Posted in focus on faith

Pancreatic Cancer as God’s Canvas

IMG_2724“There’s a mass on my kidney,” our daughter Christine said shakily into the phone. Her dad took the call on my cell because I was paying for some shoes at the mall. He stepped into the hallway, pacing and murmuring, while I tried not to show my impatience with the chatty associate who was handling the transaction. I hurried over to where Gerry was in time to hear him say, “Stay there. We are on our way.”I could tell by the look on Gerry’s face that the report of our daughter’s ultrasound was not good. When he said “mass” and “kidney” I stopped breathing. My mother died from kidney cancer. I was shaking so badly I had to lean on the wall while Gerry said all the smart things: we don’t have all the facts yet; it’s too soon to panic; blah blah blah. Of course he was right but he needed to knock the monster off my chest so I could breathe!

That was almost exactly two years ago and yesterday our daughter had her second surgery to remove tumours from her pancreas — the “kidney” diagnosis turned out to be inaccurate. It has been a difficult and beautiful season in our family’s life. “Difficult” because no mother wants her child (grown or otherwise) to suffer. Every mother wishes to take the suffering on her own shoulders and let her child live in glorious freedom. But trading places is not an option. “Beautiful” because God uses our suffering as the canvas on which to paint Himself. Every time you look at that canvas you see Him and you know He cares, He knows, He is with you, He was ready for this, He’s in control, and so much more as the canvas takes on colour and pattern and depth.

There’s hardly a family that hasn’t been touched by cancer so you know what I mean when I say that the early days of waiting for the right diagnosis, the treatment options, the prognosis, the side effects (and so on) seem to drag on forever. You want answers. But you only want good answers, hopeful answers, dodged-a-bullet answers. If the cancer is rare, as Christine’s is, the answers are even slower in coming. Meanwhile, swatches of colour began to appear. The first was when we realized that the tumours on Christine’s pancreas had no symptoms and would never have been discovered until they had done irreparable damage. However a separate minor medical problem required ultrasound. And in the search for something else, the technician noticed a golfball sized mass and other smaller ones in Christine’s abdomen. The touch of God’s hand was obvious right from the start.

After Christine’s first surgery where they removed the tail of her pancreas that held seven cancerous tumours of various sizes she suffered hideously with uncontrollable pain and severe nausea. On her darkest night when she could not stop herself from crying out a young nurse came alongside her bed, took her hand and began to pray. Christine opened her eyes and saw Robyn Booth, the daughter-in-law of my dear friend Susan. Robyn’s comforting presence and heartfelt prayers as well as her subsequent search for better pain control was a giant swath of colour onto God’s canvas.

It took a year for Christine to regain her strength. She went back to work, taking two casual nursing positions. Two months later an MRI revealed a new tumour on the pancreas. We didn’t see it coming. I was on my way back from speaking in Georgia, enjoying some quiet in the Denver airport’s United Club when I read the text telling me the news. I had to find a bathroom stall so I could weep unseen. I called Gerry, bawling, and told him to tell Christine I would talk to her in the morning since my arrival home would be too late. The truth was I didn’t trust my composure. I packed my computer and iPad into my carry-on and stumbled to my gate in a fog. Someone called my name. I turned to see Patsy Woodard, a friend and fellow ministry associate from BC. She was en route to visit grandkids in Texas(?) and she saw me pass by.

“How are you?” she asked.

“Not good,” I replied, eyes watering. I explained. Patsy wrapped her arms around me and prayed, right there in the crowded airport hallway as people flowed around us. Drops of colour shaped like tears fell onto the canvas. God was present.

There’s so much colour on God’s canvas, I can’t begin to put it into words in one oversized blog. Here are some snatches: Christine, Brad and the kids bought a house four doors down a year before the cancer struck. I have been able to rush over — in pjs! — many times when needed. The kids have come to my place — in cuter pjs — many times. Colour on canvas! Women all over Canada and the US are praying for Christine as I share her story in my speaking ministry and so many keep in touch and send encouragement. Splashes of colour! When Christine arrived in the Operating Room yesterday morning, a woman from her fitness class was a nurse in the adjoining OR. She spoke to Christine assuring her that her attending doctors were the best in the area. Colour!

Two years ago in July, when my husband Gerry had his burnout, I felt God whisper into my ear, “Gerry needs a wife.” Obviously, he had a wife but I was so busy with my speaking and writing that I was very distracted. I stopped writing immediately — look at my blog (or lack of) for evidence. I honoured my speaking engagements but did nothing to get more — newsletters rather scarce! You see, God knew that by the time Gerry had recovered (after our “summer of love”), we would get the call from Christine that changed everything.

Christine called us from her hospital bed last night. Her pain was under control. She had no nausea. The surgeon says everything went according to plan and her pancreas is clear. She is in good spirits and excitedly reported how God had so obviously been adding colour to His canvas all day long.

I booked half as many events as usual these past two years but my husband needed his wife and my daughter, her mom. I answered their call, His call. I am following God one yes at a time and have no regrets. His magnificent canvas, ever before me, is proof that I am on the right path.

What about you? Where has God led you in these last months? Can you see the colours on His canvas of love?


Christian writer and speaker trying to follow God one yes at a time.

22 thoughts on “Pancreatic Cancer as God’s Canvas

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ll keep you all in my prayers

    In these last few months God has spoken with me. My 8 year old son began experiencing crippling anxiety and fear. I didn’t know how to help him and I prayed for God to show me what to do. Some other moms in Airdrie prayed for him and for us, as his parents, to be shown the way for him. What I heard was so profound. All he needed was me, he needed his mother. I’d become so wrapped up in all my various volunteer work and part-time work that I couldn’t hear or see his struggle until it was severe. So, I said yes to God and to my family. I resigned from all my volunteer positions and work. I spent every moment with my son so he’d begin to feel secure again. I prayed.

    We took him to a wonderful therapist and she’s helped him by advising us to move him to a different school that had a school counsellor to support him during his day. After 2 months, I am happy to say that God was right, as He always is. By me focusing on my family and not on the outside world, I was able to help my son by attending to his needs and advocating for him. He’s flourishing again and happy. He feels safe and confident. All I had to do was listen and truly hear.

    The canvas definitely had some colours added to it these past few months.


    1. Wow Beth! My heart swells when I read this story of focused attention and love and the healing and restoring power it has. God truly knows what we need and as we listen and follow Him He does lead us into a brighter day. I know that not all “stories” have a happy ending, at least not right away, but i think a lot of them do when all it takes is for mom to be mom, and a wife to be a wife, and a daughter a daughter and so forth. the power of Time and Love is without measure.


  2. Connie, what a beautiful testimony to God’s presence and power even in the most difficult times. Praise God for His faithfulness and His grace that allowed you to see His hand. I love you friend!


  3. Connie, I understand your words oh so well. We experienced God’s master artistry as we cared for my parents in our home for seven years. They are both with Jesus now, and the canvas that we are left with is so full of colour and God’s presence that we give thanks for those days. The experience has caused me to long more deeply for heaven. Until then, as the trials of this life continue, we will hold onto that promise of a future day where every tear will be wiped away as we marvel face-to-face with the artist himself. Love you guys.


    1. Thank you James, How wonderful that you had those precious years with your parents. that kind of commitment is seldom possible in today’s world and i admire you for it. What a legacy!


  4. So encouraging to read this post. Thank you Connie and please let Christine know that I think of her so often and am praying for her. Question… Is that shirt your wearing in the picture from our Tina Turner act years ago!? 🙂


    1. Dear Melina — i will pass along your prayers to Christine. And you have a sharp eye m’dear! those Tina Turner costumes just won’t die!!


  5. I’m Robyn Booth’s mom, and my heart is so full of gratitude that God was able to use my daughter to help yours in her darkest hour. I’m so glad I saw the link to this blog on Facebook and know how to continue praying for your family.


  6. Hi Connie, I’m so sorry to hear of all the struggle Christine and your family are enduring..know that I think of you and all my former Cochrane friends often..
    I miss the bounty of Friendship, Love and support I received from you Cochrane Beauties.. Know that you, Christine and your families are in my prayers..God does Bless us through our trials as your story inspires and strengthens us in our daily walk..many Blessings to ALL OF YOU, my old Cochrane family friends..


  7. Hi Connie,

    I am still reading your emails that you send out:) I will always remember how you were such a blessing to me and encouraged me to hang in the ministry even in our darkest days. And then when our ministry days did get brighter, it was so good to reconnect with you and have you at our new place of ministry.

    I just read your story you posted about your daughter, Christine, and I will definitely keep her in my prayers. It is evident that God has been there to strengthen your family every step of the way, and I truly admire you for stepping back from the ‘ministry’ to be there for Christine. That in itself is healing for both of you.

    I know when you came to be with me and our ladies in Durham, NC, I shared with you the healing God had given my husband after I just about lost him. So we can believe God for Christine’s healing! And to that end I will pray.

    Since we have talked my daughter, Lindsey, has become a nutritional coach, and if you would like to visit her site, it is http://www.trumpwellnessbydesign.

    I know you will keep following God according to your motto–‘one yes at a time’ because you’re not only strong, but you’re a faithful servant.

    Sweet blessings,
    Amanda Trump


    1. Dear Amanda
      I have wonderful memories of Durham and the women there. Thank you for reconnecting with me these many years later. I rejoice with you in the return of joy to your ministry as well as your husband’s healing. Thank you for sharing your daughter’s website link with us.
      Our daughter’s pathology report was very good — no more cancer in the pancreas or anywhere else. we are thrilled and hopeful that once she fully recovers she can have a bright future. Thank you so much for caring, for praying, and for taking the time to write and tell me.
      Have a blessed, restful and refreshing Christmas!


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