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Cancer Can't Stop Joy

Story by Alyssa Robinson:

I meet with people often to help share their stories. Recently it was suggested to me to interview a woman named Carrie Simpson. All I knew about Carrie is she's a cancer survivor.

We met at a coffee shop and she quickly laid out the timeline of her life. It was obvious that this wasn't the first time she's shared her journey. Here is the timeline of turmoil she walked me through with a smile on her face:

  • 1988 - House burnt down day after Christmas from a gas leak
  • 1999 - (20 years old) Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (chemo and radiation)
  • 1999 - Grandma Doris & Papa Lee's house caught on fire from a heater unit (Grandma died in fire and Papa lived for a month)
  • 2007 - Diagnosed with MFH Sarcoma (surgery)
  • 2009 - Diagnosed with MFH Sarcoma (chemo and surgery)
  • 2011 - Diagnosed with MFH Sarcoma (surgery)
  • 2015 - Preventative double mastectomy

Carrie is a four-time cancer survivor, she is missing three ribs, three-fourths of her back has been manipulated through surgery and that's only half the story. When I heard all of this, I immediately thought of the Biblical character Job. I was speechless.

I could spend all day dissecting the details of her timeline; the loss, the frustration, the fear, the anxiety. But I'd rather not. I don't think Carrie would want me to. She walked through her timeline in about 15 minutes, but the next 45 minutes of conversation was about hope.

I wish I could relay to you all of the hope, optimism and pure joy that Carrie shared with me. I left the conversation uplifted and faith-filled. This is a small smattering of what she told me about her life:

"I am blessed."

"I know God is using me for His glory."

"I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

"I choose joy."

"I am honored that obstacles in my life have inspired others to turn to God in prayer."

"I've always known that God will take care of me, ever since I was a little girl."

"Just turn your face to Jesus; He is already there."

"Breathe in Jesus, breathe out everything else and let your breath be louder than your thoughts."

"If your day is 100% and 99% feels out of sorts/crazy/fearful/sad/ worried/(etc...you fill in the blank) and 1% is AMAZING...focus on the 1% and make it your 100%."

"Focus all of that energy into something positive." (She has been writing a few books that she hopes to publish soon.)

Carrie Simpson is young, energetic, bubbly, optimistic, jubilant…life emanates from every word she speaks. I've never met anyone who has been through so much in such a short period of time. I've never met a more joyful or content person.

I told Carrie, "After hearing your story and then hearing all this optimism from you--" She didn't let me finish my sentence before she jumped in and said, "It sounds too good to be true, right?"

Yes! It's one thing when you're through the storm to look back with a smile and say, "We made it!" It's another thing to be joyful in the middle of it. I was having trouble wrapping my head around her optimism, so she gave me a few examples of "choosing joy."

When Carrie was diagnosed with cancer a second time, her daughters were very young (1 and 3 years old). She was weak from surgery and so she had to "get creative" when it came to nurturing and playing with her babies. She couldn't lift them up to hug them, she couldn't carry them up the stairs and she got tired easily, so she focused on making the time spent together full of love. She chose to see the love instead of the limitations.

What was Carrie's solution? She made up games to play with her girls. When getting ready for bed, they pretended to be different animals each night walking up the stairs, such as penguins. Then they would kiss and hug each other goodnight like that animal. When the girls wanted to sit in Carrie's lap, she would have them sit next to her and would use her hands to pretend to grow a garden on their forearms.

Carrie never wanted her girls to be fearful of her illness. She wanted to pass on a legacy of smiles, love, hope, optimism, compassion, kindness and all of the fruits of the spirit. During her third cancer diagnosis, she started to lose her hair. So Carrie and her girls had a "No Hair Party." Carrie and her husband Charles went to the salon together and tried outrageous hairstyles on her that she would have never done herself. She sported hairdos like a Mohawk and a Pixie cut before shaving off everything. When they went back to the house, there was a big party waiting for them. All of this was so her family wouldn’t be afraid.

The stories go on and on. Her optimism and joy isn't too good to be true. It's real. I asked her how this could be. Her smile lit up and it was almost as if she started glowing, "Jesus."

She said that she sees God using her story on a daily basis to draw people closer to Him. This is why every time someone asks Carrie, "How are you?" Her response is, "I am blessed!" And she's noticed recently that her girls have started answering the same way.

After spending one hour with Carrie, I can say that I am blessed, too. I got a glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven in my time with her. It was beautiful.

Carrie wanted to share a list of Bible verses that have encouraged her throughout the years. Here are a handful of her favorites:

James 5:11 – "As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy."

James 1:2-3 – "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."

1 Timothy 6 – "Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your confession in the presence of many witnesses."

Psalm 23:1 – "The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing."

Proverbs 3:1 – "My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart."

Matthew 10:30 – "And even the very hairs on your head are all numbered."

Romans 12:2 – "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Matthew 18:3 – "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

1 Corinthians 13:13 – "And now these three remain, faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

Proverbs 7:3 – "Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart."

Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths."

Proverbs 17:22 – "A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing."

Jeremiah 17:7-8 "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by stream. It does not fear when hear comes; it's leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."

Psalm 45:1 – "My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite me verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of skillful writer."

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