Testimony

Jessica O’Brien Year-End Testimony

My name is Jessica and I’m a first-responder at the church.

So, I have a bit of a story to share. It’s a bit long, but hang in there with me to the end.

2018 was a hard year.

In the last year:
A friend lost her father
A friend lost her newborn baby
A family member lost her husband
Family members lost both their parents
My grandmother was diagnosed w/cancer and passed away
Then my grandfather was diagnosed w/cancer and passed away
I was in a car accident where my back was injured.

And that’s just some of what I know of. I know you also may have had a hard year too. People don’t go through a year like this unscathed.

I know. This is all very uplifting. Why am I telling you all this?

Let me take you back to 2016. A friend/acquaintance was having a hard year herself. Her young son, Eli, had passed away the year prior from an auto-immune disease. She was grieving and to celebrate his life, she came to Awaken and was registering people for the National Marrow Donor Program, Be the Match. I swabbed my cheek to support my friend. To show her I loved her. To be there for her. And then I hoped I’d never get called.

Well…

Earlier this year I received an email and call saying I was a potential match for someone. Ok, fine. “Potential” is fine with me. When we discussed the process, the first step included a blood draw to confirm I was a match. OK, so I won’t say I’m scared of needles, but they aren’t my favorite. I cry everytime I get poked, whether it’s a blood draw or a shot. It’s just my process. And it’s not so much the needle itself, but more so the pain and what they do. My thought is “please don’t take anything out of me and don’t put anything
inside me. God gave me what I need. Leave me alone.”

Long story short(ish), the blood test showed that I was a 10/10 match for a 29 y-o male with a type of Lukemia. No more potential, this is for real. What this meant was that if I said yes, I would donate Peripheral Blood Stem Cells (PBSC) to this guy and he could potentially be cured.

Like cured. No more cancer.

Now I have 3 younger brothers who are around this age. If one of my brothers was dying and some woman out there with a dislike for needles had the chance, opportunity, and ability to save him, I would want to go to her and say “Get over yourself and your discomfort. Save. My. Brother.” So I said that to myself and I did. I had multiple blood draws. For 5 days leading up to the PBSC donation I had to have 2 injections of Filgrastim daily, which sped up the production of white blood cells in my body so they could harvest them when I donated and then give them to this guy.

There were some uncomfortable side effects from the Filgrastim, but I had made my decision. My husband, Kelly, and I flew up to Washington DC earlier this month and on the donation day, I laid still for 5 hours with an IV in each arm while they took my blood, separated out the PBSCs through a type of centrifuge, and then returned my blood to me. Overall this was not the worst thing that someone can go through physically, but it wasn’t super fun. Afterwards, I watched as they took my donation, put it in a cooler, and left the room. From what I know, the donation was transplanted to the guy within 24 hours. We are praying that his body is healed and that if he didn’t already know Jesus, he does now.

As you may know, since you didn’t know about this before, I didn’t talk much about this before the procedure. It’s kind of awkward and it’s not something that comes up in everyday conversation.
So, before the procedure, I was speaking with a friend who knows some of what this year has held and she said to me, “Jess, with all the stuff you’ve been through this year, did you really need one more thing to deal with?”

And my reply was something like this: “This has been a year of death and pain and hurting. What better way to cap this year off than with giving life? Isn’t that just like God?”
As I’ve talked to others and processed this experience, God has shown me that he used this experience to redeem my year. A year that has been so hard for me personally and for my family and for my friends, and God comes in and says that’s not the end of the story. I’m not going to leave you there.

That’s redemption.

I was hesitant to share this store with everyone. Again-it’s a bit awkward and I don’t want to make it about me. But gosh, if I can share what I’ve been through and what God has done, and let you know that your hard year is not the end of your story-that your year or 2 years or 5 years of pain is not where God stops the story-then how can I keep this to myself?

I had a rough year, but so did this 29-year-old guy. So did his family.

Imagine that your son/brother/husband/father/grandfather/friend had a death sentence from cancer (I’ve gotten that news) and then you get the news that there’s someone out there that can cure him from his pain and death. THAT is good news.

And Jesus did just that. He gave of himself and said, “I’m the cure”.

This is the message of Christmas, right? God saw and sees the pain and hurt and death and despair and doesn’t leave us in that. He sent Jesus to ransom us from this condition. That’s the Gospel. THAT’S the good news.

You may say, Jessica, that’s nice for you. You got a nice story out of it, but I’m still in the middle of this situation with no end in sight. I urge you to remember that God is the God of redemption, despite how our situation looks, and he is faithful. He will never leave you or forsake you and I would encourage you to be on the lookout for how he wants to communicate that to you in this Christmas Season.

And if this has been a wonderful year for you, Praise God! I would encourage you to go to those who are hurting and comfort them. Cry with those who cry and rejoice with those rejoice. Let me be happy with you and then you come cry with me. We can be there for each other.

That’s the end of this story. For now.