A Promise Kept

The healing I expected was denied. In its place was a greater blessing.

My 13-year-old mind whirled as the nurse pushed the electronic button to raise the head of my hospital bed. The induced stupor of pain-killing drugs numbed my awareness. Flickers of pain shot through the right side of my body. I closed my eyes, grimacing to endure the discomfort.

As the nurse adjusted the pillows and bedcoverings to make me more comfortable, I relaxed my facial muscles and opened my eyes. Looking down, I realized that the nurse had pulled back the yellow blanket and sheets that had covered my lower body.

“No!” I screamed. I yanked the bedcoverings back down and yelled again, “No!” Dropping my head into my hands, sobs shook my body as I realized what I had seen: my right leg had been amputated.

Continuing to cry, I reviewed in my mind the promise I had been given in my patriarchal blessing just two weeks before. “You will have the faith to be healed,” Patriarch Kimball had said. When this blessing was given, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy. My parents and I interpreted this statement to mean that the malignant bone tumor in my knee would be healed and my leg would not be removed.

Patriarch Kimball’s remarkable words were a testimony to all of my family and friends that a miracle would occur. As my doctors prepared me for the amputation surgery, they assured my parents that they would check one last time to see if the tumor was there. If it was gone, they wouldn’t perform the surgery; I would awaken with two intact legs. However, if the tumor was still there, an immediate amputation was necessary to prevent the spread of the cancer cells to the rest of my body.

My mother looked in the door to my hospital room. I could see she was crying and guessed she had heard my outburst. I couldn’t control the anger I was feeling, so I closed my eyes and lowered the head of my bed. I didn’t want to see the nurse, my mom, or anyone else. I felt betrayed. Lying there on the bed, alone and miserable, I cried bitterly in anger at everyone I had trusted.

For several days, I refused to look down where my leg used to be. When a physical therapist came in to help me take my first steps with an artificial leg, I refused to cooperate. I fell into a depression. I just couldn’t believe that life could continue without my leg.

About a week after the surgery, my father insisted that I take a wheelchair ride outside the hospital. I sat in the chair, slumped over, gritting my teeth in pain as my father pushed me outside for the first time. Dad took me into a rose garden that spread out in front of the hospital. I looked over at the lovely rose bushes growing around me, and I felt so ugly, so deformed.

As I sat there feeling miserable, the desire grew within me to reach out for the roses, to smell the individual flowers. I expressed this to my dad, and he tried to move the wheelchair close enough for me to do so. But the chair was too awkward over the grass and dirt around the bushes. I started to cry again in frustration that I couldn’t accomplish one simple task. Dad knelt down at the side of my wheelchair and stroked my hair. When I stopped sobbing, he took my hands in his and looked straight into my eyes.

“You can do it, you know,” he said. “It won’t be easy. Everything—even smelling roses—will be harder from now on. But I know, and you know, that you can do it.” We were both silent for a long time as I looked into his eyes. In that moment I realized that I had no choice about the loss of my leg. It was gone, and I needed to accept it. I also understood that I would need all of my strength and determination to do the things I would want to do. I will do it, I thought to myself.

I spent many hours learning to manipulate my artificial leg. It was awkward and painful, and I often fell down. At the same time, I still had chemotherapy treatments every two weeks. Because of the treatments I was bald, weak, and severely underweight. At one point about six months after my surgery, I was so discouraged that I told my oncologist (the doctor who was treating my cancer) that I wouldn’t continue my treatments. She explained to me that if I didn’t finish the prescribed course of treatment, the cancer had a high chance of returning, and she urged me to continue. I was emotionally and physically exhausted, but in the back of my mind I remembered my father’s words and I felt renewed strength to continue with my treatments.

Six months later, the chemotherapy treatments were over. I still felt discouraged about losing a leg, and I was overwhelmed with fear about facing the future as a one-legged person. My mind turned again to the promise given in my patriarchal blessing. I wasn’t healed, I thought to myself. Why wasn’t I healed? I wondered if it was a lack of faith on my part. Maybe I hadn’t prayed hard enough or believed that Heavenly Father could heal me as was promised in my blessing.

As these thoughts ran through my mind, I started to cry. I curled myself up into a fetal position and sobbed for a long time. As I did so, I remembered all I had accomplished in the year since my surgery. I had adjusted to my disability and learned to walk again. I had completed my full course of chemotherapy treatments and was gaining weight and strength again. My hair was even beginning to grow back. Then it came to my mind, with a small and simple whisper, that I had been healed. I was healed of the overwhelming pain and anguish that came when I realized my leg was gone. I was given the physical and emotional strength to tackle the challenges of life following the surgery. Most importantly, I was in remission from the cancer.

With that realization, I bowed my head in prayer. I thanked my Heavenly Father for the fulfillment of the blessing of healing. I thanked Him for my father’s wise counsel and for the support of my family and friends who had helped me through the most difficult months of my life. Most of all, I thanked Him that I was still alive—for I realized that with or without my right leg, my life was worth living.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Richard Hull