I was born with a seed. It was the seed of music. It was passed down from my parents, whose seeds were passed down to them from their parents.
I think we are all born with a special seed of some kind, and they are all different, which is a beautiful thing.
And there are special people that are in our lives that are placed there by the Lord to water and cultivate our seeds at certain times, just when we need them. These people also teach us how to water and cultivate our own seeds.
When I was in the eighth grade, the Lord sent two very special seed-cultivators my way. Our church called a young new youth minister and his wife to come and teach our high school students. His name was Thomas Hyche, and his wife was Linda.
Thomas and Linda arrived with watering cans and Miracle Grow for sure!
Thomas taught our youth group what it meant to have a daily personal quiet time with the Lord. He taught us the importance of digging into the scriptures, talking to God, and listening to His voice. I wrote my first song when I was 14 and it came to me during my personal quiet time.
I remember the first time Linda sang at church. She has always exuded a grace that I admire. She floated onto the stage and opened her mouth to sing, and I was mesmerized. I can’t even use words to adequately describe Linda’s beautiful singing. And it’s not just the sound—when Linda sings, she sings wholly and completely to the Lord, for His glory.
Linda quickly took this shy, awkward eighth grader under her wing and we quickly realized that we loved all of the same songs and singers. When I was at home, I would practice for hours trying to sing a song the way Linda sang it. One time when I told her this, she said I didn’t need to sing songs the way “Linda” sang them; that I needed to sing songs the way “Paige” sang them. She always had a word of encouragement for me, and her words stayed with me, even after she and Thomas were called to another church to preach. Even now, sixteen years later, I hear her words and her song. She is a picture of how the Lord keeps us singing as we go, no matter where our journey takes us.
This is Linda’s story…
Linda has always had a melody in her heart. Whether she is singing it or living it through her actions, her song reaches the souls of those around her. She’s had plenty of times in her life that she could’ve chosen to stop singing, but her Father has kept her singing.
One of those times started in the fall of 2012, after a series of events that are not all that uncommon for women, which led to a hysterectomy. Linda recalls being tired, drained, nauseated, and in severe pain in her stomach, legs, and back off and on for several years before 2012. She and her doctor decided that a hysterectomy was in order to alleviate these symptoms. Once the surgery was completed, Linda’s doctor told her everything looked good, but that they were going to send samples to pathology, as was routine for these surgeries.
The following Sunday, Linda was with her brother, Scott, when she noticed that she had a message from her doctor saying that she needed to come in immediately the next day and that the receptionist would send her straight back. Linda knew this wasn’t good. She began to cry. Her brother called Thomas home from church. Thomas got her Bible and her best friend Amy read Psalm 103 aloud. Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities; Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit; Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle. (v. 1-5)
Linda says “I was scared but at the same time I had this peace. It’s hard to explain. It’s like when you’ve been walking in soft sand for a distance and finally make your way onto a big flat rock, you feel stable, grounded, solid. Thinking about the Lord and hearing and reading His word, that’s what it did for my heart and my soul. He helped get me through the night.”
The next day, Thomas and Linda were quickly rushed into the doctor’s office where the doctor informed them that Linda had cancer in both her ovaries and that there was a possibility the cancer had originated from somewhere else. “We all cried and she hugged me and told me that she had been praying for me and that she was totally shocked,” Linda said. “She led us through a back hallway to a gynecologic oncologist at the hospital. I was 43 years old. My daughter was 9. Our journey with cancer started.”
Linda’s doctor, Dr. Mack Barnes at Brookwood Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, developed a plan right away to fight the cancer. The first procedure that Linda underwent was to have a port put in.
“I was told that they wouldn’t give me general anesthesia but I would be put into a twilight sleep. I would be kind of awake but would remember nothing. I told them not to count on that!,” laughs Linda. “I asked what Dr. Barnes was like during surgery and his nurse said that he loved to sing and listen to country music, so naturally I let them know that I loved to sing also. They asked me what I liked to sing and I told them that I loved to sing worship songs. They were pushing my gurney down the hall and asked me to sing so I did. The song in my heart that day was “What Love Is This” by Kari Jobe. I continued to sing as I moved from the gurney onto the operating table and even still as they put my arms out away from my body, which most people don’t remember. I stared at those huge bright lights above my head as they got me ready and I sang…
When I’m afraid, You calm and still my beating heart
You lead me to the cross
What love is this that You gave your life for me and made a way for me to know You
And I confess You’re always enough for me You’re all I need
Jesus in your suffering You were reaching, You thought of me. You’re always enough for me.
(“What Love Is This”-Kari Jobe)
“Dr. Barnes told Thomas that I had a great voice—thanks, Dr. Barnes!– That’s great, but Jesus was with me in my heart and soul and I wanted everyone within earshot to know that we were all in the presence of The Most High God, in the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit. I’m small in this world but my God is big and He is always here.”
Linda continued to feel God’s holy presence throughout her grueling trial with treatments even though there were times during the surgeries, chemo, tests, and sickness that she was very afraid. “I am so blessed that God gave me Thomas. He hugged me, prayed with me, prayed for me, cried with me told me that I was beautiful even when I had to wear a cap over my bald head and had no eyebrows and eyelashes. He helped me and cleaned up after me when I was sick, which was a lot!”
A few days after Linda’s first chemo, she was hospitalized for 10 days due to complications and sickness from the chemotherapy. Side effects of chemotherapy can be brutal and hers were. She recalls that her bones hurt to the point she was worried that cancer was in her bones. “There were a few nights that I said to Thomas that I just couldn’t do anymore, to which Thomas would say, ‘Yes, you can and you will.’ The plan was aggressive but I wanted it to be because I knew all too well about cancer. I watched my own Mother die from brain cancer and my aunt, Mom’s sister, die from what they think began as uterine cancer. It’s no joke, it’s tough, and I wanted to live to grow old with my sweetheart and raise my daughter and have the grown up friendship with my daughter that I missed out on with my Mom.”
Linda says that the Lord ministered to her through His word and His people. The Psalms were and still are so very important to her. Her church family donated meals, money, and helped in any way needed. Her best friend, Amy, took over the planning of her daughter’s tenth birthday party in order to make it an extra special day. She even had wonderful friends who helped her with a most traumatic event…losing her hair.
“Lori Evans shaved my hair off for me after it started coming out. She cut it to neck length first, then days later came to my house and buzzed the rest off. It was extremely traumatic. My hair was really long. I knew it would be hard because, as a dear older friend would tell me, your hair is your crowning glory… I had some pride in it and a lot of my self-esteem and identity was in my hair. The loss of my hair was one of the most difficult things that I went through and I shed many tears over it. My hairdresser friend who is a breast cancer survivor, along with another friend, helped me pick a wig out. I called Jennie and Jenny from a wig store crying hysterically! They came immediately and helped. When we all realized that the first wig was just not me, we talked about looking at some others. Jenny called me while I was in my chemotherapy recliner (I so dreaded this recliner where I had poison pumped into me, where Thomas was NOT allowed to stay with me, where I had to stare at a sign telling me all the things cancer COULDN’T do–oh, how I hated that sign– after all, cancer seemed to be doing a lot to me) telling me that she was in another wig store in Birmingham and that they had some really pretty long hair there. She texted pictures to me and I told her which one I liked and she bought it for me. It was beautiful and made me feel so much better about myself. A good head of hair isn’t cheap! I was grateful beyond words!”
Perhaps one of the most meaningful ways that Linda’s family and friends helped her was through prayer.
“I had a strong faith in The Lord from the time I was young, I knew He cared for me. As a teenager with a sick parent, my faith only grew stronger. I began to really be burdened to pray for others. I would feel so strongly about praying and fasting for others that I couldn’t run from it if I’d tried. The strange thing was that I never felt as if I had anyone to really pray for me. I was always so shy. I could sing in front of anyone as a teenager but to walk into a crowd and really talk about my feelings, I just didn’t do it. Not at church, not anywhere. I prayed about it but never really talked about how hard it was to watch my mom dying and to know that my sweet daddy didn’t know The Lord. So I would try to act like I was fine and I guess everyone always thought that I was. This is how my life went. When God brought cancer into my life, I had days that I was too sick to pray for anyone, much less myself. But God began to show me through His people that when I could do nothing but vomit and could no longer hold my head up, He had someone lifting me up to Him. People were actually praying, really praying, for me.”
Linda’s journey with cancer is a testimony that no matter what you are going through, God can keep your head up. He still whispers a song into your heart when you walk through life’s darkest valleys. And when you feel you can’t walk another step, He carries you. I’m so grateful for my friend and precious mentor, Linda Hyche! And I’m so glad to use her story for good! If you are reading this and you feel like life’s circumstances have stolen your song, take it back, friend! God will pick you up, carry you through, and give you a new song!
As Linda said, cancer is not a joke. You must be your own health care advocate. Ovarian cancer is known to be a silent killer and there are no screening tests for it. A Pap smear does not test for ovarian cancer. Know the symptoms, know your body! If you feel you have symptoms of ovarian cancer but aren’t getting answers from your doctor, talk to him/her about ovarian cancer. If you still don’t get the answers to explain your symptoms and they persist, go to another doctor who will listen. You can visit each of the sites below for information on the symptoms of Ovarian Cancer.
He Keeps Me Singing, Adapted by Paige Givens, 2014