Marissa Henley ~ The Real Story {Story 15 of 30}

It’s strange how those life-altering phone calls come at the most ordinary moments.  I had just finished giving instructions to the babysitter before leaving for a parent-teacher conference at my first-grader’s school.  My phone rang, and I saw that it was the radiologist who had performed the biopsy a few days earlier.

I took the call in my bedroom.  “I’m sorry, Marissa, this is a tumor” . . . angio-what?? . . . how do you spell that?  . . . cancer in the blood vessels . . . and finally, the doctor asked if I was okay.  I said, “I’m not sure if you’re telling me I have one year, or five years, or what.”  His reply was not reassuring:  “We just don’t know yet.”

It was the day before my 34th birthday.  My boys were ages 6 and 4, and my baby girl was not yet 18 months old.  And when I Googled the name of the cancer I’d just been diagnosed with–angiosarcoma–I read that only 30% of those diagnosed with this disease live five years.

I started begging the Lord to let me walk my baby into first grade.

In the nine months that followed, I endured seven rounds of high-dose chemotherapy, five of which were administered through a clinical trial at MD Anderson Cancer Center.  Every three weeks, I received four straight days of chemo, including a pump worn around the clock.  Then, I had five weeks of radiation followed by surgery, also at MD Anderson.  I spent fourteen weeks away from my family, receiving this treatment about 600 miles from home.

I missed New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, and all three of my kids’ birthdays.

When I was home, I was usually weak and sick, requiring several blood transfusions and dealing with complications from having low red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.  I needed countless injections, blood draws, and medications.  I visited some sort of health care facility almost every day, with no hair, no eyebrows, no eyelashes, and a central line coming out of my chest.

This is the backdrop of My Story, but these details are not the real story.  My Story is not titled “I had cancer.”  Its theme is:  “God is faithful.”

The real story is that my all-knowing, all-wise Lord spent years preparing me for the fight of my life by teaching me about His character.  He gave Scripture, studies, and teachers to make sure I understood He is good, He is faithful, He is sovereign, and He never changes.

My experience does not dictate who God is.  Rather, the Lord taught me to view my circumstances in light of His unchanging character.

The real story is how the body of Christ loved, encouraged, and served our family.  We received meals three times a week for several months.  Friends took our kids to school, cleaned our house, put up Christmas decorations, sent cards and texts and messages to encourage me, donated money and airline miles, and took time away from their jobs and families to care for me during chemo in Houston.  Thousands of people prayed for me, many of them strangers.

The real story is that each time we felt helpless, my powerful Redeemer pulled back the curtain to show us His master plan that exceeded our expectations.  When we had one week to find a full-time nanny–and it was the week of Christmas–He provided a wonderful woman who was willing to leave the security of her job and take a leap of faith with us.  When I needed lodging in Houston, He provided a couple who not only let me live with them for months, but cared for me like I was their daughter.  When we incurred the expense of plane tickets and rental cars and a nanny, He provided so extravagantly that we were able to take our kids to Disney World when it was all over.

The real story is that when I was in the pit of despair, sobbing on my child’s birthday, weak and sick and unsure if I would live to see his next one, the ever-present Holy Spirit provided comfort through the Scriptures and the countless well-timed emails, texts, and messages from loved ones.

The real story is that through my suffering, my loving Heavenly Father taught me that trusting Him is not trusting in my preferred outcome.  I still don’t know if I will walk my daughter into first grade or see her graduate from high school.  But I can trust that the Lord will comfort, provide and care for our family in any circumstances.  He works all things together for good in our lives, for His glory.

The real story is that my unchanging Rock showed me that what His Word says about Him . . . His goodness, His sovereignty, His faithfulness, His love, His peace that surpasses understanding . . . it’s all true.  It’s true in the best of times, and it’s true in the very worst of times.  When I walked through the fire, I was not consumed, because He was with me, and I am His.

His character is my hope and comfort as I look to an unknown future.  

The real story is that my merciful God used the physical healing He has granted to point to the reality of the spiritual healing that I’ve received through Christ.  I will live the rest of my life dealing with uncertainty surrounding the permanence of my physical healing.  But I will never doubt the certainty and eternal guarantee of my spiritual healing from the effects of sin, guilt, and death.  I have been forever healed from these by the blood of the guiltless Lamb, Jesus Christ.  On the cross, He purchased my pardon and set me free.

By His wounds I am healed.   

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”    Jeremiah 31:3


Marissa Henley is a follower of Christ, wife, mom, and recent cancer survivor.  Cancer-free since July 2011, she quit her job as a full-time cancer patient to return to the overwhelming, exhausting, fabulous life of a stay-at-home mom.  In her non-existent free time, Marissa enjoys writing, sewing, and watching football.  She blogs at


I met Marissa through our mutual friend, Marla.  I loved her story immediately.  While I have never had cancer, I do understand being at a place in life where it’s hit me:   “what His Word says about Him . . . His goodness, His sovereignty, His faithfulness, His love, His peace that surpasses understanding . . . it’s all true.”  Suddenly, in the midst of grief, turmoil, and uncertainty, I knew just as Marissa did…without any doubt…He is real.

We pray for you to have a “He is real” moment or moments when you suddenly (or perhaps gradually) realize – He is indeed real.  Doubt is gone.

Marissa’s future is uncertain.  Please join me in praying for more “cancer-free” years.

Thanks for sharing, Marissa!


  1. “…she quit her job as a full-time cancer patient..” 🙂
    This really “sang” for me!

  2. Lord hear our prayer!

  3. Kristina Wright says:

    I know Marissa, but what a blessing and encouragement her story is! God IS in the midst of us, even when we don’t feel Him….he is at work!

  4. Thanks for sharing.

  5. AnnMarie Dixon says:

    Thanks for a beautiful story that will give hope to persons who have lost all hope. God is real. He is always there although at times it feels like He is not there. I pray that your prayers will be answered that you will see your daughter attend school as a first grader. I also pray that you will continue to know the comfort and peace that comes from knowing who God is.

  6. Oh, Marissa. I know we’ve never met in real life, but you have been SUCH an encouragement to me these past few years. Always so loving and giving in the midst of some of the most awful things that can ever happen to a person. May God bless you with many, many, MANY more healthy years to serve him!! xoxoxoxo!!

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