I often hear people telling amazing testimonials, where they have gone through a huge trial in their life and have found faith in God through the unfortunate incident. Fortunately for me God has blessed me with a life without big roadblocks. I have grown up in a Christian home with great parents as well as a wonderful Christian community in my church and in my Christian school. Consequently, I don’t have an amazing personal testimony where I decisively changed my lifestyle and followed Christ. However, I do have a person in my life that relentlessly inspires me and makes me forget about the seemingly unimportant daily problems I come across. The more I learn about her, the more I appreciate her strength and faith. She provides for me an example of the type of faith I should embody. This person is my aunt, Judy Bode.
Judy’s story begins when she was in elementary school. She woke up one morning and discovered a lump on her neck. After the various necessary tests, it was discovered that my aunt had cancer. It took many treatments and a few ups and downs, but after a significant amount of time Judy fought off the cancer. Little did she know at the time, but Judy would be diagnosed with two more major cancers in her early adulthood, as a direct result of her successful cancer treatments as a child. And she handled each diagnosis the same way she did the first, defeating the disease with strength and courage. However, due to the numerous cancer treatments, and more specifically, the immense amounts of radiation applied to her chest cavity, Judy developed serious heart problems. For the past several years she has slowly been getting worse and worse. Almost two years ago, she was put on the heart transplant list. Everyday, she waits for the call that will send her in a private jet to Cleveland to partake in life-threatening surgery. Her current heart refuses to function the way it should, allowing her to participate in only the most minimal of activity before she tires.
When I first heard that Judy needed heart-transplant surgery, I was shocked. I knew her heart was not running at tip top shape, but I didn’t know it was so serious that she would opt to have serious, life-threatening surgery in order to get a new heart. The fact that she lives with this over her head everyday just seems to make everything I think is difficult or important in my life irrelevant. I can’t imagine the anxiety that would occur every time the phone rings. Not knowing whether or not it is the doctor saying there is a heart available or that Verizon has an exciting new phone plan they want me to switch to. Having aunt Judy in my life has really changed my outlook on day-to-day life. It is really hard to worry about whether or not the Red Sox will hang on to their wild card lead over the Rays (and it’s really hard not to worry about it at this point) when at any second, my aunt could be heading into heart-transplant surgery. Judy’s struggle with her heart condition has really made me reconsider what I think is important and what I should be worrying about.
Another huge influence Judy has had on my life is through her faith. It would be completely understandable for her to be mad at God. Honestly, I have gotten mad at God for exponentially less important things. But Judy is completely at peace with God and her life. She trusts God so much, and knows that He has a plan for her. Whether or not she gets a heart transplant or not she knows God has her in His hand. I cannot help but think of Philippians 4:4-7: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Judy’s life is not only the quintessence of Philippians 4:4-7 it also is a daily, close to home reminder of how I should strive to live my life and how to live my relationship with God. Additionally, considering what Judy is going through, compared to what I am going through, living out Philippians 4:4-7 should be much easier for me. I really don’t have much to worry about and I still have trouble living out Philippians 4. So, as my aunt Judy continues to wait for her new heart, I continue to admire the way she lives her life and the way she loves our God.
Michael’s words remind us that the impact of a diagnosis such as Hodgkin’s Disease, breast cancer, radiation-induced end stage heart failure is not contained to the one who receives the diagnosis. No, the impact runs systemically through those we love [and] those who love us.
MHYH is thankful to Judy’s nephew, Michael for his willingness to share with us the personal impact she has had on him.
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