperately to my IV pole. Though I will probably never be at the physical level I was at before cancer, I am, quite literally, a walking miracle.

During my many hospital stays, I've had plenty of time to think about life. Mine, I know, is forever changed. My hair will grow back and my scars will fade, but cancer's impact on my outlook will remain. I now know just how close death really is. We never expect the car crashes, accidents at work, or terrible diseases that change our lives, but they continue to happen.

When we think about terrible things like these, we declare that we would never have the strength to make it through. When the time comes, though, we have no choice but to continue, and God's promise that he will give us the strength for whatever comes our way is certainly a comfort.

I would never, ever have chosen to go through the things that I have, but, in a strange sort of way, I'm very thankful for these experiences. They have helped me to become a stronger person, more aware of what is really important to me. I've grown closer to my family and, more importantly, closer to God. Cancer has helped me realize that I truly don?t know what tomorrow will bring and that God's plans, not mine, are the ones that matter. It has helped me become more dependent on God for the strength to make it through one day at a time, without worrying about what the future will bring. In all things, he truly knows what's best and works for my good.

On July 31, 2002, my doctor read a post-chemo CAT scan and declared my treatments a success. I will get CAT scans and blood tests periodically to monitor my progress and watch for any possible signs of recurrence, but I can finally return to a more normal existence.

I've been taking college courses over the Internet during this past year, and this fall I entered Calvin College just six credit hours short of being a sophomore. My major is in elementary education, and I've been pondering the possibility of teaching art. Eventually, I hope that I can use my skills and my experiences to tutor hospitalized or homebound children.

your comments

comments powered by Disqus