June 18 is commonly known around here as “Neil’s Birthday,” but secretly, I have my own special name for it, “Miracle Day.”
That’s because, although we celebrate it for my child’s entry into the world, I use it to remember and dwell on God’s mercies of the past, as evidence of His faithfulness for the future.
I rarely share this story, because it’s so personal, but recently someone told me that people needed to hear it. Whether you choose to believe it is up to you … but if I don’t share it, then those of you who are skeptics will never hear it to consider it, to ponder it, to decide whether to accept it.
This is how it happened ….
I am dreaming, the night before I am to undergo a medical procedure to determine whether I have cervical cancer.
The dream is not a hybrid mixture of nonsense – not images without connections. It plays like a film on a giant screen, with a clear story plot, dialogue and sequence of events.
I walk into a sterile examination room, where there is a doctor and nurse. After the exam, I’m asked to dress in a side room, where the doctor will meet with me. I do as I’m directed and sit on a hard plastic chair, and the doctor enters.
He clears his throat.
“I have good news, and I have bad news,” he tells me. “The good news is, we checked your bloodwork before this exam. Although you were never supposed to become pregnant … you are pregnant. The bad news is, from what I see, these are pre-cancerous cells. This could go either way. They could go away with the pregnancy. Or, the pregnancy might cause them to progress and become more aggressive, so that it’s full-blown cancer by the time the baby is born.”
“My suggestion right now is to abort. You can always try again. Take care of this first. Otherwise, you’re gambling with your own life.”
Suddenly, I wake, jolting straight up in my bed. I think to myself, “Thank God it was just a dream. I’m just nervous about the exam.”
Later that morning, I go to my appointment. Blood is drawn. I’m then showed to a room.
It’s the same examination room from my dream. It’s the same doctor. It’s the same nurse. I go through the exam. The nurse points to a door and says, “Please go in there and dress, and the doctor wants to come in to talk to you.”
I do as I’m told, and it’s the same small room from my dream, with the same hard plastic chair. I dress and sit down in it.
The doctor comes in and sits down.
He clears his throat.
“I have good news, and I have bad news ….”
He repeats the same words that I’d heard in my dream, just a few hours earlier.
I decide not to abort. I decide that if I was never supposed to become pregnant, and I became pregnant, that alone is a miracle. This baby is supposed to be born. I refuse any suggestion from any well-meaning friend to get rid of the baby. People plead with me, echoing the doctor, saying I am gambling with my life.
The pregnancy is arduous.
During the first three months, I lose 15 pounds and become dangerously weak for not being able to stand due to ongoing nausea.
In the third month, while my then-husband is away on a military mission, I have chest pains. I drive myself to a hospital and am examined for possible heart attack. It turns out that I have an infection in my heart that mimics heart attack symptoms.
During those first three months, I am also told twice at examinations that the baby’s heartbeat can’t be found and that it is dead. Eventually, it is located, tucked far into a corner of its resting place, where the heartbeat couldn’t be detected.
In the fourth month, on New Year’s Eve, I experience excruciating abdominal pain. Again, the heartbeat of the baby cannot be detected. Thinking I am going into pre-term labor and will lose the baby, the hospital puts me through some tests – and they discover that I have kidney stones. Once the stones pass, the pain is gone. The baby’s heartbeat is found.
And all this while, I am being checked and rechecked on the progress of the pre-cancerous cells. As each month passes, the cells become more and more aggressive. I am encouraged more than once to abort the baby.
During the fifth month, during the sonogram to determine whether the baby is a boy or girl, a doctor tells us that the child has “two of three markers” for Down Syndrome. “It’s not too late to abort,” he says, “but if you decide to abort, you need to do it soon.”
My then-husband and I decide not to abort.
And all this while, the pre-cancerous cells continue to press on in growth and aggression.
The eighth month arrives. Doctors want to do a biopsy now, because if the biopsy causes pre-term labor, an eight-month baby can survive easily. The biopsy results: The cells have spread. I am told that within 6 weeks of the baby’s birth, I will need to go through treatment for cancer.
On June 18, my child is born, after an emergency C-section, necessary because he is face-up. Infection was spreading through my body after a 21-hour labor, and both of our lives are in jeopardy.
When he is born, he is brought around the surgical curtain to meet me.
He stares at me with big beautiful blue eyes.
He does not have Down Syndrome.
He is 8 pounds, 8 ounces. Healthy. Whole.
My then-husband leaves three weeks later for a second war deployment to Iraq.
And six weeks after the baby’s birth, I return for a follow-up exam on the cancer and to determine a treatment and schedule for the treatment.
After the exam, the doctor asks to meet with me – and ironically, it’s the same examination room, and the same small room with the same hard plastic chair.
“I don’t know how to explain this,” he says.
“The cancer. It’s gone. There’s no trace. It’s like it never existed.”
When people say to me, “There is no God,” or “Give me proof that God exists,” or “Why should I believe there’s a God with so much sickness and death in the world?” … all I can do is say, “I can’t force God to speak audibly to you, or grow an arm for someone who lost it, or create fireworks in the sky. I can’t give you proof. But I can give you examples of God’s power in my life.”
“That’s not good enough,” I’m told. “That’s just your imagination. That’s just your desire to grab onto something because you’re weak.”
But all I can say is … I was told I would never have my own child. I became pregnant. I was told the child would not survive the pregnancy. He did. I was told I was gambling with my life unless I aborted. I made it. The cancer vanished.
I believed during my pregnancy that God wanted this child on this planet, and I refused to believe anything else.
I still believe today in miracles. I still believe today in God.
And as we celebrate my child’s birthday, on June 18 (and also a big party tomorrow night) … I can point to the proof in my life of God’s mercy, faithfulness, presence … and love.
LifeNews Note: Heidi Lynn Russell is a freelance journalist.