I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much sometimes. This quote from Mother Teresa really resonates in my life. It was around March 2016 when I had just turned 13 years old and I noticed a small swelling on my head. The swelling did not affect me in any way. On consulting a doctor, we went ahead with an ultrasound followed by a few scans. Now, to our surprise, the scan told us that there was a growth on my head and that there was a 2 percent chance that the growth was non-cancerous or benign. On hearing a number like this, we were completely shocked and we were taken aback. This is where the suddenness of life plays out. When you think that all is going to go a certain way and you have a plan, and when something comes up out of the blue, you’re completely taken aback. So, on hearing this news, we decided that we would go to Chennai and drive down to Christian Medical College. We felt comfortable being treated there as we were guided by a family friend. The doctor there suggested that we go ahead with a biopsy. We used to leave early in the morning from Chennai and go to CMC. So, we did the biopsy, and long story short, the biopsy results came out inconclusive. So, the doctors decided that we had to go ahead with surgery.
I like to find hope no matter how grave the situation is.
Now, the surgery was said to be a tough one because we did a PET scan, and we found out there was a much larger tumour in the retroperitoneal region of my abdomen. On hearing that there was a much larger tumour, we were completely gutted. It felt like an actual physical blow. So, when they decided that they have to go for surgery, it was said to be a very tough one as it was surrounding all the vital organs in my abdomen. So, we decided, prayerfully, to go ahead with it. In short, what was supposed to be one surgery ended up in total being five surgeries. And what was supposed to be a week’s stay in the hospital ended up being 90 days. There were many times in the hospital where the doctors were unsure if I would make it out alive, but it was just the grace of God that He carried me through.
If I can recollect one core memory during my stay in CMC, it would be the 21st June of 2016. I was having high fever continuously for a few days, but that evening things escalated very quickly. My heart rate increased to 200s, my BP started dropping rapidly, and I started shivering violently. The doctors rushed me into the ICU and put me on the ventilator as they weren’t sure I would make it till morning. In fact, in the middle of the night, the doctors told my parents to be prepared for the worst as I had fallen into septic shock, and my organs were failing. It was just God who carried me through that night. I was recovering from the post-operative complications, and I had to go through physiotherapy because I was immobile for my entire stay in CMC. I had about six abdominal drains, and because of that, I could not walk.We can't compare our cross with someone else's cross. We all have a cross and we all have to face them.- Jenita Rajiv Click To Tweet
I was going through physiotherapy, and it was during the time when I was recovering from the severe postoperative complications when the biopsy results came out. Now, the biopsy results came back as a rare type of cancer called neuroblastoma. This type of cancer was particularly rare for my age group. It usually happens to children and babies below the age of five, so everyone was kind of perplexed how I got it, and it just felt as though our entire world crashed. We didn’t know what the next steps were, and we were dealing with so many postoperative complications then, so we were just very lost. But by God’s grace and purely by the prayers of so many people, I walked out of the hospital after 90 days. I walked out of the hospital very differently from the first time I went. I had lost about 15 kilos, and I had two feeding tubes. Even after I was discharged, I was fed through a bag at home also.
Despite all this, I was very excited to go back home because our family was kind of in between. My siblings were in Mumbai, and we were over in Vellore. On flying back, we came to Mumbai, and we went to Tata Memorial Hospital, which is a famous cancer specialty Hospital in Mumbai.
I felt comfortable being in control, having a plan, knowing what’s next. But what life has taught me is that you need to be comfortable with not being in control, and the only way we can do that is by trusting God completely, surrendering to His plan no matter how tough it is.
So the doctor’s suggested that I first get stronger before we start chemo. Now, although the word chemo sounds scary, I really didn’t get too scared by it because I thought nothing could be worse than being in isolation after surgery. I just hated the sound of the machines beeping, and so I thought, “Let’s go ahead with chemo.”
Some of the lessons I learned during this phase was to find something I’m thankful for in the midst of this difficult situation I found myself in. I like to find hope no matter how grave the situation is. It was really just God who gave me joy in all situations. I was smiling only because He strengthened me in a difficult situation I was in. After about four cycles of chemo, the chemo had to be suspended because my surgical wound in the abdomen had opened up because of the chemo. Now, this was a new complication, and the doctors were apprehensive about continuing chemo because they thought it would be grave to give me chemo in such a situation. So, this was ironic because in my case, chemo was a necessary treatment. I had to go through chemo for the tumours which were there, but I could not receive it now because of my complications. At that moment, we all felt so helpless. It was like we were living through a nightmare. We were wondering when things would get normal again.
It was around December of 2016 when God gave us the Word as a family. One of the promises as we were entering the new year was that the supernatural will become normal. We just held on tight to the promise as we entered the new year, and as we entered the new year, within a few days, we felt a change in the season. So, after I was a little better and recovered from this complication, the doctors suggested I start a new chemo. It was oral chemo. So, this particular type of chemo, they were just taking a chance. They didn’t know whether it was going to work, but they couldn’t leave me like that, so they just started it. And also, I had missed my entire eighth grade. I was in the eighth standard then, and I had missed my entire eighth grade because of the treatment and surgeries, but I was very set on writing my final exams. I wanted to write it no matter what. I didn’t want to miss a year.
I have an identical twin sister and we were in the same class from the beginning. By God’s grace, she taught and guided me in all the classes I missed and I was able to pass the eighth grade with flying colours. Around that time, we had also done a scan and by God’s grace, the oral chemo was working. Although the cancer had not fully gone, it had responded and that was a big miracle. So we were really thankful to God. During that time, I also went through a few sessions of radiation and by the end of the year 2017, I was in remission purely by the grace of God. We never thought this would come. I remember so many times in 2016, I just wanted a TV remote to press the fast forward button. I was waiting for the day when things would be normal and it was God who carried us through the storm. We could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I just chose to find joy in the Lord no matter what, and it was just God who gave me His strength.
Fast forward 2019 and we were happy. By 2019, I completed my 10th standard and I had this desire to start preparing for the medical entrance exam, NEET. So I started preparing for it. I had this desire and I joined a coaching institute and started working towards my goals. So for two years, I was preparing for the exam and during that time, we used to go for regular follow-up appointments and by God’s grace, everything was good. We were really thankful for that.
NEET happened in September of 2021. I did fairly well by the grace of God, but after finishing the exam, I didn’t find the joy or satisfaction I thought I would get after finishing the exam. So, when I look back, one thing I regret is that I missed out on a lot during my NEET preparation. I missed out on a lot of family functions and outings, and I postponed many of the little things after NEET. I thought, “Okay, after I finish the exam, I’ll be happy and I’ll be able to enjoy my life,” but that was not the case. So, the lesson I learned now is that you should never postpone joy. Whatever situation you’re going through, find something you’re thankful for and you’re joyful for, and just rejoice in the Lord daily. In October 2021, I began experiencing some strange symptoms. I started getting numbness in my legs, and I couldn’t actually feel my feet. So, because of this, I found it difficult to walk, and it was all very sudden. It happened very suddenly, so we went to the doctor, and the doctor examining me suspected it was a vitamin deficiency, but I had a very bad feeling about this deep down. So, we did the chest x-ray, we did an ultrasound, we did a blood test, all of those reports came back normal. We also had an MRI of the spine; it was scheduled for later that day. And by the time we finished the scans and we went home, it was really late at night, it was past midnight. Now, I’m the kind of person that I am more tech-savvy than my parents, so I check out all the reports and everything before they can even see it. So, the next morning, the first thing I do is to go online and check the MRI report. So, I read the report, and I clicked on it, and I read that there are new lesions found, and that there has been a recurrence. At that moment, I really just felt so numb. I didn’t know how to feel, and I just felt all my dreams shattered. I just felt so lost. I didn’t know how to show this report to my parents because I was the first one who saw this. I am not the person who shows my emotions out – but at that moment, I just couldn’t hold back my tears. So, what followed was in me a PET scan and an immediate chemo.
At times like these, we don’t understand why God allows certain situations in our lives. We really don’t understand. But what I’ve realised is we’ll only be able to look back and understand so many things in our lives. So, on one hand, I was dealing with the shock of my diagnosis, and on the other hand, I was dealing with the disappointment of seeing my dreams crash. I had prepared so hard for two years, and I just felt so dejected. I felt lost. I felt like, “Oh my gosh, what happened suddenly?”What I've realised is we'll only be able to look back and understand so many things in our lives. - Jenita Rajiv Click To Tweet
What I realised is that I felt comfortable being in control, having a plan, knowing what’s next. But what life has taught me is that you need to be comfortable with not being in control, and the only way we can do that is by trusting God completely, surrendering to His plan no matter how tough it is. And trust me, it’s really tough to put all your dreams at the altar and say, “God, you take it.” But that’s what I had to do. So, I was disappointed, but I strengthened myself in the Lord.
We don’t get many answers for things in life. I realise in tough situations, we want answers. We want to know why, but we don’t get answers, we’ll only be able to look back and understand God’s plan for our lives. So, I had to make a decision. I could either sell or give up because of the situation I found myself in, or I could choose to rejoice in the Lord. During chemo, we just did things spontaneously. There’s a picture of me on the beach wherein I had a bone marrow biopsy the previous day. We spontaneously booked a Goa trip and we drove down and went the next day. And my brother also came from university, and this was just during chemo. On the day I got chemo we just went out for an outing. So, I just chose to find joy in the Lord no matter what, and it was just God who gave me His strength.
After about 10 cycles of chemo, spread over nine months, it was discontinued as it stopped working. The doctors decided to start a new line of treatment called immunotherapy. Now, this particular immunotherapy was not available in India and had to be specially imported from Switzerland. I had to be admitted to the hospital for about 12 days for each cycle, and I had to undergo about five cycles of immunotherapy. It was during that time when I decided to take a step of faith and apply for some college. I was staying at home for almost a year, and although treatment was still going on, I needed to change my atmosphere. So I felt led to apply for a course in biotechnology and by God’s grace, I got in and I started my course. I completed my last cycle of immunotherapy in December and I’ve also had 14 sessions of radiation. During that time, I used to go to the hospital and I used to go to college. I got special permission. I really experienced God’s strength in my weakness because I used to travel to college by train in the morning and then come and then undergo treatment simultaneously. I had few of my tests then, and I was able to perform better than my peers even though I missed so many classes, and I just attended a few lectures. It was really just God’s strength.
So at this point, you may ask me, “So what life has in store for you?” I’m not sure what life has in store for me. I’m just choosing to take it one day at a time, and I’m learning to trust God no matter the outcome. I find myself very guilty of looking at others and thinking their lives are perfect or their lives are sorted, and they don’t have any problems. But the reality is that each one of us has a problem or cross, some may have heavier crosses than others, but we all have to face them. Oftentimes the best way to get the right perspective is to take the focus of yourself and consider someone else’s problem. I realised that when I was in the hospital once for immunotherapy, I was admitted with this girl as my roommate. She had just completed her treatment for blood cancer and she was in remission, but she had to come back again because she got dengue fever. I was really disappointed because it was her birthday and she was looking forward to celebrating it outside. However, my mom and I just organised a small birthday party for my roommate in the hospital and that lifted her spirits so much. It brought so much joy to us as well. Sometimes the right perspective is all that we need.
We also have a choice, we have a choice either to pursue excellence or to make excuses.
What I’ve also realised is that we can’t compare our cross with someone else’s cross. We all have a cross and we all have to face them. For me, this is my cross, and this is an opportunity for me to live out my purpose. I had to make a decision, either I could sulk and be angry with God in the situation I found myself in or I could choose to carry my cross in such a way that I bring glory to God. My purpose is carrying my cross in such a way that I can be a blessing to someone going through a similar situation as me or to just uplift someone going through a tough time. Integrity is being secure in our identity in Christ. I need to stay true to who God has called me to be. God created me, and I am His handiwork. If I’m created in Christ Jesus for good works that He has prepared beforehand for me to do, why should I not live a life of integrity?Oftentimes the best way to get the right perspective is to take the focus of yourself and consider someone else's problem.- Jenita Rajiv Click To Tweet
If God has allowed this situation in my life, I can use this situation to bring Him glory. I want to point others to Him, and I want to use my story for His glory. In whatever you’re going through, don’t wait for situations to get better to start living out your purpose. There’s no right time for you to start living out your purpose, your right time is now.
We also have a choice, we have a choice either to pursue excellence or to make excuses. I had that choice. I could either say “I can’t do this, it’s so tough”, or I could say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. My radiation was just going on two weeks back which coincided with my exams and I was really stressed about it because I attended very few lectures and had not prepared for this exam at all. So, I had to make a decision either to make excuses and go into self-pity and say “I can’t do this” or I had to choose to pursue excellence with God’s help. In reality, what this meant was that I had to go to college by train in the morning, give my exam, then go to the hospital for my radiation appointment and study for the next day’s exam from there. It was God who made me do that, and by God’s grace, I was able to score a 9.5 GPA in my exams. I say this only for the glory of God because I couldn’t have done it on my own. It was only God who strengthened me. So, right now, I don’t know where you are in life and I don’t know what situation you find yourself in. But I want to say this one thing that God who has brought me thus far, I am sure and I’m confident that He will do the same or even more for you because He who has begun a good work will bring it to completion in your life.