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Intersection of Life and Faith

Despite Cancer, 'I Was Not Alone'

  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter Baptist Press
  • 2008 6 Jun
  • COMMENTS
Despite Cancer, 'I Was Not Alone'

SPRINGDALE, Ark. (BP)--There are some things Jeana Floyd still associates with her chemotherapy 18 years ago -- red Jell-O, red fingernails and, especially, red medicine. Yet, she prays she'll never forget the experience of having cancer.

"Even though I am way past diagnosis, treatment and recovery, having cancer is still very much with me and will forever be a part of who I am," she writes in her new book, An Uninvited Guest, published by New Leaf Press.

Four years into a new life in northwest Arkansas where her husband Ronnie had been called to pastor First Baptist Church in Springdale, Jeana Floyd enjoyed having her hands full and her schedule busy. Soon after the Christmas and New Year's celebrations settled down, she reflected on her harried schedule and thought of a few ways God might answer her simple prayer to remove the excess clutter from her life.

Nothing she had in mind included a cancerous lump in her breast.

After receiving results from a biopsy in early January 1990, Jeana Floyd began journaling her thoughts, prayers and lessons learned over the next year of her journey from cancer to hope. "These times of purging my heart and mind focused me on the simplicity of relying on God," helping her let go of her desire to control her world.

The American Cancer Society projects that at least 178,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. That news destroys any vision of a picture-perfect life, Floyd noted, though quick to add that God is never surprised or caught off-guard -- not even by cancer.

"I kept being reminded that every needle that stuck me went through Him first," she writes. "I was not alone."

Floyd told of the feeling common to all cancer patients: Just about the time you begin to feel "normal" and the side effects are residing, it's time for another treatment. The challenge she faced became painfully obvious on Mother's Day weekend after she missed most of one son's birthday celebration due to sickness, then retreated to a staff member's home to escape the risk posed by a strep throat infection that her other son had gotten.

In the midst of her terrible struggle, God provided encouragement through friends who secretly delivered brownies to the mailbox, took her on a shopping trip for a much-needed wig and dropped by just to iron clothes and change bed sheets. "In all my years of trusting in God, it shouldn't surprise me that He sends such personal messages on our behalf. All we have to do is watch for Him to show himself and trust that He will."

Being a "safe person" for "a hurting person" is an art, Floyd writes. "It's easy to toss out glib phrases such as 'I know how you feel' or "Everything will be okay,' but to really walk with someone the entire way along a tough road is not for the weak-hearted," she wrote, underscoring her gratitude for many who stuck with her for the long haul.

Floyd offers guidance to patients who begin to question God's purposes. When her Port-A-Cath did not stay in place, Floyd had to endure a second surgery and began feeling abandoned by God. "He patiently listened while I cried out to Him, and then He always answered back," she writes. "Sooner or later, His quiet voice whispered through my anxieties, letting me know He was still with me."

Quoting Psalm 94:19, she recalls, "'When doubts filled my mind, Your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.'" By questioning God with an aim of knowing Him better, she learned to distinguish between the fear that paralyzes faith in God and a positive, respectful fear of Him. In that weak condition, she acknowledged her need of God, grateful for His love without which she would "really have something to be afraid of."

Floyd recalls the experiences of Mary and Martha questioning God's purpose as their brother Lazarus was dying. "God is okay with your honest questions when they come from a heart that wants to see Him work in His way," she writes.

Her book offers hope to family members caring for the one who has cancer. Testimonies of other cancer patients are shared between the lessons Floyd teaches. She recounts favorite verses of Scripture that provided encouragement in the year of her treatment. Useful resources are listed with advice on distinguishing between materials that are helpful and those that are not.

While support groups are a common place to search for answers, Floyd found many groups offered therapeutic methods without "the real answers they needed to cope with their illness." Out of her experience, Floyd developed a local Christ-focused support group as a "network of caring and sharing Christ" to help those touched by cancer in her area.

Floyd began teaching patients a simple acrostic to describe how a cancer patient spells relief by using the word peace:

-- Pray.

-- Enjoy each day.

-- Accept this as "Father-filtered."

-- Center your thoughts on Him and His will for your life -- study His Word, the Bible.

-- Expect to see God's hand move in your life during this time.

"There are worse things than cancer, and there always will be someone in worse circumstances than our own," Floyd writes. "From the stick of a chemo needle, to the tears of a neglected child across town, to the cries of a mother across the globe who lost her son in a war-torn country, we cannot escape hurts."

Yet cancer was the venue God used to mold and stretch Floyd in new ways. "I thought I knew God's faithfulness before my cancer, but now I understand what it's like to hang on to His promises as if life depends on them. Because it does."

Some of her newfound friends did not survive their cancer. She knows it could return in her own life. "This life isn't all there is," she writes. "In fact, it's barely a glimpse of the abundant life God has waiting in the wings for those who give their hearts to Him and accept His gift of salvation.

 


Tammi Reed Ledbetter is freelance writer based in Grand Prairie, Texas.

(c) 2008 Baptist Press. Used with permission. All rights reserved.