Dear God, They Say It's Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey

Dear God, They Say It's Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey

by Janet Thompson

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A Friend to Help You Through...

No matter where you are in your breast cancer journey, this book is the companion you need. Whether...

  • you've just heard the dreaded diagnosis for the first time
  • you're in the middle of decisions and treatments
  • you're experiencing the disappoint of recurrence
  • or you're


A Friend to Help You Through...

No matter where you are in your breast cancer journey, this book is the companion you need. Whether...

  • you've just heard the dreaded diagnosis for the first time
  • you're in the middle of decisions and treatments
  • you're experiencing the disappoint of recurrence
  • or you're several years beyond the initial trauma...

No matter where you are in that journey, you need someone who understands. You need a trusted friend to walk along beside, someone who's gone before you. You'll find that friend between the pages of this book.

This book is yours to use in whatever way serves you best. You can start in the beginning and work your way through, or you can use the detailed table of contents to help you find just what you need for what you are experiencing on any given day.

This Helpful Guide Will Be Your

* Mentor
• Record keeper
• Journal
• Devotional
• Prayer guide
• And friend

Each chapter includes

  • A Sister Shares — stories from breast cancer "sisters"
  • Mentoring Moment — lessons learned, helpful hints, encouragement
  • God's Love Letter to You — paraphrased scripture for you to personalize
  • Journaling Guides — encouraging prompts to help you journal your own breast cancer journey
  • And more!

You don't have to make this journey alone. Hope and help await you in the pages of this book, written just for you in your time of need.

Bonus! Sanity Tools Appendix includes

  • How to do research
  • National contacts
  • Decision-making worksheets
  • Breast cancer journey map
  • Finding your purpose in your pain
  • And much, much, more

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Thompson became a breast cancer statistic after a routine mammogram revealed a suspicious spot; doctors confirmed it was cancer. This author, founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, experienced the emotional highs and lows, pain and fatigue, and spiritual crisis and victory that come with breast cancer. She shares her story, plus much more, in a book she envisions as "a safe place to document an epic time in your life." Much of her experience is recorded in letters to God, but she also includes the words of others. "Mentoring Moment" sections offer help and advice about the gritty aspects of breast cancer. Most touching is paraphrased Scripture offered as "God's Love Letter to You." Thompson provides both space and encouragement to journal, and her appendices provide valuable resources such as Web sites and recommended reading, as well as space for recording questions, doctor's appointments, medications, contact information and many other details often lost in the trauma and emotion. Thompson's book is a must for any Christian woman facing breast cancer. It's honest, beautiful and cathartic. (Sept. 26) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Where some women diagnosed with breast cancer might rail against a higher power, ministry consultant and author Thompson wants to help women go beyond mere survivorship to "seek and find God's purpose" in their situation. This is a heavily faith-based volume, with daily Scripture and letters to and from God. Most chapters include a "Let's Pray" moment. With blank spaces to personalize the process, this is more of a gift item for women with a strong relationship with God than a library purchase. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Howard Books
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Read an Excerpt


Sharing Sister to Sister


— Psalm 138:8


— Job 19:23-24 MSG


— Psalm 71:15 MSG

Surviving for a Purpose

"Hi, my name is Janet Thompson. I am a breast cancer survivor."

Doesn't that sound like a recovery-meeting introduction? Many words associated with breast cancer trouble me. The worst offender is the word survivor. Survivor has become a household term from reality TV programs in which only the toughest, smartest, bravest, and most popular contestants survive the elements and win. To me, this is an unappealing concept. In heaven, the Lord says, the first will be last and the last will be first...and the sick will be well.

The branding breast cancer survivor created an internal struggle for me. My surviving insinuated others didn't — that made me sad. Having to survive in order to live — that made me mad. Maybe I wouldn't survive — that made me apprehensive. Stating I "survived" implies a hard struggle — that scared me. Survivor just didn't seem to fit me. I cringed every time someone used the word, especially when everyone felt the need to tell me stories of women who died from breast cancer, then ending with the one who survived. It was like fingernails on a chalkboard.

As I was settling in to write this book, the following press-release e-mail flashed across my computer screen: HOWARD SIGNS SADDLEBACK LEADER. Howard Publishing signed Saddleback Church (Lake Forest, CA) women's leader Janet Thompson for a book that encourages women battling breast cancer. Thompson, a breast cancer survivor, has an extensive national speaking ministry. There it was for the entire world to see — I am a "breast cancer survivor." Like it or not, it is a fact; so I had better get used to it. I would love to tell you that happened and I now freely use the word survivor. Not the case. I continuously seek a new term to describe the ordeal because I'm more than just a "survivor"; I'm also a "winner"! You see, there is a spiritual battle going on around us — a battle for our souls, our hearts, and our minds — and God does not want us merely to survive this battle. He assures us that with His help we will be victorious. Wounded but not defeated. Not just surviving, implying we barely made it, but energized by running the race, staying the course, and fighting the good fight. Somehow, some way, we will be better women because of this experience.

I don't feel I just survived; rather, I believe God had a purpose and a plan in my breast cancer. He wanted my heart to break for every woman going through this. He intended for me to write this book and speak freely so others also might find purpose in their breast cancer.

It took me month s to write the first words of this book. I wanted so badly for you to have it in your hands, but every time I thought about putting my journey into words, it seemed too painful. Finally, I cried out to God to release what was holding me back and discovered that freeing power came when I wrote through the pain and despite the pain. Tears and sadness consumed me as I penned the first pages to you. But I broke through the wall as I poured out my thoughts and heart to the Lord and to you, and before long I wasn't crying anymore...well, most of the time.

This book is for you, my breast cancer sister. While I may not know you by name, I know you by heart. I understand your feelings and pain, and I want to walk beside you as only a friend who has been there can. Dear God, They Say It's Cancer is the book I longed for during my own breast cancer journey. Its purpose is to be a mentoring tool, a comfort, a companion, a journal, a record keeper, a devotional, and a source of information for you. It provides a place for you to take notes and store some of the pieces of paper you receive at doctors appointments along with treasured keepsakes. I trust it also will be an oasis of solace and comfort from the Lord's Word. My prayer is to mentor you from others' and my experiences and to wrap you in God's love.

Writing to you today, in early November, I have not yet reached my one-year surgery anniversary. This time last year, I was in limbo between finding out the biopsy was positive and waiting for the surgery date. There is no way to know in those countdown days how your life is about to change. You live in a continual state of shock. The world keeps going around, but yours has stopped. You desperately want to relive the day before you felt the lump or had the mammogram or the doctor said he thought he felt something in your breast. You pray, "Lord, could You just turn back the clock so I can replay those days and have them turn out differently?"

However, the minutes and days keep ticking by, the surgery date looms on your calendar, and you wonder what to do. Do I live life as normal? How do I prepare? It doesn't really hurt or look that bad. Do I really need to do this? Maybe it will just go away. I'll wake up relieved that it was just a bad dream.

Awakened from your thoughts by calls from the doctor's office, you are not sure which way to turn. Should you check out more information on the Web? Read more books? Talk to people? Who should you tell? How will they react? How and when do you tell your children? What about your job? What about your hair? What about your husband? You feel your life spinning out of control, filled with overwhelming decisions and public conversations about parts of your body you thought good girls kept private. Now everyone wants to take pictures, poke, and look at your breasts. Overnight, you have gone from modest to what feels like an exhibitionist!

My purpose in writing Dear God, They Say It's Cancer is to help you and me be more than women who do or do not "survive" breast cancer, but, instead, women who seek and find God's purpose in it. God never wastes a hurt. Nothing happens by accident in a believer's life. For each of us, God's plan and purpose will be different. I know my purpose is to share my God-given passion to raise the awareness of prevention and early detection of breast cancer, as well as help those on the breast cancer journey live a quality life in the secure arms of the Lord.

Where to Begin?

Dear God, They Say It's Cancer will be relevant wherever you are in your breast cancer or faith journey. This is your book to use in whatever way serves you best. There is no right or wrong way. The book starts at the beginning of your breast cancer journey and progresses through decisions, treatments, emotions, things to remember, things to forget, and tools to assist. Along the way it explores a gambit of feelings and circumstances we all share on this journey.

If newly diagnosed, you can start right from the beginning and journal as you go along, or you might choose to go to the topic touching your life that day. For those of you in the middle or maybe even several years past your breast cancer treatment, let this book be the means to work through any lingering feelings of grief, sorrow, hurt, and brokenness, as well as to remember joys and blessing. Each chapter has the following subsections:

The Topic Title — A quote from the Lord and/or a breast cancer sister.

Dear God — My letter to God. A window into my breast cancer story.

A Sister Shares — A fellow breast cancer sister shares her story.

Mentoring Moment — Lessons learned, helpful tips, encouragement.

God's Love Letter to You — Paraphrased scriptures to personalize.

Let's Pray — Praying through a scripture or praying with me.

Your Letter to God — Each chapter ends with encouraging prompts to help you journal your own breast cancer story.


The journal section, "Your Letter to God," is one of my favorite parts of this book. It is an opportunity to record a major event in your life. If this is your first experience journaling, what a great time to start! Healing often happens when we talk about it — or write about it. Please don't be afraid or apprehensive. Journaling is simply writing down and documenting your feelings. Think of it as writing a letter to God. Not everyone understands how you feel, but God always understands, and He is eager to hear from you. No matter what faith you are or are not, you matter to God. God will fill the pages, nudging you toward helpful things to put down on paper. Maybe He will help you remember a good time to laugh about or a different way of looking at a person who said something hurtful with out even knowing it. I suggest you pray before journaling and then let your pen flow freely. Some days you will write pages; other days you won't feel like writing more than a sentence. Here's what three breast cancer sisters said about journaling:

Once you start writing, it all comes back to you. I could go on and on! This book is exactly what all of us survivors need to document this miserable journey and to remember God's faithfulness and lessons learned.

— Darlene Gee

I kept a journal of my feelings and the things for which I was grateful.

— Nancy Tuttle

Every day I wrote something — how I was feeling, things family and friends helped with , especially God's special blessings. It is important to journal because you can go back and read how faithful God was and still is!

— Linda Taylor

One of my visions for Dear God, They Say It's Cancer is that it be a safe place to document an epic time in your life. Take this book with you to doctor appointments, tests, scans, mammograms, radiation, chemotherapy, the hospital, and wherever the twists and turns of your cancer journey take you. with your book in hand, you can...

  • Take notes
  • Journal
  • Read
  • Write questions to ask the doctors or technicians, and record their answers
  • Read an encouraging story from a breast cancer sister
  • Note something to remember about a fellow patient you meet
  • Receive God's comfort from His "Love Letter" to you

You may need more than the space provided for journaling. If you feel up to a shopping trip, visit a stationery store and pick out a journal that reflects your personality. You may want it to be quite feminine and pink, which is the breast cancer color, or perhaps you prefer something more utilitarian. A spiral-bound notebook works fine too. If a trip to the store is not possible, ask someone to pick up a journal for you. Often, people want to get you something, and I have found you can never have too many journals.

Your journal will be personal. Don't feel you have to share it with anyone; however, as God did with me, He might give you the opportunity to mentor others with the wisdom and encouragement that comes from putting your thoughts into words. I am going to let you read my journal. I wish there had been a book like this to journal in while I was going through my breast cancer treatment. I grabbed whatever was available at the time. Unfortunately, my journey is scattered between Realtor notepads, scraps of paper in my purse, or whatever was handy by my bedside. I longed for a book to record everything in one place. For an organized person, breast cancer definitely caught me unprepared to make sense out of a confusing period.

My "Dear God" letters in this book are a compilation of reflections from those scattered notes, as well as current feelings. If you acquired this book after treatment, you may wish to follow my format in looking back at experiences combined with what you are currently encountering. I think you will agree that even after the intense treatment slows down, breast cancer always will be a part of your life. Hearing women speak in terms of how long they have been cancer free assures me breast cancer is now a permanent component of my persona.

Breast cancer sisters have confided in me that if they didn't journal during their journey, they now regret it. They long for a record of this life-impacting event to leave a legacy for future generations. During the heat of the battle with the daily barrage of decisions and assaults to your body, you often don't feel like doing or thinking anything. However, when the crisis subsides, you will wish you had written things down.

If you are in the group of women now looking back at the breast cancer journey, it's not too late. This book is for you too. While often writing my "Dear God" in the present, I am actually reflecting back from notes made along the way and from memory. You may be saying to yourself, "Memory? What memory? Between radiation, chemotherapy, Tamoxifen, or some other drug, my memory is shot." I thought the same thing, but when I took pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, God brought it all back to me, and I'm confident He will for you too!

If you are just beginning the journey and don't feel like journaling right now, just make notes in the lines provided in the margins and come back to it later. If you are in the midst of your journey, some of your entries will be in the present, and other times you will write in the past tense.

Don't worry about grammar or spelling or sounding articulate. Remember, this is your book, and there is no right or wrong way to use it. By the way, the note-taking area in the margins is for you to use however you choose. You may want to write down what you are feeling as you read that page or note something you want to remember. This area gives you an opportunity to interact with the material you are reading.

I share parts of Nancy Tuttle's story in this book. Nancy's son, Randall Niles, who accepted Christ during his mom's breast cancer, found all her journals after she went to be with the Lord, and it changed his life. He says:

One of the last messages Mom received from God was "to write." Although she never fully understood God's purpose for this calling, she accepted the challenge with a servant's heart. As her healThdeclined, she was increasingly frustrated with her inability to focus. She was discouraged that her lack of physical strengThprevented her from accomplishing God's work.

About one month after her death, God revealed to me that His calling for my mother was not yet complete. Through a series of visits and letters from Christian friends who knew and loved her, God hit my heart with the fact that I was part of this calling! As a prodigal son, I was integral to God's purpose for Mom's life! Filled with conviction, I returned to her desk, computer, files, and bookshelves in order to discover the full impact of God's mission for us — as a Christian mother and prodigal son. I was stunned to find a wealThof material she had been inspired to write over the years. Letters, journals, testimonies, essays, church devotionals, Bible study notes — they were fantastic, rich with insight and heart. In tears, I collected my mother's works and spent that weekend reading. In prayer, I humbly realized that I was a prodigal son saved by God's patient grace. Through my mother's words, I saw that my relationship with Jesus was the ultimate hope and purpose for her life of fervent prayer.

Maybe you are thinking, I don't want anyone reading what I write. That's OK too. No one has to read it but you. Make that clear to your family and friends and even put it in writing! Whether you have journaled regularly for years or this is your first time, let me assure you there is freedom and healing in expressing your thoughts and feelings in writing.

The best part about journaling is that God is ready to receive our words with a faithful, listening ear. He can take it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly. He beckons, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). We can't refuse that offer.

Annually, I disciple a small group of women. Journaling prayers to the Lord is the first spiritual habit I introduce to them. You should hear the rumble around the table: "That doesn't seem natural." "I don't like to write. I just want to talk to God." "This is going to be hard." "Why do we have to do this when He can read our mind?" "I won't have the time!" Maybe these are some of your thoughts too.

After the protests fizzle down, I ask, "Does your mind ever wander when praying?" The unanimous answer is, "Always." Wandering minds are corralled when we journal. Then I probe deeper. "How often do you mean to pray, but the time just slips away?" Knowing looks and nodding heads around the table. Ah, that won't happen when we stop, sit down, and write out our prayers. Next, I ask, "Do you always remember everything you pray for? Do you go back and thank God for every answer?" The answer: "Of course not." So I encourage them, "Make journaling a habit and a spiritual discipline in your life, and I promise it will be a blessing!"

The group always struggles through the first few weeks, and then the breakthrough comes. The grumbles turn to, "I can't believe I have not done this my whole life!" "I really miss it when I don't take the time." "It has kept me faithful and focused during my quiet time with the Lord." Soon their journals are full, and they are buying new ones. Let me give some tips to help journaling become a blessing for you too:

  • Pray before you start.
  • Select a journal that reflects your personality and style.
  • Write your heart. Don't worry about grammar or sounding spiritual. Let your pen
  • flow with your thoughts and feelings.
  • Think of journaling as simply writing a letter.
  • Date your journal entries.
  • Experience journaling as a conversation. Freely write all that is on your heart and mind. By the way, prayer is simply talking or writing to God.
  • You might want to reflect on my "Dear God" letters or comment on one of the "Sister Shares" stories or "Mentoring Moments" and how it applies to you.
  • Just in case your mind goes blank, there are thought-provoking questions to get you going at the end of each chapter under "Your Letter to God." Don't feel confined to answering them. Write whatever you desire.
  • If you want to write confidential things and worry someone might read your journal, come up with abbreviations and symbols only you understand.
  • Don't feel you must be positive all the time. When it hurts, talk about it. When you are sad, cry out. When you are mad, God can take it.
  • Express the good things that happen, too, and the days where everything does seem better.
  • Journal in doctor or treatment waiting rooms, while receiving chemotherapy treatments, sitting in the car while your ride runs into the store for you, nights when you can't sleep, lying down to rest but your mind is racing, long hospital days and nights...let this book be your constant companion.
  • Keep this book and your journal with your purse, and regard boThwith equal value. Your words to God, and His back to you, are treasures.
  • If you aren't up to journaling and the pen seems too heavy, don't worry — it shouldn't make you feel guilty. When the time is right, you will get at it again. Maybe reading "God's Love Letter to You" will provide more comfort that day than writing.
  • Use the "Prayer-and-Praise Journal" in appendix B (page 378) to record your prayer requests and God's answers.

Personalizing and Praying the Scriptures

Another purpose of this book is to be a devotional — a study of how God's Word, the Bible, applies to your life and specifically your breast cancer. No other book can give us the guidance, direction, peace, and answers we seek. The Bible is "a manual for living, for learning what's right and just and fair; to teach the inexperienced the ropes and give our young people a grasp on reality. There's something here also for seasoned men and women, still a thing or two for the experienced to learn — fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate, the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women. Start with GOD" (Proverbs 1:3-7 MSG).

I invite you to pray Psalm 32 with David, who wrote many of the psalms while running for his life and under great siege, so they apply to your and my life right now too. The Bible is your personal guide for life. There is no other like it. Nothing else will fill the deep need and hole in your heart except God and His words in the Bible.

herefore, throughout this book we will be learning to pray through the Scriptures. That means we personalize them by putting our names in place of all the pronouns and/or adding personal pronouns...another name for this is paraphrasing. The Message (MSG) affords itself well to this because it is actually a paraphrase of the Bible rather than a literal translation in modern-day language like the New International Version (NIV) or the New Living Translation (NLT).

We will prayerfully personalize the Scriptures many times in the "Let's Pray" sections, and often I will join you in this prayer by adding my name. Since we are paraphrasing, these sections will not be the exact original text. Let's try it here to give you some practice:

Let's Pray

Prayerfully personalize Psalm 32:1-11 MSG by inserting your name in the blanks:

Count yourself lucky, how happy you, —— , must be — you, —— , get a fresh start, your slate's wiped clean. Count yourself lucky — GOD holds nothing against you, —— , and you're holding nothing back from him. When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder; my words became daylong groans. The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up. Then I let it all out; I said, "I'll make a clean breast of my failures to GOD." Suddenly the pressure was gone — my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared. These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray; when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts we'll be on high ground, untouched. GOD's —— 's island hideaway, keeps danger far from the shore, throws garlands of hosannas around —— 's neck... Celebrate GOD. Amen.

The Lord and I want to walk with you through your breast cancer journey. I hope the "Mentoring Moments" give you some new ideas and helpful hints. In addition, many breast cancer sisters graciously contributed their stories to help encourage, inform, and mentor you. We pray it will give you inspiration to write your own story.

Things never seem as scary when you have a friend next to you. Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, "Two are better than one," but verse 12 adds, "a cord of three strands is not quickly broken" — the Lord, you, and me.

Your Victorious Breast Cancer Sister,


© 2006 by Janet Thompson

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