Not many 77-year-old women are upset about having cancer because they won’t be able to tap dance, but my friend Linda sure was.
The lively great-grandmother was diagnosed with primary peritoneal cancer (a rare female cancer usually treated similarly to ovarian cancer) in October 2010 and faced major abdominal surgery and chemotherapy. She knew those treatments were going to put a crimp in her active lifestyle.
“I was a bit disappointed I was not going to be able to attend my once-a-year visit to my daughter’s first-grade classroom and help the students make applesauce and tap dance for them,” explained Linda, who started tap dancing when she was about eight and in her mid-60s still performed with a local group of senior ladies—ages 50-something to 80-something—called “The Glitter Bugs.”
But even worse than not being able to dance was Linda’s worry that she wouldn’t be well enough to take care of her 92-year-old husband, who was on hospice care.
“My husband always thought of me as a ‘spring chicken,’ who would be there to care for him and when all this happened, he realized I might need some care, too,” Linda recalled.
So from the start of her cancer journey, Linda realized how much she was going to need her faith, her family and her friends. Fortunately, she was surrounded by hope—literally.
That’s because several years ago she started collecting items with the word “hope” on them–books, plaques, candle holders, Christmas decorations, flowerpots and garden stones all proclaiming hope. In fact, everywhere she turned in her house or her yard, she saw hope! Four freestanding, silver letters—H, O, P, E—about five inches tall became her favorite decoration because she could easily move them to any area where she wanted a visual reminder not to give up.
“I can’t remember exactly when I started collecting, but I know there came a time when I realized our HOPE in God is what allows us to believe in something we do not see,” Linda said.
And Linda didn’t just collect hope; she studied it, too (and capitalized it when she wrote about it!).
“I had a ladies’ Bible study on HOPE,” she recalled. “Before the ladies came, I asked them to write down a list of things they HOPE for. We shared some of our hopes and kept others to ourselves. Inevitably somewhere on each list was the HOPE of Heaven.”
At the end of the study, Linda gave each participant a handmade bookmark with her acrostic on HOPE:
“If we believe that, fear is diminished and even wiped out!” she said. “What peace we find in that HOPE!”
I agree completely with Linda that the promised hope of Heaven for all believers is what gives lasting peace. I love how The Message describes this hope in Hebrews 6:18:
We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us.
That is the hope in which Linda continued to walk on her journey with cancer. When I wrote about her in my 50 Days of Hope book, it only had been seven months since her diagnosis, but follow-up tests showed her cancer-free. She knew the odds were not in her favor, but thanked God “for my remission time however long it may be.”
Perhaps you might want to embrace Linda’s hobby and start “collecting” hope? Look for it and listen for it each day. You’ll probably be amazed at how often it pops into your life. And I hope like Linda you have grabbed on to the promised hope of Heaven with both hands and that you never let go. Then you will be able to pray today as King David did: No wonder my heart is glad and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. Amen. (Acts 2:26 quoting from Psalm 16:9)
P.S. I’m happy to tell you that Linda did tap dance again the next year after her diagnosis and made applesauce with her daughter’s new first-graders. In 2016 she passed away and is now tap dancing on streets of gold!
If the music video doesn’t appear below, please copy and paste this link to enjoy the song “There’s Hope”