By Lisa Hansler
(Photos by Annie Marek-Barta)
“Are you sitting down?” was the question I heard spoken over the phone by the doctor who had done my biopsy. The words that followed were ones I had hoped I’d never hear: “You have breast cancer and it has spread to at least one of your lymph nodes.” At that moment I understood my life would be forever changed, and I would lose my hair.
Just less than an hour prior to this life-changing call, I said goodbye to my mom as she went to be with Jesus after her battle with liposarcoma, a rare type of cancer. Our house was all packed up since this was the day our sale was supposed to close. However, shortly after the call from my doctor, we received a call from our realtor saying our buyers made a mistake and our house would not close now for another ten days. You might say this was probably the worst day of my life so far. Oh, did I mention that this was our 33rd wedding anniversary? December 28, 2018, will forever be etched in my mind.
Honestly, I did not want to join the “breast cancer” group. So many wanted to encourage me with their journeys, but I wasn’t ready to accept that I was one of them, and I now hated the color pink. I was determined to go through treatment with strangers having no idea I even had cancer.
Then before my treatment was supposed to start, my bone scan and CT scan showed something of concern. It was possible that the cancer had spread to my bones, so a PET scan was ordered. This was the longest weekend of my life. If the breast cancer had spread to my bones, it would mean that I would be treating cancer for the rest of my life. There were a lot of tears that weekend.
That Sunday I knew I needed to go to the church my friend and mentor Kit Hackett attended. I knew she would pray for me. This would prove to be a pivotal point in my faith. Kit prayed against “the fiery darts that the enemy had thrown at me.” As she pulled her hand away from my back, I actually felt something come out!
Her pastor, Mike Majack, also prayed for me. Then he said, “We’re standing with you and believing healing for you . . . unless you believe God is done with you.”
Pastor Mike had no idea that I was questioning my value to God, that I thought He was done with me. I walked out of that church a different person and didn’t cry another tear until the following Friday when I received the call that the PET scan had come back clear. Those were tears of joy!
God did something in me that Sunday morning. I was suddenly aware of God’s love, grace, and mercy like never before. I was reminded whose I was. A new faith was birthed in me that would get me through the hardest battle of my life. By the grace of God, I was able to go through four months of chemo feeling no worse ill effects than someone would with morning sickness. I was able to continue running and doing most of my regular exercise activities. Towards the end I was quite a bit slower, my heart rate was high, and I would have to walk some on my runs. (In fact, by my last chemo treatment I was walking more than running.) But I was happy that I could still run. God carried me through my surgeries, including a bilateral mastectomy, auxiliary lymph node dissection, and just recently, the first of my reconstruction surgeries and 30 radiation treatments. My prayer was that somehow I would touch lives, even of those who helped me with my treatments.
Earlier this year a fellow breast cancer survivor asked me if I was angry at God when I got my diagnosis.
“No,” I said. I felt like the diagnosis saved me. I had already been angry. The ten years leading up to my cancer diagnosis had been extremely difficult years. Satan had thrown several darts at us. We had undergone some pain in our family, and let’s be honest – ministry isn’t always a bed of roses. Christians can be so cruel. (I know this because I am one – an imperfect Christian.) My anger had turned to bitterness. Bitterness creeps in so unnoticed and acts as a poison.
Even though God didn’t give me cancer, He used what the enemy had intended for evil to wake me up. In His amazing grace, He carried me through this battle, teaching me many lessons along the way, all emphasizing God’s faithfulness. Even when I found myself curled up in my bathtub sobbing right before I shaved off the rest of my hair, He was there. I recorded many of the lessons I learned in my blog https://lhansler.tumblr.com/ because I don’t want to ever forget all that God has done and continues to do for me. One of the Scriptures God gave me along the way was Psalm 103:2-5 (NLT):
Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things He does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all of my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!
When I look in the mirror, I don’t mourn the loss of what once was, I see a reminder of just how much God loves me. I was, in a sense, like one of those wandering sheep that got stuck and my Good Shepherd came to rescue me. He leads me to still waters and restores my soul.
You can watch a video interview between Lisa and Message editor, Andrea Johnson, at: https://vimeo.com/473133077/177b57c21d
About the Author
Lisa Hansler was raised in Open Bible and has served for 35 years alongside her husband, Chris, in youth ministry, as church planters, as lead pastors, and most recently, as Chris was appointed Executive Director of Pacific Region. Lisa is also the mom to three grown kids and works as a controller/bookkeeper for Tacoma Plumbing and Heating. Lisa loves to share how God has used her battle with breast cancer to continue to reshape her faith in Him. You can read Lisa’s blog at https://lhansler.tumblr.com/