Thursday, October 21, 2010

Remembering My Girlfriends Who Died of Cancer

Pink! It's everywhere--football cleats, baseball hats, facebook pages. But it's more than a breast-cancer awareness campaign. Pretty pink ribbons represent my friends who battled cancer and won--the true survivors--living in Heaven with their Savior. Each one touched my life and grew me up in Christ. I thank God for them as I remember the better person I am because they lived.

Cindy Chetnick and I carried babies in our wombs when me met. There's a bond when girlfriends share pregnancies. Only, it was different for Cindy. She had breast cancer. Devoted to her older children, thrilled to have a new baby, she didn't talk about the cancer that took her away before her baby boy celebrated a birthday. Cindy taught me about hope and joy and faith and perseverance and sacrifice. She never gave up. I never saw her stop smiling. I thank God for Cindy's life. She taught me to embrace whatever my life brings, to treasure each day, to be joyful in affliction, and never give up hope. She taught me that in the worst of circumstances, a person can still smile and be a positive influence in this world.

Pam Cordes sang like an angel. I still listen to her on recordings and treasure the memory of the last time I heard her sing, "You are Standing on Holy Ground." She sang a song with the lyrics, "When they laid my Jesus on that old cross, the devil danced around with glee." Pam didn't let the devil dance around with glee when her breast cancer was diagnosed. She sang to the very end, not wanting to miss any opportunity to share her faith with an audience. She showed me the importance of embracing life and living it to the fullest. Pam taught me to find what God wants me to do with my talents and to have the courage to do it. Thanks, Pam. You are one of the reasons I write and speak--to carry on the message you sang.

Helen Bell had Heaven in her eyes. Her smile, her beauty, her gentleness, and her kindness filled every room she entered. She rested in Jesus' arms awaiting the glorious day she would meet her beloved Savior. So sure of the glories of Heaven, she showed no anxiousness or fear. Thank you Helen, for teaching me to trust God with every moment of my life. Thank you for showing me how to smile through pain and to love eternal life more than this earthly existence.

Linda Douglass sang at my daughter's wedding. She honored me with a request that I be there when it was her time to leave this earth. One day, while hanging clean curtains in my son's room, I felt the urgent need to go to her. I read scripture and prayed, her husband held her hands, and Jesus took her to Heaven. God used Linda to teach me to pray. This dear home-schooling mom of five had advanced breast cancer. I never told her how God woke me in the night and lead me to pray for her until morning. Many nights I poured my heart out to God for Linda's life. He answered. He gave her eternal life. He answered by caring for her children and for her husband. I remember her telling me, "Marty is a great father, but he'll be a lousy mother." Well, Marty did all right and God seems to have made up for what Marty lacked in femininity. You are missed, Linda. I thank God for your life and for the lives of your children. I still pray for each of them and marvel at how God places people in their paths to love them with a mother's love.

Shirley Brinkerhoff taught me the writing business. I thank God for her commitment to teach Christian writers how to write. She is a lot of the reason why I am now an author. She is the inspiration behind my desire to teach at writer's conferences and to encourage writers through critique groups. I thank God for Shirley who opened up the world of Christian writing to me. Her sweet smile, her resolve to keep teaching through her pain, her excitement to answer and to help me when I asked her any question are examples of passion and professionalism I want to follow as a Christian writer.

Courtney Chetnick New is Cindy's daughter. She was about nine years old when her mother died. I drove her to swim lessons and girl scouts. This sweet girl's courage and faith at such a tender age touched my heart. She talked about her mother often as though she was still alive. Because she was--she lived in Courtney's heart. What a beautiful young lady. We moved to a different town and I lost contact with Courtney. I feel bad about that. I hear she had a strong faith. I'm not surprised. God was with her when she was nine and I'm sure God was with her when she also died of cancer before her 30th birthday. I thank God for Courtney. She taught me that I have nothing to fear. God is always with me and will walk with me through the darkest of days.

Sara Woodward was one of the most amazing women I have ever had the joy of knowing. She abounded with spiritual gifts--hospitality, giving, mercy, administration, faith. Sara had the ability to make every person in her presence feel special. She loved everyone from deep within her heart. She cared for people physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially. She just gave and gave and gave and did it all with abundant joy. Oh, I miss this dear one who really taught me what Jesus looks like. She lived the Christian life and lived it to the hilt. Putting people's needs above her own came to her without thought. She just did it. I have so many memories of Sara and each one would be of how she blessed me. I feel bad that I never blessed her back, yet I know blessing me was a blessing to her. I thank God for Sara and her love and care and concern for me for so many years. Wow, I miss you, girlfriend.

I won't forget my friends during this breast cancer awareness month. Lord, thank you for their lives and their impact on my life. They were a splash of serenity to me. Wrap your arms around their loved ones and hold them tight. Thank you, Jesus, for the gift of friendship each of these women gave to me. I am blessed because they lived. May I make a difference as they made a difference to me. And Lord Jesus, we pray that a cure would be found for this awful disease. Thank You.

Readers, I'd love to hear about your girlfriends and how they impacted your life.

Each day is a gift. Treasure it.


  1. what a beautiful tribute to those women, and to their faith. this disease is very close to my heart as it took my birth grandmother away in her 50's before i even could have a chance to meet her. and then again, it impacted the life of our dear friend Nancy in such a significant way. thank you for writing such a beautiful tribute, Elaine.

  2. Elaine--this is so touching. Thank you for sharing. Love you, girlfriend. Vie

  3. Wow, there are so many lives that have been lost, but it sounds like while they were here, they really lived.

  4. My mother...beautiful example of a godly woman in less than ideal circumstances. Her life lead me to him!

  5. Well done Elaine. A touching tribute to lives cut short by this dreadful disease. My daughter said, "Mom what if the doctor that was to find the cure for cancer was aborted by their mom? Do you think God will send another one?" Causes me to wonder about why so many people continue to lose the battle. Blessings to you for turning loss into an opportunity to share God's blessing and provision!

  6. Oh Elaine...this blog brought tears to my eyes. I also knew many of these courageous godly women who have passed into eternity. You gave them a wonderful tribute with your touching words of remembrance. May God continue to give you "blessings of opportunities" to share his Word. Thank you so much!

  7. Elaine,

    Thank you for this beautiful tribute to women who were valient warriors not only for their health, but for Christ. I am honored to know three of these ladies, and would like to mention one more. My friend Lori Allison, amazing and godly mother of two was diagnosed at age 45 with breast cancer. One year later and after a complete masectomy, Lori has walked over 85 miles and raised on her own nearly $9000.00 for breast cancer research. I pray her outcome will be different from those mentioned here, but I know that Lori would say, "Thy will be done." Don't forget your self-exams, ladies. Elaine thank you again for reminding us of the amazing women God has allowed in our lives!

    Lisa Hill

  8. Wow, worthy tributes to beautiful ladies. God bless you, Elaine.

  9. As I sat at Gabrielle's bedside today, comforting her from the indignities of surgery, I read your blog. Mom would be humbled and honored by your memories of her. I learned how to be a woman, wife and mother from her. I also, and more importantly, learned about faithful trust in God. Through her painful battle with cancer, she unknowingly was used by God to prepare me for mothering Gabby. You see, I use Mom's example when I talk to Gab about her "earthly bodily" struggles. Only He knows the why's of our pain here on earth. We look to Him for strength, the lesson and path that he intends for us. My mom never got to hold her grandchildren but she "touches" them every day. Thank you Elaine for this wonderful rememberance.

  10. I just read all your comments again and realized how blessed I am with girlfriends still alive. God has given me more than I asked or imagined. I thank God for each of you "commenters." May we each spur one another on toward love and good deeds. You have blessed me and I thank God for each of you in my life.


I would love hearing from you! Thanks for sharing!