LA MIRADA, Calif. --- Athletes are supposed to dominate, they are meant to be a warrior on their playing fields, an invincible force, but every so often they can be weakened by forces beyond their control. It is in these times that the athlete needs to reach even deeper to maintain the strength they would normally put to use while playing their game. Except this time the strength is not for a simple game, but for their life.
This is a battle that Biola student-athlete Katie Cabuling knows all too well. While undergoing knee surgery to repair damage from her days as a midfielder on the soccer team, doctors found a cancerous lump in Cabuling's thyroid.
"I had a feeling of peace when I first found out," said Cabuling. "I definitely felt God's presence because my only worry was the surgery, not what you would expect to feel when you are diagnosed."
After examining Cabuling, the doctors concluded that the lump was Medullary thyroid cancer cells found in the right side of Cabuling's neck. Medullary thyroid cancer is an incredibly rare, but relatively treatable, form of cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, only three to four percent of all thyroid cancer cases are Medullary, one-quarter of those cases are considered familial and about 86 percent of those diagnosed with this cancer make a recovery.
"Due to my rare form, there was a lot of information coming all at once, but I felt God gave me a peace about it all, that I was going to be OK regardless of what happened," she said.
Immediate surgery was necessary to remove these cancerous cells in Cabuling's neck, and the surgeons also had to remove the right side of her thyroid. This surgery was effective and started Cabuling on the road to recovery, but eventually she had to go in for a second surgery that removed the rest of her thyroid and her lymph nodes.
Cabuling returns to the doctors often, and recent test results show that she is cancer free in the rest of her body, and is progressing on her way to recovery. She frequently visits for tests and treatment to ensure the cancer does not have a chance to return or spread.
"My relationship with the Lord has been strengthened in more ways than I can imagine," said Cabuling. "One of the biggest and greatest things I have learned is to trust God with my whole heart, not just part of it but in everything. I had to trust in God's will and not my own will. I could have been given just a couple more years to live, and in trusting in God's perfect plan for myself I was given an incredible peace. I learned to trust in His perfect plan for me and know that everything I am going through is in some way bringing glory to His kingdom, which far outweighs everything I've been through."
Cabuling came to Biola as a transfer in 2011 and was a strong starting member of the midfield for one and a half seasons. She started 30 games for the Eagles, including 17 games in 2011 when she played half of her junior season with bone fragments in her toe. She also suffered a horrible injury during her senior season, when she tore nearly every ligament in her knee.
"With knee surgeries you know what to expect," said Cabuling. "They go in and fix what needs to be fixed, then I would have rehabilitation. With my thyroid surgeries they would go in not really knowing what to expect, with the possibility that what needed to be fixed would not be able to be fixed."
Through all of these trials and painful experiences Cabuling took every opportunity she could to encourage and uplift her Biola teammates.
"Although Katie has been suffering physically these last two years Christ's light continues to shine brighter and brighter," said Assistant Coach Erin Brunelle. "There is a joy that exudes from deep within Katie every time you see her or talk to her. It is an incomprehensible joy that can only come from the Lord. Despite every hardship thrown her way, Katie continues to trust in God's perfect will for her life. She has a great support system in people who love her and who have hope in the Lord the He will carry her through this season of life. She has been an inspiration to our Biola women's soccer team."
Although Cabuling is not a member of the current squad, the 2013 Biola women's soccer team continues to follow her recovery and prays consistently for strength and restored health. The team has been reminded daily of Proverbs 3:5-6
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight all your paths."
"I hope to use my story to make His name be known," said Cabuling. "I firmly believe that God has shown Himself in many ways throughout my trials, and if that impacts just one other person and encourages them in their own walk or plants a seed in a non-believer I would feel like every trial I have gone through was worth it."
Men and women's soccer hosts Oklahoma Wesleyan at Al Barbour Field this Friday and Saturday and women's soccer plays Corban on Thursday at 7 p.m. At these games fans will have an opportunity to celebrate and support the Cabuling family both prayerfully and financially.
September is also thyroid cancer awareness month, so the women's soccer team will pass out informational brochures during the game to anyone looking to know more about this type of cancer.
The financial burden of the past few years has been a strain on the Cabuling family, anyone interested in helping lighten the load please contact Erin Brunelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.