BONUS Episode! Doing Breast Cancer with Jesus

Transcript from the Life-on-Life Podcast: BONUS Episode: Doing Breast Cancer with Jesus

*Show Notes are at the end of the transcript.

Hey there friends and welcome to this bonus episode of the Life-on-Life podcast! It’s October and I love October, but I tell you what guys, the weatherman has nearly ruined it for me here in Dallas because it’s been so stinkin’ hot until about 48-hours ago. I think it finally started to change and I feel like fall has finally arrived and I can enjoy the rest of October. It is my favorite month of the year. It’s like the Anne of green Gables quote where she says, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are October’s.” I am too. I love October, I love all things pumpkin, pumpkin spice, the change of color on the trees, sweater weather, football, all of that. I just love it, love it, love it, and now I can thoroughly enjoy it!

October is also the month where we recognize breast cancer awareness and 10 years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s a part of my story I didn’t share with you all last week, but it’s a significant part of my story and I am asking the Lord to give somebody out there today some really great encouragement and hope for their same journey with breast cancer­– or whatever rough, hard, scratchy, hot place you find yourself in right now… that this might be a word of encouragement to spur you on and to give you hope in whatever season you find yourself in.

Well, about four years ago, it was my six-year anniversary away from breast cancer, I posted a little something on social media that said, “Sometimes the thing you think will take you down is the thing that sets you free.” And my dear friend, Rebecca Carroll, who is one of the morning DJs here in Dallas, Texas on station KCBI saw that and she asked me about it and asked if I would just join them on the show and talk about it.

And so I did a little interview with Jeff and Rebecca and I realized in listening back to it recently that I never really answered the question that she asked me– to explain what that means, that sometimes the thing you think will take you down is the thing that sets you free.

I want to answer that question but let me first go back and give you some context. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2009 but the previous fall of 2008 I got a phone call from my cousin in Orlando and she told me about this little girl who went to school with her boys and her name is Gracyn DenBestin and she had contracted this catastrophic illness that basically (for lack of a medical term) made her heart calcified.

There was no heart donor available at the moment, and so they had to remove her heart and they connected her to something called a Berlin heart. It’s basically a big machine that acts as your heart and keeps your blood pumping and your body functioning until a donor could be found. And so while she was on the list waiting, she was in the hospital with this huge machine attached to her. Her parents would write a Caring Bridge blog post about what was going on and their whole journey and I would read these posts and y’all, I would just be in tears listening…. not about the horrific situation she was in, but about the beautiful dance this little girl had going on with Jesus.

Now this was a strong family of faith– they had great faith, and so did this little girl, and her mom and dad would write about the experiences of the day. They would also write out some of what Gracyn was sharing with them and how she talked about the Lord and the things that the Lord was showing her and teaching her.

Sometimes Gracyn would be under the influence of a lot of the medications and she would sleep for long periods of time and she would wake up and she would tell her parents about these beautiful, marvelous, fascinating stories of encounters that she would have with the Lord in her dreams and what he was showing her. And I would sit there at night reading these posts and just sobbing, just crying. They touched my heart deeply, not just in a way that moved me to tears because I felt sorry for her circumstances, but because I wanted what she had. I saw this little girl with this amazing dance with Jesus and I just realized I had lost my dance.

If you remember last week, part of my story that I shared with y’all when I fell in love with Jesus… it was real, it was legit, but I think I said then, and I want to repeat it now– Falling in love with Jesus is a pursuit.Salvation is a gift. It happens instantly when we receive Christ. But pursuing Christ as our love and as our satisfaction, it is a pursuit. It is something we work toward. It is something we continue to, to travel along this road of faith and, and grow deeper and deeper in our love, in our desire for him. And so I hadn’t fallen out of love with Jesus, but because of life and more of it and just things that were happening. John and I had moved across the country, we had a brand new ministry that we’d started in Dallas, and there are all the ups and downs of that and then life in general… a lot of things that can start to pull us away from the main thing.

I was still serving the Lord. I was still teaching, I was still discipling women, but my heart had grown a little bit hard and cold and just indifferentto some things. But I longed to have that back again. And I just sat there and would read these beautiful, beautiful stories of what this little girl was encountering. And I would just say, “Lord, I want that. I want my dance back again. I want to dance with you again.” And so Gracyn did go on to receive her new heart and years later she and her dad would write a book together called Gracyn’s Song and you can find that out on Amazon. She’s got an amazing story to tell. She’s just a beautiful, beautiful young woman now.

Fast forward now to that question again. So what does that mean… that sometimes the thing you think will take you down is the thing that sets you free.

So as I said, my diagnosis was in May of 2009, and I’m here to tell you that anytime you hear the word cancerassociated with your name, it is frightening. I mean, I don’t think anybody in their right mind– I don’t care how long you’ve been walking with Jesus and how much scripture you’ve committed to memory­– when you hear cancerand your name and the same sentence it’s scary. It is flat out scary.

But I had enough faith to know that if God had allowed this (and I’m not saying he directly took aim at me with this) but he looked at it and he said, “You know, I’ll allow this in her life.” I knew if God allowed it, that there was some profound purpose in it for me and that there was something that he and I were going to walk out together that would dramatically change my life.

And so I remember getting that diagnosis and the day that the diagnosis came in, I just got down on my knees and said, “Okay, Lord, okay. If this is what we’re going to do and we’re going to do this breast cancer thing and this is coming out then I want to get everything done– let’s just remove all of the cancer that’s in there– in my heart, in my mind, anything that’s been robbing me of abundant life, anything that’s been coming between me and you– let’s get it all done. Because I don’t want to be the same woman walking out of this that I am walking into it. So have your way with me, Lord. Show me to show me what to do. Help me to keep my eyes on you.”

And so what I found in this journey was that Jesus was not only enough, but that he was everything for me.

You know, when that diagnosis happens, your radar screen goes blank and everything you thought you needed, everything you wanted, everything that your heart was holding onto, it’s just gone. And only the things that really matter show up. And what I realized was that this had been a gift all along. And sometimes God’s greatest gifts to us come wrapped in some really ugly paper, but they are gifts nonetheless. We just have to allow him to open up the box and show us what’s in there. And in that box I found a freedom to love him like I never had beforebecause I let go of so many of the things I thought I needed… like control, respect, my own identity that was wrapped up in other things… so many things that I could talk to you all about. But I’ve also written about these things and several blogs that we’re going to make available to you through the website and in the show notes linked to this podcast.

I hope you’ll read those and being encouraged by them and then share them with someone who needs that encouragement. And if you’re going through a hard place right now, what’s God’s showing you? Ask him. Ask him to do a full work in your heart with whatever you’re going through to teach you so much more about who he is and show you his grace and show you himself in ways you’ve not experienced him. And then ask yourself, what am I learning about Jesus as I walk through this trial? After my one year diagnosis, my breast surgeon, Dr. Michael Grant, asked me that question, “What’s the biggest thing you learned in this whole journey?” And I said, “The biggest thing I learned is just how sweet Jesus is. His sweetness touched me in a way I had never experienced before and it set me free to open my heart and love him with all I’ve got.”

All right, y’all, don’t you ever forget that you are greatly and dearly loved by the King! We’ll see you next week.

xo –P

SHOW NOTES for BONUS Episode: Doing Breast Cancer with Jesus


Click here to read Punky’s previous blog posts about her breast cancer journey.

Click here to learn more about Gracyn DenBestin’s book.

Click here to listen to Punky’s interview with Jeff and Rebecca on KCBI.


If you’re going through a hard time right now, what’s God’s showing you? Ask him. Ask him to do a full work in your heart with whatever you’re going through to teach you so much more about who he is and show you his grace and show you himself in ways you’ve not experienced him. And then ask yourself, what am I learning about Jesus as I walk through this trial?


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Content and Host: Punky Tolson
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Hey There! C’mon in!

Hi! I’m Punky Tolson and I am Lover of Jesus! Crazy about His Word! Passionate about helping women fall in love with Jesus and live out the truth of God’s Word in real life. Gosh, I wish we could be sitting in my living room with our legs tucked underneath us, our bibles in our laps, Kleenex on the end table, and a really good cup of coffee in hand. That’s how I’ve done life-on-life with so many women over the past 20 years listening to them share their hearts and the realities of their life; loving them, encouraging them, showing them how to know God, to love Jesus and how to live His Word in their everyday life. So, c’mon in! It would be my honor to spend time with you… and show you how Jesus makes the profound difference in life.

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