My Two Year Health Nightmare

It was November of 2009 and I was out with a group of Moms. We tried to get away once a month to talk, share stories, give and receive encouragement about parenting and eat together.

I had battled health problems on and off since I had my twin girls in 2003, but I remember thinking just days before this November evening Mom’s night out that I was feeling really good and it was a relief to be able to say that.

We went to Uncle Bill’s restaurant that night when, to my surprise, I started having sharp pains in my abdomen. I didn’t let on in front of my friends as I thought the pain would just pass. It didn’t pass though so I finally headed to the bathroom and before I knew it I was on the bathroom floor calling my friend Nancy on her cell.

She was only a short distance away in the restaurant but believe me, I couldn’t move. Anyone who knows me, knows that me sitting on the bathroom floor means I am in serious condition. Gross. I don’t even like to look at the bathroom floor, let alone sit on it, but at this point it was either sit or faint.

Nancy answered and immediately came into the restroom and thankfully she has the kind of decisive personality that handles emergencies well. By the time we got me to my vehicle I was rolling around the passengers seat in pain.

Nancy rushed me to a nearby hospital. I continued to roll around in pain in the emergency room bed and after the nurse put an IV in my arm, she offered me morphine.

The other moms had followed us to the hospital and however many they let back in the room with me were there. The rest waited in the waiting room and I remember thinking how blessed I was to have these friends.

My husband had to wake up our twin girls in the middle of the night and take them to Aunt Laura’s house so he could come to the hospital and join the party. The CT scan revealed a cyst and let me tell you, I never would have guessed a cyst could hurt like that.

Little did I know at the time that this was the start of a two-year health nightmare.

That cyst grew to be 16 centimeters, or the size of a cantaloupe, in 8 months, according to the doctor’s own words and what he wrote on his report. It was suggested that I get surgery in April of 2010, but I decided to continue trying natural methods to shrink the cyst and I was believing God…or I thought I was?

Actually, once the trial was over I realized that during the whole 2 years I had allowed the devil to bury me under guilt and condemnation for several wrong choices I made during that time frame. They were choices I wished I could go back and undo for a long time.

I told my husband Steve after I came through the difficult 2 years that I believed I went through all of that as a punishment to pay the price for my wrong decisions. Steve never knew I was having these misconceptions about God and when I finally told him, he said he didn’t ever believe God was punishing me. He knew God wasn’t that way.

I didn’t have the revelation on the finished work of the cross that I do now. Thankfully, now I know Jesus became sin for me on the cross and annihilated the power of sin in my life through His death, burial and resurrection.

Although I didn’t understand it at the time, because of what my Jesus did for me, I was forgiven for those bad choices I made. I wasn’t being punished. I was forgiven. That shows you the power that believing a lie holds over our life.

There is a difference in a person living out natural consequences from their unwise decisions and a person believing they are being punished by God for their sin. I did experience natural consequences for those wrong choices but they certainly did not have anything to do with this health nightmare I was going through.

Look at how I read these verses below now that I understand grace:

1 Corinthians 1:30-31 (NASB) say,

30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

With this new covenant scripture in mind, now check out this old covenant scripture (below) and remember that because Jesus ushered us into a brand new covenant through His finished work, you and I are not “trying to get” anything anymore. If you’ve got Jesus, you’ve got it all, including wisdom.

With this in mind, here’s how I now read these verses below, no longer as a law, but through a new covenant lens!

Proverbs 4:5-9:

Where it reads like this under the old covenant of law: 

Get wisdom; develop good judgment. Don’t forget my words or turn away from them.

I interpret it like this now, with my grace glasses on: I’ve got wisdom because I’ve got Jesus! Jesus helps me develop good judgement. My heart has been changed by grace so I don’t forget Jesus’ words or turn away from them.

Where it reads like this under the old covenant of law:

Don’t turn your back on wisdom, for she will protect you. Love her, and she will guard you.

I interpret it like this now, with my grace glasses on: I don’t plan on turning my back on Jesus because grace has changed my heart; therefore, I now know, without Jesus I got nothing. I’m confident that Jesus will protect me. I love Jesus because He first loved me and I know He is guarding me.

Where it reads like this under the old covenant of law:

Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment.

I interpret it like this now, with my grace glasses on: I am so thrilled that because I have Jesus, I have wisdom because 1 Corinthians 1:30 says Jesus is my wisdom! I have done the wisest thing I could ever do by believing in and receiving Jesus as my Savior; therefore, I continually develop good judgement by the power of The Holy Spirit.

Where it reads like this under the old covenant of law:

If you prize wisdom, she will make you great.
    Embrace her, and she will honor you.

I interpret it like this now, with my grace glasses on: By believing on Jesus and receiving Him as my Savior I have shown that I prize Him; therefore He will cause me to do great things for His glory. As I continue to embrace Jesus, my wisdom, He will honor me.

Where it reads like this under the old covenant of law:

She will place a lovely wreath on your head;
    she will present you with a beautiful crown.”

I interpret it like this now, with my grace glasses on: Jesus, my wisdom, will place a lovely wreath on my head. He will present me with a beautiful crown!

See what happens when you read an old covenant scripture through a new covenant lens! Instead of it being something you have to try to do or earn or qualify for, under grace it’s now something that is your reality all because of Jesus!

This is the grace life, my friend, and when you live the grace life, any part that you need to play you will play, effortlessly, by the power of The Holy Spirit working in you and leading you, as you stay in faith by keeping your eyes on Jesus!

Had I understood and believed this wonderful Biblical truth all those years ago when I was being tempted to make those bad decisions, I bet I would have walked in wisdom instead. 

Some people worry that if you teach others to live under grace it will give them a license to sin. As you can see here, that is incorrect.

If I had understood grace during this time in my life it would have changed everything for me because I would have been believing correctly about who I truly was in Christ (a person full of wisdom) and I would have acted out of that right belief system, but instead I just kept striving to be something I already was. (see Romans 6:14)

Striving is stressful. Stress causes sickness and disease.

Here’s more new covenant truth. Are you ready? You better sit down or you might faint from this good news:

Jesus paid the price for our sin – past, present and future sin – when He died for us on the cross, so I was forgiven (for those bad choices) and God was not punishing me. (see Hebrews 10:10-12 & Hebrews 10:14.)

Same goes for you. You’re forgiven. And if you’ve received Jesus as your Savior, then you’ve decided to accept Jesus’ free gift of complete forgiveness. Making this choice naturally leads you right into living the life of freedom He died to give you.

Again, this goes to show you how powerful our believing is. Because I didn’t know this life-transforming Biblical truth at the time and was not sharing my apprehensions with anyone who could help me, this kept me in a perpetual state of anxiety and stress over many years that could very possibly be the reason I became sick in the first place. It’s been proven that stress causes sickness and disease in at least a decent number of medical cases and one thing is for sure, guilt and condemnation absolutely cause stress.

Back to my story…

As a result of me waiting 3 months past when the doctor initially recommended I have surgery, it was even more difficult for the doctor to remove the very large cyst. As he was taking it out through robotic surgery, my right Ureter was damaged.

The Ureter Tube is the tube that runs between the Kidney and the Bladder and now that it was damaged it was partially blocked, causing Hydronephrosis: obstruction of the urinary tract.

Well, wasn’t this just peachy.

I was unaware of this for about 6 weeks until I mentioned my severe nausea to the surgeon during my follow-up appointment, at which time he sent me to a Urologist who confirmed his suspicions.

Enter procedure number one, to place a stent that would hopefully stretch open my Ureter constriction and heal it in an opened position. Well, to my dismay, once the Urologist removed the stent after being in for 2 weeks he sent me for yet another CT scan and found it was closed right back up.

His second try to place a stent in the Ureter failed and when I woke from the anesthesia, I was given some of the worst news I had ever been given. I was told that I would need a Nephrostomy. What is a Nephrostomy, I thought?

The doctor said, we will need to place a tube through your back and into your Kidney with a drainage bag outside your body. Wow, seriously – this is not happening to me, right? Wrong, it was happening and it was terribly painful. Enduring that nephrostomy tube for 2 months was the worst pain I had ever been through.

The first tube was too large and pressing on a nerve so I would get so worn out from the pain that I would just sit and sob. I actually had to tell the doctor I couldn’t stand it and thankfully they replaced it with another, thinner, more bearable tube. Much better!

Another doctor was then able to place a stent in through the Nephrostomy tube, through my Kidney and into my Ureter. He ballooned the constricted area in my Ureter out which he was hoping and I was praying would then heal the Ureter in the opened position.

He left it in for 2 months and in early January of 2011 I woke up to another round of devastating news. It didn’t work. I was shocked because I felt I was believing so hard and was sure everything was going to be O.K.

Remember though, I was still deceived at the time and in the back of my mind was always the thought, I am serving my punishment.

To top off the bad news I developed sepsis, a horrible infection, from the procedure. Just a short time after entering the recovery room I started vomiting and shaking violently. I had to stay in the hospital and man, was I sick. I really wondered if I was going to make it out alive.

I didn’t have any strength to pray and felt like I was living in some kind of oblivion for days. Thank God there were many, many family members and friends praying for me. I am so thankful for them!

I had to keep a stent in from January-June of that year. I had so many CT scans throughout this time period that I just lost count. In addition, having a stent in makes some people more prone to infections and unfortunately that was the case with me. I was prescribed antibiotics galore.

I spent the next 6 months going to doctors and getting opinions of what to do about my Ureter. Do I keep a stent in for the rest of my life which would have to be replaced every 3 to 6 months or do I get surgery which was not a guaranteed fix? What a fun multiple choice question.

At this point if I had counted up all the doctor’s appointments, tests and procedures I was probably at about number 50, yet I purposely kept in the front of my mind that what I was going through was still nothing compared to what many people go through.

In April of 2011, although I needed to keep a stent in, I was delighted that they could take out the tube and close up the Nephrostomy and that was one of the happiest days of my life.

As I was seeking an answer for the ureter/stent situation, the cantaloupe size cyst that had been surgically removed the previous July started to grow back at a fairly rapid pace. Now I needed to see a new OBGYN and was facing having to get a complete hysterectomy as well as a ureter repair.

Thankfully, God led me to a wonderful doctor from Washington University, one of the top universities in the nation. God takes care of His kids. This doctor was able to perform one successful, combined surgery in June of 2011.

I know this sounds horrible and it was, but God held my hand throughout the entire trial.

Although, at the time this trial was taking place, I wrongly believed that God was either causing this trouble in my life for some higher purpose or at least allowing it, I’m happy to say I no longer believe this way.

Jesus himself said,

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. – John 10:10 (NASB)

So my belief now is very simple:

God only does good. The devil only does bad.

I’m convinced that when we choose to trust in God, He takes the bad things that happen in our lives – whether they are purely an attack from satan or a result of this fallen world we live in – and He works good out of them.

I even believe if we are experiencing negative consequences from years of living under stress or from other bad choices we’ve made, if we will choose to freely receive God’s gift of complete forgiveness through Jesus’ blood by remembering and honoring what Jesus did for us through His finished work on the cross right in the middle of our bad choices, God will also redeem those! I have seen Him do this for me time and time again and guess what this focus on God’s kindness and God’s goodness produces in us? A life of repentance! (see Romans 2:4)

We begin to see trials in a whole new way when we understand God’s true nature. You should hear me when I am encountering a trial now. Instead of wondering why it’s happening or questioning God as I used to, I look to God’s awesomeness and greatness and get excited to see what He’s gonna do for me to bring me out! Instead of focusing on what’s happening to me, I focus on the God of the impossible, because He’s my God!

I’m not saying I don’t get tired or even become exhausted at times, especially if I’m dealing with pain. But when I do, I run right back to my good Father and receive His strength.

And if I get tempted to believe a lie that the devil is feeding me, thankfully, because of all these years on my grace journey that I have spent understanding the true heart of God and renewing my mind with the promises in His Word, the devil usually only get’s about half a sentence out before I cut him off with the truth.

My friend, when you keep your eyes locked on Jesus, there is no way you can lose. No matter what the devil tries to pull, you will come out on top!

This is cool too. Even though God doesn’t cause or allow your trials, He’s so brilliant that He does bring lots of good out of them. Here’s a list of the good things that came out of My Two Year Health Nightmare.

1.) I got to minister to a lot of people in hospitals including doctors, nurses and patients.

2.) I have no fear of pain, shots, IVs, surgery or procedures any longer.

In fact, during my last test that I had to get after the double surgery, they were about to give me an IV and there was a new guy there who was in training, learning how to do IV’s. They asked me how I felt about him practicing on me. I said, Oh sure, why not! I had no fear, but that was not the case when this nightmare started.

3.) I learned something through all the pain. I learned that God was going to be with me no matter what. I was never alone.

4.) During the trial I learned to rely on God more than ever before.

5.) My confidence in God’s ability grew.

Just as David fought the lion and the bear and won, it gave him confidence that God was with Him to fight the giant and win.

Nobody can ever take away from me the closeness I gained in my relationship with God through that time of sickness and pain and now I have that victory to recall in the future when God has another giant for me to slay.

6.) My compassion for others, particularly those who go through health struggles, increased.

7.) My ability to relate to others and be able to speak encouragement into their lives in a genuine way increased.

You don’t know exactly what God has for you down the road, but whatever that is, He is preparing you for it now. He is literally preparing you for tomorrow, today; for next year, this year; for the next decade, in this decade. Nothing is wasted, including those hard days when nothing seems to go right.

Receive God’s grace for your journey, each and every moment if need be. You will find that when you turn to Him for grace and strength, He will not fail you. He cannot fail. It is impossible!

Jesus said this:

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]  – John 16:33 (AMP)

If you have not yet made Jesus your Savior and received the wonderful joy that His finished work on the cross has provided for you to live in, please visit my page here titled Jesus In The Driver’s Seat. On this page I explain the good news of the gospel and you will have the opportunity to pray a prayer of salvation, making Jesus your Savior! Jesus loves you and His arms are wide open!

Sandra McCollom

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Just reading this. Had no idea you were going through such a trial, Sandra. There are times when it gets worse instead of better. When the Lord challenges us to trust Him in the fog and faith is put to the test. Praise God for the blessings that came to you after the storm! And now you will bless others! ❤️


Sending you blessings and thanks for your testimony that I found by ‘accident’ on Sunday. The Lord has been teaching me through a nineteen-month medical event that has confused and frightened me. I saw, from reading your post, that I too have been blessed with gratitude and much spiritual growth during this confusing time. Despite the unexpected physical challenge, job loss, and resulting life style changes I learned that I am not alone and that God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit go before me in all situations. Nothing is wasted if we can trust God, and good comes out of every… Read more »


Sandra, I had no idea that you went through this. Thank God that the surgery you had to fix everything worked for you. I’m facing some health challenges myself currently. I would appreciate it if you can keep me in your thoughts, and prayers. It would mean a lot to me. I’m “Happy” you are ok again. Here’s to keeping those “Grace Glasses on!” I hope you are having a “Great New Year” so far! God Bless You!


Sandra, I’m facing a health challenge right now. It was good to read this and realize I’m not alone. Not feeling well for a long period of time can leave us feeling so isolated. It also gives me fresh hope that I’ll get through this. It’s a season, part of a journey. Not my destination. I believe I’ll be sharing my testimony and triumph, as you are, sooner than I imagine. Anne


Oh my, Sandra, after hearing you speak at a Fearless Women event and reading your book, my life is changing daily. I too, have loved God since I was a young child, but I am realizing now that I really have not known Him and his true nature. I am now reading my third Joseph Prince book and also read Andy Stanley’s book on the Grace of God. Even though I have pages of notes, I know I have not fully taken in every promise. I am reminded about a story of a little boy who wanted to help his… Read more »