On September 5th 2013 I was searching for something and anything that could make me feel close to the mother I had just lost. While scouring our many bookshelves, I stumbled across a partially filled notebook entitled, “Laurie Bigham’s Walk with God through Cancer.” Through tear-filled eyes, I read the journal entry below.
October 8th 2006
“Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” (Job 13:15)
This journey happened in a surprising way. After a routine colonoscopy insisted upon by my doctor as a preventative measure, I awoke with the pronouncement, “I have cancer.” Still groggy from the anesthetic, it didn’t really sink in and took on a surreal feel. But the gastrologist didn’t seem too concerned, so I fought to not be either. Then I went in for a CT scan on August 30th, which would be the first of many tests.
On September 5th, Kent and I went to see a general surgeon to find out what was going on. He said, “It’s worse than we thought, it’s rectal cancer.” Not knowing the fullness of that statement, I could feel the blood leaving my head, then down my body through my toes. I felt as if I was floating about the exam table as I heard such horrifying words as “colostomy”, “chemo”, and “radiation”. There was also a spot on my liver which the doctors didn’t seem too concerned with. He said it was probably tangled blood vessels. The doctor told me I needed to see an oncologist and a radiation oncologist as studies have shown a better chance of survival implementing these processes.
We left and I felt numb. I don’t remember much after that. I found my way somehow upstairs upon arrival at home and gravitated to the TV where I numbed myself further with mindless clicking of the stations. Surely this was a bad joke or dream. Now, I don’t remember when it was announced that the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, died, but I do remember that it was through his death that God snapped me out of my stupor. I was alive, and yet I was not really living.
God also reminded me of the death (or I should say the last moments of life) of our beloved pre-children dog, “Jack”. I knew I had to put him to sleep soon and I was crying by his side. I can remember God speaking to my heart pointing out that I was mourning a dog that was alive and thus missing out on the very moments of life God was gifting me with him. Wow, I was doing the same thing now. So I decided to live, imperfectly and with fears and tears. Steve Irwin and my dog’s deaths changed my life. God indeed works all things together for good. (Romans 8:28)
That Sunday at church I was asked to give a short testimony on what God had been showing me thus far. I don’t remember all I said, (must have been God), but I do remember that I wanted people to know God is in control, nothing can thwart his plan, and my cancer isn’t a curse, but a gift from God. We needn’t be afraid of what the future might hold, because God promises to give His grace to sustain us.
These words didn’t ease the pain of missing my mom, but they helped me face my own bad news that day. Laurie didn’t waste the life she was given by feeling sorry for herself. She decided to live, imperfectly and not without fears, but in the moment. By the grace of God, this wasn’t the end of her journey. Through her illness she continued to encourage and serve others. And her witness extends beyond the grave, because her witness is Christ.