Becoming a Princess Warrior
In the last few months as we’ve been enduring this trial, Jared has given me a new nickname. It isn’t surprising because he is the king of nicknames for me. They range from super goofy to incredibly sweet, and rarely does he ever call me “Michelle.”
He handed a card to me recently with the nickname “Princess Warrior” written on the envelope in big letters. While my brothers may tell you that I am familiar with being a “princess,” up until now I hadn’t given much thought to being a warrior. However, this trial has emboldened me in new ways to take on the courage and strength God provides to sustain me, and I am beginning to embrace my new nickname.
I was reminded of my nickname again the other day when I was reading in Exodus 14. I picked up the story when God was leading the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land. Along the way they encountered several obstacles that tested their faith. Verse 10 in the Amplified Version says,
“When Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked up, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them; and the Israelites were exceedingly frightened and cried out to the Lord.”
I am sure in that moment the Israelites didn’t feel like warriors. All they could see were their enemies fast-approaching, and all they could feel were their fears. I can certainly relate to the Israelites as it’s easy for me in my fear-inducing moments to slip and slide right into despair, questioning if God will come through.
In the Israelites’ frightening moment, they did what is natural for all of us to do; they doubted if God would show up. In verse 11, fearing certain death at the hand of the Egyptians, they said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?” Moses’ response is one of my all-time favorite statements:
“Fear not; stand still (firm, confident, undismayed) and see the salvation of the Lord which He will work for you today…The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace and remain at rest” (Exodus 14:14, Amplified Bible, emphasis mine).
I am sure Moses’s words was music to their ears, and they’re a sweet melody to mine amidst my own battle with cancer.
Surrendering My Hopes
The passage above from Exodus highlights two aspects of surrender. The first encompasses handing our battles over to God and allowing Him to fight for us, and the second involves holding onto peace as we trust Him to take care of the details. Recently, I have had to surrender not only my fertility hopes, but my fears regarding further complications with my chemo. These battles have challenged me to become a Princess Warrior.
When Jared and I learned that chemo was a must, we sat down with my oncologist to discuss its side effects. One of the concerns most personal to us was how the chemo would affect my remaining ovary. Because of my age, the doctor said that we had a 90% chance that my ovary would not be harmed.
To further increase our odds of preserving our fertility, we decided to meet with a fertility specialist. After several appointments, many long discussions, and two ultrasounds later, a cyst on my ovary (which we have been told is not cause for concern) was inhibiting our ability to move forward with the fertility preservation process. Because we didn’t know how long it would take for the cyst to disappear, Jared and I, along with our team of doctors, decided it was best to immediately move ahead with chemo.
Although everyone, including me, felt confident that moving forward with chemo was the wisest decision, I still grieved the fact that I could lose my opportunity to have my own biological children. My mother-in-law reminded me that it is God who is in charge of opening and closing the womb, and I have carried that comforting truth with me. I am still hopeful that God will protect my ovary and that Jared and I will realize the dream of having our own biological children one day, but I am also learning how to surrender one of the most personal desires of my heart.
Surrendering My Fears
After making our fertility decision, I began chemo the very next day. As I packed my clothes for the week and gathered up everything I would need, I couldn’t help but fight back tears. What was I walking into? What would chemo feel like? Would I be really sick? I didn’t know what else to do but bring all of my fears and questions before God, asking Him to help me trust Him with the details and unknowns.
The next three weeks transpired without much drama. The five-day hospital stay wasn’t as bad as I feared and the outpatient chemo treatments were actually quick and smooth…that is until the third outpatient chemo when a high fever sent me to the hospital for an overnight stay. While there, I also received a blood transfusion which was required to keep me on schedule for my remaining chemo treatments.
The following Tuesday Jared and I headed back downtown for my second five-day inpatient chemo stay. During my pre-admission examination the nurse practioner felt something abnormal. My oncologist didn’t seem very worried about the findings, but ordered an ultrasound as a precaution.
This turn of events brought me face to face with my fears all over again. Up until this point, every ultrasound had brought bad news, and I was terrified this one would bring more of the same. After receiving the ultrasound, through tears, I waited for the results.
After what felt like forever, we were told the ultrasound brought up more questions than answers. My oncologist ordered an MRI for the following morning to clear up the confusion. To say I was on edge is an understatement. I kept reassuring myself with all of the truths I knew about God and His promises, but I also struggled not to be overcome with fear.
In the darkness of my hospital room sometime in the middle of that night, I cried out to God about my hopes and fears. I admitted I wasn’t prepared for all of these unforeseen obstacles and I relinquished my plans for smooth-sailing chemo treatments. I allowed the tears to fall as I expressed to God how much I longed to be a mother of my own biological children and grow old with my husband. I also shared with Him how frightened I was that the MRI would uncover more problems.
I lifted my hands as an act of releasing these hopes and fears to my Father and trusting Him to do what was best. Inspired by what Moses told the Israelites in their fearful moment, I said to God, “I’ll let you fight for me. Please just give me the strength to experience the peace You offer me so I can remain at rest.” I grew a little more into a Princess Warrior that night as I took the courage and strength God gave me.
As I awoke several times throughout that night, a chorus to a song kept playing in my mind:
“We’re waiting here, we’re waiting for You, God. With our hopes and fears we come, empty hands held high. Lord, draw us near, heal these broken hearts, and lift us up to fall before everything You are” (Tenth Avenue North, “Lift Us Up To Fall”).
During this battle with cancer I am learning each day how to surrender and become a Princess Warrior. Surrender encompasses vulnerably expressing my plans, hopes, and fears to God, and peacefully waiting, trusting Him to move in His loving way and time. Being a Princess Warrior is best described by one of my favorite books, Captivating, by Stasi Eldredge:
“What does a warrior princess look like? Think Joan of Arc. Think Mother Teresa. Think Esther. Think Mary of Bethany. Think Arwen. Think Eowyn. Think Deborah. Think Mary, Jesus’ mother. Women who [are] wise, cunning, strong, beautiful, courageous, victorious, and very present” (pg 197).
May these qualities characterize our lives as we surrender our hopes and fears to our loving Father, and trust Him to give us not only what we need, but what will bring Him the most glory.
“As painful as the process may be, that which shatters our superficiality also shatters the fetters of our fragility and frees us to walk with dignity and might to our destinies. We are not the fragile flowers we’ve considered ourselves to be. We, like Esther, are the warrior princesses of God” (Beth Moore, Esther: It’s Tough Being a Woman).
Thankfully, we ultimately heard that the MRI results uncovered no additional concerns, including no additional cancerous cells. After a long week of waiting, trusting, and surrendering, we were relieved and so very thankful. We are so appreciative of your continued prayers.