Thursday, January 28, 2016

Sharing Stories, Hope & Encouragement

I hope you're ready to use your imagination with me a little this morning!
Ready? Alright!

Put yourself in these circumstances...
You're a young woman
who just gave birth to her first born (a daughter) 3 months ago.

That's a nice thought, right?

Right as your daughter turns 3 months old you are diagnosed with cancer
You're given 15 months to live with typical treatment


There is a more risky treatment available that could extend your life a few years but it is just that...risky and expensive.

What would you do?

If you're like me, you'd probably cry, get angry, cry more, hold your baby extra tightly, snuggle up with your husband who is also scared and hurting. You'd weigh your options and begin to worry about everything that goes with each option (side effects, risks, finances, etc).

This is not just a scenario to be played out in our minds, but this is the real-life story of Heath Von St. James. Just three months after her daughter was born, she was diagnosed with mesothelioma-- a form of lung cancer caused (most often) by asbestos exposure. When Heather was a little girl, she would wear her father's work jacket around when he returned home each evening not knowing that the asbestos particles she was inhaling would eventually lead to cancer...a very aggressive form of cancer.

Like all of us, Heather and her husband were scared, but they faced this entire ordeal with courage and determination. Upon hearing the 15 month prognosis and the other more risky option, they immediately decided to go for the second option. Wouldn't you? What mother can imagine dying before her baby is 2 years old? It was really their only hope. But what mother can imagine having her lung totally removed? That's scary, but not too scary when it comes to saving your life.

In the face of having this intensive procedure, Heather's sister coined the phrase "Lung Leavin' Day" to help make the scary day seem a little less scary. Heather's family gathered to write their fears on plates and smash them into a fire  as a symbolic way of letting their fears go.

On February 2, 2006 Heather Von St. James had the procedure done to remove the cancerous lung.

Now, 10 years later she is still celebrating with her family! She is a survivor of what looked like a very hopeless diagnosis. She has seen her daughter grow, spent more time with her husband and family, and grown courageous in more ways than one. She is now sharing her story to raise awareness for mesothelioma research and treatment.

This February 2 will mark 10 years since the original "Lung Leavin' Day". Heather and her family will gather again to celebrate, write out their fears, and burn them. Ten years is a remarkable milestone when the original prognosis was 15 months! Heather's story has encouraged many others facing a battle for their lives. Take some time to read a little more about Heather's journey and learn about mesothelioma caused by asbestos.

You can check out more of Heather's story here 

or Lung Leavin' Day here!

Then consider your story. It might not seem quite as "heroic" or "courageous" but just like Heather, you have a story. A story that could encourage someone. A story that could give hope. A story that God is writing for you. It may seem simple. Your life may have been relatively easy...or maybe it was extraordinarily hard. Whatever your story, God wants to use it to bring hope to others.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all or affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too."

Each one of our stories has hard elements as well as exciting, fun, and beautiful chapters. God wants to work through each of our stories to share His love, grace, comfort and freedom with those around us. So, what's your story?

Be courageous. Share.
It just might encourage someone. 


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