©Joy Dunlap https://joydunlap.com
My friend has cancer. The esophageal and gastric kind. One no one really talks about. She’s going through life as a non-smoking empty-nester, still working, cooking meals, eating healthy, exercising, then she starts having trouble swallowing and eating. Surely it’s just acid reflux or something like that? Then the doctors deliver the scary words “Tumor” and “Cancer.”
But the cancer in her hasn’t eroded the beauty that dwells deep inside her — the beauty of her faith in the Lord.
When people say someone is beautiful inside and out, Minnette comes to mind. Her trademark long, blonde locks flowing, we sat in a Chick-fil-A while she told me about visiting her first, second and third wig shops. The doctors said it was almost certain she would lose her hair. My eyes filled with tears as she shared about summoning up courage to enter the stores – and the compassion she found in the third one — with the owner’s kind words, a Scripture card, and the promise of prayer.
God’s love can show up in the most unexpected places at the most unusual times.
Shortly after her diagnosis and before she started treatments, Minnette sat waiting in an automotive shop. An introvert by nature, she was happy reading her book and keeping her mind off the Big “C,” but a man sitting nearby didn’t have the same idea.
“I’d like to tell you my story, okay?” said the disheveled, middle-aged man, his face etched with deep wrinkles as he leaned close to her. Although she didn’t really feel up to conversation, out of politeness and the love of Christ, she listened to how God took away his addictions and changed his life. Before she knew it (and totally uncharacteristic of her), she confided that she had cancer. Right away, he wanted to pray for her…and he did…right there in the automotive shop. Two people united by their faith – one who had experienced physical and spiritual healing – and one who had spiritual healing and was hoping for physical healing.
To try to shrink the tumor, doctors ordered chemo and radiation – and friends and family prayed. The tumor decreased and we thanked God, understanding that more hurdles lay ahead.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 NIV
“Be Brave” and “Fearless” are Minnette’s core cancer-battle cries. An anchor tattoo on her leg reads Proverbs 3:5 – a verse claimed after her parents died. The words aren’t on her body, but she carries them in her heart, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
We live thousands of miles away from each other, but we are close in heart and in Christ. Decades ago, we held on to each other in a high school, high-kick dance line and we’ve been holding on to each other in friendship and faith ever since. But I’m not the only one whose life she’s touched.
Much beloved as an elementary school teacher, Minnette has impacted the lives and future of hundreds of children and their families. So much so that she was named “Teacher of the Year” out of all elementary school teachers in Alabama a few years ago.
Today, she’s teaching us about how to have a thankful heart in the midst of a critical illness. She’s showing us how to get out of a pity pool that many would find an easy place to float.
When having chemo and radiation, she remarked how blessed she was to live near major health care facilities when so many had to travel away from home.
Nurses wanted her to ring the celebratory bell after completing treatments, but she declined because she didn’t want to make others feel worse – since she had been blessed to keep her hair and not get as sick as others.
When nausea hit, she was most upset about missing church. Her response? She thanked God for the online streaming sermon! You see the pattern here?
She seeks opportunities to praise God, to be considerate toward others, and to be grateful for what she has.
Sure, she’s cried. Sure, she wishes it hadn’t happened. But she’s holding on to God and she knows He’s holding on to her.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NIV
Today, she goes in for major surgery to remove the tumor. What they won’t remove – what they can’t remove – are her joyful attitude and her trust in the Lord.
That’s the lesson this teacher – my dear friend – is sharing with all of us on her journey.
Who in your life do you see as brave?
Has someone in your life been struck by cancer? What did you learn about yourself and your faith in the process?
How does your trust in God give you courage?
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Psalm 46:1-3 NIV
Life is Better When It’s Full – Joy-full, Thank-full, Purpose-full and Friend-full! ™