Sunday, October 2, 2016

Persevering in Prayer

Last week, Andy and I uneasily awaited CT scan results in the all too familiar room at Juravinski Hospital. My oncologist came in, asked about our Bahamas trip and then explained that in the past three months the tumours in my abdomen wall have grown and there are some new tumour growths appearing in my abdomen and now in my chest too. While it's considered slow growing, the new tumour growth indicates this second oral drug I've been taking is not working. 

We are thankful the cancer is mostly away from vital organs; it's primarily in the abdomen wall and sides of the chest. However we were told that if the cancer enters my bowels, I'd become very sick, be admitted to the hospital to get nausea and pain under control and be given less than six months. 

My gynecological team at Juravinski agrees the next best cancer treatment to try is a different chemotherapy combination (usually 30% success rate for ovarian patients, but given my chemo track record, a 10% success rate). Before making a decision, we sought the second opinion of our oncologist team at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. My medical oncologist bent over backwards to find a clinical trial suitable for my case that he could squeeze me into somehow. At this point, of the few trials that might benefit my situation, they have been closed to new patients. Please pray that if God wants me to do a clinical trial in Toronto, that He would open the door to one that would miraculously work wonders battling the cancer in my body.

After looking into a variety of other treatment options, we've agreed the best option for now is this different chemo Juravinski recommended. The good news about this chemo is the side effects are minimal, no hair loss and treatment is only once every four weeks. My first chemo infusion is scheduled right after Thanksgiving weekend. Please pray for a good response and God's continued direction in my treatment plan.

The approximate twelve pounds of fluid around my lungs, in my abdomen, lower back and thighs will continue to be monitored. Please pray that the pain in my left leg would subside; it's not a blood clot but sure makes walking difficult. Also pray for success in my chest fluid draining procedure booked for Friday morning. I hope to breath easy!

Whew. Disappointing news. I definitely wasn't rejoicing in the hospital room as we took in the news; instead I broke down in front of my oncologist and nurse. Is this a road Andy and I would have imagined or chosen? Never. Does my heart break for every fellow patient, young or old, I see sitting in waiting rooms? Always. 

We live in a broken world. My heart longs for the perfect world God intended for us in the first place. C.S. Lewis says it beautifully, "If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world." This world is not our home. Our hearts should long for something more while we're here. For me, the brokenness of disease, violence, war and natural disaster on earth make me long for God to come back, bring justice and call us to heaven for eternity.

Andy and I are not naive to the disease I have, and thankfully our anchored hope is in far greater things beyond this broken world, BUT we do hope and pray for a healing miracle. I think praying for physical healing is the most vulnerable thing I've ever doneBrene Brown says, "Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable but they are never weakness." And prayer does just that. It exposes our hearts, insecurities and worries to God. When the last three CT scans have shown tumour growth, it's become increasingly faith-stretching to persevere in this prayer for physical healing. This negative news brings so much disappointment and sadness. I'd love to avoid these difficult human emotions and wish I could tell you I immediately feel peace, strength and trust in these hard moments, but I'd be lying. As a happily married gal in my twenties, hard news seems to only get harder.

So I've spent the last two weeks wrestling with and reflecting on prayer. Does prayer work? How do I live completely surrendered to God's will while also praying boldly for physical healing? Increase my faith and teach me to pray, Lord! While much of prayer will remain a mystery as it's how we communicate with the God of the universe, I am sure of these simple truths. 

God hears our prayers. Every single one of them. It will always baffle me that God has any interest in the lives of little humans on earth, let alone His unconditional, relentless, beckoning LOVE for us. In no way do we deserve His listening ear, but He oh-so-patiently listens to our incoherent ramblings and cares. I've experienced this so tangibly throughout this cancer journey as I've poured my heart out to God. He is not a distant God. Instead, He longs for relationship developed through raw prayer dialogue with Him. "I love the LORD for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live." Psalm 116:1-2. Amen! 

Prayer is powerful and effective. This is not only a direct quote from James 5:16 and backed throughout the Bible with God even changing His mind because of bold prayers, it's a truth I can personally attest to this past year. We (myself, Andy, our parents, siblings, families, friends, wider blog/church/community circles) have been collectively praying 100% for physical healing and 100% for God's perfect will and glory to unfold throughout the journey (see early blog post on praying for healing). These prayers have been effective. Remember the twenty four hour prayer schedules with people signed up to pray in fifteen minute increments during my two major surgeries? Incredibly powerful! Both surgeries were miraculous in that they were able to successfully remove all that cancer and do so without any infection or major complication post-surgery. Doctors continue to be stunned reading my medical file, shocked at the extensiveness of both operations and my recovery. Without those surgeries, I would not be here today. Remember how I couldn't walk after leaving the September abdomen surgery? How I was only able to whisper after the January chest surgery? I'm walking and talking! As I've met more recovering cancer patients, it's made me realize how fortunate I've been to experience relatively little post-treatment pain. 

God has answered our prayers for physical healing in countless ways this past year, and beyond this He's also answered our prayers to see His will and glory revealed through suffering! Andy and I cannot explain how we've been able to journey this year without pointing to God's army of faithful prayer warriors. We know that strength, peace, joy, hope, faith, comfort, etc. bursts into our days because of the power of prayer. This doesn't mean we are suddenly invincible warriors at every turn, free of tears or disappointment, but prayers draw us into the arms of our loving Father, pull us back up on our feet and help us press on. It is a humbling privilege to be able to share my hope in Jesus so openly in this blog. I am constantly in awe of how God uses these typed words to stir up hearts and start conversations. To protect individual's privacy, I will not delve into the hundreds of stories, messages and conversations that have brought me great encouragement through sharing my story. But praise God for each and every one!

We're called to persevere in prayer. The Bible teaches us to praise God for the ways He's redeeming the broken things in this world, to continually bring our requests to God and to ultimately remain faithful in prayer. Praying these two seemingly paradoxical prayers for physical healing and God's will can be tiring and even discouraging when bad news comes. But God calls us to press on, "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Colossians 4:2 The examples of bold, vulnerable prayers throughout the Bible give me permission and motivation to persevere in these big prayers. Yes, they require a lot of trust and faith in God, so I chime in with the sick boy's father who cried out to Jesus saying, "Lord I believe; help my unbelief!" Mark 9:24 And when I'm completely at a loss, what a comfort to hold this truth, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words." Romans 8:26

Thank you for praying is a massive understatement. We need prayer to face each day. We need prayer warriors with faith big enough to ask God for physical healing and then accept whatever may come. We need prayer for my left leg pain, increased nausea sickness, fluid retention, difficulty breathing, ongoing treatment decisions, chemo side effects and chemo effectiveness. We need prayer for strength, perseverance, hope, joy and faith. We need prayer not only for Andy and I, but also for my Mom, Dad, sister, brother, in-laws and many close friends journeying with us through the hard moments. Thank you for praying faithfully. It's honestly the best way you can support us. And as you're praying for us, know we are praying for you... that you will find God exactly where you're at and experience His goodness.

"Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, 
so that we may receive mercy and find grace 
to help us in our time of need." 
- Hebrews 4:16


  1. I still feel convinced that God is going to exhaust every human effort to prove your healing was nothing but God's miraculous hand alone. Julia, in addition to Eph.3:20 I am going to pray that God will shorten the journey from here to full recovery! And when He does, I think you will be called to full time ministry, because we all need you to continue to use your gift! You are an amazing communicator who I believe God is going to partner with to accomplish His purposes here. I love you sweetie! God does not live at the mercy of statistics and nor should we. So keep shining, we are all praying for you!!

  2. My dear friend Julia,

    Also known to me for many years by Ju! :) you are the strongest most beautiful woman I know. I cannot begin to comprehend why this has occurred and I cannot begin to understand what you are feeling. I have read each of your posts and tear up every time. I do not understand why this has happened to such a beautiful soul. I myself have never been a person who relied on faith to understand life's struggles but, It seems this disease has tested your faith in so many ways struggling to comprehend why God has tested you this way. I wish I could give you all of the strength I have to help you keep fighting and remaining strong although I can only imagine how much of a struggle that can also be.

    I'm sending my thoughts and prayers

    Much love
    Little Kristen <3

  3. Your continued strength and patience is inspiring to see - thank you for sharing your story. I join in with the hundreds of others wishing you relief and recovery.

    Marc Jenkinson

  4. know the Saviour and He said in Revelation 22:20 "SURELY I COME QUICKLY. Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen" " It will be worth it all when we see Christ" comes to mind. May souls who read your testimony turn to Him for Salvation before it is too late.

  5. Heather and Brian WhitleyOctober 2, 2016 at 9:11 PM

    Once again you were prayed for aloud in our church this morning. Aunt Libby prayed for you, referring to you as "Dear Julia." She didn't know the results of your latest CAT scan but she was confident that God knew so she just asked God to wrap His arms of comfort around you. We send much love and prayers from St. Joseph Island. Thank you for your vulnerability and honesty and steadfast trust in God. You and Andy are beautiful treasures.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing we will continue to pray for you. I especially love your quote from C.S. Lewis. It reminded me of the story of his wife Joy and her journey with cancer and how she was told she only had less than a couple months to live. They desired to ask God for healing for her and together with several others a pastor prayed over her for healing and anointed her with oil. She spent the next 3 years in remission. Praying for healing for you.

  7. Julia, these are tough lessons to learn however much easier on this side of things. I am convinced that you are God's leading soldier. You are leading the charge. The amount of hearts that you've stirred in one year is such a substantial victory for his kingdom. Your fearless response to the next challenge is what God wants. He knows your strengths and is continuing to call you along the path. Keep your eyes on him. He has brought you this far and will never forsake you. This world, this pain ridden world has been blessed to experience your side of the story. The side of the story where pain does not win. Keep leading us on your walk. We know you are not looking back, but we are all following closely and learning.

    Nick D.

  8. Julia - thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. The search for the truth of and journey in persevering prayer has been a shared one over these past few months and your words that it is such a vulnerable place struck a resounding chord in my heart. As I pray for healing for our son Kyle, invariably God brings you and Andy to mind with the reminder to intercede for you too. Thankful for the privilege and gift of prayer. And thankful for your gift of expressing thoughts so well with written word!! Joining you in prayer.
    Wendy Hayhoe

  9. Julia, you'll likely not remember me. I am a teacher at Trinity Christian School but never taught you or just sibs. You were however, a Reading Buddy to our daughter Lauren when she was in Gr2 with Mrs. Berends (Miss Cnossen then) and so we have a photo of you in her school album. I was directed to your blog after seeing your interview with 100 Huntley Street. What a journey you've been traveling. Your testimony and tenacious faith amid the struggle is a huge encouragement and inspiration. May God continue to show His unfailing love and care as you process this latest news, pray for healing from our all-powerful God, and rest in His abiding presence as His plans are fulfilled in - and through - you. I join you in prayer as a sister-in-Christ. In love, Jacquie DeRaaf

  10. It's so hard to read this without "why Lord?" yelling in my ears.. Your Faith and "vulnerability" are so challenging. The feelings of vulnerability when asking for physical healing are indescribable.... ... Thank you so much for sharing. Praying for you! When one member of the body suffers...

  11. Hi Julia, I attend Cobourg Alliance Church. I'm so sorry you are going through this serious physical challenge. I'm wondering if you have considered alternative cancer treatments such as those offered by Dr. Burzynski or Rigvir oncolytic virotherapy? Sometimes cancer needs to be treated outside the box... I'd also recommend watching The Truth About Cancer documentary series. In any event, may an intimate and clear connection with the Father guide both your decision making and and vision for the future. Many warm blessings to you Julia! Kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight!

  12. Julia,Julia,wow sooo powerful. Love you Girl.

    Your second father.


  13. Julia. I share in your disappointment of the devestasting news. You and your family are in my prayers everyday. I pray God will answer our prayers with a miracle. I pray he will continue to give you strength both physically and spiritually. You are an amazing person and I continue to be in awe of you.

  14. Dearest Julia..
    ...a friend of one of your family members passed this link on to me, after we discussed the beauty of God's powerful care in our lives--it reminded her of your story, and she thought I'd want to read this. She was so right! We can totally relate to where you are--and embrace your heart--over-flowing with praise for the God Who holds us at all times!! We too have sat in those very same rooms at Juravinski, awaiting test results..and our news, following a lung cancer diagnosis, was also that a brain tumor was is tough certainly...satan is full of cruelty...but God is far greater...and so full of love and power and grace!! A spirit clinging to the Father is stronger than any warrior! Our God will not disappoint! He has given us many gifts....hope, peace, joy and love, to name a few! And He has made our bodies amazingly capable of fighting cancer! Please, please contact us if you want to talk about some of the wonderful things we are doing to help fight the cancer and brain tumor--our doctors, too are amazed--and God is glorified! There's so much reason to hope!

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