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 whipping up balloons and smiles for children. 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?
The year before her diagnosis, Bunnie moved to Florida and 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. Bunnie Googled “clown schools,” found one only two hours from her new home, took the courses, and became a member of the Fellowship of Christian Magicians.
Then she began volunteering at her local Dairy Queen, performing magic tricks and twisting 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. Following a two-week hiatus, she was back clowning at Dairy Queen.
After 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 that book. So she bought dozens and passed them out to cancer patients and caregivers.
Then in May 2015 more bad news–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 for more treatment and armed with more books (a final total of 425, she says!).
Think about it…Bunnie had 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 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
As long as you have breath (even if it’s from an oxygen tank), God is not finished with you!
Excerpted from Peace in the Face of Cancer ©2017 Lynn Eib. All rights reserved.
UPDATE: In 2018 Bunnie passed away, 4.5 years after her initial diagnosis.
Please enjoy the incredible testimony and original song “These Walls” from Jason Davis, the pastor who lost 80-percent of his tongue to cancer.