Authored by Gabriela Farmer (a guest contribution)
One of my most memorable Christmases marked the end of the year that I spent in a wheelchair.
At the beginning of that summer, I had torn the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in my right knee in a sports accident, and subsequently damaged the nerve that runs alongside it as well. This made walking, even on crutches, very painful. I finally opted to be embarrassedly rolled around in a wheelchair. I visited many hospitals and saw different doctors as I searched for a quick fix, but found none. When regular Western medicine and therapies didn’t seem to help get me back on my feet again, I sought out Chinese herbal healers. Much to my disappointment, they didn’t have much hope for me either. One said that my situation was “uniquely disturbing.” He said I should probably just undergo an expensive surgery. Another suggested aggressive physiotherapy, and yet another recommended risky alternative medicines and painful, questionable procedures. The final affordable solution seemed to be to wait it out over several months and let it heal on its own.
Being a hyperactive teenager, this was my least favorite option. I wanted to go places and do things, not be stuck at home all day and night! I was a youth counselor at a local social club, a dancer/choreographer of our five-man dance troupe, and the youth personnel manager of a volunteer mission center—not to mention a sports junkie who was used to playing sports at least every other day.
But in the end, I was left sulking in my wheelchair, looking back at my very lively and eventful lifestyle, wondering if I was saying goodbye to those many forms of fun and exercise forever. I started to shut down, not only physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. I didn’t see how God could do this to someone so young and lively, with her whole life still to live. I became asocial, depressed, and introverted. Friends and family stopped inviting me to events and parties, not because I was unable to walk, but because I was a drag to be around.
As the months passed, I developed atrophy in my muscles due to lack of use. To make matters worse, I started to experience frequent nausea and a sharp pain in my lower left side every time I moved. Back to the doctor I went, only this time to be told that I had a large cyst the size of an orange on my left ovary that looked as if it might be malignant. He confirmed that nausea and sharp abdominal pains are normal in the case of ovarian cysts. The discomfort occurred every time the cyst moved around. “You must try and be very inactive,” he warned me. “The cyst is so big, if you run too much or overexert yourself, it may rupture, cause internal bleeding, and result in death.”
I pointed to the wheelchair I had used to roll myself into his office. “I think I’ve got that covered, sir.”
Blood test results showed that one of the four tumor indicators in my body was highly irregular. The normal count of that chemical in my blood, which should have been between 0 to 37, was at 181. The doctor explained that if he didn’t operate right away to remove the cyst, and possibly the ovary too, I may need to prepare for the very real possibility of having ovarian cancer.
The last thread of hopeful recovery I may have been holding on to disappeared at that moment. As much as the doctor tried to minimize the worst, I can tell you right now that no 19-year-old wants to hear that she is not only a cripple, but that she may be dying.
I went home to think about whether I should undergo surgery to remove the cyst. Because of the discomfort I experienced every time I moved, both from my injured knee and the pain in my side, I had difficulty sleeping at night. I lay awake crying, thinking about what would happen if I would die, and of all the things I wanted to do in my life that I hadn’t done yet. It sounds very dramatic, because it was!
Thankfully, I kept a small booklet with a compilation of Bible verses on my night table. Every time I got too carried away with all the worst “what-if” scenarios, I would flip to the section I had compiled on the topic of overcoming fear. A few verses in particular helped me immensely:
You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.1
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.2
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?3
Even though the doctor wanted to operate as soon as possible, to lessen the possibility of the cyst rupturing, I and my family and friends felt that I should get a second opinion before going ahead with an operation. The recovery period for an operation like this was about three months, and that would mean I would be an invalid at Christmas! It would also be very expensive and was not something I could even afford.
I let a few of my friends know that I was considering having this operation and asked them to pray for me. I also called my mom, and she reminded me of the book we had been reading called Prison to Praise,4 which was an account of a chaplain who taught others to use praise in the gravest circumstances and watch those situations turn around for good. He saw the crippled walk again and children raised from the dead all because of praise to God.
From that day on, I committed myself to praise. This ended up being a lifeline that pulled me out of the hole I had dug for myself. Whenever I thought of my situation, I would praise the Lord for my condition and thank Him for my health problems and for the seemingly unavoidable operation looming ahead of me. Little did I know what awesome miracles would be wrought through the power of prayer and praise!
A couple of weeks after having had my family and friends pray for me, I went to another hospital for a second opinion. Doctor Hong ran the same tests and confirmed that the ovarian cyst was quite big and filled with some sort of liquid. When I went for a blood test, he checked the same tumor markers and told me to come back in a week for the results.
I returned a week later for Doctor Hong’s final diagnosis. The ultrasound took longer than usual, and I worried that they had found more cysts or that the situation had become much worse. I immediately prayed and praised in earnest, claiming the Bible verse, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.”5
After the ultrasound, Doctor Hong took me to his office to show me the results from the test. “Here is your left ovary,” he said as he pointed to the film in his hand, “and here is your right one. As you can see, they are identical. There are no cysts in either one!” I shook my head and looked again. “And here are your blood test results,” he continued, undaunted by my blank stare and gaping mouth. “All tumor indicators are in normal range.” I couldn’t believe my ears.
When the Lord says He’ll do it, He really means He’ll do it! I was so shocked and astonished that I trembled with excitement and laughed all the way home.
This story of my miraculous healing became a testimony of the Lord’s answer to prayer at the hospital, as well as a witness to other friends and family. I found that almost anyone would sit and listen to a living, breathing miracle talk about this God who answers prayer and takes care of His own.
And that’s not all! I was able to secure health insurance to enroll in physiotherapy treatments, and my leg healed on its own over the next few months, without surgery, and just in time for Christmas! I was not only cancer-free and on my feet again, but I was able to rejoin my dance troupe and perform all over the country. Now that I knew what it felt like to be in pain, lonely, uncertain, and depressed, I wanted to show those in hospitals and orphanages that there was a God who cared for them, just as He cared for me.
The gift of life, healing, a second chance, and being a testament of God’s healing power was beyond what I expected. It was truly the best Christmas gift I could ever have received from the Birthday Boy Himself. I am a living, walking, dancing young woman because He saw fit to hear my prayer, see my tears, and heal me!6
1 Isaiah 26:3 NKJV
2 Psalm 23:4 NKJV
3 Psalm 56:3–4 ESV
4 Prison to Praise, by Merlin R. Carothers, first published 1970
5 Psalm 34:19 NKJV
6 2 Kings 20:5
Read by Amber Larriva. Music taken from the Rhythm of Christmas album. Used by permission. Copyright© 2012 by The Family International