by Kelly Irvin
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” ~ Romans 8:28 (NIV)
If you’re like me, you probably have read Romans 8:28, scratched your head, and said, “Seriously, God? All situations?” I did a lot more than scratch my head in January of 2016 when my oncologist informed me that I had stage 4 ovarian cancer. I cried. I shook my fist at the sky. How could God “let” this happen? It wasn’t fair.
I sounded like a little kid, I know, but let me give this some context before you judge me. First, I’d been diagnosed with primary lateral sclerosis, a rare neurological disorder similar to ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease one month earlier. ONE MONTH! I’d lost my ability to walk normally. No more hiking, jogging, doing aerobics or Tae Bo, no body surfing in the ocean, no ziplining, no nothing. Then came my late stage diagnosis that meant I had less than a 20 percent chance of surviving more than five years. I would be in treatment for the rest of my life—however long that was.
Up until that time I’d been incredibly healthy. I worked out everyday and ate healthy food. I took my vitamins and did all my routine screenings. I did all the right things, yet I still got cancer. Again, I railed at God, it’s not fair!
What’s more salt in the wound? I was a “good” Christian with regular attendance at church and Sunday school. I made sure my kids went as well. I served on church committees and in several ministries. In other words, I talked the talk and thought I walked the walk. And yet I was totally unprepared for this season of loss and ill health. I was angry. And became even more incensed when I learned that I didn’t have PLS. My neurological damage was caused by a rare disorder in which my overactive immune system tried to fight the cancer by attacking my central nervous system. My cancer caused me to lose my mobility.
Why? Why God? Wasn’t my rocky, dysfunctional childhood enough? Why heap more on me?
Then, as pastors like to say, But God. In the midst of never-ending treatment and its side effects, good things started to happen. A contract for four more books came. I had to quit my PR job, which meant I realized my lifelong dream of working as a novelist full-time. I didn’t die. The five-year mark came and went, and I was still here, still writing Christian fiction—more than a dozen books, several novellas, short stories, and poetry, just since my diagnosis.
My questions morphed into why was I still here and not other women with this insidious, horrific disease? I’ve come to believe that God wasn’t done using me yet to write His stories. He’d given me this writing gift, and I hadn’t used it all up yet. In the meantime, I’ve been here for the birth of two more grandchildren, birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and many other good times. Every one of these events are precious and they create memories for my beloved family members.
I’ve learned that time is fleeting. It’s finite. We all know that, but we choose to ignore it. It’s true whether you have a terminal disease. This journey of self-realization, of strengthened faith honed by these trials, gave me the context from which I wrote my first women’s fiction novel The Year of Goodbyes and Hellos. It’s a story of two sisters, one an oncologist, the other a woman with stage 4 ovarian cancer. When Sherri’s diagnosed, Kristen knows better than anyone, that the clock is ticking. If they are going to heal old wounds and knit their family back together, they have to do it now.
Time is a precious treasure. The gifts God gives us are meant to be used and used up. He doesn’t cause terrible things to happen to us, but He also knows that a faith untested is a weak faith. Mine has been tested and grown stronger. That doesn’t mean I don’t still mourn what I’ve lost. But I’ve learned to treasure what I’ve gained. I hope The Year of Goodbyes and Hellos will be thought-provoking for readers as they traverse their own seasons of trial. For me, there’s been joy in the journey and the knowledge that God knows what He’s doing. For that I’m genuinely thankful and hopeful. I hope you are too.
About the Author
Award-winning author Kelly Irvin has published more than 35 Amish romances, romantic suspense novels, and novellas. Although the characters, settings, and themes vary widely, all of Kelly’s books feature powerful stories of strong women who struggle with difficult trials. Kelly is a graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism. She has been writing nonfiction professionally for more than 30 years, including ten years as a newspaper reporter. In her spare time, Kelly blogs, reads fiction, and loves her family.
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