Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Year in Review

Last week we received my December 4th CT scan results. We are so relieved and incredibly thankful that there is no evidence of cancer in my abdomen or pelvis. Praise God for that huge answer to prayer! 

It would have been a real disappointment to have had the cancer "misbehave" unpredictably and return that quickly after the successful September surgery. The scan of my chest shows that the cancerous lymph nodes have only enlarged a wee bit since the last scan in August, which is consistent with slow growing, low grade cancer. I'm scheduled for the next big surgery, this time on my chest, on January 12th.

There are no words to describe our relief, joy and gratefulness for these outcomes. Although the road ahead is still long and unknown, we are definitely pausing to celebrate this good news! My abdomen surgeon admitted that he "wasn't sure we'd ever get to this point" because of the amount of cancer inside me. Needless to say, all three of my oncologist surgeons were very pleased with these CT scan results, my recovery and weight gain. Andy and I drove home from these appointments with worship music blasting and the occasional roll down of the windows for my sporadic hot flashes! Thank you for your continued prayers for healing throughout this journey.

As 2015 comes to a close, I've been reflecting on God's faithfulness to Andy and I this year. During some journal reflection time at the beginning of 2015, I came across Romans 12:12 "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Through prayer, I decided this verse would replace new years resolutions and become my verse of the year. I wrote in my journal that day, "I have this strong desire to seek and be filled with HOPE in 2015. Lord, I want to cling to your word. Be my guide, my strength, my peace and my refuge in times of trouble." Little did I know how significant this verse and these prayers would become as the year unfolded. While there's no question 2015 has been the most challenging year of our lives, we have clung to the powerful truths in Romans 12:12 and experienced the HOPE of Jesus more than ever before.

Here are some snapshots of the highs and the lows of 2015. For each month, I've included an excerpt from my journal. Journaling prayers throughout this past year has helped to release emotions, find clarity in my thoughts and point me to the Bible for comfort and truth.
  • January - praying for a baby, having been trying for a year
    • Jan. 10, 2015 "The pain I was feeling because of infertility was pushed away, ignored and even rebuked by myself. Finally, I broke down and could say, 'This is hard.' It was freeing to just admit that. All along, I was trying to walk through this perfectly or the way I thought God would want me to - not becoming consumed, keeping a good perspective throughout, counting my blessings, etc. Admitting defeat was needed. I was not stronger than this. I could not do this alone. I could not do this without sadness and hurt. I was broken."
  • February - skated the canal in Ottawa with family, snowboarded Lake Placid with friends, joined a four-week "Choosing Joy" study with women from my church
    • Feb. 1, 2015 "What's the purpose of pain? What's the best way to walk through painful times? Should you cry often, tell everyone, hold your head up high, pull it together, be strong? How do you find joy? How do you choose joy when it's hard but still be authentic?"
  • March - adventure trip with Andy to beautiful Iceland
    • March 10, 2015 "Although this trip will be full of adventure, dinners out, incredible landscapes, exploring, cool pictures, laughs and memories made - teach me true JOY. Lord, show me this joy you've been teaching me."
  • April - shared our infertility journey at church women's retreat with the encouraging support of my prayer group girls
    • April 17, 2015 "There is pain and we don't need to hide it. Throughout the Bible, faithful men and women cry out to God. Hannah, who was begging God for a baby, cried out saying 'I am a women who is deeply troubled.' Thank you Lord for the permission found in scripture to cry and be sad, even amidst seeking joy. Teach me how to be PATIENT in affliction, trusting you to be with us."
  • May - first time we heard the word cancer, infertility clinic referred me to oncologist
    • May 30, 2015 "Help us to trust you going into Monday mornings appointment with the oncologist. We need you. 'Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart, wait for the Lord.' Psalm 27:14. Help us to wait for you and be PATIENT. Give us clarity, the right questions to ask and faith in you."
  • June - biopsy surgery, diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer, blown away by love, support and prayers from our families, extended families, friends near and far, fellow teachers and students, started blog with "Choosing Vulnerability"
    • June 18, 2015 "Lord, what is happening? We were praying for germ cell cancer and hoping it would be that but it's the epithelial kind?! This was the worst of the three options. God, why? We don't understand your ways. We don't even know how to react to this. What do we do? What do we tell people? God, please let this further and deepen the faith of those around us, not shake or tear down. God we need this to glorify you. Give us FAITH. We need to trust you more than ever, but it's hard. We want answers but we may never get them. Oh God, walk with us. Be our ever present help in this daunting time of trouble."
  • July - started chemotherapy, Andy shaved my head, cottage with family and friends
    • July 1, 2015 "Thank you for giving me the courage to start the blog. I dedicate the whole thing to you, Lord. Would you be so incredibly glorified through it? Holy Spirit, show me what to write and how to write it. Help me to have the courage to be vulnerable. Teach me from your word so I can be a tool and instrument for your purposes, which are way higher and way beyond me." 
  • August - chemotherapy continues, celebrated fourth anniversary with Andy in Montreal, quality time with family and friends, two prayer nights for healing and peace
    • August 27, 2015 "Lord, you are good. You are a good, good Father. I am never alone. Thank you for going ahead of me and preparing the way. Thank you for walking with me in each step. Teach me Lord to fully trust you. Help me to not focus on the surgery ahead, but to focus all my attention on you alone, Lord."
  • September - major abdomen surgery, thousands praying, recovery struggles, numb leg, concerning weight loss
    • September 28, 2015 "God, this journey is so hard. Another Monday today and still so many obstacles - nerve damage, weakness, borderline dehydration, tired, not retaining nutrients, losing weight, restless nights being uncomfortable. God, thank you for not being detached from these human emotions or experiences of pain. You know suffering. Thank you Jesus for choosing suffering in order to pursue relationship with me."
  • October - wonderful thanksgiving with family, maid of honour in best friend's wedding, minor chest surgery
    • October 29, 2015 "Teach me, Lord. Mould me, Lord. Use this suffering to change and transform me into the woman you've designed me to be. Develop in me perseverance, character and hope."
  • November - week-long nausea bouts that put me in hospital, Beth Moore conference, recovery momentum begins, Pink Pearl conference with young women with cancer
    • November 8, 2015 "Lord, thank you for today. Thank you for my health today - breathing, no nausea, full appetite, no knee problems, etc. Help me to make the most of today."
  • December - CT scan clear from September surgery, chest surgery booked for January, numb leg improving, enjoying Christmas season at a slower pace, cherished time with friends and family
    • Dec. 15, 2015 "We praise you for the news this week of no cancer in the abdomen and pelvis. Thank you Lord for healing me of cancer in my abdomen through the miraculous surgery and your healing hand throughout recovery. Continue to walk with us, oh Lord."
Yes, it's been a hard year but can you see how God has been so faithful to us!? Thank you to everyone who has supported, encouraged and prayed for us this past year. We could not have come this far without each other, our loving family and friends but most of all, our Heavenly Father. He's walked with us in each step and throughout it all, has been teaching us what it means to "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  Love, Julia & Andy


  1. Merry Christmas, Julia and Andy. You are a true inspiration and we will continue to pray for you both. We will always be sending you positive thoughts. Your courage and determination will sustain you as you keep your faith foremost in your journey. Love to your Mom and Dad as well. Deb

  2. Julia you are the strongest person I know! Thank you for continuing to share this journey with all of us! 2015 was a terrible year for you, yet you took the time to share your feelings and faith with all of us! I am praying for you and Andy every day, I hope 2016 has alot of postive outcomes for you! Enjoy this christmas season with your family and friends! Xoxo Merry Christmas Julia!

  3. Go Julia go!!! Great to see you turning the corner. I am cheering for you and Andy what a wonderful team you are. Love you

  4. Thank you for sharing your journey with everyone in the blog and recounting God's faithfulness to both of you. I just did a bible study on what to do when God picks a fight with us. It was a different and interesting perspective. The study was called Raw Faith and was by Kasey van Norman. I will pray for your healing to continue :)

  5. Julia, you are a very strong woman! Thank you so much for sharing your life, your story, your faith! Continuing to pray for you and Andy. Have a Merry Christmas!! Sending love and hugs....sharon xo

  6. Thank you for sharing openly and honestly with all of us. You give me courage to keep on amidst grief and sorrow, and to never give up, do not fear, just believe. What a wonderfully special young woman you are. I was comforted by this verse this morning.
    "Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you." John 16:22... This verse gives me such hope...nobody can take our joy ever...we won't let them...love you dear heart, and praying for continual healing in your precious body...Merry Christmas....the baby King has come!...JOY lives...xo

  7. Julia....we rejoice at the news you received from the Dr. We rejoice at the way God is touching you and touching others through your struggles. May the God of all comfort continue to guide, strengthen, bless and heal you! Love from Brian and Heather Whitley and our (your) church family on St. Joseph Island.....

  8. Your story just came through on my fb feed. MM will resolve the nausea, increase appetite, alleviate pain, and allow for proper sleep/rest. Been through this myself and God still holds us in His hands. Like our earthly fathers, He has already gone before us, and knows the way.

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