Jennie Pelletier: My Cancer Journey

Jennie Pelletier: My Cancer Journey

Hello. My name is Jennie Pelletier and my husband is Joe. If you attend church here at Cornerstone then you have probably seen us both serving on the worship team. Well, at least you will see Joe since I sit behind the drums most of the time.

About 1 year ago I stood up here and presented my faith story of how I came to saving faith in Jesus. During this story, I shared how important to me was the Bible verse from Romans 8:28

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

Tonight I am here to share with you the journey of the last year and a half of my life. To share what God has taught me and to say that even now I still believe that God works ALL things for good.

September 2017 I was diagnosed with an advanced and aggressive form of breast cancer. As I’ve gone through this journey of having breast cancer I have learned a lot.

I used to think that I was a fairly easy going person. I learned that I am not. I am actually a control freak. I like to have things just so. I like to have all my ducks in a row and I like knowing what is happening next.

As a Christian, I always had the knowledge that God is in control of everything and that ultimately we have no control over anything, but to actually “walk the walk” is another thing entirely. A cancer diagnosis is like being at the ocean and standing in the water when a really big wave comes and hits you. At first, when you stand there in the water and the small waves come in you can feel the sand under your feet pull out and you begin to sink into the ground a little. As the waves get bigger you can actually feel the pull of the water back to the ocean. When a really big wave hits you get knocked to the ground and pounded by the force of the wave, then you get dragged out into the ocean by the pull and the next thing you know you are over your head with nowhere to put your feet and trying to stay afloat.

At first, I found myself trying to get back to shore, only to get knocked under again. What I had to learn was that I needed to stand on “The Rock” – Jesus-  in the middle of the ocean instead of trying to get to a shore of shifting sand. This was not an easy process because I really wanted to control how things went. I wanted the diagnosis to be a mistake- it wasn’t. I wanted to NOT have chemo – I had chemo. I wanted to NOT lose my hair, I lost my hair. Clinging to Jesus meant that I could stand on solid ground and not get tossed about by the many waves of change that came.

I decided to read Job during one of my devotionals at that point and I read that Job shaved his head in his sorrow. I thought this appropriate so after my second chemo treatment I got a buzz cut and mourned my “old” pre-cancer life.

I, also, learned a great deal about anxiety. I learned that anxiety can be very Pavlovian. A visceral response that your body has to stimuli sometimes when you don’t even expect it. I used to think of myself as a very self-controlled person able to handle anything and not let it get to me. Notice the word was “self-controlled” not God controlled. I learned to push closer to God through prayer to rely on Him for my footing. Trusting in God’s sovereignty did not make the fear not happen but it did give me somewhere to go with the fear when it came. I learned to go to God first in prayer instead of last. I found peace.

Philippians 4:6-7 says:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

On February 24, 2018, I received a miracle. That was the day I found out that the cancer was gone. Nothing in the tissues, nothing in my lymph nodes. The doctors all say the chemotherapy that I had before my surgery worked, but I know that God blessed me.

A miracle from God and answered prayer. I was, however still in treatment with radiation and continued chemo. Emotionally I still found myself on a rollercoaster ride. A really big rollercoaster with high hills, drastic drops, upside downs, and corkscrews. I should have been flying high, and some moments I was, but more often I found myself struggling with crying. Feeling like I had lost something instead of like I won the war. The emotions changed in an instant, just like the drop on a rollercoaster. I found myself grumpy instead of joyful, complaining instead of grateful. Not liking how my hair grew back in instead of grateful that it did grow back.

I wondered if Joseph ever got grumpy when he was in prison in Egypt. Did he ever say: Hey God, I don’t want to do this anymore. He had been thrown into a well, sold into slavery by his family, falsely accused, and put in prison and forgotten by men. But he was never forgotten by God and he saw the good that God had brought about through the trial. He told his brothers:

And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.  Genesis 45:5

I reminded myself: I’m never forgotten by God, I can have peace, God still works all things for good and I need to be thankful.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

and again the Philippians passage 4:6-7 says

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So I prayed constantly, even when it was more a spiritual groan than a verbal prayer, and I made my requests known to God. I tried not to sound like a checklist of gimmes, but my giving thanks seemed like a little child who got clothes for a birthday present instead of a toy and grudgingly says thank you when told to. I was pretty sure this was not the type of thanks that God wanted from me. 

Looking for God’s peace and wanting to guard my heart and mind from discontent and grumpy thoughts I prayed for help and God answered. Look to the next verse in Philippians 4, look at vs 8

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.

So I used this as a template and I learned how to give thanks in any circumstance. This is what I focus my mind on now:

TRUE – I have been blessed with a miracle and the cancer is gone from my body.

NOBLE – I have been blessed with a loving husband who has and is supporting me with unconditional love.

RIGHT – I have the opportunity to serve in my church: playing the drums, as a deacon, praying for others and trying to be a witness for God’s great work.

PURE – I am God’s child, blessed and loved by God, while still a work in progress.

LOVELY – The beauty of God’s creation that I get to see every day.

ADMIRABLE – The great team of people at Lowell General Hospital who cared for me through this journey and do so for others every day.

EXCELLENT – The blessing of being present when my father accepted salvation in Jesus before he died last year.

PRAISEWORTHY – Through this journey, I got to learn what Jesus looks like. I saw Him and continue to see Him in my husband and in every one of my fellow brothers and sisters at this church who prayed for me, prayed with me, cared for me, fed me, gave me rides, did housework, spent time with me, listened to me and loved me.

I still find myself wondering why God blessed me with the miracle of healing and what He wants me to do moving forward. I am now a cancer survivor and moving toward being someone who thrives instead of just survives.  I may not see all the good yet, but I know that God is continuing to work every day.

Photo credit Amanda Galster Photography. Used with permission.