I told them not to call me. I didn’t want to hear the news on my birthday—alone in a hotel room in Boston. Instead I spent my two-day work trip in limbo, trying to prepare myself, while not thinking about it at the same time.
When I returned home, the doctor confirmed it: breast cancer. I carefully set down my phone, thoughts stretching out in different directions for something to grip. I was a single woman living alone. My only son lived in San Francisco and the rest of my family in the Northeast. I’d lost my older brother to cancer—with only a precious 10 weeks between his diagnosis and his passing. He’d been a worship leader and gifted musician in the prime of his ministry. Many years had passed, but I still could not to listen to the song he’d written for me.
I thought of Randall, the man I had just started dating. When I’d told him I needed a biopsy, he’d quickly said, “You can’t have cancer.” A widower, he had lost his wife two years earlier. He had difficulty even stepping foot in a hospital.
After my diagnosis, I said to him, “You know, we’re not that far into this. I totally understand if you want to just…you know…let it go.”
A thoughtful person, he took some time—truly processing what it could do to him—and to me.
A few days later, we sat down together, and he said, “I’m in.”
Within 24 hours of learning I had breast cancer, I saw an oncologist and a surgeon, and had test after test—a whirlwind that left me little time to think. At my appointments, I couldn’t absorb all the information I was given. Important questions came to mind only after I left the doctor.
During my first round of chemo, I started listening to the song, You Make Me Brave, by Amanda Cook and Bethel Music, reminding myself that I could get through this, and God would somehow use this for good. Without realizing its significance, my
27-year-old son sent me a bracelet engraved with Be Brave. God was letting me know he was with me.
I became intentional with my time with God, opening myself to a deeper relationship. Each morning, I woke up at 6:00 am to enjoy my coffee with him, read his Word, and pray.
In chemo, I learned to expect two okay days, followed by three bad ones. During the bad, even taking a shower required so much effort that I took my son’s advice and placed my hand on the steamed glass, counting down those bad days to zero.
By my fourth chemo treatment, I couldn’t get out of bed. Randall was out of town, my son back in California, and late in the night, lying there in pain, unable to sleep, I stared at the ceiling. When I thought I couldn’t take any more, a verse came to me: But the Helper, the Holy Spirit (the Comforter, Advocate, Counselor) whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance, all that I have said to you, John 14:26 (ESV).
The Comforter. Until then I’d never experienced that aspect of the Holy Spirit—the comfort and peace that no one else can provide. It got me through that terrible night and the bad days that followed.
You Need Encouragers
At Seacoast, people told me I should consider starting a group, but I was too overwhelmed. Joining a group for mature singles was the most I could handle—and they were a godsend. They brought me meals, walked my dog, and cleaned my house. They drove me to appointments. They prayed with me.
Now I’d like to do those things for others. This past spring, completing my last round of chemo, I heard God say, “It’s time.” Within a week, Pastor Josh Surratt called for people to join a man in the midst of cancer who wanted to start a cancer care ministry at church. I almost fell off my chair. The message was clear: It’s time.
It’s Time to Help
We’re forming a Cancer Care group here at Seacoast to bring together people experiencing difficult seasons due to health concerns, with those who have gone through them and want to help. For instance, we can help with some of the practical aspects of going through cancer—like providing tips on things that can make a big difference in a person’s day—like how important it is to take someone with you to your first appointments.
- You’re still in shock. Have someone else write down what the doctor says.
- Fill all the prescriptions they give you, at once. You will need every one, but may be too sick to go back later.
- A supportive group can help arrange rides to appointments.
I am now a part of the prayer team and would love to help others experience the presence of The Comforter.
Recently I pulled out the box that held the CD my brother recorded not long before he passed away. With it was a DVD containing a slide show of him that I didn’t know existed.
As I listened and watched, Randall patiently sat with me. Through my tears, I smiled at pictures of him on his sailboat, reminding me of a trip we took to Sanibel Island. I heard the joy in my brother’s lyrics, and in his voice.
I have much to be thankful for. Cancer was the worst thing, until it became the best thing that has happened to me. Randall and I recently got married, and we are starting our life together without cancer at the forefront.
If you are in need of a cancer support group, please join the Seacoast Cancer Support Network Facebook page. This group will help you find the support your need, or maybe it’s the perfect time for you to help those who need to know they’re not alone.