Joanie

Shawhan

In Her Shoes

Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer

Survive Life’s Firestorms (Without Smelling Like Smoke)

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A firestorm blasted my world. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

 

Firestorms—those unexpected, devastating losses that disrupt our lives. It may be the loss of a loved one, health, job, home or dream. The derailment may be temporary or have lasting effects. How do we not only survive but also overcome these catastrophes?

 

During the ovarian cancer firestorm in my life, I discovered 3 steps to survival based on the fire safety principles of stop, drop and roll. But how do we rise out of the ashes without smelling like smoke? Hence the fourth step—rise.

 

 

 

  1. STOP

When a firestorm erupts, our daily activities halt. All of our energy, strength and resources shift into crisis mode.

 

After an ultrasound for what I thought was a uterine fibroid, my doctor strode into the room and announced, “You have ovarian cancer.” I froze. Surely this isn’t happening to me. Surgery and chemotherapy consumed me for the next six months. Cancer threatened my health, my job and my future.

 

But when all I had was questions, I found I also needed to stop and listen to the one who had the answers.

 

 

  1. DROP

 

Smoke rises in a fire so we drop to the ground. The air is fresher, our visibility clearer.

 

So too, in a life firestorm we drop to our knees in surrender and prayer, seeking God, humbling ourselves before Him. Our sacrifice of praise and worship mingles with our tears.

 

As I wrestled with the Lord about going through chemotherapy and sought His direction for my treatment, I sensed His voice whispering, “Go through the process.” The Holy Spirit strengthened me to go through the treatments, treatment which were worse than the cancer itself. I could not even focus to pray and read my Bible. All I could do was drop into my Father’s arms like a child and cry for mercy.

 

 

  1. ROLL

 

We roll to douse any lingering flames.

 

The flames of anger, bitterness and unforgiveness will cloud our vision and scorch our lives.

 

As we draw near to the Lord, we roll our cares onto Him: our pain, grief, anger, fears, doubts, loss and loved ones.

 

We stretch forth our hands, grasping for a reason. “Why? Why? Why?” But the answers slip through our fingers like a vapor.

 

I don’t know why I got ovarian cancer, the rarest and most deadly of female cancers. But I needed to allow my desire for answers to be extinguished with the flames.

 

 

  1. RISE

 

God desires not only to raise us up out of the ashes of our brokenness, but also give us beauty for the ashes. (Isaiah 61:1-3)

 

Through thanksgiving and praise, we shake off the ashes and exchange the lingering smell of smoke for the fragrance of Christ. We recognize that all we are comes from Him. We reflect His glory.

 

I lost myself to ovarian cancer, but in losing myself, I found a new purpose and calling in my life—to write encouraging articles for women undergoing chemotherapy and advocate for and educate women regarding ovarian cancer.

 

Because of God’s power we are able to come through the firestorms in our lives without smelling like smoke. But surviving a firestorm does not imply that everything is “all better” and the wound is healed. Some heartbreaks and losses permanently char us.

 

True triumph is not a return to life before the firestorm, but a heart attitude—is God still God despite my pain and loss?

 

If so, then we will be able to proclaim, along with Job, “I know that my redeemer lives.” (Job 19:25 NKJV)

 

How has God brought you through the firestorms in your life?

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