Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Making a Difficult Choice"

I came across this beautiful story yesterday, and I absolutely love it. It's a story about a woman who was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, and what that cancer did to her marriage. It really shows what love is - and how love = sacrifice. She has some great insights about birth control vs. NFP/abstinence, too. You can read the entire story here.

"In April 2005, I was diagnosed with cancer.

It was just two weeks after the birth of my ninth baby, and days after my youngest brother’s death in a car accident. I stopped breastfeeding immediately as I needed many tests including an MRI and CT scan, the latter of which required the ingestion of radioactive material. What’s more, chemotherapy was next to come. A mother simply couldn’t nurse with those toxins rushing through her body... But the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back of my emotions came when my husband and I were sitting in the oncologist’s office, after a tests had been completed, while my mind was spinning with the diagnosis, treatment plan and clinical trial options. The oncologist ended his discussion of my future by saying, “Now before we start, we need to get you on birth control because you absolutely must not get pregnant.”

Suddenly this became clear. At one of the weakest points of my physical and emotional life I was going to be morally challenged too. Herein lay David’s and my “difficult choice”: Would we choose to be fully Catholic and reject artificial birth control, or choose to make an exception for ourselves?

Perhaps you think that a two week post- partum, exhausted and sick woman does not have sex as a priority on her mind. You are right. But if you were diagnosed with a life-threatening disease and you thought that you might die, you would likely begin to yearn for the love, reassurance and intimacy that the marital act provides. The thought of the possibility of never having that again was terrifying to me.

Sometimes my mind would wander. What if I died? What if my husband remarried? What if his new wife were better, prettier, holier than me? She would raise my kids. She would have the normal relationship with my husband that I craved. As I grew bloated from treatment, as my hair fell out, I continued to feel ugly and depressed. How could he still love me? Stay with me? Would he change his mind? I was normally reflective, but this crisis threw me deeper and deeper into introspection and speculation of scenarios that “might be”. I was tired, sick, crabby and sad most of the time. I felt I had nothing to offer my husband. I longed for the closeness we shared before this crisis. I was tempted severely to throw in the towel, to go back on our decision.

Suddenly, I felt deep warmth within my soul. I felt Jesus saying directly to my heart, “You are not alone. I am with you.” Then I suddenly KNEW that not only was Jesus there with me during the ordeal of my cancer experience, like a husband might sit with his wife during labor, but He willingly took on the sufferings I was experiencing, from the needles in the arm, to the nausea, to the uncertainty, the aloneness, the mental torment. He chose to suffer with me and for me. I also got the profound feeling that my suffering — indeed all suffering — was an invitation to participate in the redemption of the cross. He was asking me to trust Him. Renewed in soul, I left the chapel in wonder and awe, and pondering God’s great mercy and love.

Six months later, after twelve grueling treatments I was pronounced ‘cancer-free’. For several more months pregnancy was strongly contraindicated, as my system was still full of powerful toxins. I was grateful for the strength and leadership of my husband during this time. We continued our abstinence commitment until the prescribed time period was up.

I believe God gave David and me that time for productive soul-searching and deep spiritual bonding together. God offered us a chance to definitively choose Him , to grow in maturity and be strengthened through the myriad ways that suffering does.

Today I also look at Catholic couples who struggle with the Catholic teaching on birth control and who feel tempted to think that artificial contraception might be the answer. I want to encourage them: Be strong. Stay true to your faith. You can do this! Even in exceptional situations, make the right choice, even if it is the difficult one. God is with you each step of the way, more than you can understand. Trust Him. Blessings will follow. "

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