“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.