Thursday, November 8, 2001

Lana van den Berg's Testimony

You may remember Tom Hanks’ famous quote in the Academy Award film, Forrest Gump, “Mama always said life was like a box a chocolates, never know what you're gonna get”. I have my own analogy as I see my life as a puzzle with God giving me one piece at a time, and it is up to me to trust in Him to fit the piece into its perfect place. Sometimes it is really hard to envisage the picture and only after I take a step back, very often in retrospect, that the picture makes sense.

In April I this year, I was given one of these strange and unexpected pieces when I went to see the doctor after experiencing continuous debilitating headaches, heat flushes and constant fatigue. I was sent for a scan and even though I was diagnosed with an overactive thyroid and referred to an endocrinologist, I wasn’t too concerned as I thought it meant I’ll only have to take a few tablets, and everything would be okay. However, when I saw the specialist in June, he saw things differently and diagnosed me with Graves’ disease, a lumpy thyroid, with one lump 4.2 cm in size. It is inevitable that when the doctor mentions lumps, cancer, surgery and your name, all in one sentence; it pulls the rug out from beneath you. I was handed this puzzle piece, and suddenly my picture looked very bleak.

What carries one through in unexpected circumstances are often the support network of friends and family and being extremely blessed with Christian parents, family and wonderful friends; people immediately started praying for me. I was sent for a nuclear x-ray and when I saw the specialist again, 3 weeks later, God already had him scratching his head with, what seemed to be, an inconsistency in the size of the big lump. Nevertheless, he made it very clear that surgery was the only option and sent me for a biopsy. The doctor’s parting words to me were that if by chance the lump had shrunk, and the results of the biopsy were benign, he might consider alternative treatment.

I was scheduled to have the biopsy in the following week, but on the Friday before, a colleague of mine invited a few friends to join in a prayer group for me. God’s presence was a blessing to everyone present and I felt anointed and at peace, knowing that God was in control of whatever was to happen. On the night before the biopsy, while I was praying, something strange happened. Understandably I wanted to ask God to keep His hand on the proceedings of the next day, but instead, the only words I was able to utter, were words of thanks and praise to God. In the morning, when I opened my bible, it fell open at Philippians 4, and, specifically, verses 6-7: ‘Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.’

At the hospital though, things did not start off on the best note – I was directed to the John French Wing, the oncology wing, which did not predict anything positive. However, I was soon re-directed by staff to another wing, and I knew things could only get better. Nursing staff prepped me for the biopsy and I was lying on the bed with a pathologist standing by. The doctor was looking at the ultrasound to establish where the best place would be to insert the needle, when she and the pathologist suddenly started discussing medical terms of which, I off course, understood very little. What happened next, is still a mystery to me, and could only be God’s work. The doctor asked for my report, and after spending a few minutes studying it, peeled off her gloves and ordered the nurse to get me back to ultrasound while she rang my specialist. It was all happening so fast and then the ultrasound nurse told me that ‘this was highly unusual’, that even though all my reports supported the diagnoses of Graves’ disease, I was being re-diagnosed with thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid. This meant that there was no potential malignant lump, and it could be treated with a tablet. The realisation that God’s grace had shone in all its glory on me in my hour of need was overwhelming.

Even though this is a wonderful testimony of God’s greatness, this puzzle however, was not yet complete. God’s omniscient wisdom was even further established when I asked Rev Gerhard if I could give my testimony to his congregation and the final piece of the puzzle miraculously fell into place. Not only had God given me Philippians 4: 6-7 on the morning before the biopsy, but God had also given exactly the same passage to Gerhard a month before on his way to South Africa. God’s message was confirmed in His Word to us.

Even though I had felt at times that my little dilemma was too insignificant to bring before God as so many other people were facing far more serious trials, God had shown his love for me in a miraculous manner and had answered my prayers beyond my wildest expectations. And this is why I cannot be quiet, this is why I want to tell my story again and again, to give thanks to those wonderful people who I am blessed to work with and others who have stood in the gap for me, and above all, to give praise an honour to Him who is the ruler of heaven, of the heaven of heavens, and of the earth, with everything in it.
 
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