11.14.14Broken Dreams

“It’s not good news,” the doctor said calmly. He shifted slowly in his chair and tried to smile.

All I could do was stare blankly back. “Wait, did he say NOT good? I must have heard him wrong. I mean, he’s smiling, right?” My mind was swimming.

“Your test came back positive,” he continued. “Shannon, you carry the gene for Huntington’s Disease.”

Whoosh. The air left my lungs. I vaguely remember feeling my guy grab my hand as tears streamed down his face. The doctor was still talking, but I couldn’t hear him over the noise in my head.

“No. No! This isn’t happening. It can’t be real. Snap out of it, Shannon. Come on.” My mind dutifully turned to denial—only, it wasn’t working. The cold reality of those words was sinking deeper into my consciousness. And there was nothing I could do to stop it.

That day was supposed to be one of huge relief as we crossed off the final checkbox before starting our family. You see, my Mom and Grandfather both have Huntington’s, a degenerative brain disorder that impairs muscle coordination and cognition. It’s a genetic condition that gets passed down 50 percent of the time, so we knew it was the smart move to get me tested. But despite the 50-50 odds, we also knew I didn’t have it. I mean—all of us—we just knew it was gonna be good news. No HD for Shannon. Time to celebrate and move on with the great plans we had for our family and our life.

Nothing could have prepared us for what we heard that day. We stumbled blindly from that cold office, passing droves of pregnant women along the way. A mocking reminder of what we had lost in that one awful instant.

We held each other as we cried in the car. Neither of us knew how to put into words what had just happened. After what must have been hours, we slowly drove to a nearby Starbucks. We didn’t know where else to go.

I felt totally numb. Every person who walked past us was another one of them—part of the cruel world that didn’t have HD and would never know my fear and my pain.

We relived the horror over and over that day as we called friends and family with the news. For some of those calls, I couldn’t even say the words—breaking into sobs instead as soon as I heard their hopeful, “Hello?”

In the days and months that followed, we learned three things. First, I’m pre-symptomatic, which means I’m not showing any visible signs of HD (and I likely won’t for quite a while).

Second, HD research has come SO far. They’ve got clinical trials underway to slow the progression of and ultimately shut off the disease (Praise God!).

Third, and most importantly, we serve a Sovereign God who allowed this gene to be part of my body when He formed me. Maybe for you, that’s reason to be angry. To be honest, I was for a long time. But here’s what I know: God doesn’t leave us in our pain and brokenness. He walks with us. He carries our burdens. And He heals us. He makes what should be a painful mess of broken dreams, fear, and despair into something that reflects His glory and His beauty. Here’s what’s even crazier: His plan is becoming FAR more beautiful than mine ever could be. Far, far more beautiful, my friends.

Maybe, like me, your dreams shattered in one awful moment. Maybe your life fell apart at a doctor’s office, too. Or maybe it came crashing down when your spouse left you. Or when you lost a loved one.

Or, maybe your dreams didn’t shatter all at once. Maybe they slowly eroded, breaking off piece by piece until you were left with nothing.

Whatever your story is, I won’t deny the pain of broken dreams. I can’t. It’s all too real. But I will proclaim the truth that your life didn’t end with those dreams. And that our great, loving, and merciful God is MORE than able to turn your sorrow into His Plan Beautiful. Do you believe that? Will you trust Him with me?

Perhaps you’re further along on this journey and you can see more clearly the breathtaking beauty of God’s work in the midst of your pain. Would you share how He’s been faithful in the comments below? These journeys are meant to be walked hand-in-hand—together.

8 thoughts on “Broken Dreams

  1. Amber

    Shannon, I’m sure your first post was awesome, but this is raw. I can’t even imagine what it felt like in that moment of your world crashing down, but you are right. God gives us what we need. There is a reason YOU carry the gene. There is a reason for all of this, and ultimately it is to bring glory to HIM. I think of how many lives you are reaching by sharing your story. How many people will come to know Jesus through you. You are wonderfully and perfectly made in HIS image, and that is the most beautiful thing I can think of. Love you friend. Thank you for sharing those feelings that are the deepest, darkest, saddest part of you. They don’t make you broken, but they make you real.

    1. Shannon Post author

      Thank you for that encouragement, Amber. It means so much. You are so right—we’re all made in His image, and it doesn’t get any more beautiful than that. Grateful to have you reading along. 🙂

  2. Jen

    Hi Shannon,
    Thanks for sharing that vulnerable moment. For me, there are 2 times I recall in my life where my dreams and plans just were shattered. The first one was before I was married. I had graduated with a degree in television production and after interning was given my dream job in Hollywood. I was doing exactly what I went to school for and made really good money on s Union television show. The environment wasn’t great, as people around me cheated on spouses with fellow co-workers, talked to each other with profanity, and we had long shifts on top of a very long drive for myself. I hadn’t realized it yet, but I had no personality with my co-workers. I showed up to work, shut my mouth, and did my job. No one knew who I was, and I had to close myself off just to survive. People were rude and a situation arose when I needed to discuss it with a boss. She wouldn’t even have a conversation with me, telling me she didn’t want me to “ruin her vacation”, which she was about to go on. I came to the conclusion that even though I loved the work I was doing, and was being paid very well for it, I had to leave. I had to give it all up. God helped me realize that I had support in other areas and with their help, He’d help me through it. When I finally got the courage to quit, with no other job to go to, I never imagined the reaction of close friends who questioned me, asking what was wrong with me. I was lost for awhile after I did this, but God led me through a path I never thought I would be on, but I came out of it stronger and grown up. It was a growth period on determining who I wanted to be as a person, not just what career pathway I was going to be on.

    The second times my dreams were shattered was when I was 20 weeks pregnant and the baby stopped moving. I had two kids by this time and a miscarriage at 8 weeks prior to this pregnancy. But this time was different. I had been feeling the baby move and after one day of feeling abnormal fetal movement, I no longer felt her. And my body didn’t naturally begin a miscarriage process. When I called the ob nurse she told me it was normal to not feel the baby everyday at 20 weeks. I had an ultrasound scheduled the following week. So I waited the week, feeling nothing and knowing I lost this baby. I informed the ultrasound tech myself that when she turned the machine on, there would be no heartbeat. I was correct. I saw my doctor, who at the time, had more foresight than I realized. He told me he wanted me to wait 4 days to see if my body started miscarryng the baby before he had to induce me. At the time, this seemed crazy, but it was the best thing he did for me because he was giving me time to prepare for what was to come. I kept praying for a miracle and asking God why this had to happen. I questioned everything I did in the previous weeks that could have caused this to happen. So on Sunday, I was admitted to the hospital and induced. I had to give birth to a baby that wouldn’t be alive. I had contractions and had to push. My milk started to come in, as my body was unaware that the baby wouldn’t be surviving. My husband cut her cord and I held my baby girl. We named her and they took fingerprints. The nurses gave me a memory box. Nothing could have prepared me for what was next. Another nurse came in and had to discuss something with me. She said that the state of Califirnia didn’t recognize my baby as a baby due to her birth weight. If I didn’t make arrangements for the remains the hospital would throw the baby in the hazardous waste trash can. In this moment of death, I had the most pro-life experience. I realized that I couldn’t leave my baby there but I wasn’t sure what to do. I found a Catholic hospital that takes the remains of babies that don’t make it to term. They cremate the remains and put them with other babies that don’t make it and have a service once a quarter at this beautiful peaceful cemetery in the hills in the desert. Through this brokenness, God helped me find peace and The best way to handle this awkward situation. I knew I didn’t want a big funeral, but the hazardous waste can didn’t seem appropriate either. I always thank God for helping me find that hospital that helped me take care of it and helped me heal as well. I had two other kids at home that knew I was having s baby and now I needed to figure out how I was telling my 4-almost-5 year old. When I sat on the couch with her, I started crying and she said “mom it’s ok my sister is with Jesus.” Thats when I realized I was the one that needed the talk on the couch, not her. From that moment on, my oldest daughter dealt with this loss so perfectly- that this was God’s plan and it was taken care of. I just needed to trust.
    Fast forward 5 years, and I now have a 3 year old and am due any day with my fourth child. There is “life after death”, both physically and metaphorically.

    In both my moments when dreams were shattered, God was leading me to another path. I opened up my own business out of my home, where I could produce and edit videos at home, while being able to stay at home with my kids. It’s enabled me to have a life with a big family. He also helped me through some awful times when it would have been easy to give up on more kids. But he gave me life and breathed life into me. I will never understand why but I consciously made the decision to trust. It’s only through the brokenness that you come to realize how strong you can become when you let go of control and begin to trust.

  3. Shannon Post author

    Jen, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your story. I also can’t imagine the heartache and pain that came with those situations. But, it’s so encouraging to hear you trusted God in the midst of those. And you’re right—when we are broken and weak, He is strong. Grateful to share this journey of brokenness with you.

  4. Chris Easterly

    Beautiful writing and great message. Thank you for sharing. Reminds me of a quote I read in a Brennan Manning book: “In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.”

  5. Jessica Sherer

    I know all three of the people who’ve posted here and I can testify to the way God has drawn you closer to Him through these struggles and also used that to inspire faith and trust in others. So while I wouldn’t say your pain is actually a blessing, I would definitely say that God is making beautiful things out of your lives. Thanks for sharing your journeys!


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