Greg and I have decided we would like to invite guests to share their stories. We hope this blog can be more than just our blog. We know there are so many inspirational people and stories out there, and we want to let others share their messages of living with purpose, faith, and hope. If you would like to be a guest on our blog, please click here to apply.
This is our first guest post. Melissa Vaughan has been a friend of mine since college. She is someone who has a gift to see the good in very difficult situations. Melissa has dealt with some very difficult things, and she is an inspiration who shares her light with others.
Because each of us is a unique individual, each one of us has a story to tell. We are all different and walk a different path yet we all walk them together. We each have something to contribute in this world to help each other so we don’t feel so alone in it.
My life has had its challenges. However, these past few years have been life changing. To share my story I would have to go back six years ago to when I was contemplating marriage for the second time. Yes that’s right. I was married before, but only for three short months. It was one of the shortest marriages ever! My then husband immediately questioned our marriage and his attraction to me, which contributed to me going into a deep depression and ultimately leading him to leave our marriage. He admitted that he could not give me what I needed or wanted. Looking back I now respect his decision which I know was not an easy one for him to make. It also left me feeling certain that I would never marry again.
A New Relationship and a Special Blessing
Then I met Jason. He changed everything for me. It was only a few months into our relationship where we discussed marriage. I expectedly had many reservations, especially since everything was happening so fast. But this is where God played a very important role.
While I was living in California I sought the counsel from my then branch president, who led our small church congregation at the time. I asked him for a priesthood blessing. A priesthood blessing in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is a “prayer for healing, comfort or counsel given by a Melchizedek Priesthood holder, who lays his hands on the head of the person receiving the blessing”.
I happened to write down some of the blessing in my journal that day,“ You will marry Jason and you will have children. You will also battle with cancer, but if you both stay faithful to your covenants and Gods commandments then you will see insurmountable blessings”.
It still makes me tear up today when I read or write about it. At the time Jason and I were both taken a little off guard with the part about cancer, but we also didn’t think too much about it. More than anything I felt at peace with moving forward, and we were married a few months later. We were sealed for time and all eternity in the San Diego temple on May 16th of 2013.
Life Was Really Good
Life was really good for a while. After two years, Jason and I unexpectedly got pregnant, which ended up being the greatest blessing of both our lives. We both had great jobs, we had just bought a house, and life on all accords was going great. Even with all of this, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was still missing. Spiritually I felt somewhat hollow, even though I was praying fervently for God to fill this emptiness and doing whatever possible to seek out the spirit. It was only a short time later that life would be changed forever.
Jackson was just 10 months old when the symptoms started. It began with pneumonia, and then was followed by bronchitis, strep throat and sinus infections. It was endless. I ended up making an appointment with a primary care physician who couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary. Then began the fevers, chills and difficulty breathing, along with severe pain. Certainly there had to be something wrong. I knew my body, and this was not normal.
I began seeking out different specialists who were all at a loss as to what was causing my symptoms. It was then that Jason and I thought back to my blessing which I had just received three years prior. We both knew that I needed to be diligent in pursuing a diagnosis. This eventually landed me in hematology/oncology. It wasn’t long after that that the Multiple Myeloma was discovered.
Initially I was shocked, yet it also felt expected. I knew enough about Multiple Myeloma to know that it’s not an easy cancer to have. It’s usually diagnosed in older adults, and is also incurable, which means eventually it turns terminal. But I didn’t have the time to mourn my diagnosis. I immediately went into fight mode.
I Went Into Fight Mode
Quickly after my diagnosis I went through IVF, which was both expensive and extremely difficult. But we did get our one and only miracle embryo. I began and completed seven months of treatment and miraculously went into a complete remission, which was quite unexpected.
It wasn’t until then that the magnitude of my diagnosis set in. I had just gone through this life altering experience, but somehow I had to go back to living a normal life again knowing that it could change at any moment. With this new found perspective, I was determined to make something more with my life. I felt prompted to quit my job, so I did, and spend more time with my family, which I also did.
The Cancer Came Back
Soon after, the fevers started again. One day I was kneeling down, and completely pouring my heart out to God. I was feeling so overwhelmed because I had just quit my job, and now I was experiencing these debilitating symptoms again. I pleaded with Him to just please help me feel better to let me have my life back. The sole purpose I had gone off treatment was so we could have our miracle baby, but when I realized it wasn’t going to happen, my heart felt completely broken.
After praying for a very long time that day, I did feel more at peace, but also had an undeniable impression that this trial was far from over. My symptoms soon began aggressively where I found it difficult to breath along with pain and fevers. I was certain that my cancer was back.
The testing began, where they indeed found that my cancer had returned. But my specialist was convinced something else was wrong. So began another tiresome search. I was passed back and forth from one specialist to the other, and then back again. Everyone was at a loss as to what exactly was going on.
I decided that I didn’t want to spend my life in and out of doctors’ offices. Instead, since my cancer was there but not advancing quickly, I would begin living my new normal in hopes my symptoms would disappear. Well instead, things got progressively worse. I had an acute onset of muscle weakness, and was now finding it difficult to walk, breathe or swallow. It was really very scary.
One of the Hardest Days of My Life
I still remember the day that the neurologist sat me down after my muscle biopsy to tell me that my muscle is now shrinking and dying, but they didn’t know why. My mind would go to the worst possible place, which ultimately ended in a long hard battle towards death. I had made peace with dying from cancer, but not from something unknown. It was one of the hardest days of my life.
I remember Jason holding me as I sobbed. Just the thought of leaving Jackson so soon was unbearable. I thought about him coming into my room looking for me, and me not being there. It was all too much for me to take. It was the first time in my journey where I felt very alone and hopeless.
Relying on God’s Power
It was also in these very dark moments that I knew I needed to call upon God’s power. I received another priesthood blessing, which I recorded some of in my journal. “God is aware of you and your struggles, but have faith in His plan. The doctors will be inspired. They will know that this goes beyond their own knowledge, but comes from God,” I immediately felt an unmistakable peace come over me. I knew Heavenly Father was in charge and, regardless of the outcome, it would be okay.
It has undoubtedly been a struggle since, especially trying to pinpoint a correct diagnosis. It has been a battle I never saw coming, and a constant roller coaster of emotions. I’ve had to consistently seek out the Lord’s help to combat those feelings of sadness, hopelessness and doubt. However when I sincerely pray, sincerely study my scriptures and really listen, I can always feel my Heavenly Father close by.
Living day to day, we often don’t spend our lives thinking of our mortality although each of us will face it someday. Even myself – having an incurable cancer, and knowing it will turn terminal. I still don’t think of it every day. My experiences have no doubt changed my perspective on life and how I want to live it.
Finding Joy in Trial
Not my entire journey has been a struggle though. There have been some incredible moments, including reaching level 1,168 in candy crush. I can eat whatever I want and won’t gain an ounce, and my husband will rub my feet on demand. But, most of all that void that was once there is no longer vacant. l will always be grateful for this gift of life. I’ve had to learn to let go and trust in Him, which has ultimately given me the freedom to live out my best life and be at peace with whatever may be. Even if that means I will leave my husband and my sweet little boy early.
My hope is that I can teach my son and others how to cope with life’s many challenges that will surely come, by turning to a loving Heavenly Father and Savior who is always the source of lasting peace and healing in this life, and also in the life to come.