Stories of Perseverance: Anna Walz

Each year, a handful of those in the community going through a cancer journey themselves or with a loved one share their story.  These are the people the efforts of Pink Arrow help in the community.  They’re friends and neighbors.  You may not even know how cancer has touched them.  This series of stories are written by the person you will read about or by someone on their behalf.  We thank them for sharing their story and the courage to battle cancer in some way.

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The following is from Anna Walz.  She is in the beginning stages of learning how her body will deal with cancer.  She shares some of her thoughts about the process.

As a mom of five kids aged six and under, my cup overflows.  A year ago the Lord blessed us with identical twin boys that were not part of “our plan”.  I have an amazing husband who works hard all day as a self-employed contractor and then tirelessly serves our family helping with cooking, cleaning and changing diapers.  I have a rewarding job as a marketing professor at GVSU with wonderful colleagues.  We have friends and family that love us and a “crazy for Jesus” church community that surround us.  My cup overflowed with God’s goodness.  But still…after having and nursing five kids in five years, and many more years of what seemed as a desert period of not hearing from God, I found myself at my breaking point.  I told God, “This is too much too handle…trying to be a good mom, wife, and professor.  I just need a break.”  So, this spring I started praying earnestly for “green pastures and quiet waters” (Psalm 23:2).  In my mind, I was asking God to show me some sort of hobby, some quality “me-time” that would refresh me on all levels.  Well, God always answers prayers, maybe not the way we want Him to or when we want Him to; sometimes the answer is “no” or sometimes He has something far better in store than we can ask for or imagine.

A week later my husband and I found a lump in my right breast.  It was so large that we thought surely it had to be a cyst, full of fluid.  “How could you not have felt this before?” he asked.  I had just started weaning the twins, so I was like, “Whatta ya mean?  All I’ve done is grow babies and nurse them for the last seven years.  Of course my breasts are lumpy!”  But I did flashback to feeling this particular lump when the twins were young, and at the time I just thought it was another clogged milk duct, so I treated it as such and forgot about it.  Later that week after finding the lump, as I lay on the ultrasound table at the Betty Ford Breast Care Center, my peace was replaced with sadness as I looked up and saw what was definitely not a fluid-filled cyst.  I left the biopsy the next day grieving over the suffering I was getting ready to endure.  A friend met us in the lobby with a hug and I cried, “Oh, I had so badly wanted green pastures and quiet waters.” My friend responded, “Maybe green pastures is going to look differently than what you thought.”  We found ourselves leaving Spectrum with our cancer diagnosis that we didn’t ask for a year to the date after we had left the same hospital with our newborn twins that we also hadn’t asked for.  Was this the Lord reminding us that He gives us more than we can handle, so that He can carry us through the struggle and then bless us immensely?

The first two days after my triple negative, grade 3 breast cancer diagnosis were extremely hard, as the “unknowns” and worst case scenario flooded our thoughts.  I was fine with having cancer, and I was even okay with dying.  But I was not okay with leaving a husband and five young children behind.  Why would God give me so many children to take care of and then let me be so sick that I couldn’t take care of them?  And I was already at my breaking point, begging Him for help every day.  Well, the prayers started pouring in to our Heavenly Father, and soon we started to feel that miraculous peace that surpasses understanding.  God started to speak CLEARLY to me, through His Word and the encouragement of others.  I felt Him say, “Those five kids are mine.  I love them more than you do and know how to take care of them better than you do.  Don’t you understand that I sent my own Son to suffer and die so that I could have a relationship with them!  Why wouldn’t I take care of them? I have a HUGE family ready to take care of those kiddos when you can’t.  TRUST ME.”

So, I moved beyond that big hurdle, but God continued to bless me with clarity and purpose.  One morning in my Bible study He brought me to a passage in Scripture that said, “All things have been created THROUGH HIM and FOR HIM,” with the “HIM” referring to Jesus (Col 1:16b).  Okay, so that was it; my cancer was created THROUGH Jesus FOR Jesus.  But a few days later through another Bible study, God reminded me that I was not just a sacrificial lamb but that “He is continuously orchestrating your circumstances and the people around you to accomplish great things THROUGH YOU and FOR YOU.” (First5).  So, not just THROUGH HIM FOR HIM, but THROUGH ME FOR ME.  Together.  That’s it really.  All of us have a struggle – whether it’s cancer, troubled relationships, or bad decisions.  I feel we weren’t meant to walk through these struggles and life in isolation.  We were created for a relationship with God.  So God breaks us so He can carry us.  This is what the shepherds in ancient days use to do.  The shepherd would twist the leg of a sheep who had trouble staying close to the shepherd so that the sheep would have to be carried, resulting in utter dependence on the shepherd.  Suffering is the path to being close to our Heavenly Father.  It was that way for Jesus, and it is that way for us.  Only then will we know what it’s like to be close to Him.

And the suffering is only beginning.  I’ve only undergone two of 16 rounds of chemo, and the effects for me have been varied and strong.  I lay helpless for days after I receive treatment, crying out to God.  And I still have a mastectomy and radiation to face after that.  And fear of the unknown will always poke its ugly head in as I await genetic testing results in the next few days and deal with the high probability of recurrence for years to come.

But I promise you, the blessings of His closeness far outweigh the suffering!  The Lord is smothering us with His love through this journey, showing up in miraculous ways to give us more than we could ever ask or imagine – with gifts, encouragement, help, food, and community.  He is stripping away my pride and my poor attitude.  And He has answered my original prayer!  He is “making me lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2) as I have racked up hours in a chemo chair “being fed” through Scripture, song and friends.  And He has answered a prayer I’ve prayed for many years – a deep longing to hear from Him clearly again.  I know the sufferings aren’t over, but either are the blessings.  I am excited to see what He will do THROUGH US and FOR US.


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