My friend Bunnie is a redheaded, retired heavy equipment operator with a delightful New England accent who loves to laugh. On weekends she “clowns” around at the local Dairy Queen as she whips up balloons and smiles for children, while sharing God’s love for them. On weekdays she takes off her clown make-up and cooks hot meals which she joyfully delivers to the homeless folks in a nearby neighborhood.
Did I mention that she has stage 4 tongue cancer, carries her portable oxygen tank everywhere and is on hospice?
“I’m a bulldog for the Lord!” she explains.
“When I make dog balloons for the children, I tell them ‘God wants us to be like dogs’—a dog is loving, faithful, obedient and always happy to see us!”
And with the tenacity of a bulldog, Bunnie has refused to allow a cancer diagnosis and multiple recurrences to change her goal of sharing the joy of Jesus with anyone she meets. Here’s a little of her inspiring story from my new book Peace in the Face of Cancer.
When Bunnie moved to Florida in 2011, she wondered what she would do in her post-retirement life.
“I was laughing so much, I dreamt I should be a clown,” she recalls with a chuckle. On a whim she searched online for “clown schools” and found there was one only two hours from her new home. She took the courses, and since 2012 she has been a professional clown and member of the Fellowship of Christian Magicians.
She began volunteering at her local Dairy Queen, where she performed magic tricks and twisted balloons into animal shapes. While the children enjoyed their ice cream, she shared character-building stories and told them about God’s love for them.
But in August 2013 the shows stopped when Bunnie was diagnosed with inoperable tongue cancer. Doctors told her that without chemo and radiation, she probably had six months to live. She was devastated with that prognosis, but resolute in her faith: “You can even take my tongue, and I’ll still find a way to share the gospel,” she announced to her doctor.
Bunnie had thirty-five radiation and eight chemo treatments. After a two-week hiatus, she was back whipping up balloons and smiles at Dairy Queen.
When she read a copy of my first book, When God & Cancer Meet, Bunnie felt as if God were telling her to share her story by giving away copies of the book. (Why doesn’t He tell everyone to do that?J)
So she bought dozens of books and gave them away to cancer patients and their families at the cancer center. But in May 2015 a scan showed the cancer had spread to her lungs.
“I was really, really devastated for a little while—for maybe an hour or something,” she told me, chuckling on the phone, after we became Facebook friends. “The Lord said, ‘You’re still here for Me and I’m going to use you right here at the cancer center.’”
She headed back there for more treatment, armed with more books.
Her methods might be a little unorthodox, but they produced her desired results.
“I went to the chemo waiting room with twenty-six books,” she explains. “I stood up and said, ‘Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, but two years ago I was right where you are, and the Lord gave me peace and brought me through. And my friend gave me a book that strengthened me so much.’”
Then she held up a copy of the book and announced, “If you’d like a free copy, just raise your hand.”
Within a few seconds nearly every book was taken, and that’s what happened every time she spoke.
I promise you that my purpose in sharing Bunnie’s story is not to draw attention to her giving away, by her count, 425 copies of my first book—as grateful as I am for that! What I want to highlight is her generous and bold spirit as she has learned not just to battle cancer, but to dance with it.
Think about it. She has every reason to be bitter—a devastating cancer diagnosis in a new state with no family nearby, just when she was ready to relax and enjoy retirement. Cancer of the tongue when she loves to talk fast and laugh often.
But Bunnie knows what I hope you do too—that your purpose in life never changes. It is the same whether you or your loved one has a lot of cancer, a little cancer, or even no cancer. Your purpose in life—and mine—is to know God and love Him more, and to help others know God and love Him more.
Bunnie says her life verse is the same one I have chosen in my retirement: “My life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the task assigned to me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” (Acts 20:24 NLT)
As long as you have breath (even if it’s from an oxygen tank!), God is not finished with you.
I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.
Please enjoy this music video with Jason Davis, the pastor who lost part of his tongue to cancer singing his original song “These Walls.”