by Elizabeth Burgard Fulgaro © 2015
It’s time for a cancer progress check-in. First the practical, then a reflection on God and His mysterious, wonderful way.
When last I wrote, the May 2015 ultrasound and scan (which were in the hopes of declaring my body cancer-free) showed some type of slight illumination on the scan which was not confirmed by the ultrasound. In other words, there was iodine uptake of some sort or a false positive of iodine uptake the neck and thyroid area, representing the scan detected some bit of thyroid tissue or thyroid cancer remaining. To be cancer-free the scan should have been completely dark. However, the ultrasound, which was to reveal potential masses growing where there should be nothing growing, indeed revealed nothing. So the ultrasound was terrific to which the scan added a question mark. Thus they could not say, “cancer-free” because they could not be sure. Perhaps there was something still there which was not yet large enough for the ultrasound to detect. Perhaps it would grow enough to be detected. Perhaps the scan had been a false positive of iodine uptake and there was nothing going on there at all. Perhaps….
The end result was a decision by the endocrinologist who oversees my care for me to have ultrasounds on the thyroid/neck area every few months to see if anything had grown enough to now be visible on the ultrasound or to gradually ultrasound by ultrasound confirm that actually no hidden cancer is growing there at all.
August 2015 was the first of these ultrasounds and indeed there was nothing there at all. So in January or February 2016 back to the blood draw and ultrasound I will be sent to do it all one more time. Meanwhile I have complete peace. Nothing in this life is sure except that eventually none of us are getting out of here alive so I have moved on. God knows the number of my days and I’m good with that.
However, I am grateful to God that in His grace He has seen fit to continue to provide vocal recovery—a recovery through recuperative, rehabilitation efforts by multiple experts, which now seems as if it will deliver an eventual result which enables me to have a stronger singing and speaking voice than ever before. I am abundantly grateful! For without the Lord showing me the way to Dr. Krzysztof Izdebski, who then has overseen my care with the others (notably Lucy Beck and Amy Lesico), there would have been no recovery. And while the ability or inability to talk easily or sing at all does not define quality of life, it is a gift to be able to use my voice!!! Though not fully restored yet and though for some unknown reason it is still painful to create sound vocally, my speaking voice finally has times when it sounds “normal” to me and like it used to be and I am beginning oh-so-slowly, but firmly (thankfully and joyously) to sing again. Oh how I have missed it!
For years I have used my voice almost exclusively to praise the Lord I love. It was something I truly took for granted for it was so easy. I simply opened my mouth whenever I willed it and song came forth. After six months where my post-surgery singing range was 3 tones (do-ray-mi-ack!!! no more sound!!!), and following over 9 months of active, daily vocal-therapy-specific exercises for improvement overseen by these wonderful people in whose care the Lord has placed me, what a gift to be able to do this again!
It gives me profound joy to announce that as of July 24, 2015 I returned to The Creation Lab in Turlock, CA to begin recording the lead vocals for the upcoming worship CD, “You’re My Healer”. This was my first time back to the recording studio since the same week in July exactly one year prior in order to make sure I completed recording the background harmony vocals for the “Christmas Bells Call to Worship” worship CD (released December 2014) in case I could not sing following the August 13th surgery—which I could not.
The Lord’s plan is awe-inspiring on so many levels. Though the cancer had been growing silently for a number of years, it was found and diagnosed in mid-July 2014. A year earlier in August 2013 as I was in the studio with Michael Everett, Mark Davis and Brandon Davis laying the initial tracks for my second CD of mostly original Christmas worship songs (“Christmas Bells Call To Worship”), the Holy Spirit nudged me firmly to talk with Mike about booking the studio for February 2014 to begin recording another new full length worship project of original songs, but this time it would be songs with which those who were seeking healing from the Lord could worship Him. Interiorly I was thrilled the Lord was asking me to do this because the February dates marked the 10th anniversary of my friends Andrea, Lori and Nicole praying over me to begin hearing new worship songs from heaven during our Bible study worship time in February 2004 as well as the day after their prayers when I “heard” the first new song. What an incredible, truly God-given way to commemorate the event!
Of course, I obeyed, booked the studio and began listening for His new melodies and lyrics in late 2013 for this new healing worship project. Along the way I did mention to the Lord how aware I was that He was asking me to write lyrics for something I had never experienced myself. Certainly, I had been ill before. But since coming back to faith in Christ as Savior and Lord over 20 years before, I had not had to endure an illness which required me to lean on Him for His healing.
The timing of the scheduled initial recording of the songs in February 2014 became even more impactful when my close, close friend Andrea was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer on January 14, 2014 exactly one month following the first Carols at the Capitol event which she had obediently put on in response to an assignment from the Lord. I knew and know here is not our final home, but only a place of temporary fallible living (and eventual physical death). However, Andrea’s diagnosis and prognosis was so close to the February 2014 recording date, that it definitely effected how I listened for His lyrics and caused me to select certain songs I had composed earlier to be added to the “You’re My Healer” project.
Indeed, in a way only the Lord could have orchestrated, in February 2014 we laid the initial tracks of a few basic instruments for all the songs for “You’re My Healer”. However, after this strong start, progress on “You’re My Healer” stopped. This was not our lack of focus, but the Lord’s plan. I did not know it then, but He did not want me to have time the remainder of spring 2014 to work on singing my final vocals for the project. He already knew I had cancer and would be officially beginning my own healing journey by mid-year. The singing of these songs was to be during my own journey. However, He had wanted the music ready.
Is it not amazing as my voice now slowly has been recovering, that these songs are already prepared musically, just waiting for me to vocally recover enough to sing them in the studio? Is it not beyond belief that He has ordained my voice to be added to this worship project while it is still recovering when this project exists to accompany others on their own healing journey as they seek to lean on God through it? Only our Lord could have set this up. Who knows all and thinks this way but Him?! Wonder of wonders!
Especially the first few times in the studio starting in July 2015 it was excruciatingly hard. I drove the 1.5 hours each way sometimes to do one song each time. It was hard to sing, hard to move from pitch to pitch and hard to form the sounds required for each of the lyric’s words. Certain consonants and vowels were still quite difficult.
Though standing behind the microphone to record is always humbling and one has to fight a fear of inadequacy or insufficiency, these times it was intensely more than ever before. And the sound which came out was not exactly as I would have wished! However, I knew this was how my Lord wanted His music done—singing through my healing for those seeking healing to join in. As always, I prayed both before we began and interiorly as I was offering Him the worship songs one by one into the microphone.
These were His songs, which He had given me to sing. Like all the other worship projects which have preceded “You’re My Healer”, this one was also His not mine and I knew what He enabled me to do would be sufficient for His purposes. He had told me clearly it was time to begin singing again. I had obeyed. I trusted Him. My singular request on all of my worship projects is not that people would experience my voice, but that through my obedience to His call for me to release these songs, that He would imbue the songs with the power of His Holy Spirit so that all who listened and sang along would be touched by Him in the way they each needed to grow closer to Him day by day. It was my prayer for this one too. JOY!
In addition, I was once again blessed by Michael Everett, who in his role as producer was oh-so-gentle with me, working with me in the short bursts of singing stamina I had to make the recording of the songs as easy on me as possible.
As of September 25, 2015 the final lead vocals for all 11 songs have been completed. There remain only two harmonies each to add to the last six songs and my work on this project is done. God is so good! He has been so immeasurably kind to me! His provision of this healing has bordered on miraculous because it didn’t have to go this way.
In addition because of what I experienced in the first weeks following the 2014 cancer surgery, there will be another new worship project produced in the next month. It will be an improvisational piano-only worship CD of original music called, “Worship When Words Are Too Much”.
Directly following surgery, I tried to listen to worship music and offer the lyrics heavenward as I always, always do. However, following the cancer surgery this was more than I could mentally accomplish. My body required so much energy directed towards the immense physical recovery that there was no mental energy left with which to engage with the words. In fact, the lyrics made it so I couldn’t listen to the music because the message of the words automatically began to draw me in, but it was simply too much for me. Thus as I began to recover (and during that time I could not sing at all), He began to give me little melody lines which have developed into worship music where the offering is music only with no words. Each song has a theme—a basic worshipful thought behind it which I contemplate as I play the song instrumentally. For instance for one the theme is “His peace”, for another “trust”, for another “at rest in Him”, etc. My prayer is that since all this is done in obedience to His promptings that His Spirit would be on this new music so it would touch those who hear it His way to accomplish His healing, restoring purposes in them (as only He can.)
Both these music projects will be available latest February 2016, the 10th anniversary of stepping out in faith and beginning to record original worship music in accordance with the Holy Spirit’s instruction with Michael Everett at The Creation Lab in February 2006. Wow….what an amazing journey.
Meanwhile I continue seeing Dr. Krzysztof Izdebski and Lucy Beck, two specialists who continue to guide me toward fuller and more complete vocal restoration. They are kind to me. They are patient with me. They guide me expertly, willingly using their God-given gifts to help me and help others. When I could find no help, the Lord led me specifically to them. For Dr. Krzysztof Izdebski, Lucy Beck and Amy Lesico (who helped me for months with speech), I am grateful beyond what any human words can express—both to the Lord God who gave me the gift of connection with Dr. Izdebski and for how the Lord has used him and those to whom he has referred me for vocal song and speech therapy to enable my recovery (a recovery which would not have just happened on its own). There would be no good speech or song from my voice if they were not willing to do the work the Lord has given them!
I am also profoundly grateful to the Lord God, who in His plan decided to allow me to suffer a cancer which is curable. I know my eternal destiny. I am confident in it. I know here is not God’s long-term best for me. Yet, I do so love serving Him here and for the moment He has granted me more time to do this. (He knows at what instant—any instant—when my time here is done.) So I am thankful for now, for this moment, and at rest in how His way from here to eternity works.
Yet through this cancer journey our magnificent Lord God also has affirmed yet another aspect of His often incomprehensible way. Our Lord most definitely uses us for His kingdom work wherever this life takes us. Wherever! And I am thankful!
It is not only how He takes what the enemy means for evil and uses it for good, but how He uses it for His more. He makes out of the ugliest places an assignment –a God assignment—which is part of furthering His kingdom and making it known on earth as in heaven. He uses our most undesirable circumstances out of which to write a God-story, raising beauty from ashes and anointing the heads of many with His oil of joy and gifts of salvation and abundant inner peace, all from an increasing knowing from the inside out of who and how He is.
Therefore wherever life takes us (and we know this will include suffering, unfairness, evil, hate and injustice because this is earth where Satan rules, not heaven), becomes a critical part of accomplishing His Great Commission, that He would be revealed to all people and every individual would have the opportunity to see Him and begin to know Him as both Savior and Lord. There are also God-assignments which take us into trenches where despite the hardships we personally endure, He can flow through us to be His triage unit and safe place for recuperation and strengthening for all those who have been wounded (which includes every one.) It is when we are on these God assignments, which He has made of the hard places and spiritual battlefields which take us places which we would never have chosen for ourselves, that He uses us to spread the fragrance of His truth (by the power of His Holy Spirit) which contrasts so sharply with the stench of the wisdom of this world.
There are those who are seeking Him even if they do not yet even know His name. Inherently interiorly they know there is more for us in life than is apparent even though they don’t know what (who) it is and how to find it. It is God they seek because He created us for this intimate connection with Him. We are incomplete without it—without HIM—and deep down inside we recognize the lack.
There is an intrinsic incompleteness, a discontent and dissatisfaction until we find our fulfillment in adopted sonship and daughtership in Him, restored to the place in His eternal kingdom for which He created us. This is an aspect of the darkness our Lord speaks about and how He is the Light of the world.
He is the Truth. Looking but not knowing how to find Him or having begun to know Him yet not knowing how to pursue the fullness of relationship with Him—this is the darkness, sadness, depression, discouragement and lack of hope into which Jesus came and into which the Holy Spirit still desires to come to others working through us.
Thus sometimes the places we have to go in life are dark. We do not want to be there. We wish we could be somewhere else. And yes, often these hard places are an aspect of this fallen world and not at all like the heaven He has planned for us. It feels more like the desert wilderness than the Promised Land.
Yet, He is with us there too and we must be attentive to the assignment He has for us there. We are not the Light of the world. But we are lamps He has made to carry His Light into the dark places—the truth about life now, life eternal, God in it and through it and the living and active Holy Spirit here with us now with His gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.
Like in Isaiah, our Lord is calling—whom shall I send! He is looking for response: “Send me.” How will they see His Light if we don’t go on or if we are filled with so much fear and despair that He Himself must send those to help us and we are incapable of being used by Him to be His love, truth and comfort to others?
Rarely is it so one-sided. Usually we have times of both: times where He can flow through us because our trust in Him is strong and times of being utterly human where we forget He is there using us there and that we have a hope and a future promised (a good one) even if that promise is heaven sooner than we thought we wanted.
Our hope—the hope of Jesus—is that death is no longer the end. It is in this promise we rejoice. It is in this promise we can stand strong in the storm which seems to envelope us in darkness and tries to steal what we thought we had. Our Lord is the Light to our future. Nothing and no one can steal this destiny. When we grasp this by His grace and choose to rely on it, the Holy Spirit can flow through us as the river of Life that He is, especially in the dark and dry places, to touch the world.
On a very practical note, in my own journey into the dark places of cancer eradication and recovery where I continue to pray to be His light, there have been many wonderful, caring, self-less prayer warriors (family, friends and others where sometimes we have not yet even met face-to-face—you know who you are!!!) who have been oh-so faithfully with me by His Spirit the whole time covering me in prayer. I am grateful beyond ability to adequately express it. Such selfless giving to pray for another! I can never pay you back. Thank you so very, very, very much for praying for me so faithfully all this time!
As you can see, I am here to formally report your prayers are answered and better than you may have been able to imagine. He did not answer your prayers for immediate, instant, complete healing. It has been oh-so-gradual and therein lies the last point for which I am thankful because the gradual healing has been the greater blessing.
There are multiple aspects to this. He has taught me to enjoy the quiet even more than before through the months of inability to speak in most situations. He has taught me that often fewer words need to be spoken. He has allowed me to clearly hear the difference between chatter and what my grandmother called, “good talk”.
However the most powerful aspect of the blessing of gradual healing over immediate healing is that through it He has graced me to come to know individuals whom I never would have met (because I never would have needed to ask the Lord to help me find them). Between us, we have been blessed to pour into each others’ lives in incredible, indelible ways. I never would have known these individuals who are literal gifts to me and for whom I now pray daily. My life would have been less without them. They have made my life richer and I would not have wanted to miss knowing them. Oh the wonder of His magnificent ways from here until the day He finally calls each of us home. His way is perfect. I am grateful. Let’s rejoice!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:1-5,9-13)
16 the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned. (Matt. 4:16)
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. (Matt. 5:14-15)
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isa. 6:8)
ENDNUGGETS OF GOD’s WISDOM God’s Wisdom is more precious than gold. This blog by Elizabeth Fulgaro helps readers discover God’s way versus the world’s one “nugget” at a time. http://www.ascendinworship.wordpress.com
Elizabeth Fulgaro is a wife, mother, writer, inspirational speaker, worship leader, composer, singer & recording artist. She is also a Certified Financial Planner and Accredited Financial Counselor with a heart for helping Christians understand and steward their finances God’s way.
For books, worship cds, Bible studies and teachings written by Elizabeth Fulgaro or to schedule her to come speak to your group please visit www.holyspiritpress.org Worship music audio clips can be found at www.cdbaby.com/Artist/ElizabethFulgaro and on itunes.
Elizabeth is the Founder of Eagles Nest Foundation which provides spiritual support & encouragement to military and military families as well as those in physical and emotional battles (such as cancer, long-term illness) as well as those grieving a loss. For information email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.eaglesnestfoundation.org