Unfortunately, I have become an expert on the side effects of chemotherapy since I’ve had 35 brutal rounds. I know firsthand what this does to your body. I’m now trying to use this knowledge to help my fellow cancer patients and make Jesus known in a unique way.
I was a healthy 27-year-old when I was first diagnosed with colon cancer. Then the wonderful world my husband and I had built was suddenly rocked to its core.
Surgeons removed a foot of my colon and all of the nearby lymph nodes after a colonoscopy revealed a “mass” blocking most of my transverse colon. When the pathology report came back, 13 of the 23 lymph nodes were cancerous. I was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer. Even though the surgery removed all of the known cancer, I immediately began 12 rounds of devastating chemo. At the end of those 12 rounds, I was declared “no evidence of disease” and remained that way for about 6 months until a PET scan showed that the cancer had spread to my lungs and I was now considered to be in Stage 4.
In my three years of battling cancer, I’ve been through about a dozen surgeries, 35 rounds of chemo, and two months of chemo in pill form. Being on chemotherapy really takes a toll on your quality of life and eventually each treatment tends to no longer be effective. So, I’m now on immunotherapy, a relatively new therapy. A standard chemo attacks and kills all your cells, good and bad. With immunotherapy, the medicine can target specific genetic markers to determine if a cell is healthy or cancerous. If the cell is healthy is moves on, but if it is cancerous, it injects the chemo in that bad cell. At this point, I’ve had six rounds of this immunotherapy.
Through all this, I have now reluctantly become an “expert” on the side effects of chemo. What it takes physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to face the challenges of cancer.
A cancer patient deals with so much more than the physical battle. A difficult diagnosis can lead you to a dark place. I truly feel there is a lot of spiritual warfare that cancer patients walk through where the enemy confronts you with frightening thoughts, things that you’d never think of on your own.
As we have travelled along this cancer journey, we have learned so much about what a cancer patient needs. We have also experienced firsthand how friends and family want to provide love and support, but often just don’t know where to start. That is why my husband and I started Fighting with Hope.
We pack and ship boxes for cancer patients that are practical and useful as they are dealing with the side effects of chemotherapy. These boxes contain over 20 items.
Chemo really causes a brain fog so we enclose a journal where they can write down all the important information they hear at their doctor visits.
We include a blanket to keep them warm during the chemo treatments. My husband and I pray over every blanket so when patients wrap it around themselves during treatment, they know they have been covered in prayer.
We include a candle, some calming tea, a mug and some tips to help with the every day side effects of medications, symptoms, and doctor visits. We put in some food items to calm the stomach but also something else that is fairly unique. I found that whenever they flushed my port, it left an awful taste in my mouth. I tried different gums and candy to minimize the taste. The one thing that worked for me was Starburst, so I enclose a pack in each box.
I include a DoorDash gift card so they get whatever food they may crave delivered right to their house. And an Apple gift card so they can order movies or books they can enjoy while they’re too tired to get out of bed.
My goal with these boxes is to serve my cancer community during their battle but also to make Jesus’ great name known to more people. I want them to receive hope, a true and lasting hope. A hope that fears nothing–not cancer and not death.
So, I include the book, Suffering, by Paul David Tripp. It shares the Gospel so well to someone who is going through a difficult time. This book changed my life when I was first diagnosed so I hope that it helps others like it did me.
And I include personalized scripture cards from my friend, Kate. She takes Bible verses and puts your name in the scripture. It’s called HideAndSeekScriptures.com. We take 20 scriptures and personalize them, so the patients can hear God’s Word spoken directly to them while they’re receiving chemo.
Finally, I write a letter that explains my personal experience with each item and why we’ve included it in the box.
We have shipped around 400 boxes to cancer patients all over the country. It costs about $250 to put together all the items in the box and ship it. We have now made Fighting with Hope a nonprofit so people can make donations to help defray the costs of our ministry.
I’m shipping more than a box of stuff. I’m shipping compassion. I want them to know that someone is thinking about them and stepping into the light with them.
People ask me why I have so much joy with all I’m going through. After all, doctors have told me my cancer is not curable but is treatable. We have the joy of the Lord and want to spread it. Our faith has gotten so much stronger with my illness. My husband and I have seen God in incredible ways that we wouldn’t have if I didn’t have cancer. We want to give that hope and joy to others during their dark and intimidating time.