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Sharing Sister to Sister
THE LORD WILL FULFILL HIS PURPOSE FOR ME; YOUR LOVE, O LORD, ENDURES FOREVER -- DO NOT ABANDON THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS.
-- Psalm 138:8
IF ONLY MY WORDS WERE WRITTEN IN A BOOK -- BETTER YET, CHISELED IN STONE!
-- Job 19:23-24 MSG
I'LL WRITE THE BOOK ON YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, TALK UP YOUR SALVATION THE LIVELONG DAY, NEVER RUN OUT OF GOOD THINGS TO WRITE OR SAY.
-- Psalm 71:15 MSG
Surviving for a Purpose
"Hi, my name is Janet Thompson. I am a breast cancer survivor."
Doesn't that sound like a recovery-meeting introduction? Many words associated with breast cancer trouble me. The worst offender is the word survivor. Survivor has become a household term from reality TV programs in which only the toughest, smartest, bravest, and most popular contestants survive the elements and win. To me, this is an unappealing concept. In heaven, the Lord says, the first will be last and the last will be first...and the sick will be well.
The branding breast cancer survivor created an internal struggle for me. My surviving insinuated others didn't -- that made me sad. Having to survive in order to live -- that made me mad. Maybe I wouldn't survive -- that made me apprehensive. Stating I "survived" implies a hard struggle -- that scared me. Survivor just didn't seem to fit me. I cringed every time someone used the word, especially when everyone felt the need to tell me stories of women who died from breast cancer, then ending with the one who survived. It was like fingernails on a chalkboard.
As I was settling in to write this book, the following press-release e-mail flashed across my computer screen: HOWARD SIGNS SADDLEBACK LEADER. Howard Publishing signed Saddleback Church (Lake Forest, CA) women's leader Janet Thompson for a book that encourages women battling breast cancer. Thompson, a breast cancer survivor, has an extensive national speaking ministry. There it was for the entire world to see -- I am a "breast cancer survivor." Like it or not, it is a fact; so I had better get used to it. I would love to tell you that happened and I now freely use the word survivor. Not the case. I continuously seek a new term to describe the ordeal because I'm more than just a "survivor"; I'm also a "winner"! You see, there is a spiritual battle going on around us -- a battle for our souls, our hearts, and our minds -- and God does not want us merely to survive this battle. He assures us that with His help we will be victorious. Wounded but not defeated. Not just surviving, implying we barely made it, but energized by running the race, staying the course, and fighting the good fight. Somehow, some way, we will be better women because of this experience.
I don't feel I just survived; rather, I believe God had a purpose and a plan in my breast cancer. He wanted my heart to break for every woman going through this. He intended for me to write this book and speak freely so others also might find purpose in their breast cancer.
It took me month s to write the first words of this book. I wanted so badly for you to have it in your hands, but every time I thought about putting my journey into words, it seemed too painful. Finally, I cried out to God to release what was holding me back and discovered that freeing power came when I wrote through the pain and despite the pain. Tears and sadness consumed me as I penned the first pages to you. But I broke through the wall as I poured out my thoughts and heart to the Lord and to you, and before long I wasn't crying anymore...well, most of the time.
This book is for you, my breast cancer sister. While I may not know you by name, I know you by heart. I understand your feelings and pain, and I want to walk beside you as only a friend who has been there can. Dear God, They Say It's Cancer is the book I longed for during my own breast cancer journey. Its purpose is to be a mentoring tool, a comfort, a companion, a journal, a record keeper, a devotional, and a source of information for you. It provides a place for you to take notes and store some of the pieces of paper you receive at doctors appointments along with treasured keepsakes. I trust it also will be an oasis of solace and comfort from the Lord's Word. My prayer is to mentor you from others' and my experiences and to wrap you in God's love.
Writing to you today, in early November, I have not yet reached my one-year surgery anniversary. This time last year, I was in limbo between finding out the biopsy was positive and waiting for the surgery date. There is no way to know in those countdown days how your life is about to change. You live in a continual state of shock. The world keeps going around, but yours has stopped. You desperately want to relive the day before you felt the lump or had the mammogram or the doctor said he thought he felt something in your breast. You pray, "Lord, could You just turn back the clock so I can replay those days and have them turn out differently?"
However, the minutes and days keep ticking by, the surgery date looms on your calendar, and you wonder what to do. Do I live life as normal? How do I prepare? It doesn't really hurt or look that bad. Do I really need to do this? Maybe it will just go away. I'll wake up relieved that it was just a bad dream.
Awakened from your thoughts by calls from the doctor's office, you are not sure which way to turn. Should you check out more information on the Web? Read more books? Talk to people? Who should you tell? How will they react? How and when do you tell your children? What about your job? What about your hair? What about your husband? You feel your life spinning out of control, filled with overwhelming decisions and public conversations about parts of your body you thought good girls kept private. Now everyone wants to take pictures, poke, and look at your breasts. Overnight, you have gone from modest to what feels like an exhibitionist!
My purpose in writing Dear God, They Say It's Cancer is to help you and me be more than women who do or do not "survive" breast cancer, but, instead, women who seek and find God's purpose in it. God never wastes a hurt. Nothing happens by accident in a believer's life. For each of us, God's plan and purpose will be different. I know my purpose is to share my God-given passion to raise the awareness of prevention and early detection of breast cancer, as well as help those on the breast cancer journey live a quality life in the secure arms of the Lord.
Where to Begin?
Dear God, They Say It's Cancer will be relevant wherever you are in your breast cancer or faith journey. This is your book to use in whatever way serves you best. There is no right or wrong way. The book starts at the beginning of your breast cancer journey and progresses through decisions, treatments, emotions, things to remember, things to forget, and tools to assist. Along the way it explores a gambit of feelings and circumstances we all share on this journey.
If newly diagnosed, you can start right from the beginning and journal as you go along, or you might choose to go to the topic touching your life that day. For those of you in the middle or maybe even several years past your breast cancer treatment, let this book be the means to work through any lingering feelings of grief, sorrow, hurt, and brokenness, as well as to remember joys and blessing. Each chapter has the following subsections:
The Topic Title -- A quote from the Lord and/or a breast cancer sister.
Dear God -- My letter to God. A window into my breast cancer story.
A Sister Shares -- A fellow breast cancer sister shares her story.
Mentoring Moment -- Lessons learned, helpful tips, encouragement.
God's Love Letter to You -- Paraphrased scriptures to personalize.
Let's Pray -- Praying through a scripture or praying with me.
Your Letter to God -- Each chapter ends with encouraging prompts to help you journal your own breast cancer story.
The journal section, "Your Letter to God," is one of my favorite parts of this book. It is an opportunity to record a major event in your life. If this is your first experience journaling, what a great time to start! Healing often happens when we talk about it -- or write about it. Please don't be afraid or apprehensive. Journaling is simply writing down and documenting your feelings. Think of it as writing a letter to God. Not everyone understands how you feel, but God always understands, and He is eager to hear from you. No matter what faith you are or are not, you matter to God. God will fill the pages, nudging you toward helpful things to put down on paper. Maybe He will help you remember a good time to laugh about or a different way of looking at a person who said something hurtful with out even knowing it. I suggest you pray before journaling and then let your pen flow freely. Some days you will write pages; other days you won't feel like writing more than a sentence. Here's what three breast cancer sisters said about journaling:
Once you start writing, it all comes back to you. I could go on and on! This book is exactly what all of us survivors need to document this miserable journey and to remember God's faithfulness and lessons learned.
-- Darlene Gee
I kept a journal of my feelings and the things for which I was grateful.
-- Nancy Tuttle
Every day I wrote something -- how I was feeling, things family and friends helped with , especially God's special blessings. It is important to journal because you can go back and read how faithful God was and still is!
-- Linda Taylor
One of my visions for Dear God, They Say It's Cancer is that it be a safe place to document an epic time in your life. Take this book with you to doctor appointments, tests, scans, mammograms, radiation, chemotherapy, the hospital, and wherever the twists and turns of your cancer journey take you. with your book in hand, you can...
I know the author and I know her work. I give these out regularly to women who find themselves being challenged with breast cancer. It has been very helpful to many women.Published 9 months ago by Jenna
This book helped me more than words can express. I read a little every day as I walked through the first few confusing months of surgery and beginning treatment. Read morePublished 12 months ago by D. Alsdorf
I have experienced breast cancer myself. I buy this book 3 at a time to have on hand for people newly diagnosed with Cancer. Read morePublished 19 months ago by carrie
I received this book as a gift and did not want to read it. However, when I finally started to read it, it was so inspirational and encouraging that I could not put it down. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Mrs. F. Michelle Simmons
I purchased this book for my aunt, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. This book has been a breath of fresh air for her and has helped my aunt's outlook and perspective... Read morePublished on March 12, 2013 by Jacqueline T. Brown
I bought this for a friend who is battling Breast Cancer and she absolutely loves it.
She said it has been a great source of encouragement & strength.
Bought this book for my friend who has breast cancer and is going through some difficult chemo. She has done nothing but rave about this book and thanked me over and over. Read morePublished on February 27, 2010 by C. Fox