She was a traveling nurse in Hawaii when she met her future husband at a wedding. She was so incredible, that her future husband ditched his girlfriend of five years to spend time with her, and then continued to pursue a long distance relationship with her by living on bologna sandwiches and flying to see her in Hawaii. Needless to say, she was the one.
She moved to New York, they married, then had two children together. Her husband’s job called for a change of scenery every half of a decade, and so they moved from New York to Virginia, then Virginia to Florida, where she now happily resides. Alhough, she is always willing to go wherever her family calls her. She is close with her friends, but her family is always closer.
Two years ago, after several years of caution she decided to have a mastectomy (a removal of the breasts) in hopes of avoiding breast cancer. The operation revealed cancerous cells on her lymph nodes behind the breast tissue. With that, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Her older son received a call from her while on a date with his girlfriend. They needed to talk. He thought little of it. His new girlfriend went to run an errand and he called her while enjoying the bliss of a new relationship. What he would hear next was something he could never expect. Holding back tears and maintaining her strong, invincible attitude, she explained that she was diagnosed. He didn’t know what to do, and selfishly finished the date. He can’t even remember the conversation past “I have breast cancer.” They lived in the same city, yet for some reason he couldn’t go home. He drove to a friend’s apartment after his girlfriend left and he wept. He couldn’t even create whole sentences.
She began chemotherapy a month after her mastectomy. Because of her good health, she was able to take a slightly more aggressive treatment track that would involve a shorter time period for chemotherapy but possibly increased side-effects. She lost her hair 17 days into her treatments, though she continually joked that she loved not having to shave her legs. It was those little things that kept her family sane.
Throughout the course of her treatment, she worked until she could no longer walk. She sang at church until she nearly fainted. And she still would go to the grocery store, even though she abhorred the taste of everything. It all tasted like metal, but that’s what she, as a mother, did. Cancer or not, it is no secret that she loves to shop. Not so much groceries, but regardless, it’s a part of who she is. It’s the escape from her annoying kids. It’s the smell of apartment stores and redundant pop/elevator music. It was her time, and cancer never took that.
She stated at the beginning of her treatment:
“I’m not going to change my schedule for cancer; cancer is going to have to change its schedule to fit mine.”
And she lived it.
It all came down to faith. Her faith was not built on the questions of “why me, God?” but on the “what are we going to do about this? Clearly, you have something in mind for me in all of this, Father, help me see what that is.”
It is a reminder of an interesting passage in the book of John when Jesus is teaching on his death, Christ says:
“Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.’” – John 12:27-28 (MSG)
While she suffered, God’s glory was put on display.
During chemotherapy, the immune system is incredibly weakened, thus it is dangerous for cancer patients to be around those who are ill, even with something as trivial as a common cold. However, miraculously, neither of her sons or her husband, experienced sickness for the year of which she was being treated and recovering. Prayer became a necessity and not just an opportunity for her family and friends. Her family became closer than they ever had before and she would continually give God the praise for it all.
She now ministers to friends who have or are currently undergoing cancer treatments. She of course would never call it a ministry, but God has placed her as a light amidst the incredible darkness of cancer. In that way, having lunch with cancer patients is a ministry.
It’s hard to explain the full scope of how God has used her, but to summarize it succinctly would be to say that the love of God shone through her, so that others were inspired by her life. Her older son would go on to teach 8 weeks of students in Mississippi about the unfathomable love of God through her story. Her story became a part of his story. And this story, was written by him.
In light of October as breast cancer awareness month, I wanted to introduce to you the greatest woman I have ever known…
She has shaped my faith more than she will ever know. I would not be the man I am today if she did not have the faith that she had. This faith is so strong because it is justified by the faithfulness of Christ, whose love is so great that nothing in all creation will ever separate us from it. (cf. Galatians 2:16; Romans 8:39 NRSV) Therefore, it’s a faith that I have in some ways inherited through her example, which comes from our most excellent Saviour.
While talking on the beatitudes, Tim (pastor at Reality:LA) remarked that Christ is the greatest comforter, and because of this, we as Christians should follow his example. We, bearing the image of Christ, should be a comfort to the world. Through the forgiveness and mercy I’ve received for missing the chance to love on my mother after receiving some hard news, I’ve learned that the challenge of comfort should always be present in our witness as believers. Christ comforts, so should we. Let’s never miss a chance to comfort those who mourn or suffer. It’s what Christ has done for us. (cf. Matthew 5:4)
Paul remarks in his letter to the new Christians in Rome:
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed in us.” – Romans 8:18 (NRSV)
When we go through suffering, sometimes it may look like an experience my Mom had or something entirely different. Regardless, may we always remember that our present sufferings are nothing compared to the glory the Lord has stored up for us, in us.
From now on, instead of asking why, let’s say:
“Heavenly Father, put your glory on display.”