Dear Janna,

Dear Janna,

It was a blessing to meet you on the Subway in Boston!  It was a trip I will always cherish!  I have taken several days to ponder the question you asked me on the HHM website before I responded!  What a great question and how wonderful to be challenged again in my own life to evaluate where I am and the reason I do what I do! This week and in the next upcoming weeks I have the opportunity to share Hannah’s story several times and I am thankful that you challenged me again to really come to grips with the reason I share and even more importantly “what I share!”

To recap the question you asked: “My only question is what are you doing beyond prayer, to assure that others will not have to die from cancer?  It doesn’t appear to be part of your fundraising, and I think that raising money for cancer research would have a much greater impact than just praying and hoping.”

First of all, let me very directly answer your question about fundraising for cancer before I digress to share some of the thoughts I have pondered over the last week.

Hannah worked with the Relay for Life team at Dorman High School during her years there as a student and was to be co-captain of that team her Senior Year. She had a very compassionate, caring heart for others and had looked forward to the opportunities she was going to have with Relay for Life her senior year raising funds and awareness. It was in May, at the end of her junior year, that she had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. I will never forget the evening – not long after her surgery – that Hannah went to the large Relay for Life event held at Dorman to walk a lap around the track with her friends. That evening, Relay for Life took on a whole meaning in our lives – before, “it” was “over there” – something someone else was dealing with and raising money and awareness about – but on that evening it became very personal. Now, “my” baby girl was dealing with cancer – the “C” word you never want to associate with someone you love and certainly not your baby girl.

In November of 2006, six months later, Hannah’s battle with cancer was over – the cancerous tumor died inside her body – and she went to live in her eternal home. In May of the next year, Mickey and I attended that Relay for Life event, shared a little of our journey and walked laps in her memory. Hannah’s oncologist, Dr. Steve Corso, serves on the Board of Hannah’s Hope Ministries and is very involved with Relay for Life. Another gentleman who serves on our board is the CEO of a hospital. Both of these gentlemen are faced daily with the reality of cancer in the lives of many people and are involved with Relay for Life and raising awareness and funds for others battling cancer. Additionally, however, both of these men face daily the reality of death and that is why they and we are so passionate about sharing Hannah’s story of faith. We are not opposed to fund-raising for the cure for cancer and certainly the desire of all of us on this earth is to be removed from the scourge of this awful disease. There is no one on this earth who would love a cure for cancer more than me or anyone who has ever prayed harder that God would use Hannah’s life to unlock that “key.”

But Hannah’s journey and the “torch” she handed us weren’t really about raising money for the cure for cancer. Hannah’s message, that reverberated so loudly from her life during her six month battle, was rather how we deal with life and death after we have been handed a diagnosis of cancer. Where do we stand? How do we stand? What do we do? How do we respond?

I have learned so many things through this journey with Hannah. First of all, cancer is no respecter of persons. Never in all the world would I have imagined that “my” daughter – my beautiful, bright, fun, talented baby girl – with an incredible future ahead of her would be diagnosed with a rare sarcoma at the young age of 17. And not only would she get cancer – but six months later after many “treatments” and an incredible fight for her life, she would die a physical death and leave this earth. That has rocked my world and forever changed everything I thought I knew about God, about eternity, about the people I love, about myself, and about the purpose of my life! I have done some soul-searching – I have done a lot of it!!

Secondly, our Creator God is not a puppet on a string that responds in the affirmative every time we pull the string and asked to be removed from whatever unfavorable circumstance we find ourselves in. You can be assured that I bombarded the gates of heaven on Hannah’s behalf night and day for those six months and I wrestled with my Creator God about His decision to allow this “sarcoma” to affect my daughter’s life. And I would do that all again! I wouldn’t trade for anything the wrestling I did with my God on behalf of my girl!  Without one doubt, I know my Creator God heard my prayers! What a great privilege the God of the Universe gives us to “beat on His chest,” to unload all of our heartache and our headaches to Him!  In fact, He invites us to come!  He is not afraid of us! He delights for us to come to Him with all of our questions! The Eternal God of the Universe sees from a perfect, heavenly perspective – that I cannot always see from this “earth-suit” I live in – to accomplish eternal purposes that I can’t fully grasp! His ways and His thoughts are much higher than mine!

Third, eventually every one of us will leave this earth in physical death – everyone before us has died and we will also. The scripture tells us that is appointed unto man once to die. We will never find a “cure” to preserve physical life on this earth as we know it. Another of the things I have learned is that we are all on the “fast-track” out of here! If we live to be a hundred years old, we won’t be here very long – life is moving and passing quickly through our hands! And the short lives we live on this earth pale in comparison to eternity. I have said so many times since Hannah went to heaven that “eternity is a thin veil” away – one breath away. Our last breath on this earth will be followed by our first breath in a timeless eternity! So for me, as never before, I have come to realize that there is nothing more important that I do on this earth than to prepare for my eternal home!

Fourth, Hannah’s “cure” had to be beyond anything this earth could offer her! Her physical body was not going to be healed despite all the treatments of the best cancer center in the nation and one of the top sarcoma physicians in the world – Dr. John Trent – MD Anderson Hospital in Houston, TX.  Her “cure” had to be beyond the understanding of this world because this world did not have a fix for her cancer!

And so, day by day, as we watched Hannah’s physical body waste away, we watched her inner man – her spirit – grow and grow! It was amazing! Paul said it beautifully in his II letter to the Corinthians.  “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all! Therefore we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.” Hannah had been given an eternal perspective! She was, in essence, “done with the flesh” – her physical body – and her focus became the eternal!

How was that possible? Hannah had a personal relationship with her Creator God through the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ and because of that God showered her with His grace, His strength and His peace. I had a front row seat! I watched Hannah leave this earth with little physical strength but with great spiritual strength! I watched the things of this earth grow strangely dim as the things of eternity came into clearer and clearer focus for Hannah!

I miss her everyday! I think about her all the time! My life will never be the same! My life is about sharing the eternal hope I have and that Hannah had in Jesus Christ with every person I meet for the rest of my life on this earth – nothing I do will ever be of greater importance because every person I meet needs to have a foundation – a firm place on which to stand – that is beyond any cure this world can offer us!!

I pray for you Janna and I love you! I pray that perhaps God will use these simple, feeble words to challenge you to seek God with all of your heart! The scripture promises us that when we seek Him with all of our hearts we will find Him!!!  It has become a daily joy in my life to seek Him with all my heart and find out more and more about who He really is!!

If you are ever in Spartanburg, South Carolina we would love to have you come visit!!  I love you bunches!  Thank you for challenging my life!!

Ms. Debbie

One Comment

  • Kim Davis says:

    Dear Debbie,

    All that I can say in response to this beautiful devotion/letter is “Wow!” Please know that you, your family, and Hannah’s Hope ministries are in my prayers every day!


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