Breast Cancer: Same Diagnosis, Different Outcomes
It’s Breast Cancer Awareness month. October can be a little bit sad for those of us who have walked through the pain of breast cancer. I have a story to tell of two beautiful young ladies who were both diagnosed with breast cancer but had two very different outcomes. Their lives bear witness to the grace and faithfulness of a loving and omniscient Heavenly Father.
Jamie Norton, at the age of twenty-four in the summer of 2000, followed God’s call on her life to live and teach English to university students in the countryside of Northern Asia. It was a difficult life, but she loved her students and her city. However, in the spring of 2011, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and soon flew back to the States for treatment at M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston. Her husband and two toddlers soon followed. How could God let this happen to a young woman who voluntarily served God in His harvest field in an area of the world few would consider? (Luke 10:2). Jamie was a trailblazer.
Excerpt from “Mom, God’s Got This” – November 12, 2012—Jamie talked and prayed out loud yesterday much of the day. “They’re lost and alone. Who will help them? Who will tell them about Jesus? They have nothing. The women and children are hurting. Who will help them? Dear God, if more will come to Christ as a result of my death, then so be it.” She interceded for her friends in the city she loved.
Five days later, Jamie stepped into heaven, but her life on earth continues to impact people for Jesus.
Meet Ashley Berry. She was thirty when diagnosed with breast cancer in March of 2014. Following six months of treatment and surgery, she was pronounced in remission. That was a tough six months for this single mom, but she is not one to waste an opportunity to use her life to help others. God led her to begin East Texas Cancer Alliance of Hope, a non-profit that helps meet practical needs of individuals and families undergoing cancer treatment.
Shortly before Jamie’s death, she asked her dad to get a pen and paper. “I want this on the back of my tombstone, ‘His grace was sufficient for me.’” Truly, it was. And His grace has continued to be sufficient for us, her parents. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
When I asked Ashley about her life verse, without hesitation, she said it was Isaiah 43:1-4. “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you” (vs. 1, 2, 4).
Jamie and Ashley are two young women who shared the same diagnosis of breast cancer. Although outcomes were different from an earthly standpoint, God continues to use both of their lives for His glory. People are still coming to Christ because of Jamie’s well-lived life and death. Ashley and East Texas Cancer Alliance of Hope continue to bless families in the East Texas area in tangible ways with the love of Jesus Christ. I count it an honor to support Ashley as a member of her Board with other highly talented, respected, and qualified citizens who love our community.
God is a master at bringing beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3), and only He can do that. When we give our pain and brokenness to Him, He transforms it into something beautiful and useful for His Kingdom purposes. Like clay in the master potter’s hands (Jeremiah 18:1-4), God molds and shapes the events of our lives into something that will bless others. No life is ever lived in vain when lived for Jesus Christ. We can totally trust the One who died for us. Praise His Holy Name!