©Joy Dunlap https://joydunlap.com
My friend’s story is one of bravery and belief. Yes, it’s a story about how she dealt with cancer, but it’s more than that. It’s about facing fear, relying on faith and holding onto hope in a time of uncertainty.
In 2018, I wrote about Minnette Rogers Wiggins’ battle with esophageal/gastric cancer in My Friend’s Got Cancer — and Courage. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from my good friend, high school dance team leader, sorority sister, and sister in Christ. The way she dealt with this disease and the fear surrounding it – while staring at a significant possibility of death – taught me way more.
Minnette, who was Alabama’s “2015-2016 Alternate Teacher of the Year” normally teaches elementary students, but the techniques she used to triumph over fear offer us adults guidance for the tests we face in life. Each of us dealing with difficulties, distress or a future that seems uncertain can take a peek at Minnette’s lesson book and learn from her experience.
A life-threatening cancer may not be what confronts us, but we all experience fear. Fears about Covid-19, other illnesses, job security, relationships, violence, finances and the future can paralyze us or distract us from living life in faith.
Through her candid answers about the journey, let’s discover how Minnette found bravery in the midst of the storm.
What feelings and emotions did you have?
In the beginning I was terrified. You always hear of people being blindsided by diagnosis and now I know what that really feels like. I didn’t do a thing to cause this and actually thought I was being proactive with taking care of my health. You hear of the stages of grief and it makes it seem they are truly step by step, leaving one step behind as you reach the next; however, my experience was that the steps were not in a pattern, but a collage of mixed emotions that stepped all over each other.
In the beginning, I was unable to do anything but stew in grief and fear. I thought of all I had not done yet and had major depressing thoughts. I feared the worse and it crippled me making it hard to get out of bed or stay from it very long. I also felt intense pressure knowing I needed to be strong for my family and it just was hard to do at first.
In time I moved from intense fear and let go. I could be thankful and hopeful and most of all brave.
In what ways did you deal with uncertainty and the emotions?
In order to deal with the emotions and uncertainty, I first stayed close to my home and kept the news mainly among close family. It was Christmas time and I didn’t want to share bad news at such a joyous time. I sought out the prayer warriors at our church, which has Saturday morning prayer every week. I went to pray and to be prayed over. Slowly we expanded the circle of prayer warriors so that by the end people even from other countries were praying for my healing. Our church also was in its season of 21 days of prayer, good timing. I attended the healing service there. I had daily meditation and prayer time.
How did you feel God’s hand or His presence in this?
A good friend gave me a book “100 Days to Brave” which started my turnaround thinking and attitude. The word “brave.” I realized that two years prior at a women’s conference at our church I had purchased a tote bag that said “Brave is Beautiful.” And the conference the next year had the theme “Without Fear.” All the speakers spoke on trusting God and how to handle fear. Huge aha moment – God had been preparing me for at least two years for this journey. This was the major turnaround.
Other happenings came along to confirm God was right with me. I went to get my oil changed and waited in the waiting room. Being super introverted, I prepared by bringing a book with me and hoping no one would notice me. A man sat down next to me, and in a few minutes asked me could he share his testimony with me. I couldn’t say no but anxiety flooded in. Long story short, he shared his testimony, and I forced myself to look him in the eyes, and by the end the subject of my cancer came up, and he asked me if he could pray for me and he did – right there in the service waiting room.
My daughter’s mother in law traveled to a couple of holy places where I was prayed for at the locations.
I had a hard time accepting I would lose my hair with chemo and radiation. I was told due to the strength of both I would. Well, I didn’t – amazing.
Little happenings all along revealed God’s handprint.
Did you do anything specifically that helped you? Did you do anything that wasn’t helpful?
Taking a leave of absence at work was a good move. I might could have pushed myself to continue, but mentally I couldn’t be at my best. Continuing to try to eat right. Staying in God’s word and having a schedule to read and pray was essential. I tried to journal some.
Each negative thought I would think or say the name of Jesus. And I boldly prayed for healing while acknowledging and accepting God’s plan.
Not helpful – googling and reading about the cancer.
How did your faith in God help you deal with the uncertainty, anger, frustration, lack of control or other emotions?
My faith was the only thing I could count on, lean on, depend on during every moment. It was what I clung to. Knowing God had known this was happening and had started preparing me so far in advance was a huge comfort to me and made me able to accept His plan. I did not get there overnight, but once I was at that place I was solidly there.
How comforting was prayer? The support of others?
Prayer was everything. Mine, others, spoken, uttered, thought, written – I appreciated it all and drew strength from it. The support of others was super important. I never knew cards could mean so much, but they did. I would be down and receive a card or text and it would give me the boost I needed to pick myself up again, or it would give me hope. I was very blessed with thoughtful friends and still am.
In what ways did you release your fears?
Worship and praise music were a great way to release fear, whether in church, in the car, or home. I journaled some. I read on topics of being brave. I did clean out closets and drawers and such which helped deal with a collection of emotions.
What did you learn about yourself, about others, about God through all this?
God really does have the big picture; we waste a lot of time worrying and trying to control things. Our only job is to love God and love people. Really that is it. Everyone’s journey is unique to them for a reason.
What advice do you have for others dealing with uncertainty, change and fear?
Give yourself grace – you will handle it the best you can and in your own way. The computer does not always have the most current information; healed people write and post a lot less so their stories are not easily found.
Immediately look for your prayer warriors and draw close to God. He is about to take you on a life-changing journey and, in some way, you should consider yourself Chosen.
Look for the blessings, they are there. Share your blessings; pay it forward, not in telling someone how to do things or how to feel, but to support and encourage them that they can walk through the fear.
How did this experience change you?
I really understand now what it means to live in today, and not worry or care about a bunch of stuff our world would like you to care about. You can’t control everything, but you rest in the care of Who does. Do what you know you need to do because you do not know what tomorrow brings.
What do you hope someone most learns from your story?
God loves you for you, individually you. And He is right there with you always. You are never alone and you never have been.
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
- Which actions in my friend’s story are ones you’d like to add to your life to strengthen you in what you are facing or fearing?
- In what areas do you need to fight fear? Name them.
- How can trusting God help you be brave?
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NIV
In July 2020, Minnette’s scans showed no cancer.
Watch this powerful video about Minnette’s journey with gastric cancer to hear more: Minnette Rogers Wiggins – Face of GI Cancer, Robert E. Reed Gastrointestinal Oncology Research Foundation
Friends, we all know not everyone receives physical healing this side of heaven. If you’ve lost a loved one to cancer or another illness, my heart goes out to you. God does offer each of us healing- spiritually and eternally – though Jesus. If you don’t yet know the God of hope and eternal healing, ask him to walk with you on your life journey. When we are weakened and fearful here on earth, He’s ready to carry us in the storms, comfort us in the challenges and give us brave hearts. If you know God, but are struggling to find peace in the problems of today, ask him to help you fight fear and face the future with braveness and boldness as you completely trust in Him.
I’m thanking God for the healing of my friend on earth – and for the forever healing He gives each of us who put our faith in Him.
Life is Better When It’s Full – Joy-full, Thank-full, Purpose-full and Friend-full! ™