As I woke up on my 45th birthday I knew that I had to make one of the most important decisions in my life. One that would change me from the person I was “before cancer” to one that I would become “after cancer”. On that day, I gave myself the most important gift I could: the best chance to live another 45 years. I called my doctor and scheduled my mastectomy. Thankfully, I did not have to make this decision alone because God had given me and all of us a very special gift to help us get through whatever life throws at us.
In John 14, Jesus is trying to prepare the apostles for what is to come as the prophecy of His death gets closer. He is telling them that when He leaves them, he will not leave them orphaned, God will provide another friend, the Spirit of Truth, so that they will always have someone with them. I am so grateful that I had that same spirit in me to help me get through one of the most difficult years of my life. It took 3 weeks, but the Holy Spirit stayed with me and helped me make the decision to have a mastectomy. I had three options to consider that caused me many nights of lying awake praying for guidance to make the “right” decision. Thankfully, the cancer was caught early and did not require me to have any chemo. I felt like I got off easy because I didn’t have to go through months of sickness or losing my hair, but I only needed to sacrifice a part of my body. During this time the Holy Spirit was with me; the wonderful thing about of having a friend like this is that I was never alone. I was able to get through every test, MRI, and hospital visit without being anxious, worried or scared. It was truly amazing! The Holy Spirit was there with me every step of the way holding my hand hand telling me that I was going to be OK. Three surgeries and I year later I am happy to be cancer free!
“After cancer” Allison is now a very different person. Just hearing that C word made me stop dead in my tracks and caused me to reevaluate my life. It made me change how I viewedall aspects of my life; family, friends, work…It was a wake-up call for many areas of my life. I felt like the Spirit was Cher in “Moonstruck” when she slaps Nicolas Cage and screams, “Snap out of it!” I needed this wake up call to prepare for what was to come, for the new plan that God had for me. I probably would not have listened if it weren’t for the Holy Spirit being right by my side.
One of those wake-up calls for me was the stress related to my job. I had taught in the public school system for the previous 17 years and I can honestly say that I loved going to school every day. Unfortunately, the job also came with a great deal of stress with curriculum changes and increased regulations and requirements. I had seen research that showed links between cancer and stress, and I needed to eliminate some stress from my life.
That year I prayed non-stop for guidance on what I was going to do if I left teaching. I considered going back to school for something totally different–hair stylist, massage therapy for cancer patients, accountant so I could work for my husband’s company–but nothing seemed right. I read books, looked online, and prayed and prayed and prayed for some sort of sign or clarity about where I should go. And that’s when I had another “Snap out of it!” moment.
A meeting with the principal of Eastern Christian Elementary School about math curriculum turned into an aside about a position opening in the 3rd grade the next school year. As soon as I got into my car, I could hear the Holy Spirit’s voice: “This is it! This is what you were praying for! You don’t need to go back to school, or do something different. You can do what you love, and what you were meant to do.” About a year had passed from the day I heard the most devastating news of my life to the day I signed my new contract.
I have been teaching at ECES for 3 months and this, too, has been a gift from God. There have been so many wonderful ways that this has made me a better person and teacher. Most importantly, I have grown closer in my relationship with God. I get to praise Him and pray every day with my students. My Monday devotions with staff is so amazing, I don’t know how I have gone through life without it! I get to participate in Chapel every Tuesday and witness God’s children praising Him and learning about His word. Every day I witness and see the power of the Holy Spirit in my students, my colleagues and myself.
Looking back, I don’t think I would have listened to the Holy Spirit whispering to me if I hadn’t had cancer and taken time to reevaluate my life. I was usually caught up in “life” and didn’t take a lot of time to stop and listen. And the truth is, I wouldn’t have gotten through any of it–through cancer, tough decisions, and bold career moves–without the Holy spirit guiding me and being with me every single day.
This is the best kind of gift! The kind that doesn’t cost a thing, keeps on giving, and most importantly is a gift from God. During this season of Advent, take time out of the hustle and bustle of buying and wrapping gifts and spend time listening to one of the greatest gifts that you were already given: the Holy Spirit!