The Worst Two Years of My Life

July 2009
Two months after being home from the hospital, the medical bills arrived in clumps.
Some from Sabal; most for me.
I wrote checks for the smaller statements first, leaving two large bills unpaid. We had $27.00 to survive the next couple of weeks.
Scooping the piled papers together, the muscles around my neck constricted. My head bowed in defeat.
From behind me his footsteps stopped, and I heard his knees crack as he crouched to a sitting position. The warmth of his hand caressed my back. “Come here.”
I didn’t dare look up.
Jason drew me onto his lap, cradling my body like a child. “You’re worrying again,” he whispered into my hair.
My voice quivered, “Do you realize the lifestyle we’d live if I wasn’t always sick?”
He slid strands of long bangs from my face, lifted my chin. “Do you realize how empty my life would be without you?”
I crushed my body into his.
Jason gathered me tighter in his arms. “When are you going to trust that God is in control?”


Three months later, October 9, 2009, The Florida Department of Health launched a Cancer Cluster Study in The Acreage area, which included our semirural community in Loxahatchee. Local families documented thirty plus brain tumors and varying cancers in our surrounding location which drew the attention of Erin Brockovich, the celebrity environmental activist. She spoke during one of our town hall meetings: “We are concerned about some of the things we are seeing. We are concerned about radioactivity that is being found in the water wells.”
I pushed back from my computer screen after closing out the Palm Beach Post article, unable to stare at these words any longer. My intestines twisting and untwisting like a child repeatedly twirling and unraveling on a chain-swing.
This has to be hype. I shuddered at the thought. Three-year-old Asher toddled into the room with sticky lunch smudged over his face. I lifted him into the tub and knelt, waiting for the bath to fill. Asher dipped his plastic Buzz Lightyear cup underneath the pale-yellow well water and lifted the rim to his mouth. Radioactivity, I gasped and knocked Buzz from his hand. “Don’t drink the water!” My voice rose louder than normal.
Asher’s cried.
What am I talking about, ‘Don’t drink the water!’ He’s soaking in it! I wrapped sweet Asher in a towel. Lord help us.
When the cluster news first spread, I thought surely this whole thing would blow over. I had little desire to leave the home we spent ten years updating. New roof, thanks to hurricane Frances, discounted hard wood floors, thanks to Brett’s carpet and tile company, and custom built kitchen complete with white shaker-style cabinets, Brazilian granite, and stainless steel appliances, including a convection oven, thanks to Mom.
Only, housing prices in our area plummeted due to the scare and the burst of the housing bubble. We owed double than what our house was worth.
Jason paced in front of me outside on our homemade deck. “We have no other option than to short sale.”
I bit my lip.
“If we don’t move and the kids get cancer…or worse, you have another occurrence, I’ll blame myself for the rest of my life that I didn’t protect my family,” Jason rationalized with me, explaining that  he’d mapped seven children within a five-mile radius of our home that were diagnosed with brain tumors.
Every bath, dip in our above ground vinyl pool, or kids playing in dug up holes in the backyard ate at my soul.
For nine months we tried negotiating with the bank to give us a medical release from our house. My nervousness wouldn’t allow me to miss a payment, and everyone knew the only way to short sale was to fall behind on your mortgage.
Blackness like never before fell over me, like I stood at the bottom of a pit watching the world shovel heaps of dirt on top of my body, burying me alive.
And then my doctor found a bump.
A swollen node on the right side of my breast was caught at my annual exam. The spot felt sensitive to the touch, so I assumed the usual cyst I had as a teen growing up. What began with blood work and an ultrasound, turned into an appointment with my oncologist and an MRI.
I left my OBGYN’s office with a script that detailed my new circumstances and further testing. My head spun. This was supposed to be quick in-and-out routine procedure. Anger rose within me, if I’m indeed sick and for months we made this ethical decision to fight for a medical release from our home… I dropped my head on the steering wheel in utter frustration. I needed a voice of reason. I called Jason.
“Calm down, babe. Calm down. Nothing has been confirmed,” he talked me back to normal, then said, “Fax your script to our bank.”
And I did.
(The story continues and has an amazing twist)


I’m not sure how many people read this far, but this was part of a chapter that was cut from the book. Obviously, there’s a second (much more uplifting) part to the story. Maybe I’ll post that later if anyone’s interested.

I’m not sure why God put this on my heart to share. Maybe because it was the worst two years of my life and maybe because I know there are so many people out there who are hurting, who just want to know why life stinks right now.

Hang in there.

God’s got a plan. A big plan. Sometimes we don’t see it when we’re neck-deep, suffocating in our trials.

But I promise….He doesn’t waste a single thing.

If your going through a tough time, I’d love to pray for you. You can anonymously post your prayer request in the comment section.


  • Kim Casteel

    WOW!!!! your transparency and willingness to be honest is showing true humbleness and has caused me to really evaluate myself. pride hides itself in so many ways. thank you for sharing. if this was the portion that was cut out of the book, i can’t wait to read the whole book! 🙂 dabney you are a gifted woman and i am so thankful that you are using it for the glory of God! pastor dan always said your misery today will be your future ministry… i’m so glad that everything IS used by God… thanks for that reminder! be blessed sweet and beautiful woman of God!

  • Anonymous

    Dabney, I am NOT a reader yet I read the entire thing. I will be getting the book too. You humble me as I am such a weak baby and can’t endure the smallest challenge. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Cynthia Herron

    Sweet Dabney, my heart broke as I read your words. I know God is priming you for victory and He’s going to use your story to touch many lives!
    We spent time in the “valley” as we lived in and out of hospitals for a five year period with one of our children. Medical bills, surgeries, and barely a light at the end of the tunnel… It was almost too much to bear at the time.
    I think what I’ve learned is that God uses our most difficult seasons as a springboard to victory. It might not always be what we’d planned, dreamed, or hoped, but an alternative route that leads to something even greater than what we’re able to envision.
    Looking forward to seeing what God has in store for you!

    • dabneyland

      Wow. You do know the journey, and it does seem like there is no end in sight. Praise God His mercies are new every morning and these seasons do pass.
      You’re certainly right about one thing. The journey I’m on right now I could never have imagined. God is good.
      Bless you!

  • Anonymous

    Definitely want the rest of the story….I am sure it is difficult reliving those rough and raw years and trusting God through it all is so hard.

  • Robyn B

    I am so touched by your story Dab! I am thankful to be a sister in Christ! Thankful you are here to share your walk! You are a true inspiration!

  • Anonymous

    wonderful… your willingness to write about this and share it are indeed a part of transforming something hideous into something marvelous.

  • Beverly Foy

    Dabney, I so much enjoyed reading this. You and Jason have been thru somuch. However, God has lifted you and carried you thru all of this. You have beautiful children which as I remember, you should have never had. But, God had a plan for you and Jason. You are enjoying those babies right now. Need I say any more? God saw how strong you were. He knew you would strive forward with everything you had. I believe if those that are fighting cancer right now could read this and see how far you have come, it would be so uplifting to them. Your faith is your rod and your God is your shield. May he continue to shield you from any more harm. We love you, Bev & jim Foy

  • Beth Millet

    Oh Dabney, My neice posted this yesterday on FB. I have to tell you how God used it to help me. I live in the Acreage and I was so angry about the home values dropping due to the Cancer scare. Everytime I was asked about the Cancer Cluster I would boil and would reply “IT’S NOT A CLUSTER” We had wanted to sell our house and move to Georgia and because of the scare that wasn’t going to happen. God’s plan was for us to stay here. Your story put a person in the picture not just the news reports and the word “cancer”. I have repented and my anger, old as it was, is resovled. So, thank you for the blessing. Love your sister in Christ, Beth

    • dabneyland

      Beth, I’m so very thankful that you posted your story. It was a frustrating time. Sadly, I recently heard that someone started that rumor about the cancer cluster because they wanted the property values to drop because of some big project that was supposed to be built in that area? Although, I guess you can’t make up children being diagnosed with tumors…but the whole situation was disheartening, and a scary time. All we can do is trust God.
      Thank you for taking a moment to read. You’ve blessed me today.

  • jillrkemerer

    I want to read the rest! I’m so sorry you went through such a scary, terrible time. About ten years ago, I had a year of fear and troubles. I don’t know what people who don’t have faith in God do during those times. I’m so thankful for my Bible and my Lord!

  • Jan

    Dabney, I listened to your interview with Janet Parshall today (7/1/13) after having had a huge pity-party for myself due to problems with my teenager. I was humbled and ashamed of myself for complaining to God about how rough I have it, because my problems are minor compared to what you have endured. I think maybe you’re just a much nicer person than I am. Now that I’ve found your book, I can’t wait to order a copy! May God continue to always bless you and your precious family.

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