Most people look at Miranda Schmucker and assume her life must be pretty sweet. With a smile constantly radiating from her face, effortlessly prompting more of them from the perfect strangers passing by, the assumption is a fair one. But when the assumption is that only people with smooth life circumstances can smile, then the assumption proves faulty.
The reality that her smiles won’t tell you is that Miranda has fought stage IV cancer three times in her young life. She has come away victorious every time. Now in her mid-30s, she’s fighting her fourth battle with the disease and the thought of giving up has never crossed her mind.
“The whole time I’ve had cancer I’ve never been afraid,” she says. “I’m really at peace with it. Each time I’m diagnosed I say, ‘Okay, here we go again. We’re gonna kick this, again.’ Nothing wavers inside of me. Some people give up, but I have never even wanted to.”
Miranda’s first diagnosis came in 1987, when she was just three years old. It was neuroblastoma. The doctors went in for exploratory surgery, a procedure that was supposed to take one to two hours. It took eight. They never talked to her mom that entire time, and when they did, chemotherapy was the word and the regimen that followed.
A year and a half after she was declared in remission, the doctors informed her mother that it was back. Miranda, at just six years of age, had stage IV neuroblastoma again. The doctors didn’t think she would survive.
More chemotherapy, more hair loss. And more memories of the process for young Miranda, now that she was older. Radiation, a bone marrow transplant, and prayer became her reality.
“This was the first time I realized Jesus was real,” says Miranda. Her mom’s congregation prayed over them, their pastor anointing them with a full bottle of oil. Her mom says she audibly heard the Lord speak to her, and Miranda was declared in remission at seven years of age.
Throughout her youth Miranda was off and on with the Lord. For reasons outside of her health struggles she found herself angry at God. She fell away from Him for a long time, and only later in life did she sense the Lord wooing her back to Himself. She realized that merely acknowledging His existence was a flimsy faith, if even faith at all. What she needed was to talk with Him. So she started up the conversation again.
With her faith gaining traction, more than two decades after her second childhood remission, this now single mother of an 8-year-old adopted son, Cole, found herself moving to Bend and sharing her mom’s oncologist. Both women had cancer; Miranda’s mom was fighting it in her lungs, and this time Miranda had stage IV colon cancer.
Undergoing chemo treatments and plugged in at Westside Church, Miranda found out about a mission trip to Mexico that the church opened to anyone who wanted to go. When God told her she was to participate in the trip, Miranda had no idea how that would work, what with her treatments and all. She ended up doing what seemed foolish to the world, but necessary to her faith. She told her oncologist she’d be stopping chemo because she was needed in Mexico.
“You have no immune system,” he told her. “And you’re going to Zikaland?” (The Zika virus was a big scare at the time.)
“I pray a lot,” she told him, twinkle in her eye. And off she went.
When she returned, she was Zika free but not cancer free. MRIs and CT scans showed the cancer had spread to her liver. As was everyday practice in her life Miranda turned to prayer and figured this time it wouldn’t hurt to call in the big wigs. Knowing John and Sonya Decker from her experience participating in the church’s MTI program, she visited their small group Bible study and received intense prayers for healing.
A week later, in April 2016, she went through a 13-hour HIPEC surgery where her abdominal cavity was checked inch by inch. The surgery is often seen as a last hope for many cancer patients, and it’s so grueling that the procedure alone requires a three-month recovery period.
When Miranda woke from the surgery on life support in the ICU her loved ones were grim. And her doctors were grim … until they inspected the 20 samples of tissue they’d taken from her abdomen. In them they found no cancer. Anywhere. When she was alert enough to absorb the news, she smiled her winning smile. There was no doubt in her mind: God had responded to their prayers.
A year after this surgery, in May 2017, Miranda went to Portland for a simple laparoscopic procedure. The doctors found a small tumor in her abdomen and she is currently undergoing a double dose of chemo and getting her abdomen drained every other week. This is her fourth battle with cancer.
Miranda’s faith and courage baffle many, particularly the trail of dumbfounded doctors who have treated her, who shake their heads in awe that she is alive today. Meanwhile, Miranda wants so much more from her life than mere survival. She wants to encourage the world to never stop being amazed. When doctors, who are generally accurate and right, end up speechless, “It’s nothing short of amazing,” she says.
Her veracious positive attitude and happy disposition stem from knowing that God has it all – her life, and the many intricate details of it. “If I didn’t have my faith, I’d be a big pile of doo,” she says, her infectious laugh bubbling over as though she hadn’t a care in the world.
Written by: Jodi Carlson || Photos by: Erica Stubblefield