“Encouraging Words Today”   October 6, 2010



by Lucinda Secrest McDowell


Susan Secrest Waters and sister Cindy

My little sister, Susan Secrest Waters, is a lot of things — teacher, wife, mother, friend, daughter, aunt, Bible student, neighbor — but she is also a Survivor! In fact, Susan is one of 2 million breast cancer survivors in the United States today.

She is also my hero.

In the past two years, during my sister’s diagnosis, treatment and recovery, she faithfully announced that the “Big C” was not cancer, but Christ! Last fall she wrote on her one year anniversary:

“One year ago today my doctor came by my house and said those dreaded words:  It is cancer.  Although the enemy was expecting defeat, God had bigger and better plans for Victory!  I felt a supernatural calmness and peace that I knew could only come from the Lord.  Over the next few days I sensed God speaking to me and reassuring me that He would “go before me and make the rough places smooth” (Isaiah).  AND that “….with God I can scale any wall”! (Psalms 18) I also felt the Lord saying:  ‘You know all those promises of mine that you read and say you believe… you have the privilege of really proving them to be true!’”

          “I vividly remember every moment, each ‘first’, and all the many scriptures that God used to reassure me along the way.  During my first chemo the nurse told me that my life as I knew it was on hold for the next year. That seemed such a long time and now here I am a year later! I continue to be overwhelmed with the huge outpouring of support, encouragement and love so many have showered upon me.  I cannot even begin to express how much it has meant to me, and how instrumental everyone has been in helping me get through this past year.”  

        “None of us know what twists and turns lie ahead on our road of life and it’s good that we don’t.  But what we can know is that God is sufficient and we can experience His power, presence and peace through the darkest storms of our lives.  His grip is firm regardless of the size of the waves.  I will never again think of cancer as the Big “C”.  The BIG “C” is Christ who enabled me to conquer the little “c” (cancer).  This has been a speed bump and not a brick wall.  To God be ALL glory, honor, and praise! Thank you for your part in bringing me to this point of celebration a year later!”  (Susan Secrest Waters)

 This month is the 25th anniversary of October Breast Cancer Awareness. By now a whole generation has grown up recognizing the familiar pink ribbons as a reminder to support breast cancer research, patients and survivors. All of us have been touched by someone with breast cancer. And usually we are at a loss to know what to say and do, just as I was with my own sister. One thing I immediately did was give her a resource by my author friend, Janet Thompson —  Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer (Howard, 2006). In it, she offers this helpful list:

The Top Thirteen Things to Do or Say and

NOT to Do or Say to Someone with Breast Cancer


DON’T . . .                                                                                DO . . .

1. Talk about people you know with breast cancer.  1. Let me talk about mine & listen.

2. Tell me God is in control, has a plan, or                    2. Just show me the love of God.

knew it was going to happen.

3. Say “I’ll pray for you” unless you mean it.           3. Pray for and with me.

4. Say, “Call me if you need anything.”                        4. Offer to do something specific;

I don’t know what you are willing to do                       then do it.

and might be too sick or sad to  phone.

5. Look at me like I am dying. I can read                    5. Show genuine compassion and

your body language and eyes, and it scares me.        concern.

6. Avoid me. It makes me feel rejected, different.    6. Keep normal contact with me.

7. Act like nothing is happening, minimize my        7. Take your cue from me as to how,

situation or compare me with someone else.          comfortable I am talking about it.

8. Tell others, unless you have asked if it is OK.     8. Ask me if it is OK to tell others.

9. Feel bad if I can’t return phone calls or cards.  9. Keep calling & leave a message.

10. Be resentful of how my illness affects you.  10. Help me live with my ‘new normal.’

11. Forget about me after the initial flurry of the  11. Let me grieve, and that takes time.

diagnosis. This will be a long haul, and I need you.   Stick with me.

12. Feel you have to say you “understand” how    12. Let me talk without trying to fix

I feel. If you have not had breast cancer yourself,   it or feel you have to comment. I

you don’t understand.                                                        might just need a listening ear.

13. Ask me questions like, “Are you having them both  13. Let me tell you what I am

taken off? Or on both sides? In fact, don’t ask me         comfortable saying. Keep your

any personal questions about my condition.                curiosity curtailed.

-Excerpt from Janet Thompson’s Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer (Howard Books 2006)

In addition to praying for those you know who are currently fighting this battle, do consider making a donation in their honor especially during this month.

Under the mercy, CINDY

©2010 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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  1. maggierowe says:

    Very helpful post, Cindy. And I love your sister’s “can do” spirit. In fact, her testimony suggests another “Big C”: “I Can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

    The two Big C’s – Can and Christ – certainly trump the small c of cancer.


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