Been There, Done That - 50 Days of Hope

Been There, Done That

This is the kind of book I wish I could have read when I was diagnosed with locally advanced colon cancer in 1990. I was only thirty-six, and my daughters were eight, ten, and twelve. My husband’s first wife had died from ALS—Lou Gehrig’s disease—some twenty years earlier. I desperately needed hope and encouragement.

Don’t get me wrong; many people tried to give me that. They said things like, “You’ll get through this,” or, “It’ll be okay.” But I wanted to yell back at them, “How do you know? You’ve never been through this!”

I had the sense that it made them feel better to tell me I was going to be all right, but it didn’t do much for me.

The first person to really give me hope was a woman named Pat who came up to me after my first cancer support group meeting at the local hospital, put her arm around me, walked me to my car, and told me I would make it through my chemotherapy.

Do you know why I believed her? Not because she had years of medical training or decades of worldly wisdom. I believed her because she sported a brightly colored scarf on her head, still bald from chemotherapy. I recognized that she knew because she had been there.

Pat was the first cancer survivor I ever knew personally. Now my life is filled with cancer survivors because I’ve spent the intervening years both as a volunteer cancer support group facilitator and as an employed patient advocate in my oncologist’s office.

I have held the hands of thousands of people with cancer, listened to the fears in their hearts, and seen what gave them hope. I know that cancer patients and their caregivers are longing for encouragement as they try to make sense of what might seem like senseless suffering. It is my prayer that this book will bring you that hope.

I don’t know about you, but the words I most longed to hear after my cancer diagnosis were, “Oops, we made a mistake—you don’t really have cancer after all!” Obviously, that retraction never came, and I had to face the reality that my nightmare was not going away any time soon.

If I couldn’t hear that my cancer diagnosis was a “mistake,” the next best thing would have been to meet someone who had been in my situation and survived. I wanted to meet a young mom with Stage 3 colorectal cancer, who had about a 40-percent chance of surviving and did just that. But I didn’t know anyone remotely like that at the time.

I now know thousands of cancer survivors, including many young moms and even those with far worse odds than mine who are alive and well. I wish you and I could meet face-to-face and you could tell me your story and I could tell you about someone I know who has walked in your shoes and is doing well. My Cancer Prayer Support Group (which is believed to be the longest-running such faith-based group in the country) has all kinds of amazing survivor stories. In fact, most of the people in my group have been told their cancer is not curable, yet they still are doing well, and many of them are cancer-free years later. We have people surviving melanoma, lymphoma, leukemia, and multiple myeloma, as well as adrenal gland, pancreatic, brain, liver, lung, stomach, breast, esophageal, fallopian tube, tonsil, cervical, colorectal, ovarian, peritoneal, prostate, bladder, tongue, thyroid, kidney, and even penile cancer (I didn’t even know there was such a thing until I met a fifteen-year survivor!).

Whose story would give you hope?

Jutta, a Stage 3 pancreatic cancer survivor since 1999 and still cancer-free?

Jim, diagnosed with a recurrent brain tumor in 2006, but in complete remission?

Maureen, whose journey with breast cancer showed her that God really heard her prayers?

Anne, a small-cell lung cancer survivor given about a 10-percent chance of cure in 1994 and living cancer-free?

Sandy, diagnosed with incurable ovarian cancer, but beating cancer nonetheless?

I’ll share all these true, hope-filled stories and many others throughout this book. It is my prayer that as you read them, you will experience God’s peace and power and presence as never before. I pray that you will believe God can be trusted to meet your deepest needs because you can see His faithfulness in these people’s lives.

You can believe their stories because they have been there.

You can believe me because I have been there.

You can believe God because He promises He will be there.

I know we probably don’t know one another and may never meet, but would you allow me the privilege of praying for you right now? (Just fill in your name as you read.)

Lord, I don’t know what will give ________ hope . . . but You do. I know that You love ______ very much, and I am asking and believing that You will fill ______’s heart with a confident expectation that in spite of a cancer diagnosis, there is hope. Send Your healing touch wherever it is needed—body, mind, and spirit. Amen.

From the Book: