Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: When Margaret Ashmore was diagnosed with breast cancer, she realized that surviving wasn’t the ultimate goal.

Margaret Ashmore: God wants me to look like His Son. That is God’s purpose in my life; that’s why I was saved. That’s why God even allowed me to live through breast cancer. God is all about shaping people into the image of His Son.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, October 18.

Here’s Nancy continuing in a series called, Survivingand ThrivingThrough Suffering.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: In the course of preparing for this particular interview on the subject of breast cancer, I received an email from a lifelong friend who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. In fact, she will be having a double mastectomy next week, and I know that in her heart there must be some normal human apprehension or trepidation—simply the fear of the unknown.

She’s never been through this before. Her husband is actually the one who sent me the email, telling me about what Jane is going through. In the email, her husband sent me a quote that Jane had carried around with her in her Bible for years that providentially fell out of her Bible the day before she had her diagnosis. She had just read it to her husband during their morning prayer time.

He said it’s a wonderful statement to read anytime, but especially timely now. Let me read that quote to you. It’s from a man named Benjamin Warfield:

In the infinite wisdom of the Lord of all the earth, each event falls with exact precision into its proper place, in the unfolding of His eternal plan. Nothing, however small, however strange, nothing occurs without His ordering or without its peculiar fitness in the working out of His purpose. And the end of all shall be the manifestation of His glory and the accumulation of His praise.

That perspective is taking my friend through a very difficult time right now—perhaps the valley of the shadow of death for all they know—certainly a difficult valley.

I’m so thankful for my two new friends who are with us on Revive Our Hearts this week to help us address this whole subject. Having been there, having researched this subject, knowing a lot about it, and having a life message of the purposes of God in the midst of these kinds of trials.

Margaret Ashmore is a breast cancer survivor. She’s a Bible teacher and conference speaker. You can get a link to her website on ReviveOurHearts.com. It will tell you a little more about her ministry and about the way God is using her to speak truth into the lives of women.

Margaret, I expect that your ministry has changed significantly in some ways—the way that you speak to women and the things that you talk about have, I’m sure, changed somewhat since you have been through this experience.

We’ll talk about that further in a few moments, but thank you, again for sharing your story and what you’ve learned about the heart of God through this.

Margaret: Thank you, Nancy, thank you.

Nancy: Your surgeon, Dr. Sally Knox, a breast cancer surgeon through Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, has written a very helpful book, a practical book, an inspirational book, an encouraging book called, The Breast Cancer Care Book.

It’s a survival guide for patients and loved ones. It is filled with strengthening thoughts from God’s Word at the end of each chapter, and has a great section at the end of the book of recommended resources. Dr. Knox, thank you so much for writing this book out of your experience in dealing with breast cancer patients.

Dr. Sally Knox: Well, thank you, Nancy, it’s a privilege.

Nancy: I know that as you’ve walked through this, with . . . I don’t know how many patients now. Would it be hundreds?

Dr. Knox: Several thousand, actually.

Nancy: Wow! You’ve probably seen all kinds of responses. I’m sure you’ve treated those who were believers; those who were not; those who have faith, and those who do not. But you’ve probably seen that even among believers there are different ways of processing and dealing with the news, “You have breast cancer.”

Dr. Knox: Yes, I have. Let’s talk about believers in particular because oftentimes women who have a very strong relationship with the Lord will hit something like breast cancer, and it just doesn’t make sense in their theology—it challenges their theology.

Nancy: Because they’re trying to live right and do what pleases the Lord.

Dr. Knox: Right.

Nancy: They wonder, “Where in the world did this come from?”

Dr. Knox: Right. They may have been in a productive ministry themselves, and it doesn’t make any sense to be out on the sidelines dealing with breast cancer—so to speak. They may realize that God does heal miraculously; they may have even prayed with people and seen those results in the past. There can be a situation where those things don’t seem to be happening for them, and it doesn’t make sense.

One of the things I’ve seen, I would say particularly with strong Christian women, is that it may be difficult to be really honest before God. You have these questions, and you’ve not had them before. There may be people in your surroundings that are looking to you for leadership, so you can’t show any signs of weakness. You can't show any signs that your faith is wavering, or this, that, and the other.

The women can even be angry at God. Now, that’s not necessarily good or bad, but just the fact they’re entertaining those thoughts is threatening to them.

Nancy: What are some of the kinds of questions that strike women’s hearts during a time like this?

Dr. Knox: Why do I have this breast cancer? I’ve got small children. I’ve got an active ministry, and my ministry is fruitful. I’m teaching a Sunday School class. Other women are looking up to me.

Nancy: Is there any sense of, “What did I do to deserve this?” or “Did I do something wrong?” “Is this the fruit of some sin in my life?”

Dr. Knox: Exactly! Perhaps they might have some guilt about that, “I must have done something wrong.” That’s the lie of the enemy. He brings all kinds of trials upon us that he would have us feel guilty about. The easiest and the best way to handle that is to take it directly to God, and say, “God, this doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t understand why I’m going through this fire.”

Be real about it. Be honest about it. The ones that try to be a tower of strength when, in fact, they are hurting, they do have questions, are the ones who suffer the most. But, if you bring it to God . . . I don’t understand why people suffer every time.

Job is an excellent example of that. People were offering him all kinds of suggestions. “Well, you must have sinned. You must have . . .” and basically, God wasn’t explaining Himself to anyone.

Finally, He comes in at the end and redeems the situation. The point is that God is the One who made the heavens and the earth. There are many things that we do not understand and we may not be able to understand, but the thing that allows healing to start in those women is having enough courage to go to God and say, “I really am a little bit angry about this. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Allow the Lord to directly heal because there will be things that the Lord will speak to that particular woman that He might not share with a whole lot of other people.

There is a one-on-one relationship with the Holy God, with the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself. He’s waiting for that person, that woman, or that family member to come directly to Him for their answers.

It’s amazing what He will do with that situation. But a lot of times, we’re trying to deny the fact that these emotions are back there. They don’t sync up with our current theology—it is challenging our current theology—but don’t be afraid of that.

Nancy: Yes!

Dr. Knox: Lean right into it! I mean, even if He does blow up your previous theology, that’s great because He’s got deeper answers for you.

Margaret: When I was going through breast cancer and subsequent treatments, the thing that I loved about the book of Job was: Here’s a man who’s lost all his children. He’s lost his livelihood; he’s lost his home; he’s lost his reputation. He’s lost just about everything, and when he finally cries out to God in a sense, “WHY?” It’s unprecedented in Scripture that God would answer with two full chapters!

What I think is amazing is God never addressed his problem! All God did was reveal Himself. I’m so glad you said, “Just take it to God.”  You can’t trust someone you don’t know! If we don’t know God, we can’t draw close to Him and get to know Him. Then it's going to be difficult to trust Him through the “valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4).

I just would like to add that I love how God answered Job. He answered Job with a set of questions. Things like, “Job, do you know how I direct the path of a lightning bolt? Job, do you know where I hide the snow? Job, have you ever commanded a morning or caused the morning stars to sing together?”

In a sense, Job got so much more of a greater picture of God that He just said, “Oh, Lord God!” That was enough for Job. I would tell women that when you’re going through breast cancer don’t look so much for solutions; look for God.

Nancy: Yes, that’s excellent!

Margaret, what did you come to see of the heart and the ways of God, during your ordeal, that was particularly helpful to you?

Margaret: I love illustrations, and this one helped me considerably. God wants me to look like His Son. That is God’s purpose in my life; that’s why I was saved. That’s why God even allowed me to live through breast cancer. God is all about shaping people into the image of His Son.

One story that helps me more than any other is a true story of when Michelangelo was asked, “How did you create the most anatomically perfect statue of David?” Michelangelo said, “I took a flawed piece of marble, and I looked in it and I saw the man David. Then I just chiseled away every thing that wasn’t him.”

Nancy: Yes!

Margaret: God sees in me His Son. God loves me enough to use any chiseling instrument—it could be cancer; it could be rejection; it could be loss of a parent; it could be my singleness and never having children—but God’s purposes are not about my personal happiness or comfort. They are about making me look like His Son, so I can reflect His glory in a lost world. That God would invest that kind of suffering in me means He loves me.

Lesie: Margaret Ashmore has been showing us what it meant to have a biblical view towards suffering. She’ll be right back with Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Dr. Sally Knox.

To get more information on today's topic, I hope you'll get a copy of the book Dr. Knox wrote called, The Breast Cancer Care Book. We'll send you a copy when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959.

One of our listeners has been learning what it means to draw closer to God through suffering. Let’s listen.

Patricia: Hello, this is Patricia calling from Pennsylvania.

I just finished my fourth round of treatment for breast cancer over a 14 year period. I can honestly say, this fourth time was the first time that I truly let the Lord’s grace be everything He wanted it to be. I truly stopped asking questions or demanding answers—kicking and screaming the whole way or becoming bitter and angry and upset—I truly see now that in His presence is fullness of joy.

It really doesn’t matter anymore what this world throws at me because fellowship with Him—which I never would have received unless I was driven to my knees—means more to me than anything in my life. I’m praising Him for the miracle of His grace that helps me to welcome suffering in a way that would draw me closer to Him.

Leslie: Thanks Patricia. Now, if suffering draws us closer to God, and if you have faith in God’s power over cancer, is it wrong to see a doctor?

Let’s get back to the conversation between our host, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Margaret Ashmore, and Dr. Sally Knox.

Dr. Knox: My perspective is that all of that medical knowledge out there has been given to us from God. He’s made us smart about: “How do you take care of the human body? What do you do here? What do you do there?”

Now, that’s not to say that everything that we think as doctors is correct. I mean, we have an evolving profession, and He’s showing us new truth every day. But I really credit Him for the healing of anyone who has ever been treated and cured of any kind of a cancer. He’s the One who is really the Author of truth and the Author of knowledge.

It's much like an auto mechanic who has studied to put together this engine or how to identify what's wrong with that engine. By the same token, physicians have spent all this time. They've really learned from God's authority structure how you diagnose and how you do various things that help people medically. So I really see no conflict there.

All medical knowledge is really emanating from Him. Physicians are in that position. From my perspective, they are really ordained by God to identify and come against the works of the enemy.

We’re trained to identify and use various tests and this sort of thing to identify what the enemy’s up to in a particular person’s life, and then form a plan to come against that. I want to encourage women and families to team up with—partner with—their physician.

That includes physicians who do or do not know the Lord. Oftentimes, I hear from patients, “Send me to a Christian physician.” I think it is ideal if your physician knows the Lord; I think that’s the ideal thing.

But I would encourage women to realize that even if the physicians that are treating them right now don’t have a relationship with Christ and really don’t know Who their working for—they’re still working with God’s knowledge and with God’s wisdom. Utilize those skills and allow the Lord to really work through those physicians.

Many times God will heal through physicians; He may also choose not to. But He will allow those circumstances in our lives to work out for good either way. It doesn’t violate our faith if we are going through medical standard treatment, as well—the two can really work beautifully together.

Margaret: That speaks to the faith issue in regard to illness because you must still trust a sovereign God through the agents of a doctor.

Dr. Knox: That’s right. I think that really hits it on the head, Margaret, in terms of our faith and our access to medical care are complementary not contradictory.

Nancy: Dr. Knox, as I’m told, is a renowned; nationally renowned breast cancer surgeon. I’m so grateful for the wisdom, the expertise, and the experience that God has given you.

Dr. Knox, as we went into this program, we said to each other that this series could actually be life-saving for some of our listeners. I want you to just say a word, if you would, about the importance of testing and early detection.

What would you counsel our listeners, who may not be familiar with standard tests? What is important along that line?

Dr. Knox: That’s an excellent question, Nancy, and I would say that if you’re a woman, you have to consider yourself at risk for breast cancer. Oftentimes, the most confusing thing for women is the list of risk factors for breast cancer: family history, certain hormonal things, that sort of thing, an they will not find themselves on that list. So they assume that means they won’t get breast cancer.

That’s not the case. In fact, 75% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no identifiable risk factor. The factors on that list are population trends. They can’t really predict whether you, as an individual, will or will not get breast cancer.

It actually shows us—as a medical community—things that we need to be aware of that might be causing an increase in breast cancer nationwide. But a risk factor by itself doesn’t mean that you will or will not get breast cancer.

The other thing also occurs . . . Let's say you do have a family history of breast cancer—perhaps your mother had it, your sister, an uncle (breast cancer occurs in men occasionally and can be passed through the father’s line as well). However, even for women who do have a family history, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you'll get breast cancer.

The risk factors are just that. They are a list of general population trends that we look at. But if you’re a woman, you have to consider yourself “at risk” for breast cancer. The incidents also increase with age. Most breast cancer occurs in women fifty and over.

The youngest case that I’ve had in my practice was a woman who was twenty-two when she developed breast cancer. It does occur in women who are in their twenties and thirties. We recommend that women forty and over get a mammogram every year.

Now the question often comes up, “If you have a family history of breast cancer, should you start getting mammograms earlier?” In general, probably not. However, if your mother had breast cancer when she was in her thirties or early forties, there might be an occasion to start mammograms in your thirties.

For the most part, mammograms in younger women are not as beneficial or are not as revealing as a mammogram in women forty and over. Most woman in our listening audience can testify to the fact that your breasts change with time and generally with age—forties and fifties—breast tissue is much softer than in women in their twenties and thirties.

With softer tissue, the mammogram will be more conclusive. The breast tissue becomes a little more fatty. The mammogram is able to show us a lot more in older women. Though I don’t get many mammograms for women in their twenties and thirties, certainly, if there is a specific reason to do so, we might order that.

There are other tests available, such as an ultrasound or MRI. There are several things like that which women may be familiar with. Ultrasound is frequently used in following up mammographic findings. I would consider MRI’s still in the research realm.

Nancy: So the card that I got from my physician last week saying, “It’s time for you to have your annual mammogram,” I need to follow up on that.

Dr. Knox: Absolutely, Nancy!

Margaret: That’s right!

Nancy: Just let me say to our listeners, that I do, every year. This is something that I’ve made a practice of for years. Also, I assume that you recommend a regular physical check-up.

Dr. Knox: Yes, we need to talk about that, too. Breast self-examination is very valuable. Oftentimes, women don’t do their breast self-examination because they tell me, “I don’t know what I’m looking for.”

I always tell them, “That is no excuse. What you are trying to do, in your own breast exam, whether in the shower or lying down, however it is convenient for each individual woman; you need to get in the habit of doing it once a month."

We’re not saying every day or necessarily every week, but once a month is probably adequate. It is important to become familiar with your own breast tissue. Normal breast tissue is lumpy—don’t be anxious when it feels a little bit like a bag of jelly beans, lumpiness—that is perfectly normal.

That is not an abnormal finding at all. But the idea with breast self-examination is to become familiar with what is normal for you. Then you will be able notice something that’s different. That’s what you want to take to your physician—something that doesn’t seem like it has been there during the last several months.

I would say that if a woman is doing self-examination and she finds something in her breast or the mammogram is showing something, I can say that 80% of the time the mass is going to prove itself to be benign. Which means it is a cyst—something that’s not cancer.

Don’t be afraid to take it to your physician. Again, take those fears to the Lord because He’ll walk us through it one step at a time.

Nancy: The fact is that regular check-ups, regular mammograms, self-examinations—these things will not necessarily prevent you from having breast cancer or developing some other type of life-threatening disease. But the promise that we’ve been talking about through these days is that we have a God who is trustworthy, who walks with us through these life experiences.

Yet we don’t want to neglect the means that God has made available to us for early detection wherever possible, for earlier treatment that can be lifesaving.

Some may be wondering why we are taking all this time on Revive Our Hearts to talk about getting mammograms and doing self-examination. It’s because God cares about us as women.

He made us physically; He made our bodies. He knows that this is a fallen world that has disease and sickness. He wants us to glorify Him with our bodies, even in the midst of—what at times may be—physical ailments or afflictions.

I hope that our listeners will order a copy of Dr. Knox’s book, The Breast Cancer Care Book: A Survival Guide for Patients and Loved Ones.

You may be thinking, “I don’t have breast cancer. I don’t have high risk factors for it.”

As Dr. Knox has reminded us, being a woman is the single, greatest risk factor for breast cancer.

But even if you never have it, it is almost certain that someone whom you love— maybe a family member—will have breast cancer. As I reviewed this book in the last week, I thought to myself, “I’m so glad that the Lord put this book into my hand to help prepare me for something in days ahead. It may be an experience that I will have and will need this information or maybe just the opportunity to minister to someone who is walking through an issue with cancer.”

There’s not only a lot of practical, easy-to-read medical wisdom and understanding in that book, but also a lot of spiritual insight about the journey and the pilgrimage to the heart of God. 

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been telling you about a book by our guest, Dr. Sally Knox. It's call The Breast Cancer Care Book. When you support Revive Our Hearts with a donation of any size, we'll send you a copy. Just call 1-800-569-5959, and ask for The Breast Cancer Care Book, or make you donation at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Find out why our guest, Margaret Ashmore, says she wouldn’t trade her experience with cancer for all the money in the world.

Margaret: It has made me realize that my days are borrowed. I want to use every one of them to glorify God with my life. I really can't say it any better than that. I just have a sense of the fact that one day I am going to stand before God and give an account for my life.

Leslie: Valuable perspective on the next Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

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