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Susan McGeown

Author, Speaker, & Teacher



Annus Horribilis

Posted by Susan McGeown on 23 December, 2017 at 21:15

Queen Elizabeth used the phrase ‘annus horribilis’ in reference to her “year of horrors” in 1992. For me it was 1998. In February of that year my twenty-eight year old sister Amy was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and began the process of chemo therapy and radiation. In March, I miscarried for the second time. And in August as we celebrated the end of my sister’s radiation regime my mother collapsed and was diagnosed with a brain tumor and immediately underwent brain surgery. Although the tumor turned out to be benign, due to extreme brain swelling from the surgery the top of my mother’s skull could not be replaced and for six months my mother existed “topless”. New Year’s Eve found me at the hospital, six months pregnant, for my mother’s second brain surgery in which a titanium plate was finally inserted.


Being home with two small childr enduring that year, the duty fell to me to be the “point person” who provided updates, requested needed assistance, and was generally the person ‘in the know’. Calling to inform people of my mother’s first brain surgery results I actually had one person say to me, “How can you still be asking for prayer?! First your sister Faith dies from Cystic Fibrosis, then your other sister Amy has cancer, and now your mother’s got a brain tumor. How could God be letting this happen to your family! You’re good, faithful, church going people! Don’t you think you deserve a break? Aren’t you mad at God?”


I don’t recall how I responded but the comment shook me more than anything else thus far that year. My faith was strong but I honestly didn’tunderstand why our family was going through all this. Had we done something wrong? Was God unhappy with us? What were we supposed to do? Standing at the foot of my mother’s hospital bed days later, I said honestly, “I didn’t know what to say, Mom.”


“Oh, Susan,” my mother said to me,“this is not a perfect world and we do not have perfect bodies. There is no doubt in my mind that God is sorrowing and grieving right along with us as we struggle through all this. Nor is there any doubt that He is right here with us to see us through. Look at all He has given us.” Sitting in her hospital bed with her head completely swathed in bandages she began to list the endless stream of godly care that could not be denied:


· How my sister, Amy, having recently moved and started a new job, had health insurance that had only gone into affect thirteen days prior to her diagnosis of cancer.


· How my sister’s new school district had unequivocally supported her through her entire regime of chemo and radiation, allowing her time off, hiring capable substitutes, and paying her in full regardless of her number of sick days.


· How the hospital that treated my sister, when we researched cancer specialists, had one of the top five in the nation currently on staff.


· How my sister, despite undergoing debilitating chemotherapy, managed to meet all her requirements to secure her black belt in tai kwon do (some at her gym thought she shaved her head by choice) and got married in May (her wig got hot while she danced and she eventually took it off and danced bald headed in her wedding gown).


· How when my mother was admitted with her initial seizure in August, the premier neurosurgeon was on staff and present at the hospital that very day.


· How the skill of the doctor had enabled the removal of the brain tumor with little negative results. The doctor, with dry humor, had informed her, “Something else will kill you long before this brain tumor ever will.”


· How she had every expectation to make a full recovery because in two months she was planning on welcoming her third grandchild.


We were both crying by the time she finished her list. “The Lord goes before us and remains with us through everything, Susan. That is the only thing I’m sure of in this life.”


It was a phoenix moment for me. The precious realization that even in the midst of bad times, God was there in control paving the way for me. I suspect that life will bring me more difficult years; that is the nature of life. But I won’t every have to face anything on my own.

Categories: Depression & Anxiety, Tragedy, Empowerment

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