“Imagine going to sleep Wednesday morning and waking up Thursday afternoon. Picture waking up to a hospital room full of people and being told that you have a tumor in your brain and that your kidneys have shut down... once again, your days are numbered. Your eyeballs are swollen to the point that your eyelids can’t close, you find out that your children are distressed, your family is distressed, you aren’t even supposed to be awake... what would you do?”
What would you do?
That is the question Larry Lanham posted on the website CaringBridge.org where he and his family have maintained an online journal for the past six years.
With more than 200 entries submitted, the journal has chronicled the ups and downs of his wife Michelle’s battle with peritoneal cancer.
It begins when the family first learns about Michelle having the disease back in 2007, and has continued through June 2, 2013 when she went to her Heavenly home.
I never had the honor and privilege of meeting Michelle during her earthly stay. But I remember hearing prayer requests at my church as her condition worsened.
And even though I did not know Michelle personally, it was obvious from mutual friends her courage and faith for God had made an impact on everyone she had been around.
So when I was asked to write about her story, even though I had never met her, I felt very honored to learn more about Michelle and share it here.
Michelle was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in the Fall of 2007 when doctors basically told her she had 16 months to two years at the most left to live. But in June 2008, the Lanhams were led to a surgeon in North Carolina, where Michelle underwent interperotineal heated chemotherapy and a lengthy surgery that had less than a 50 percent survivability rate.
Following surgery there, Michelle was told the cancer was now gone and there was a 64 percent chance of the disease never returning.
For about the next two years, Michelle remained free of cancer. Her overall health continued to improve, and she was able to do a lot of the things she enjoyed before.
These activities ranged from spending time with her beautiful daughters, Mattie and Maggie, to milking and feeding their goats, to dancing and singing karaoke.
In November 2010, however, Michelle’s health worsened, and the cancer had returned.
After another lengthy surgery and heated chemotherapy and 53 days in the hospital, she fought through it again and got to go back home.
With the help of inheritanceofhope.org, Michelle and her family got to go on a retreat in Orlando, Fla., where they enjoyed the parks with 16 other families having a parent that had a life threatening illness. They also took trips to Charleston and Pigeon Forge. Michelle loved to travel and spend time with her family and friends.
But in March of this year, after her condition had worsened yet again, the doctors let the family and her know she did not have much longer. Her kidneys shut down and a tumor was found on her brain.
Then on June 2, 2013, at 8:38 a.m., husband Larry made one more journal entry: “The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD... please pray for our girls... Glory to God!”
As I finished reading the journal, the most important thing I took away from Michelle’s story is that the cancer was only a small part of it. If you really want to know the story of Michelle Lanham, it was the fact that her faith in God was never shaken.
In fact, Larry even mentions how humbled he was by her faith and how her wisdom and strength only grew stronger and stronger.
In almost every other journal entry, Michelle and Larry asked for prayers but always praised God. In the good times and the not-so-good times, they thanked God for what they had and the times they got to spend together.
Their strength went so far that they would even seek out others who were going through what they went through. Even though they had way more than enough to deal with on their own, they still wanted to use their position to help others.
When so many of us would just ask God what we did to deserve such bad things, Michelle stood strong and continued to be a wonderful light for the Lord until her last breath.
And as a newlywed, I really feel Larry set quite the example during all of this. His passion for God and his wife is a lesson all husbands could learn from.
Psalms 31:24 says, “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.”
I encourage everyone to go online and read Michelle’s remarkable story. You can find it at www.caringbridge.org/visit/michellelanham.
I’m not sure if I even came close to doing her story justice, but if you take some time to read the journal for yourself, you will truly be blessed and inspired.
And after you read her story, ask yourself again “What would you do?”
Brad Hall is the nighttime editor for the Times-Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Larry Lanham contributed to this column.