by Shay Southwick Thurow
Among the oncologists treating my bone-marrow cancer, I am considered a relic, an artifact, something suitable for a museum. Because in May 2007, I celebrated 15 years of God-given life, they fight over me to claim credit for my longevity. But the real truth is that my Lord has been good to me, just as He was good to King Hezekiah (see Isaiah 38).
In May 1992, I was given 18–24 months to live. Hearing this, I put myself entirely in my Savior’s hands and turned to Him for comfort and healing. It could not have been a wiser choice, as I explained on this page in March 1999.
Once I got my second wind from all the cancer therapies, I felt as though my Savior had plans for me—especially witnessing opportunities, it seemed. So my constant prayer to the Holy Spirit was that He’d give me the right words at the right time and to be alert when He provided opportunities.
Recently in an oncology waiting room, I noticed a young man sitting by himself. He appeared quite ill. Although the room was crowded, no one chose to sit next to him, so I did. His name was Jim, and he wanted to talk, even though it was difficult for him. His wife was with the oncologist, getting his meds for their trip home to visit his family one final time. (It was also where he wanted to be buried.) Jim was at peace because he knew he’d be with his Savior.
I put my hand on his thin arm and said, “Jim, I’m going to pray for travel mercies for you and your wife, and that our Lord will bless and keep you in His arms forever.” His eyes lit up, he reached for my hand, and he said, “And I’ll pray for you, too, Shay.” It was the best and only gift he could give me, and he knew it.
In 2002, Roland, my husband, and I began a Christian cancer support group at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Englewood, Fla. At times, we had only one attendee. Sometimes our group comprised as many as 10 or 12. At each meeting, there would be a devotion, discussion, prayers, and opportunities for each person to learn from others. To Roland and me, it was the ultimate opportunity for witnessing for our Lord. Truly, the group gave us more than we could ever give back. We know there are many support groups out there, but often our healing Savior is not a topic for discussion.
Sadly, two years ago my cancer returned with a vengeance. Because of this, Roland and I moved to Ocala, Fla., to be near our daughter and son-in-law. We have become members of St. John in Ocala and have been welcomed into our new church home. During a recent Sunday worship, we sang verses 3 and 4 from Hymn 856, “O Christ, Who Called the Twelve,” in the Lutheran Service Book. The lyrics brought tears to my eyes, not only because they’re so beautiful, but also because they remind me of the assurance we have in our Savior—and the assurance that in sickness or in health, we can witness daily to our faith and to the blessing of eternal life we have all received.
O Christ, who led the Twelve
Among the desolate
And broke as bread of life for all
Your love compassionate:
Lead us along the ways
Where hope has nearly died
And help us climb the lonely hills
Where love is crucified.
O Christ, who sent the Twelve
On roads they’d never trod
To serve, to suffer, teach, proclaim
The nearer reign of God:
Send us on ways where faith
Where love informs and hope sustains
Both life and ministry.