By Ginger Peters
Paige Cannon reaches up, above the major trials that have befallen her. Life has not always been kind to Paige. But her strong faith as a Christian and her lifelong commitment to her church has created the courage and resilience for Paige to climb out of bed each day. She reaches up to the Lord and pulls into her soul a willingness and exuberance to help others and share the joy that is eternal in her heart.
A Turn for the Worse
Paige was born on August 9, 1956, in Lovell, Wyoming, to August and Helen Peters. At age 6, due to her father’s job, Paige and her family made a long move to southeastern New Mexico, where she eventually graduated from high school and attended college.
It wasn’t long before she met Tom, a missionary. They fell in love, married, and soon were blessed with three children: Whitney, Thomas, and Cole.
Things seemed to be normal for Paige and her young family until 1989 when Cole was diagnosed with eosinophilic granuloma at age 5. This is a condition in which multiple tumors attack the body’s tissue and bones. It was treatable with chemotherapy. Paige, her son, and her family leaped into a long battle with the disease and treatment, which finally ended victoriously 11 years later.
In 1993 Paige began having physical symptoms she couldn’t explain. Tingling began in her feet and legs, changes with her eyesight began to occur, and a strange electrical feeling in her left arm and hand produced shock-like feelings when she touched water.
After several trips to specialists and no explanation for the symptoms, Paige finally went to the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, and a diagnosis of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) was made in 1996. Over the next few years Paige made a commitment to change her eating and exercising habits, losing 80 pounds. She began medical injections once a week to help combat the symptoms.
Oddly enough, during this time Paige’s marriage was weakening. “Our desires for our future took very different paths.” After 25 years, the marriage was over. But Paige’s longtime faith in God helped her get through this traumatic ordeal, just as it had during Cole’s and her own unexpected illnesses.
Eight years after being diagnosed with RRMS, the disease took a turn for the worse. This meant the symptoms that were showing up but then improving would not go away now. Paige had balance issues, lack of mobility, optic neuritis, and fatigue; she was losing the ability to walk. Now whatever went wrong seemed to stay wrong.
Paige eventually met Mike. He was a relative of one of her dearest friends. He told her he had been through a divorce also and if she ever needed someone to talk to, please call him. Paige did not call him, but he soon called her. She and Mike developed an incredible friendship over the phone for the next several months. By this time Paige’s children were grown, and after a year of friendship with Mike, Paige agreed to marry him in 2003 and move to his home in eastern Texas. She began a new life with a person she believed in her heart was “the true love of my life.”
The multiple sclerosis stabilized for a period during the first part of her new life. But, as Paige learned, life makes many mysterious turns that people are not always prepared for. After almost five years of marriage to the man she dearly loved and was totally devoted to, Mike chose a different direction that did not include a commitment to Paige. She was devastated. After two more years of trying to work it out, Mike decided to leave.
Paige’s deep faith guided her through one of the toughest emotional times of her life. She said, “I believe with all my heart that without my faith I would have been bitter, angry, and unkind. I don’t believe that what happens to you defines you. What you do with your circumstances defines who you are and who you become.”
Closer to the Lord
The multiple sclerosis was getting worse. Paige was experiencing bladder problems, her stabilization difficulties continued, her vision went to 20/75, and enormous fatigue set in. She had also been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, causing her additional pain. Her condition was now slow-progressive multiple sclerosis. But Paige did not plummet downward; she reached up.
On November 27, 2011, Paige received the worst possible news a parent could experience. Her youngest son, Cole, age 27, was found dead in his apartment. He had passed away due to natural causes, heart failure, quite possibly due to the previous health issues he had experienced as a child.
“When Cole was little and became ill, I never knew if he would live or die. I didn’t know if God would allow me to keep him here on earth. I was devastated when my son died. But I believe God needed Cole and he is at peace. But during both difficult times, my divorce to the love of my life and my son’s death, I felt closer to the Lord than ever. I kept hearing him whisper, I know who you are, and I know you can handle it.”
Paige doesn’t believe she was punished by God when these trials appeared in her life. She believes the difficulties that have plagued her have given her insight and great compassion into others and their burdens. These trials have caused her to grow in godliness.
She has remained strong and steady in her faith and her love for others. With low vision, braces on her legs, and walking aids, Paige manages to reach up and out every single day. She tries to acknowledge people when seeing them, even when she doesn’t know them. She compliments strangers or uplifts an acquaintance with encouragement. She knits scarves for the homeless and makes cookies for people in need. She loves to take what she calls a Happy Journal to anyone who might be ill or down and out. She tells them to write down anything and everything they can think of that gives them a bit of happiness or a hint of a smile. She wants others to be aware of the blessings around them.
Paige’s two older children are amazed at their mother’s “faith in people.” They believe she is way more concerned with others than she is herself, and they say it is very encouraging to see someone with such great faith and strength.
Not Losing Sight
Not long ago, Paige’s ex-husband called her. Mike told her his minister had recommended that he take time to read the Bible. He asked Paige if he could call her at night and read Scripture, so that she might help him better understand the Word of God. She agreed and again, a friendship began to establish. Mike told Paige the life that took him away from her the first time was not for him. He had desperately missed her love, her friendship, her companionship, and the stability of a committed relationship.
Mike proposed to Paige again, but she told him she would allow God to direct her decision. After several months of praying about the situation, Paige believed God wanted her to have a life with the man she loved and the man who loved her. They re-married and have made a happy life with God as their center.
Many can learn so much from a person of faith such as Paige. Through her suffering, she has never lost sight of the big picture that the Lord has in mind. Watching Paige endure, continue to be guided by godliness, and love life inspires many others to reach up also.
“I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, New King James Version).
Ginger Peters is a freelance writer in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
You Can Grow in Godliness
Most of us have one or more real life people whose faith we admire—and who we’d love to be like some day. But remember those people haven’t always been as mature in their godliness as they are now.
Instead of getting lost in hero worship or self-pity, make a plan to grow. Write down what you can do today, this week, this month, and this year to become more godly.
Remember that God made each of us unique, so your path and your gifts will be distinctively yours.