One year ago this week, Carol, my wife, was diagnosed with cancer. The power of the "C" word became a challenge from hell for us as it has for so many others. I'm sure you have had someone in your family or circle of friends deal with cancer on some level. Maybe even you have. The potential of death seems to lurk around the corner, even if the odds are in your favor. The appointments with the doctor could easily be mistaken as an appointment with the undertaker. You're not sure until you leave, and even then, you're not sure.
Our story is one of a woman who loses body parts after four surgeries and has to push the "restart" button of life. It's also the story of a caregiver and his discovery of what that woman is made of. But most of all, it is a great example of the power of an attitude... the attitude of faith.
Caregivers and what they go through internally are not usually the subject matter of significance when these things happen. The reason for that is obvious. No matter what I may have gone through as Carol's support, I was not the one with cancer. However, I carried in my heart and mind a different kind of threat: the weight of watching my wife go through the experience... and the whisper that I might lose her.
I had my days of upheaval and unsure footing. I had to be strong when I was with her. But a few times I broke down in the car alone while driving out of the driveway. I certainly have a new perspective of that side of things and can be more understanding with people that are in the foxhole with the one under attack.
The most significant thing that I learned over the last twelve months is how powerful an attitude can be.
We are people of faith. We believe in God. We believe in healing. But what do you tell the person who does not see the immediate miracle - you know - the kind where one is healed instantaneously in the snap of a prayer? What do you say when they open their eyes and nothing has happened and yet they have to make decisions right now about the options at hand?
I know now what I would tell people, both those going through it and those fighting alongside. I know because I have lived with the answer. I have lived with the impact of a substance called attitude. I have lived with the attitude of faith as demonstrated in my incredible wife. What a ride. So here is what I would tell you:
Behind every ounce of faith, there are 10 pounds of attitude.
Here is a short list of what I lived with:
1) On day two of knowing that cancer had appeared in the mammogram, Carol told the whole world. She told all of her family and friends. She told it openly at her large bible study that night. She put it on Facebook and sent out an email blast. I am not saying that everyone should do this. But for Carol, it was all about pulling the rug out from under the power of hell's lies. She would get it on the table, face it head on, and gather all of the prayer support she could get.
2) She filled her mind with the right books, teachings and audios. She listened to and spent time with the right people. She kept her mind filled with positive faith. If you tried to make an appointment with her during this past year and she couldn't do it, it may have been for one of two reasons. Either she did not have the time (it was mostly that), or she knew you have a history of seeing the worst in every circumstance. As much as possible, she stayed away from negative people. Even then, some would walk up to her in public and pronounce doom in the name of "thus says the Lord." (Good thing I wasn't there. It wouldn't have been pretty.)
3) She adjusted her words. She quoted scriptures like "I will live and not die" (Psalm 118:17) and "Beloved I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers." (3 John 1:2). You could easily change out "soul prospers" to "attitude rises up." Carol would raise her attitude by the words of her confession. She declared the goodness of God and celebrated His love out loud.
4) She did not lie down and quit living. Sure, there were days when she needed rest or recovery from surgery. But I will never forget the first time she came home from the hospital. It was a Sunday. She had had surgery on Friday with a second emergency surgery immediately following the first, due to a huge loss of blood.
But Monday morning, groggy and in pain, my wife went in to her home office and produced seven radio programs for Sirius Radio. She would teach on the joy of the Lord in every circumstance in life. And she would do it with enthusiasm. Many thousands around the nation would hear her teaching, not knowing just how deeply she was digging in prayer and in faith between each recording. I saw it with my own eyes. It was a miracle in its own right. But it was coming from a woman who knew what the attitude of faith could produce.
5) She took this on as a personal challenge. One of the first things Carol declared publically was that she wanted to live her life in a way that "her face was on a wanted poster in hell." What a visual! She knew she could take on the devil and everything he may have had permission to throw at her. She knew that God loved her, was with her, and would empower her to be victorious over the enemy. Her attitude of faith was so stellar, that the devil could not win the battle of fear and intimidation. From what I saw, I would say that he must have been intimidated by her.
6) She determined from the very beginning that this journey would be one that would teach others how to thrive - not just survive, the challenges of life. Before Carol knew about the cancer, she was working diligently to finish her fifth book and get it off to the printer in time. The title of the book was Refined: Finding Joy in the Midst of the Fire. It was due just one month after her diagnosis. All had been written but the last chapter. Should she postpone the deadline? How could she write this book not knowing what was about to happen to her - especially with a title like that? But the attitude of faith prevailed. Carol committed to the giving of her experience to all who would need it. She finished the last chapter and sent it off. Nine months later, just days after her fourth surgery, the book was released. The commitment of giving her life to others, even when she was the one in need, was a powerful act of faith on a principle that solves every issue. "Give and you shall receive!"
Carol has been teaching the principles of living in faith and joy through the difficult times of life for many years now in Bible studies, books she has authored, radio and television programs, devotionals, blogs and podcasts. These teachings are not without the substance of personal testimony, including the loss of five babies by miscarriage.
But this past year has tested the fiber of her being. Don't think that she did not face the fears, the anxieties, and the uncertainties that anyone would have to face in these circumstances. How she has responded to all of that has been an incredible experience.
I know because I have lived with it. I have "lived with" the attitude of faith, personally. I have lived with it in the life of my wife. I have always loved her. But she has now moved up to hero status. And it is all because of her attitude of faith.
You can check out justjoyministries.com for your own personal encouragement from Carol. Live with your own attitude of faith!