Life Without A Bucket List

October Ushers in National Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

This month marks fourteen years since I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, October 2002. I’d like to say that I had surgery, radiation, took Tamoxifen for five years, and that was the end of it. But that’s not how my story goes. I was diagnosed with a recurrence in October 2008, and again in June 2011 right after we moved to Idaho, and this summer I had a MRI-driven needle biopsy–praise God it was benign. I don’t know why. I only know that God is not through with me yet, and that is why I write, and that is why I speak, and that is why I evangelize and try to mobilize the Christian community to take a stand for Christ and give purpose and meaning to the years the Lord has spared me.

breast-cancer-cover3-252x300

I wrote, Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey after my first diagnosis. It was the book I wished I had going through the battle myself and many women tell me it’s as if the Lord and I are walking right beside them.

Gloria Gaddy, who shares her story in the book, recently wrote to me:

10 Years ago I purchased this book, read it like my Bible, slept with it and prayed every day that God would heal me, He DID !  Now I am breast cancer free no more chemo meds and doing very well.  I might have to pick my book up just to remember how it brought me over.  Every time  someone is attacked with cancer it’s another opportunity for God to show up.

As a gift to my breast cancer sisters, and to any of you who have friends or family with breast cancer, we’re offering a special price for the month of October for Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer at our website shop, and I personalize and sign each book.

You might also find this excerpt from the book helpful for knowing what to say and what not to say to a woman fighting the breast cancer battle. The Top Thirteen Things to Do or Say and NOT to Do or Say to Someone with Breast Cancer

Life Without a Bucket List

Kara Tippetts was a young mother who lost the breast cancer battle, but starting with her diagnosis she wrote openly about her journey in a blog. Now, a year after her passing in March 2015, And It Was Beautiful: Celebrating Life in the Midst of the Long Good-Bye brings a collection of Tippetts’ insights, taken mostly from her popular blog. Great care has been taken by David C Cook’s editorial team to present her thoughts with as few changes as possible in order to capture her distinct voice and unique way of arranging words.
      I thought it would be too hard for me to read And It Was Beautiful, but I couldn’t put it down and got permission from David C Cook to share her chapter on “Choosing a Mentor” in my new book Mentoring for All Seasons.
      In this post, I’m sharing with you the excerpt, “Life Without a Bucket List.” Like Kara, I consider every day of life a fulfilled bucket list, and as I lay my head on the pillow each night my husband Dave prays, “Thank you Lord for another day of life. We don’t take that for granted.”

An excerpt from And It Was Beautiful by Kara Tippetts

© 2016 Kara Tippetts. And It Was Beautiful is published by David C Cook. All rights reserved.

Kara Tippetts 1_Jen Lints Photography

I can confidently say that I don’t live with a long list of things I want to do, see, or complete before I’m done in this place. I carried a dream for years of having a farm. I was in love with all things Wendell Berry. I could picture it, the life of routine created by the land and its rhythms. But beyond that I’ve never longed for having a list and checking things off. I’m happy with my old cars, my simple wardrobe, my lack of fancy things and vacations. Don’t get me wrong, I do love a good concert, but I also love an organic dance party in my kitchen. I love great food, but I also love a hot dog over the fire pit in my backyard. I love a hike in the mountains, but I also love a walk around the block with my people.

Last week, when I heard I may have another long road to travel on this journey, I turned to Jason and cried. I told him how day after day this place is losing its grip on me. Driving down the street this place sometimes feels so slutty, so wanting my money without a care for my heart. Billboards blare at me what to buy, what to think, how to vote. But the tie that binds me here is relationships. Sickness makes those bonds more real, more important. It’s people who grip my heart.

Suffering has a way of exposing our theology, certainly our practical theology, where what we believe about God collides with where we live. My heart always hurts a little when someone hears my story and begins to question God’s goodness. I have found that suffering makes my faith more childlike, more simple. Our ideas of God are not necessarily made bigger or more grandiose through suffering, but they are simplified as we wade through the unknown of what comes next. Last week, in that unknown, I was smooching on Lake and the thought hit me that I won’t be around to help him navigate his first heartbreak. I was in a public place and I nearly lost my footing because of the fear that gripped me in that moment. I looked up and saw my growing girls and was almost suffocated by the thought of who will help them during the awkward years of puberty. Shouldn’t it be me? That’s the way it’s supposed to be, right? Can’t I stay and be here for them when they need me?

The truth is none of us know the length of our lives. So we pray for daily bread and say thank you when it comes. For today I have a little boy who will cross the room to give me a hug. I have a baby girl who gives me ten kisses when I ask for five. I have a preteen who still holds my hand in public, in front of her friends even. I have a second born who loves to tell me every tiny detail of her day. I have a guy who makes coffee just like I like it. A bucket list? No, I don’t need one. I’m so rich. It’s relationships that matter. And for me, paying attention to the precious gift of today is the only thing on my list.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kara Tippetts’ life was dramatically changed in 2012 when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. She shared her journey on her popular blog, www.mundanefaithfulness.com. She was the author of The Hardest Peace and the co-author of Just Show Up. Since her death in March 2015, her husband, Jason, is parenting their four children and leading the church they founded in Colorado Springs, CO.

And it was Beautiful

If you received this post by email, please leave a comment here.
Remember the special October price for Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion Guide For Women on the Breast Cancer Journey.

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Someone You Know Has Breast Cancer

Blanket made for me by my daughter-in-law and grandkids for first recurrence.

Blanket made for me by my daughter-in-law and grandkids for first recurrence.

“I’m sorry…but you do have breast cancer.”

Those shocking words crackling through my cell phone rocked my world thirteen years ago. I was running errands…trying to outrun suspected bad news. After the doctor’s parting words, “You’ll be fine,” I fired up the car engine and started driving and dialing. The first person I called, after I told my husband, was my best friend, but she couldn’t comprehend the diagnosis. “A positive biopsy doesn’t mean it’s malignant, does it?” she asked.

It’s hard to know what to say or do when a friend or relative drops the bombshell news that she has breast cancer. Often our natural response is to recoil and retreat. Maybe it’s the fear of facing our own mortality or the time and emotion required if we do get involved. We ease our conscience by thinking: she would rather be alone right now anyway. Or she needs her family at a time like this. Or she has so many friends; I know someone will help her.

We may send a card or make a call offering to help, closing with “I’ll be praying for you,” then on we go about our life while her life crumbles. Yet the Bible clearly tells us to, “Help each other in troubles and problems. This is the kind of law Christ asks us to obey” (Galatians 6:2 NLV).

How can we put that verse into practical terms? What does it truly mean to help each other in troubles and problems? Perhaps you can glean some ideas from the ways my friends and family came along side me during my initial breast cancer journey and two recurrences.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I pray that God will make you aware of the women around you with breast cancer and that you’re getting regular exams yourself!

Helping with the Bad Days

Don’t Just Offer to Help—Do Something Tangible

Most of us find it difficult to receive help; we’re hesitant to impose on others. When asked the generic question, “How can I help you?” our common response is, “I’m fine, but thank you for asking.” Truthfully, we need everything, but we don’t know if the person is offering to mop our floors or pick up our kids from school—both of which we need, but are afraid to ask.

Another well-meaning comment I received was, “Just call me if you need anything.” Now how many women are going to pick up the phone and ask for help, especially if they are not feeling well? Again, we don’t know what the person is willing to do for us, and we don’t want to be a burden.

So instead of offering to help—just jump in and do something. If you know your friend well, you know where she needs help; and even if you don’t know her well, you know where all women need help. If she is in the midst of cancer treatment, she is going to need assistance with every area of her life, especially if she is single. Here are some practical ideas:

  1. Schedule her friends, family, and church to bring meals. Use your lunch break to take her lunch and eat with her.
  2. Offer to drive her to doctor’s appointments or treatments and take notes for her.
  3. Shuttle her kids to and from school or find someone who can.
  4. Sit with her during chemo treatments or accompany her to radiation. Talk, read a book to her, or just hold her hand.
  5. Take her children on a play date or to your house.
  6. Do her laundry.
  7. Do her grocery shopping. If she is too sick to dictate a list, take an inventory of her refrigerator and cupboards and make your own list.
  8. Answer her email.
  9. Bring her a gift that makes her feel feminine.
  10. If she feels like talking, sit and chat with her. When she doesn’t feel like talking, just be a presence in her home so she doesn’t feel alone.
  11. Babysit her kids so she and her husband can have some private time.
  12. Clean her house or pay someone to do it.
  13. Go with her to pick out a wig or prosthesis.
  14. Pick up prescriptions.
  15. Run errands.

Don’t Say, “I’ll Pray For You,” Unless You Mean It

At church a couple came up to greet my husband and me and asked if they could pray for us. That meant so much to me as we wrapped our arms around each other, and there on the church patio, this precious couple prayed for my recovery and Dave’s strength for the journey. When we finished, the wife asked where we needed help. I hesitated because I knew this woman didn’t like to cook, but Dave quickly interjected, “We could use a meal.” She didn’t flinch. She said they would be over the next night with dinner, and they were…and they prayed for us again.

“I’ll pray for you” is said too often with the casualness of “Have a nice day.” But a promise to pray isn’t just a feel good phrase. We are telling someone that we will petition God on her behalf, and we are living falsely if we don’t. I find it’s best to stop in the moment and pray right then. It keeps me honest and blesses the other person.

Helping to Enjoy the Good Days

Be Happy with Her When She’s Happy

Cancer is a grim word. Overnight life becomes serious, tense, and laden with fear. There is very little laughter during those first shocking days following the “dreaded diagnosis.” But life continues and there are going to be good days interspersed with the bad. An insightful friend will capitalize on the moments of reprieve when there is an opportunity to laugh or smile. Be ready, because it may only last a moment, but the break from pain and fear is immeasurable.

If your friend is having an especially good day, avoid topics that you know will bring her down. You aren’t minimizing or making light of the seriousness of the situation, but you are giving her a recess from the intensity. Don’t fake happiness, but take advantage of humorous or lighter moments. Smile. Laugh. Be happy. Don’t let the serious eclipse the humorous.

I remember laughing at myself one day in the shower when I realized that I was so carefully not shaving under my left arm because of the lymph node surgery, that I also wasn’t shaving my left leg. I frequently retold that story so people could laugh with me.

Nurture the Little Girl Inside Her

When I was in the hospital, the nurse in charge of the breast-care unit gave me a white stuffed toy sheep named “Fleece.” Taking Fleece with me everywhere, I held him as a shield in front of my sore breast, tucked him under my arm as an armrest, and snuggled next to him in bed. For six months, I indulged my childish need for security and no one chastised me for it. In fact, they acted like it was normal. And I discovered when I was writing my book, Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer, that it was normal! One woman who shared her story in the book had a black stuffed sheep named “Lamby” that she cuddled in her hospital bed. Another received a baby-sized pillow, and she recalls, “That pillow became a part of my wardrobe for eighteen months.”

stuffed sheet

Comfort and Security Gifts

  • A stuffed animal, pillow, or quilt.
  • A favorite food.
  • A game she loves to play and play it with her.
  • A movie she loved as a kid and watch it with her.
  • A surprise reunion with childhood friends.
  • A tea party.
  • A fun hat—even if she hasn’t lost her hair, she might not feel like fixing her hair.
  • A new nightgown that buttons down the front.
  • An ice cream cone.
  • A nightlight
  • A copy of  Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer a Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey signed by me to her. Many women tell me it’s as if I’m walking right beside them.

Shower Her with Love

Kay Warren shared with me about her breast cancer experience, “I don’t know how we would have gotten through this difficult time without the outpouring of love and support from so many. I have not felt alone at all…which is such an amazing gift!” And that it is…love is the best gift you can give to your friend suffering with breast cancer. Don’t desert her when she needs you most. Right now, she requires extravagant love, and God will help you when your heart is breaking or it just seems too sad or too hard. John 13:34 tells us to love one another just as God has loved us. God is the author of love and He knows just what your friend needs, and He will show you how to love her when she is feeling unlovable.

Surprise her. What woman doesn’t love an unexpected gift or demonstration of how valuable she is to us? We were in the midst of a messy kitchen remodel when breast cancer assaulted me. Everything in my life seemed out of control. But I felt so loved the day I returned home after the painful needle biopsy and spotted amongst the rubble—gift bags full of treats with balloons attached and a card from two girlfriends assuring me they had been praying during the ordeal.

Ideas For Showering Your Breast Cancer Friend With Love

  • A Spa day at a salon, which treats women with breast cancer.
  • If she wears a hat or scarf, wear one too.
  • Tell her how much you love her and what a great friend she is.
  • Stick with her even when the treatment lingers on. Her biggest fear is that others will not endure the journey.
  • Include her in as many activities as she feels up to.
  • Go to a breast-cancer support group with her.
  • Plan a girls’ day or night out, when she feels up to it.
  • Sit and watch old movies with her—even if she falls asleep.
  • Do her makeup.
  • Pray for and with her.

The Bible assures us in Proverbs 17:17 that “A friend loves at all times.” What a privilege it is to put that verse into practice for your precious friend with breast cancer. You probably won’t be able to do everything I suggest and I hope you have ideas of your own, but as a three-time breast cancer survivor, I assure you there are three things that will endure through the good and the bad times—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

The Top Thirteen Things to Do or Say and NOT to Do or Say to Someone with Breast Cancer

Article includes excerpts from Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey.

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Lessons From A Life Well Lived

Jan Holsclaws celebration sunriseSunrise from Jan and Jim’s backyard the day we celebrated Jan’s commencement to her Heavenly home!

I met Jan Holsclaw when she and husband Jim were speaking at Idyllwild Bible Church. Dave and I have a cabin in Idyllwild and were at IBC the same weekend the Holsclaws were visiting. At that time, Jim and Jan worked for Wycliffe Bible Translators and they were giving a report to IBC who helped support their ministry.

Jan spoke of her battle with ovarian cancer that was in remission. After the service, I introduced myself to Jan as a fellow cancer survivor and gave her a copy of my book Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer. Jan and Jim live in Florida, so an email friendship developed over the miles. Jan often referred to our “chance” meeting as a divine appointment.

A Team of Rope Holders

Sadly, it wasn’t long after we met that Jan’s cancer returned and she was in for the battle of her life . . . for her life. Jan and Jim started email updates to a team of friends and family they called their “rope holders” from the story in Mark 2:3-5 and Luke 5:18-20 where friends tied ropes to a mat and lowered a paralytic man through the roof of the house where Jesus was preaching. Loving friends displaying their faith in Jesus—that’s what Jan’s rope holders were to her too.

So over the next few years, Jan and Jim sent the rope holders email updates of Jan’s journey through extensive and ongoing chemo and treatments, and we lifted Jan and Jim before the Lord. We prayed for their specific requests and rejoiced in their good days and praises.

The doctors told them to do all the things they wanted to do and see family as much as possible. Use the time they had wisely, and that’s just what they did. Jim retired from Wycliffe, and during Jan’s good times or breaks in treatment, they traveled to see their children and grandchildren spread throughout the United States and China.

Lesson: We need each other. Learn how to “receive” well. Life is precious. Live like you’re dying.

 

A Praise Journal in the Midst of Crisis

Jan started a “Thankful List” which she often shared with her rope holders. When I asked her about it, she said:

How does it encourage me? When I’m down or discouraged or sad or ‘tired of the cancer/chemo routine,’ if I start adding to my “thankful list” it doesn’t take long before my focus is no longer on “poor me,” but on the Lord and on how incredibly blessed I am. I can literally sense my spirit being lifted into His presence. It’s sort of like a 180 degree turn around. Absolutely amazing. Even when I think to myself… “I can’t think of ONE thing for which I’m thankful” . . . all I have to do is START WRITING, and then my mind is filled with TONS of things for which I’m thankful.

“I Will Trust You” was the subject line of a rope holders’ email on February 6, 2014, as Jan’s health was rapidly deteriorating. She continued to tell us how much our prayers and emails meant to her and Jim:

Again, thank you SO MUCH for your precious words that touch us so deeply, and often bring tears. You simply can’t know how much they mean, and how they minister to us…over and over and over again! We’re trying to keep our hearts focused on Him, reminding ourselves that whatever we find out, He is with us, He’s holding us close, we need not fear and we can trust Him. A song that has been SO meaningful to us in the last few days is Sovereign by Chris Tomlin.

Lesson: If your faith is a little shaky today, listen to praise music. Jan and Jim found comfort in the YOU TUBE version of Sovereign.

 

On February 7, 2014, Jan wrote to her rope holders—

The sobering part of it all, is that when I now return to a chemo that has worked in the past, there’s generally only a 20-30% chance that it will now be effective against the cancer.

Still Jan finds things to be thankful for—

I am SO THANKFUL for:

A good appetite. (And I don’t want to EVER take that for granted!)

Restful sleep at night.

My wonderful, godly doctor.

My amazing husband who cares for me 24/7.

Our precious kids, their spouses, and our grandkids.

God’s Sovereignty and His tender, loving care.

Our incredible team of rope holders (YOU) and your touching words of encouragement.

Lesson: If you’re going through a tough time, start a Thankful List. It’s hard to stay down when you’re looking up.

Jan with her therapy dog Wally Jon

February 24, 2014 Jan with her “therapy dog” Wally Jon

How to Live Well for Jesus and Die Well in Jesus

March 4, 2014 the rope holders received an email from son Jon, “Finally Free!” Saturday March 8, thanks to the technology of “Streamline,” I watched the Celebration of Jan’s Life. Jan didn’t want a sermon; she wanted casual dress, her favorite music, and a chance for everyone who wanted to share their memories at an open microphone.

We heard from friends, neighbors, hospital staff, fellow ministry servants, and her doctors. All had the same message: Jan showed us how to live well for Jesus and how to die well in Jesus. Here was some of her legacy shared at the celebration:

  • She showed us how to behave in suffering. Not to be inward focused but to reach out and let her rope holders know how much she needed them.
  • There was a width and breadth of ministry during her last seven years. Her mission: May God get the glory and win the day, every day.
  • She taught us how to be a gracious “receiver.” When she was well she gave, but when she was ill, she could receive our help.
  • Jan loved life and fought it through to the very end.
  • She loved her family so much and taught us how to be better wives, moms, and grandmothers.
  • Jan had faith and trust and gave thanks in all circumstances.
  • Jan and Jim didn’t just talk about the Lord, they lived out their faith.
  • From a hospital staff member: they were always encouraging to the hospital staff—even the lady cleaning the floors. They left their mark on the staff.
  • A neighbor who saw Jan and Jim walking hand in hand while she did her morning run soon was getting hugs and friendship from Jan.
  • Her doctors considered it a privilege to be in the presence of patients like Jim and Jan. They ministered to their doctors during the doctors’ tough times and struggles.
  • Jan taught us how to die.
Lesson: How we live our life in good times and hard times is a ministry—it’s our legacy.

Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

1 Corinthians 15:54-56 (NLT)

Jan and Jim 48 year anniversary

Jan and Jim on their 48th Anniversary August 2013

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Help Your Friend With Breast Cancer Make It Through the Bad Days and Enjoy The Good Days

writingIMG_3857Signing at ExpressionsEagle-Walk1-300x225Grace Grace and me at signing

In loving memory of my “Grace Abounds”

October ushers in fall with thoughts of pumpkin pie and harvest colors, but for many women like myself, it’s also a reminder that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2002, with recurrences in 2008 and 2011. So for me, and my breast cancer sisters, we’re also thinking pink. BTW pink and brown are great color combinations.

I found purpose in the pain of my first diagnosis by writing the book I wished I had going through my own journey, Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey The hardest chapter to write was “It Could Come Back.” But come back it did come, twice! Any fears I had that my friends and family couldn’t, or wouldn’t, go through this ordeal with me again, were unfounded as they rallied around me each time with love, caring, support and most importantly, prayer.

In the following post, I have suggestions for how you can do the same for the breast cancer friend or family member or neighbor, or fellow employee, or acquaintance you barely know. Because with 1 in 8 women being diagnosed with breast cancer . . . you know a woman who has cried out in anguish, “Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer!”

_____________

“I’m sorry…but you do have breast cancer.”

Those shocking words crackling through my cell phone rocked my world eleven years ago. I was running errands…trying to outrun suspected bad news. After the doctor’s parting words, “You’ll be fine,” I fired up the car engine and started driving and dialing. The first person I called, after I told my husband, was my best friend, but she couldn’t comprehend the diagnosis. “A positive biopsy doesn’t mean it’s malignant, does it?” she asked.

It’s hard to know what to say or do when a friend or relative drops the bombshell news that she has breast cancer. Often our natural response is to recoil and retreat. Maybe it’s the fear of facing our own mortality or the time and emotion required if we do get involved. We ease our conscience by thinking: she would rather be alone right now anyway. Or she needs her family at a time like this. Or she has so many friends; I know someone will help her.

We may send a card or make a call offering to help, closing with “I’ll be praying for you,” then on we go about our life while her life crumbles. Yet the Bible clearly tells us to, “Help each other in troubles and problems. This is the kind of law Christ asks us to obey” (Galatians 6:2 NLV).

How can we put that verse into practical terms? What does it truly mean to help each other in troubles and problems? Perhaps you can glean some ideas from the ways my friends and family came along side me during my initial breast cancer journey and two recurrences.

Helping Her with the Bad Days

 

Don’t Just Offer to Help—Do Something Tangible

Most of us find it difficult to receive help; we are hesitant to impose on others. When asked the generic question, “How can I help you?” our common response is, “I’m fine, but thank you for asking.” Truthfully, we need everything, but we don’t know if the person is offering to mop our floors or pick up our kids from school—both of which we need, but are afraid to ask.

Another well-meaning comment I received was, “Just call me if you need anything.” Now how many women are going to pick up the phone and ask for help, especially if they are not feeling well? Again, we don’t know what the person is willing to do for us, and we don’t want to be a burden.

So instead of offering to help—just jump in and do something. If you know your friend well, you know where she needs help; and even if you don’t know her well, you know where all women need help. If she is in the midst of cancer treatment, she is going to need assistance with every area of her life, especially if she is single. Here are some practical ideas:

  1. Schedule her friends, family, and church to bring meals. Use your lunch break to take her lunch and eat with her.
  2. Offer to drive her to doctor’s appointments or treatments and take notes for her.
  3. Shuttle her kids to and from school or find someone who can.
  4. Sit with her during chemo treatments or accompany her to radiation. Talk, read a book to her, or just hold her hand.
  5. Take her children on a play date or to your house.
  6. Do her laundry.
  7. Do her grocery shopping. If she is too sick to dictate a list, take an inventory of her refrigerator and cupboards and make your own list.
  8. Answer her email.
  9. Bring her a gift that makes her feel feminine.
  10. If she feels like talking, sit and chat with her. When she doesn’t feel like talking, just be a presence in her home so she doesn’t feel alone.
  11. Babysit her kids so she and her husband can have some private time.
  12. Clean her house or pay someone to do it.
  13. Go with her to pick out a wig or prosthesis.
  14. Pick up prescriptions.
  15. Run errands.

My first surgery and treatment extended over the Christmas holidays, and we had six grandchildren at that time. I had bought their presents already but couldn’t imagine wrapping them. So my friend took all the presents home and wrapped them, as well as organizing other friends to deliver meals for three months. During my recuperation, she sat on my bed with my laptop, read my emails to me, and then sent my dictated answers. Later, she accompanied me to radiation, fixed my hair when I had a frozen shoulder, and stuck beside me through the entire cancer ordeal, even though she admits that her first reaction to my phone call on that dreaded diagnosis day was, “Lord, I don’t want to do this.” God assured her that she could do it, and she did.

Don’t Say, “I’ll Pray For You,” Unless You Mean It

At church a couple came up to greet my husband and me and asked if they could pray for us. That meant so much to me as we wrapped our arms around each other, and there on the church patio, this precious couple prayed for my recovery and Dave’s strength for the journey. When we finished, the wife asked where we needed help. I hesitated because I knew this woman didn’t like to cook, but Dave quickly interjected, “We could use a meal.” She didn’t flinch. She said they would be over the next night with dinner, and they were…and they prayed for us again.

“I’ll pray for you” is said too often with the casualness of “Have a nice day.” But a promise to pray isn’t just a feel good phrase. We are telling someone that we will petition God on her behalf, and we are living falsely if we don’t. I find it’s best to stop in the moment and pray right then. It keeps me honest and blesses the other person.

Helping Her Enjoy the Good Days

 

Be Happy with Her When She’s Happy

Cancer is a grim word. Overnight life becomes serious, tense, and laden with fear. There is very little laughter during those first shocking days following the “dreaded diagnosis.” But life continues and there are going to be good days interspersed with the bad. An insightful friend will capitalize on the moments of reprieve when there is an opportunity to laugh or smile. Be ready, because it may only last a moment, but the break from pain and fear is immeasurable.

If your friend is having an especially good day, avoid topics that you know will bring her down. You aren’t minimizing or making light of the seriousness of the situation, but you are giving her a recess from the intensity. Don’t fake happiness, but take advantage of humorous or lighter moments. Smile. Laugh. Be happy. Don’t let the serious eclipse the humorous.

I remember laughing at myself one day in the shower when I realized that I was so carefully not shaving under my left arm because of the lymph node surgery, that I also wasn’t shaving my left leg. I frequently retold that story so people could laugh with me.

Nurture the Little Girl Inside Her

When I was in the hospital, the nurse in charge of the breast-care unit gave me a white stuffed toy sheep named “Fleece.” Taking Fleece with me everywhere, I held him as a shield in front of my sore breast, tucked him under my arm as an armrest, and snuggled next to him in bed. For six months, I indulged my childish need for security and no one chastised me for it. In fact, they acted like it was normal. And I discovered when I was writing my book, Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer, that it was normal! One woman who shared her story in the book had a black stuffed sheep named “Lamby” that she cuddled in her hospital bed. Another received a baby-sized pillow, and she recalls, “That pillow became a part of my wardrobe for eighteen months.”

Comfort and Security Gifts

  • A stuffed animal, pillow, or quilt.
  • A favorite food.
  • A game she loves to play and play it with her.
  • A movie she loved as a kid and watch it with her.
  • A surprise reunion with childhood friends.
  • A tea party.
  • A fun hat—even if she hasn’t lost her hair, she might not feel like fixing her hair.
  • A new nightgown that buttons down the front.
  • An ice cream cone.
  • A nightlight.

Shower Her with Love

Kay Warren shared with me about her breast cancer experience, “I don’t know how we would have gotten through this difficult time without the outpouring of love and support from so many. I have not felt alone at all…which is such an amazing gift!” And that it is…love is the best gift you can give to your friend suffering with breast cancer. Don’t desert her when she needs you most. Right now, she requires extravagant love, and God will help you when your heart is breaking or it just seems too sad or too hard. John 13:34 tells us to love one another just as God has loved us. God is the author of love and He knows just what your friend needs, and He will show you how to love her when she is feeling unlovable.

Surprise her. What woman doesn’t love an unexpected gift or demonstration of how valuable she is to us? We were in the midst of a messy kitchen remodel when breast cancer assaulted me. Everything in my life seemed out of control. But I felt so loved the day I returned home after the painful needle biopsy and spotted amongst the rubble—gift bags full of treats with balloons attached and a card from two girlfriends assuring me they had been praying during the ordeal.

Ideas For Showering Your Breast Cancer Friend With Love

  • A Spa day at a salon, which treats women with breast cancer.
  • If she wears a hat or scarf, wear one too.
  • Tell her how much you love her and what a great friend she is.
  • Stick with her even when the treatment lingers on. Her biggest fear is that others will not endure the journey.
  • Include her in as many activities as she feels up to.
  • Go to a breast-cancer support group with her.
  • Plan a girls’ day or night out, when she feels up to it.
  • Sit and watch old movies with her—even if she falls asleep.
  • Do her makeup.
  • Pray for and with her.

The Bible assures us in Proverbs 17:17 that “A friend loves at all times.” What a privilege it is to put that verse into practice for your precious friend with breast cancer. You probably won’t be able to do everything I suggest and I hope you have ideas of your own, but as a three-time breast cancer survivor, I assure you there are three things that will endure through the good and the bad times—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

The Top Thirteen Things to Do or Say and NOT to Do or Say to Someone with Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Support

Article includes excerpts from Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey.

In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we have further reduced the price of Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer at our website shop for the month of October. I will sign and personalize each book.

 Breast cancer book

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A Blessing and A Hearbreak

agold-book

Last week, I was grumbling about filling out a long form for a local author’s group. I really don’t like forms and had procrastinated until the night before the due date. I decided to go to Amazon for ISBN numbers and descriptions, and there it was—I couldn’t believe it—Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey was in the top 100 Best Sellers for breast cancer books —#28 in Books > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Diseases & Physical Ailments > Cancer > Breast Cancer!

I seldom look at my Amazon sales numbers, which change daily. If I let those numbers influence me, I might never write again. So I have no idea how long this book has been on Amazon’s bestseller list—every author’s dream—or how long it will stay there. Let me clarify that my book was not in the top 100 of all books on Amazon, but it was in the top 100 in its category. The number fluctuates from day to day, but it’s stayed in the top 100 for awhile.

In shock, I clicked on the link to the page displaying the top 100 books; and yes, there it was #28! A joyous “Yahoo!” quickly turned into a heartbreaking moan . . . this could only mean that more and more women are being diagnosed with breast cancer. In the span of a few moments, my feelings transgressed through shock, joy, gratefulness, praise, sadness, and finally humbleness that God would use me to comfort and encourage so many breast cancer sisters.

Reaching Out

Recently, I learned on Facebook that two author friends have breast cancer. One I have known for years, and the other I’ve only recently met on Facebook. I’ve left occasional comments and “likes” on their timelines, but I felt the Holy Spirit persistently nudging me to engage with these breast cancer sisters on a more personal level.

I knew what I was to do—I messaged each one and simply said: I’m a three-time breast cancer survivor and I’ve written a book that might bring you comfort. I’m praying for you and want you to know that I’m here for you if you have questions or just want to chat or cry. Immediately, both responded back thanking me and had so many questions that only someone who has been through this heartbreak could answer. One wrote: Thank you for reaching out to me. I’ve asked the Lord to bring me together with women who have experienced this and that can encourage me. You are one of them.

Sharing Life’s Experiences and God’s Faithfulness

People all around us are praying that the Lord will bring someone experienced in what they’re going through. God has allowed me challenging experiences like having a prodigal, infertility, breast cancer, divorce, being a single parent, my father murdered, blending a family, and chronic back pain to name a few. In dealing with life’s hard times, I have two choices—as  do you—1) wallow in self-pity that spirals into depression and a victim personality, 2) trust God and turn hurts and pains over to Him and let Him use them to His glory.

It’s A Choice

I will rejoice that God has used my breast cancer to help me pen Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer to comfort, encourage, and walk beside other women who are dealing with this devastating disease. And I will rejoice that for now, it is an Amazon Best Seller because hopefully the publisher will keep it in print longer to bless other women. That has been a long-time prayer because publishers need to see books selling in order to keep investing in them.

I am humbled that God has gifted me with the ability and desire to share my life experiences with others to offer hope in God alone. It’s hard to believe He thinks I am worthy of such a calling, but as long as we are on this earth, there is going to be pain and suffering, and if He thinks I can help comfort the afflicted then I am blessed, even if it’s heartbreaking.

 

What experience do you think God is asking you to share with someone who is hurting right now?

 How can you reach out and let them know that God is there for them and so are you?

Breast cancer book

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October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

This month I’ll be talking allot about breast cancer awareness and sharing stories from brave breast-cancer sisters. Read the hope that Wanda has in her breast cancer journey.

Testimony of Wanda’s Battle

The canvas of the sky was a clear, bright and beautiful blue.
Clouds few and Spring was covering the atmosphere.
I had gone in for a routine mammogram. I had to start at the age of 27 because my mother had breast cancer and I’ve never missed an annual appointment in twenty something years.
After chatting with the technician for a while about our weekend, I made the following statement to her near the end of my exam when she returned to the exam room: “Oh by the way, would you try to get an image of this knot right here.”
What an unorthodox way of disclosing that one had found a knot or lump where one shouldn’t be. I had discovered the lump earlier in the previous month.
Upon returning to the exam room, the technician told me that the image was captured. She immediately asked if I could stay so that they could perform other tests. “ Sure, I said. I have nothing else that I want to do on a beautiful day like this.” After that I made a telephone call to submit an request for immediate prayer.
Then while waiting to get worked into the schedule to complete three other tests to confirm the initial finding on the routine mammogram, I sat alone wrapped up in warmed blankets from neck to toes because I had gotten so cold, sipping hot tea and glancing through a couple of magazines.
COURAGEOUS OR COMPLETELY COO-COO (HMMM?)
As I reflect on that day, I think that it was God letting me know that He had my back.
That day was the beginning of an incredible journey as I know it.
Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, mind, and spirit and he will give you a peace that surpasses ALL understanding. The Lord will not give you more than you can handle AND he will provide you with a way of escape.
********************************************************************
On June 10, 2009, I had a successful lumpectomy. In July, I began chemotherapy treatment and by early August, my head was BALD. Soon afterward eyebrows and lashes disappeared. Six months later when the new year arrived and chemotherapy treatment was just ending, the hair had started to sprout on my head. Two months later I completed radiation in March 2010.
April 6, 2011, two years later, I’m STILL STANDING after a diagnosis of Stage IIA, ER/PR elevated, HER2+ invasive ductal carcinoma, surgery, chemo, radiation and continuing therapy ONLY by the GRACE OF MY ALMIGHTY GOD who is JEHOVAH RAPHA.
It is only God who knows that I can handle this tailor-made journey of breast cancer. Now just why he chose me – I don’t know YET. What I do know is that it isn’t about me.
My continued prayer since all of this started is that no matter what, that people would see Him and not me.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, your soul and your mind
And
HE WILL SEE YOU THROUGH!


To give the gift of encouragement and hope to a breast cancer survivor go to http://www.womantowomanmentoring.com/cancersite/index.html or http://www.amazon.com/Dear-God-They-Say-Cancer/dp/1582295751/sr=8-1/qid=1161276234/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-3142787-1281655?ie=UTF8

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I’m Back!

In my last post I told you that my breast cancer had recurred and I was deciding on treatment. I know many of you have followed my progress on our CaringBridge site, but for those of you who haven’t I’ll just give a quick summary of what God has taught me in this new journey.

1. Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. Many women, myself included, are afraid of offending their doctor, but a secure doctor should not be threatened. This is your body and you want to be sure you have checked out all the options before you make a decision.

2. Question “standard procedure.” Is it possible that the standard doesn’t apply to your situation.

3. If you have any doubt or unrest, wait until you have peace with a decision.

4. Even if all the pathology test were not done in a previous occurrence, they can be run now. That was amazing to me. My doctor was able to get slides from 2002 and retest them. I didn’t know that was possible.

5. Allow others to help. Find things for them to do. It is as much a blessing to receive help as it is to give it.

I wrote Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer after my first breast cancer journey. It was the book I longed to have and then God allowed me the opportunity to actually use it through this new journey. And I have to say it was everything I hoped it would be for my breast cancer sisters.

Yesterday, was a month since my surgery and I am definitely on the road to recovery! I have many writing projects and speaking engagements but I will post more regularly.

The picture with this post is the blanket my daughter-in-law and 4 of my grandchildren made for me. It has hearts and breast cancer ribbons on it and the grandchildren tied all the fringe. I snuggled under it every day of recovery and felt so very loved.

I am praising God for the opportunity to still be…

About His Work,

Janet
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OCTOBER IS NATIONAL BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH


October is the month that the nation focuses on finding a cure for breast cancer and many of you, like me, have walked or run for the cure.

When I had breast cancer, I was very sensitive to how uncomfortable some people are around someone with cancer. Even those closest to us can feel awkward at times and often end up saying or doing something that can be hurtful instead of helpful. They don’t mean to…they just don’t know what to say.

So in my book Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer, I have a chapter on Dos and Don’ts that includes “The Top Thirteen Things to Do or Say and NOT to Do or Say to Someone with Breast Cancer,” which you can find on my website
http://www.womantowomanmentoring.com/cancersite/links.html.

If you are a woman over 40, please have your annual mammogram and if you are under 40 with breast cancer in your immediate family, talk to your doctor about having a mammogram now. Digital mammography located my cancer, and I encourage you to find a facility that offers this type of exam.

If you know a woman who is a survivor or newly diagnosed, I wrote my book Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer for her, and it would make a great gift that she would appreciate. Often I find that women will not buy gifts for themselves. That’s what friends are for.

October is the month to think pink and remember to take preventative measures: self breast exams, mammograms, exercise, eat healthy, enjoy life.

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