I’ll never forget the doctor’s words … “You have cancer. You will have a mastectomy. You will lose your hair.” The doctor delivers these words matter-of-factly, as I sit on the examining table—absolutely stunned.
My first thought is, What does my hair have to do with this? Then my mind begins to race. But … Friday I’m leading a three-day conference in Baltimore … and next Monday I have to be in New York City. I don’t have time for surgery!
My diagnosis felt like an ambush. It was one month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and I’d been asked to speak in New York on “Crisis Counseling” at a trauma and grief conference. Despite my own personal crisis, I felt not going wasn’t an option. Even though I wouldn’t be going to help victims, I would be helping those working with the grief-stricken victims. With hundreds of counselors, pastors, and other leaders wanting to serve survivors, I felt humbled to help in any way.
Because the news of my cancer and the 9/11 attacks occurred around the same time, I feel like there’s an association to be made. With these two events, I was blindsided by traumatic news, and I felt like there was an “enemy” threatening my life.
The traumatic news didn’t stop on Tuesday with the radiologist’s words.
It continued into the coming days. As I was boarding my flight to Baltimore, the surgeon called to confirm not just my malignancy on the right side, but also a second, more aggressive, cancer on the left. Suddenly, I found myself facing two surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and multiple medications for years to come. My life had changed … forever.
Yet, I know the comfort of Psalm 139:16 … “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” God knows all my days—the length of my life is already settled. While I can’t extend my appointed days, I can trust my heavenly Father with my future.
Reflecting back, God’s Word hidden in my heart ministered to me: Almost instantly, my mind was fixed on Philippians 1:20 … “Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” This passage became my prayer, “Lord, whether my time is long or short, may the love and peace of Christ be expressed through my body.”
I’d taught the book of Philippians twice, but never before did I focus on this verse. But with life and death in question, this one Scripture kept my fight with cancer in perspective—shielding me from fear. (And amazingly, throughout the entire ordeal, God helped me to not be overcome by fear.)
Every cancer victim needs this truth: Cancer is never sovereign over our lives, only God is. Although I make decisions that influence my health, my life is ultimately in His hands. Long ago when I gave my life to Christ, I learned nothing could enter my world that hasn’t first passed through my heavenly Father’s loving hands. Nothing. So, whatever the challenge, there is purpose in the pain.
On each step of this “fascinating journey,” as I call it, I genuinely had hope for my heart that didn’t depend on a doctor’s diagnosis. Hope is rooted in a relationship with Christ and what He has promised.
The Bible says … “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19). When our security is in Christ, He gives us an anchored life.
While speaking in New York, I never mentioned my diagnosis. But after returning to Dallas, I mentioned it during a Hope In The Night broadcast —and the flood gates opened!
People poured out painful stories, challenging questions, and their own personal heartaches. Hearing about my cancer journey unleashed countless callers to reach out for help and hope. And in a matter of weeks, I even received a wealth of helpful advice from around the country … from others who had “been there.”
Throughout my journey with cancer, God taught me how to be more empathetic and compassionate. I now feel more connected with those struggling with pain.
God’s Silver Lining
Now 15 years later as a cancer survivor, what others view as “bad” in my life God has used for good. Even now, I’m overwhelmed at all the meaningful ways loved ones supported me.
No one wants an unwelcomed illness. … No one enjoys pain as a partner. Personally, I never would have signed up for cancer. Yet that pathway of pain has proven priceless because the compassion I “caught” could have come no other way. Today, I genuinely praise God for the care I received, the growth I gained, and the lessons I learned. Each is an inseparable part of my life.
As you come face-to-face with your own struggles, may you experience the Lord’s peace that surpasses understanding—whatever your “fascinating journey.”
Yours in the Lord’s hope,
P.S. I share many of the creative ways my friends and family expressed their love and support in Caring for a Loved One with Cancer, a book born from my sincere desire to pass along the real-life, effective, “helps” that made such a difference in my own life.
If you’re on Facebook, I invite you to connect with me at Facebook.com/June.Hunt.Hope. And if you’re not, take it from me: You’re never too old to start! See you there!