5 Truths My Cancer Taught Me About Faith

3. Opportunities to Serve Others Often Bless Us

I was called to serve with the young women of our ward the same week I was diagnosed with cancer. In light of this diagnosis, my bishop offered to put my calling on hold, but I felt strongly that I needed an opportunity to serve. I put my faith in the words of our prophet, when he promised “Spiritual strength frequently comes through selfless service.” (“Preparation Brings Blessings,” General Conference, April 2010). If there was any point in my life when I needed strength, it was in fighting cancer.

Serving with the Young Women allowed me to review the Personal Progress program, and I made a goal to receive my award with the girls. This study of values, especially faith, gave me focus to stand fast and endure the pain and difficult times. I was able to “forget [myself] and go to work.” (Mike Cannon, “Missionary Theme Was Pervasive during Visit of President Hinckley,” Church News, Sept. 9, 1995, 4).

Service helped me step out of my darkness and feel the light and love of the Lord as I did His work. Even when I was too sick to attend church or weekly activities, I felt blessed in my efforts. My small sacrifice truly brought forth the blessings of heaven (See “Praise to the Man,” Hymns, 1985, no. 25). I learned firsthand that great blessings flow from faithful service in the church (see D&C 106: 6-8).

4. There Is Power in Prayer

The Savior taught, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find” (Matthew 7:7-8). There is mighty power in the faith that we can communicate with our Father in Heaven and He will answer.

Prayer sustained me, protected me, and helped me overcome. The Lord placed doctors in my path who also believed in the power of prayer. Although none of them were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, they all believed to the core that faith was the bridge between medicine and the miracle of healing. My breast surgeon expressed the importance of faith and prayer in our initial consultation. Her surgical nurse also spoke about God and shared that "Dr. P prays before every surgery. If you don't want her to pray with you, she prays anyway for herself." My oncologist mentioned praying over her patients and the importance of “positive thoughts” in the treatment. Even the first meeting with my plastic surgeon focused on being spiritual. He shared his testimony that God has a way of using challenges to build us up and make us stronger. He believed in the power of prayer and of having faith to see miracles.

Family members, ward members, and friends all prayed on my behalf while I fought to survive cancer, and I felt the power in that. However, something about having my doctors—strangers and people not of my faith—hold my hands and pray before each procedure unlocked a powerful testimony: Prayer was as essential as medicine in helping me through my cancer journey.

5. Personal Revelation Is Real

We pray to communicate with God, and He answers in our minds and in our hearts (D&C 8: 2). He causes our bosom to burn within us, allowing us to feel when something is right (D&C 9:8). Boyd K. Packer taught, “This burning in the bosom is not purely a physical sensation. It is more like a warm light shining within your being” (“Personal Revelation: The Gift, The Test, and The Promise,” Oct. 1994). Through this “warm light,” God enlightens our minds and fills our souls with joy.

One of the most poignant moments of personal revelation in my life came during a low point in my treatments. The Sunday School lesson that week focused on the story of the rich young man who asked Jesus what he needed to do to gain eternal life (See Matthew 19:16-30). This faithful saint had a testimony. He kept the commandments from his youth. Like many of us, he believed he was quite close to doing all he could to be like the Savior. Sadly, when Jesus' answer seemed too challenging, the young man turned away.

When I was listening to that story, I was suddenly overcome with that “warm light shining within my being,” which unlocked a personal meaning. I am not rich, so giving up all I have monetarily would probably not be my stumbling block. However, I could picture Jesus instructing me, "If you want to be perfect, go and give up your stubborn control and trust completely in my will. Quit complaining about your trials. Have faith in me.”

This revelation was a tender mercy from the Lord (See 1 Nephi 1:20), which whispered that He was aware of me and would not leave me comfortless (John 14:18). I was reminded that, “in the midst of our afflictions, reassurances will come to us from the Lord” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Be of Good Cheer,” Ensign, November 1982). I had been struggling with my testimony and prayed to the Lord for guidance. The answer blessed me to remain strong and not turn away from my faith in response to a difficult trial. I had the strength to continue to “strive for perfection, bear up under [my] problems and sorrows, remain faithful to the end, and not shrink” (Royden G. Derrick, “The Way to Perfection,” Ensign, April 1989).

Now that I am on the other side of my cancer battle, I wish I could have another conversation with the man on the soccer bleachers. I would echo the words of Barbara Thompson: “It is our testimony, combined with our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ…which helps to get us through times of trial and hardship” (“Personal Revelation and Testimony,” Ensign, November 2011). Perhaps I could inspire him to become “religious” and find faith in Christ.

I know faith is the key to overcoming trials. I saw signs of the Lord’s love for me throughout my journey. Being able to understand God’s timing, looking for silver linings, serve others, pray often, and receive personal revelation were only a few examples of how my faith helped unlock blessings from heaven and allowed me to be among the ones counted “happy which endure” (James 5: 11).

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