12 Things I Learned When I Got Cancer

A few days ago, I marked the seventh anniversary since a surgeon removed a basketball from my abdomen.

When I was finally able to return to chapel services at the Farm, where Doug was serving as Chaplain, he asked me to share a testimony.  I jotted down a few notes, and this is what came out. Pretty rough and ugly, but maybe what I learned can encourage someone else who may be in the midst of a season of suffering and challenge themselves.


Things I Learned When I Got Cancer

Lesson #1: God Gets To Do Whatever He Wants To Do
I really did not think God would allow me to have cancer, because I had too much going on in my life. The Fall is the busiest time for me in the ministry. Plus, there is no cancer history in my family. And, didn’t I have enough to deal with all ready? My family needed me. I did not have time to be in a hospital.

I really did think these very dumb thoughts.

Lesson #2: Just Keep Trusting
A few days after being released from the hospital, my incision opened and I was bleeding profusely. I was in the worst pain, and fear was rising. Doug had to take me to the E.R., and I remember laying there so scared, asking Doug to help me make sense of this. He simply told me, “You just have to keep trusting God.”

When things are so hard, but just keep getting harder, remember to just keep trusting. God’s faithfulness has no end.

Lesson #3: Pain Happens
We cannot prevent pain, but there are things we can do to stop it, or at least ease it. So, do what you can, and hold on tight to a friend’s hand whenever possible. And, remember Lesson #2. It will eventually pass. This applies to physical pain, and emotional pain.

Lesson #4: Do Your Best
You may not have another chance, so do your best right now. And, when it comes to other people, give them your best. It matters. It may matter to someone you’ll never meet, but it definitely matters to God, who put you here to do it in the first place.

Lesson #5: Always Assume The Other Person Is Having A Worse Day
I could cry right now, remembering the way I was cared for at the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care. But, it wasn’t only them. My visiting nurses (Robyn and Karen and Wendy, especially) blessed me in so many ways. I remember the look on the face of my anesthesiologist, the last thing I remember before waking up in recovery—the kindness and assurance in her eyes mattered. Yeah, they all knew I was sick. They had an advantage. But, we don’t have an excuse. We encounter people every day who are facing serious troubles. When I consider how much the kindness, warmth, and gentleness of strangers meant to me, I pray the Lord help me always to extend these same gifts to others. People giving their best made all the difference for me. Refer to Lesson #4.

Lesson #6: God Doesn’t Have To Give You Cancer To Kill You
Don’t wait for a terminal diagnosis to take life seriously. We have all been appointed a day to die, so live every day with meaning now.  Besides, when you get that diagnosis, you may not have the time, or strength, to do those things you keep putting off. And, it feels really bad to think you really might not get another chance. Review Lessons #4 and #7.

Lesson #7: Do It Now
Why are you putting it off? We don’t get credit for our To Do List.

Lesson #8: You Cannot Be Too Polite
See Lessons #4 and #5.

Lesson #9: The Little Things Matter
If you have been paying attention, you’ve all ready learned this lesson. Please, review Lessons #4, #5, #7, and #8.

Lesson #10:  Trials And Suffering Mature Our Love For God, And For Others
Don’t be afraid of trials and suffering. Don’t resist them. Don’t buck against them. One word I learned well during this time in my life was y – i – e – l – d. Yield. Yield to God, even as He takes you down a dark and frightening road. You see, His will only works when He is in full control. We must be fully surrendered. Remember Lessons #1 and #2.

Lesson #11: The Worst Thing That Can Happen Isn’t On This Earth
The worst thing that can happen is not getting to Heaven at all, or arriving in the presence of the Lord without a treasure to present your King. (See Lessons #10, #7, #4, and #2.)

Lesson #12: Don’t Forget What You Learned The Last Time
When the Lord allows suffering, it is for a purpose. He has a reason. An objective. So, write down what you learn. Tell others. And, keep living those lessons out every day. Live it as long as you have breath.

God bless you today. I know cancer has a way of re-entering the life of the survivor, and I keep that in mind as each anniversary approaches. My particular cancer is very slow growing, so if it usually reappears after 10-20 years, and the survival rate on the second pass is a lot less than the first. So, believe me, I review these lessons regularly. ❤


A sign my family left in my room. It was a touch of cheeriness that meant a lot.

3 thoughts on “12 Things I Learned When I Got Cancer

  1. I remember this so well. In fact, I was Just remembering it yesterday–so interesting how God brought it up to me just as you were probably writing this! Your experience made mine so much more…real, somehow, and I appreciated that we were able to share our fears and encourage each other. Amazing how God works, and I continue to pray for you and thank God for you, my sister! ❤

    As for things learned… a friend who is in remission from stage 4 cancer shared a nugget a couple weeks ago that I loved. He said that when he was staring impending death in the face, the things he regretted most were the times that he was Right… but he was not kind. Such a good thought for all of us every single day.

    Liked by 1 person

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