Made for Much, Much More

Photo courtesy of Justin Trapp Studios via Tom Hauser.

Photo courtesy of Justin Trapp Studios via Tom Hauser.

Two haunting lines from Switchfoot’s 2011 title track “Vice Verses” have been replaying in my head. “Where is God in the earthquake? Where is God in the genocide?”

Where is God in times of tragedy? Where is God in the cancer? Amy and Tom Hauser have lived that last question.

The Lump. It was May 2010. Tom and Amy had been living with their two children in Houston for nine months after a move from Des Moines. Their marriage was bumpy, their future was uncertain, and the last thing they needed was a health crisis.

It started with a tragically common scenario: Amy found a lump the size of a walnut under her right arm. She had no family history of breast cancer. She wasn’t overweight. She was active and healthy. She had passed an annual wellness exam with flying colors two days before. Yet, there it was.

“Right away, the radiologist – what she was seeing was not good. We had to wait five days for the call, but I think I already knew,” Amy said. “I just have this memory of driving home on I-45 with tears streaming down my face thinking ‘I have cancer.’”

Amy was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer. Later, they found out it was in stage two – it had spread from the right breast to the lymph node systems. “Then came testing to figure out what kind, where it originated,” Amy said, “They said I was triple negative – which is not what you want, you want to be positive so they can give you targeted therapies.”

Photo courtesy of Justin Trapp Studios via Tom Hauser.

Photo courtesy of Justin Trapp Studios via Tom Hauser.

Amy explained that because they had just moved to Houston, they hadn’t made very many friends yet. They also didn’t have any family in the area. This contributed to the overwhelming sense of fear she experienced after the diagnosis. “After I got the call, I kind of plopped down on the couch, alone in my house. And yet, somehow, I felt my first sense of ‘this is going to be OK.’”

Amy said she felt a strong sense of God’s presence reassuring her that, no matter the outcome, He would be with her through the fight. Her journey with cancer had just begun, but Amy and Tom decided then and there to let God have control of the situation.

“It was interesting,” Tom said, “We had been struggling up to that point, but after her diagnosis, I think it was one of the strongest points in our walk with God. We just turned it over to God’s hands.”

The Journey. The treatment plan for Amy began with 18 weeks of chemotherapy. She would also eventually undergo a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction. The treatment meant Amy needed plenty of time to rest, something Tom embraced wholeheartedly. “Tom is a doer,” Amy explained, “He was so good about taking care of the kids, taking care of me. There was just this sense of relief to know he was fighting for me.”

Tom said they also began to lean on support from members at their new church, The Loft at The Woodlands United Methodist Church. Amy had recently joined a women’s Bible study, which became a strong support system during the cancer journey.

Amy said one thing that benefitted their teenagers Ross and Sara was talking to a family friend who was a breast cancer survivor. “She took them on a trip to Florida with her family when I was going through treatment,” she said, “That was so good for the kids to see that cancer was something that someone they knew had beat.” Tom added, “One thing that helped so much was that they didn’t ask if they could take the kids to Florida. They just told us they were and insisted we let them help us.”

Amy said it was tempting as a mother to try to act like she felt great all the time, but she did her best to be honest with the children and with Tom. Other cancer survivors she spoke with encouraged her to not hide how she felt and to be honest when she needed help.

“Don’t rob the giver of the gift,” she said, “We all want to say we’ve got it and not burden people. But it’s not a burden, and when you don’t let them help you, you rob them. Tom had to say that to me.”

Going through the experience of cancer with Tom at her side made Amy rediscover attributes she loved about him. “I knew he was taking care of things, taking care of me,” she said, “That allowed me to really rest and know things were OK with everything else. He never made me feel like it was a burden, ever.”

Amy explained that in the months leading up to her diagnosis, they had seriously discussed separating, but for some reason she felt God encouraging her to wait a year. “As it ended up, one year later, almost to the day, was when I found out I was cancer-free,” she said.

Tom emphasized that what kept them strong from the beginning to end of their cancer journey was making God their foundation. “Everyone believes in something,” he said. “You have a rock, you have a foundation. Depending on what your foundation is, something like this can rock it. If your foundation is your job, cancer can wreck it. If your foundation is money, you can hire the best doctors in the world and it may not change the outcome. Fortunately, we made our foundation God and we found a way to deal with it through him.”

The Recovery. On the eve of Thanksgiving 2012, Amy had her final surgery. She was declared cancer-free, but the recovery process was a long one. Amy suffered severe back pain in the months after her surgeries. And through the joy of being cancer-free, the fear of it returning still lingered. “For so many, that fear is crippling,” Amy said. “It’s in your head. You just don’t want to relive it again.”

Amy is checked every six months for cancer. “A day or two before that, I do start thinking, you know, what if?” Amy admitted. She added that she has taken these fears to God and asked him to be Lord over them.

“When you face your own mortality, when you give up control to God, you realize that no matter how much you micromanage, to some degree it’s out of your hands,” she said, “So yes, I’m careful about my health, what we eat, managing stress — but I refuse to obsess to the point where it dominates my life.”

God taught Amy through the cancer experience to appreciate the blessings she has in life, including her marriage with Tom. Amy said that she has come to understand that things in life and marriage will never be perfect on this side of eternity, but that she has come to appreciate the beauty of a marriage truly centered on God.

The Beginning. In the months before her diagnosis, Amy had started working with foster children and foster parents by leading retreats and different programs. She coined the name “Made For More Ministries.”

“Then the diagnosis came and I was so frustrated,” Amy said. “It just seemed like I was doing all this work for God and the cancer threw all that off track. And yet, I felt reassured by God saying that he had a plan.”

Photo courtesy of Justin Trapp Studios via Tom Hauser.

Photo courtesy of Justin Trapp Studios via Tom Hauser.

At the time, the cancer diagnosis seemed like the premature end of Made For More. In reality, it was the beginning of something bigger than what Amy had ever imaged for the ministry. “When you face your own mortality, you start thinking about what you should with your life differently. You think ‘What do I love?’ versus ‘What does the world want me to do?’”

Amy said that her love has always been working around nature and helping others. “God just opened these doors for me to open up an equine-assisted therapy program for women dealing with cancer.” Through the help of a local ranch, Amy began connecting women with cancer with a way to be around horses and nature. “For me, just being in nature is so therapeutic and what I love,” she said.

Amy said her journey has allowed her to see that God will create beauty from heartbreak if we allow him to. “God never promises we won’t go through struggles. I would never wish cancer on anyone. But did beautiful things come from our story? Yes.”

The last question I asked Amy was the first one on my mind: where is God in the cancer?

Amy didn’t hesitate. “The middle,” she said. “He’s right in the middle.”

Jessi Emmert is the editorial assistant at Good News.

Amy and Tom Hauser run Made For More, a ministry devoted to encouraging couples to find their God-given more. Amy is the author of In His Grip: A Walk Through Breast Cancer. Find out more about their ministry at madeformoreministries.com.

 

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