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Mar6ThuAfter years of searching, Julie Desjardins thought she had her life on track, until the doctor's devastating diagnosis tested her faith. March 6, 2014 by Diane Stark
"If the situation doesn't improve, you're going to have to undergo a second operation,” the surgeon said to Julie Desjardins. In April 2013, Julie's doctor informed her that she needed to undergo a hysterectomy. “I was diagnosed with a condition that greatly increased my risk for cancer,” she says, “and with my family history, I knew I needed to take it seriously.”
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- Faith & Friends
Accordingly, she underwent the surgery two weeks later, but there were complications. “I was supposed to be in the hospital for two days, but I was there for two and a half weeks.”
She developed an intestinal blockage, and her doctors told her that she might need to go through a second surgery to fix the problem. “The pain was so intense, and I was becoming weaker and weaker.”
Julie was struggling. As a Christian, she believed God could heal her, but she was worried He would allow her to undergo additional surgery instead. As a registered nurse, though, she knew that further medical intervention would only add to her risk of complications, something she desperately wished to avoid.
Thankfully, she did not have to face it alone. A member of The Salvation Army, she had the prayerful support of her congregation.
And divine intervention was already on the way.
Julie grew up in Brampton, Ont. She enjoyed attending church as a child but in her teens, she walked away from her faith. “I sought love in all the wrong ways,” Julie remembers. “Romantic relationships filled a need inside me to feel loved. I didn't realize then that I should have pursued God and asked Him to fill that need.”
Around that time, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and she died less than two years later. “I was already away from faith, and when my mom died, that just sealed the deal,” Julie says.
After breaking up with her boyfriend, Julie moved to Scotland to pursue yet another relationship, but broke it off because the man refused to marry her. “Having someone want to marry me meant I had value.”
Shortly after that, she returned home to Canada.
Unashamed at Last
Julie began looking for a church to attend.
“I felt so empty inside,” she says. “Everything I'd done on my own hadn't worked, so I felt drawn back to my faith.”
One day in 2002, Julie was reading a newspaper and saw a familiar name.
“When I was a teenager, I'd been involved with a Christian drama group,” Julie explains. “There was an article about the leader of that group. He was a pastor now, and I decided to attend his church so I could see how he was doing.”
Julie did and enjoyed herself. “I hardly ever read the newspaper, so I knew God had used that article to lead me back to Him,” Julie smiles. “After I'd attended the church a couple of times, I realized I'd found my faith again, and I never looked back.”
Though things got better for Julie, she still struggled with self-esteem and identity. “I didn't know who I was,” she states. “I was racked with guilt over the things I'd done when I'd been away from God.”
Julie worried that if people at church knew about her past they would not accept her. “I'd done so many things that 'good Christians' aren't supposed to do,” she says. “I felt ashamed and condemned. But God reminded me that I was forgiven for the mistakes I'd made. I prayed and asked God for more of Him in my life, and I got to the point where I wasn't ashamed anymore.”
Although Julie's faith was blossoming, she struggled with being single.
“I still remember the moment I finally let go. I was on my way to work and I just said, 'I choose You, Jesus. Even if I never get married, I choose to follow You.' ”
Then in 2003, Julie met a fellow Christian. “Paul was serious about his relationship with the Lord,” Julie says. “We were friends for six months before we started dating, which was so different from any of my previous relationships.” In 2005, the couple married, and in 2008, Julie gave birth to their son, Samuel.
Julie's faith continued to grow.
“The place of worship we'd been attending had closed, so we decided to visit The Salvation Army church in Thompson, Man., one Sunday morning in the summer of 2012,” Julie says. “The spirit of God was tangibly present during that service and both Paul and I felt this was where God wanted us.”
Body and Spirit
The day before she was to have the second surgery, several members of her church, led by the pastor, Major Betty-Lou Roberts-Topping, visited her in the hospital. “They were singing and praying for me, and I could feel the Spirit of God in the room,” Julie says. “I didn't know whether God would heal me or not, but I knew He was there.”
The next morning, there had been no change in Julie's physical condition. But later that day, two other friends came by and as they were praying, the blockage cleared completely.
Julie's experience has made her faith even stronger. “The pathology report had shown the beginning stages of cancer, so I know how close I came to dying,” she says. “I've become more aware that my life is in God's hands and I am encouraged that He does still heal today. God healed me— not just my body, but my spirit, too.
“More and more, God is revealing that my identity is in Him, and the more I develop my relationship with God, the more I realize all I need is Him.”