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by Connie Hicklen

Last week during Christmas, Brewer said to me, “Mom, I want you to write a blog for me to share on my website. You have a unique, roller coaster life story and people need to hear it.” I immediately thought to myself, “Oh goodness, I don’t know what to say.”  The longer I waited, the more I felt compelled to write.

So here we are… what do you do when life just doesn’t make sense?

I was diagnosed with MS 16 years ago, the week before Thanksgiving. After being tested and poked by needles for months, I finally faced one of the biggest challenges in my life: How can I be thankful when I was just diagnosed with a life-altering disease?

As soon as I was diagnosed, I made the choice that this disease would not define me… even though I didn’t really know how I would do this. The thought “I will not be defined by this” kept ringing in my head, knowing only a miracle can make this happen. Over and over, I reminded myself of this.

Once I felt my perspective change, for the first time in my life I began to see the pain behind people’s mask. I started to have opportunities to comfort others and walk beside friends as they experienced struggles.

After 3 medications had failed in the last 16 years of MS treatments, I qualified for a new treatment that requires 2 weeklong treatments… 1 last year and 1 this year. In this treatment, my immune system is destroyed and I become vulnerable to catch viral or bacterial infections. With me being vulnerable, I was left home alone most days while recovering.

Last year after my first round, I began to go crazy behind the closed doors in my house. I felt isolated, alone, and began to start feeling depressed. I originally thought I would just paint… but there was no inspiration there. I had no desire to do anything. It took quite some time for me to feel normal and feel more like the person I knew.

With my second round of treatment coming up, I decided to have all of my yearly doctor visits two weeks before I started my treatment. A few days before my final treatment started, my dermatologist called me and told me the heart-breaking news:

Melanoma, for the second time.

Heartbreak. Disgust. Anger. Concern. I could not believe it.

Now, my MS treatment has been put on hold to treat melanoma. I had already been planning for months on how I would handle the next stage of MS treatment and now, I was thrown a curveball.

Have I not been through enough? I hate to give a list of things that will make you think “poor Connie,” but in order to explain my thoughts, I think I will.

I have lost 2 babies, my house has burned to the ground, my father committed suicide, I was diagnosed with MS, I have had two scares with breast cancer, I lost my eyesight from a detached retina (twice and then had to have cataract surgery because of my retina complications), I have been diagnosed with melanoma (twice), I had a scare that my son had thyroid cancer, and I dealt with my daughter falling and breaking her jaw and having her mouth wired shut the month before college graduation.

I know it is hard to believe, but those are just a few that I think some of you may relate to. There is so much in my life that should have put me in the looney bin, but there has always been a silver lining in each situation.

Why is that? What holds me together? Why can I honestly say I would not change my life at all? It’s not me, that is for sure. It’s WHO lives in me and directs me each day!

You have heard it all before… I believe everything happens for a reason. But do you really? Do you really believe that God has his hand on your life and you are letting him direct you?

I really do believe I wouldn’t be here if God didn’t think I could handle it and I believe I can impact people through my situation. I still don’t know the purpose of the heartaches but I do know that all things work for the good to those who are called according to HIS purpose.

Thankfully this life isn’t about me.

The times I have received bad news, I have had a handful of emotions. I cry, I throw things across the room, I punch (I have a nasty right hook), and I do struggle and question WHY ME? I am as human as anyone. And this is where Mike steps in and tells me, “Babe, you will be fine, you are the strongest person I know!”

Come on God; I have done this one to many times… can I not have a break?

That sounds trivial in some ways, but is it a reminder that I win with whatever outcome I have. In my times of weakness, there is no greater gift than to have one you love reminding you of the strength you possess.

A lot of us are questioning the world around us and why everything doesn’t make sense… but there has been one thing that has remained constant in my life and that is God’s truth.  

My God can hear my struggles, conversations, and concerns. Isaiah 65:24 tells me, “Before they call I will answer; while they are sleeping I will hear.” He knows even before I ask what is on my heart.

All I can think is:

Be still and know that I am God keeps echoing in my heart. I just need space and time to remind myself of this powerful truth. Psalm 139 tells me, “He searches me and knows me. He knows when I come and when I go.”

So how is this any different? The truth is right before me. I go to sleep with a sense of peace and calmness because of God’s promise to me. I wake the next morning with this fight in my gut and I am ready to take this wherever I need to go.

I know I am not going through this for myself; I am going through this so I can make a difference in other people’s lives. Strength is not what people perceive it as. Strength, in my mind, is when I surrender to what is before me and believe God’s plan for my life.

Surrender = Strength. Think of David and Goliath. David definitely wasn’t the strongest, most equipped one for the job; however, he surrenders to God and God uses him to do the job. I know that I would love to be known as the person after God’s own Heart.

My final thoughts aren’t really that eloquent or impressive. I know I am a small, fragile being, but I have a BIG GOD and a Truth that cannot be explained. That truth is what gives me the strength and comfort to face each day.

The perception that my life is all put together and perfect is far from the truth. Yes, my life is great, not because of anything I’ve done, but because of all the support I have received. My challenge for you is to look to God’s truth in your weakest times, his answer is right there.

Take a minute to listen to this song. It describes so many emotions I have felt over the last month:

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