Christmas Eve service Testimony

As promised, here’s my speech from Christmas Eve. It will also be in the Cochrane Alliance website for anyone that wants to listen to it.

Question #1

Pastor: Tiffany, you’ve been through quite the year, dominated by cancer. Tell us about that and how you thought God might use it for good.

Me:

First of all, I’ll just give you some background. I have a soft spot in my heart for hurting and lost people so…

a few years ago I prayed that God would use me to show people how much Jesus loves them even if it meant that I would have to go through something difficult. When I discovered a lump on October 24 of last year I was pretty sure what path I would be headed down and that it would somehow be used to tell people about the good news of Jesus. 

at that time I had three thoughts go through my mind that I felt were from God. this is cancer. I don’t want you to research or stress and you will die at 33 from this disease. I was turning 33 in a few weeks. 

I went in to my Doctor a couple weeks later Who sent me for an ultrasound right away even though I had zero risk factors. the ultrasound tech told me they wouldn’t give me a mammogram unless they deemed it necessary and they gave me a mammogram within minutes of the ultrasound. the radiologist then came in and said we think this is something really bad and we are sending you for a biopsy. I looked at him and said I think I’m going to puke😀 i knew that’s what was coming but I was still scared of the unknown. I had the biopsy and the results came in a week later that it was cancer. The next step would normally be surgery but the surgeon informed us that the cancer was too far gone to do surgery. it had spread to my lymph nodes…and was continuing to spread as we were going to all of these appointments. needless to say we were anxious to get the process going. We met with the oncologist who told us that this was a very aggressive cancer and diagnosed me as stage III. 

The next 8 months provided a host of treatments to get rid of the cancer. 

It started with the most powerful IV chemotherapy they had and I got some pretty awful side effects from that including your usual hair loss, nausea, headache and extreme exhaustion which lasted for 10 days out of every 2 week cycle. 

chemo ended March 16 and it was very bittersweet for me. I was glad to be done it but really loved the time I got to spend with my husband at what I called our “chemo dates”

Next up was surgery. they removed the rest of the tumour and 24 lymph nodes, two of which still had cancer in them. I was sent home with 2 drains poking out of my side and a strict order from my surgeon to move my arm a lot! I couldn’t even lift my hand off my leg! I had a month to recover from that and then started oral chemo meds and radiation at the same time which offered up their own list of side effects including 3rd degree burns. but thankfully no pain because I was still numb from surgery!

all treatment ended November 8 of this year which was exactly one year from my first doctor appointment. 

At this point, I just have the ongoing issue of tiredness and swelling in my arm (for which I get to wear this lovely garment for the rest of my life-a compression sleeve) and I’ll be getting CT scans every three months for the next two years as my oncologist says I’m still high risk for it to return. I’m thanking the Lord for continued peace on that one as that is still a bit scary. 

question #2

Pastor: Tiffany, you told me that God have you some gifts during this time. That’s weird! Tell us more about that.

Me: after remembering all of the physical symptoms over the year I can see how it was really awful but this year was one of the best years of my life all thanks to God. physically, yes, this was the worst year of my life but that cannot possibly compare with the fact that it’s been the best emotional, mental and spiritual year of my life. God gave me so many gifts and blessings and I would love to tell you about every one of them in detail but Jason is only giving me three minutes so I’ll have to settle for telling you about my top 3! 

when I first felt God’s spirit telling me that this was cancer and that I would probably die, the Lord washed me over with feelings of peace, joy and hope that have never left me this entire year. I can count on one hand the number of times that I cried out to God in sadness. one time in particular I was thinking about what life would be like for Jon losing me and raising the kids on his own, what life would be like for the kids to grow up not even remembering their mom who they spent every day of their life with, what it would be like for my parents to watch their little girl die when that is not supposed to be the order of things and then I thought about myself not getting to grow old with my husband, watch my kids get married or see what they would become in life. Even though those were real emotions that I was having, the overwhelming feelings that I had were the peace joy and hope. I can’t describe to you how amazingly blessed I feel that the Lord would give me such gifts during a time like this. I had such deep feelings of peace that no matter what happened the Lord had it all under control. I completely trusted Him knowing that his plan was the best plan. I remember one time Jon and I were sitting at a restaurant in Canmore after I had just had some kind of scan and I looked out at the mountains and said “God created these huge mountains and he can move them.” I just knew that if He wanted me to survive then it didn’t matter how bleak the circumstances looked he could do it and if the plan was for me to die then there was a greater purpose in that, that we just couldn’t see. 

the peace That he gave me was exactly what is talked about in the Bible verse when it says “the peace that passes all understanding”. it’s hard to imagine until you’ve experienced it but it’s real and it’s amazing.

the joy that he gave me was in comprehensible as well. I was so joyful that it felt like it was bubbling out of me! I was so excited by the fact that I felt God had chosen to use me to tell people about his love and that’s why I feel that he gave me the gifts he did. to show people that he is real, he is powerful, he loves us to a depth we could never understand and he hurts when we are hurting. but that doesn’t mean that he will always fix the situation like we would want him to. when you have the joy of the Lord it no longer matters what the circumstance is or what the results are. it doesn’t make any sense to be joyful during a time like this but I can assure you that I was. 

The gift of hope that he gave me is a gift I’ve probably had for a long time but it came to the surface because death was roaring it’s head in front of me and I instantly grabbed on to what I’ve always known and that is the hope that can only come through Jesus and knowing who’s got your back during hard times in this life but also knowing where you’re going if you were to die and I have the hope of both of those.

Question #3:

Pastor:what would you say to someone needing hope tonight?

Me:I would say to any of you that Jesus is the answer to all of your challenges. there’s no other hope to find but in him. that doesn’t mean that when you put your trust in Jesus everything goes perfectly. Christian’s still experience struggles. I struggled for five years before this with having small children but I never gave up on Jesus and he never gave up on me. while I rarely experienced the feelings during that time, like I have had this year, I always knew God was with me, that he deeply loved me and he cared about the hurt that I was experiencing. 

I don’t know what any of you are going through or if any of you are faced with the thought of death but I had started to plan my funeral and had written Jason a note of exactly what I wanted him to say. I was not only at peace with dying but I was excited about it because I knew where I was going based on a decision I made years ago to ask for Jesus forgiveness and fully trust and believe in him as the one and only saviour. I wanted everyone to hear about Jesus love and his plan to save them because there is nothing that shouts out hope more than that! but now I get the privilege of sharing that hope with you while I’m still alive instead. that is so exciting to me. The hope that I have does not come from knowing God will heal me in this life, the hope that I have is knowing I’m walking this life with God present and loving me through every difficult situation as well as knowing that when this life ends for me I will be in heaven with God. now that is hope! that is amazing news! that’s why Christian’s say the story of Jesus is good news. we can have a relationship with God by accepting that Jesus is God’s Son, born to die for our sins- all of your sins-it doesn’t matter what you’ve done wrong-so that we could not only live in heaven with him but have a vibrant life here on earth! that’s true love and that’s what God did for you and me.  I have made the conscience choice to walk this life with God and i can tell you, it is much better than without Him. 

There is great hope in this baby that we’re celebrating tonight. 

Oh, And one more thing, as for the dying at 33, I just celebrated my 34th birthday! 

I don’t have time to tell you what I think about that but if you want to read more about my journey you can look at my Facebook or blog for that info.

Christmas Eve service

I go to a wonderful church in Cochrane. my pastor has asked me to speak about my cancer journey a few times and I’m always away so I finally agreed to postpone Christmas with our families and speak this Christmas Eve. I don’t know why this is more nerve-wracking to me than speaking at other events but it is.  Trying to put all of my thoughts and feelings and the physical side of the last year into a 9 minute speech is very difficult! I have so much I want to say but I guess that’s why I have this blog so I can talk as much as I want 😉  so much has gone on this last year and so much of it has been joy filled despite the circumstances so the verse that is popping into my head today is

“ The joy of the Lord will be your strength”

I hope that people can see despite my nerves how much joy has filled my heart this year and how excited I am about living life for Jesus!

When I’m done speaking at the Christmas Eve service I will post on here what I said. Come out and hear me as well as others speaking about the  hope we have in Jesus at the Cochrane Alliance Church Christmas Eve service at 4:00 and 6:00!

School talk

Today I spoke at my daughters elementary school. It was terry fox day and also hero day. The school graciously allowed me to speak about my journey through cancer, my hero and just encourage the kids to be kind to one another because we all go through difficult times. Here is my speech:

” Hello school! My name is Tiffany Haensel and I am a mom and auntie to 2 wonderful students that attend this school. I am also a cancer survivor…or patient, I’m not really sure what I am yet, but I’ve been going through cancer treatments for this whole last year. I’m sure you’ve all heard about cancer. Maybe you’ve even had someone you know who’s gone through cancer. Well I’m not going to talk to you too much specifically about cancer but I do want to talk to you about something very important and tell you about my cancer story. Cancer, just like many other things in life is very hard to go through and it can leave people feeling really sad or mad. What I want you to understand is that every single person here either has gone through something difficult, you are going through something difficult or you will be going through something difficult in the future. And I want you all to know that there are ways for you to be able to make it through that hard time. It will not last forever. Another thing I want you guys to think about, especially now that we know everybody goes through difficult times, is instead of being mean or leaving someone out who’s maybe not acting kindly to you, think about the fact that they might be going through something really hard and that’s why they’re angry or sad. That person needs a friend and someone to stand up for them more now than ever. That’s a real hero. Having A friend can help someone through just about anything. 

So now let me talk to you about my journey this past year and my friend. I found out that I had cancer in November last year. It not only was a cancerous lump but the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are little bean shaped bits of tissue located all around our bodies and they help fight off infections and viruses. Now lymph nodes are all connected through our entire body. It goes from here to here to here and all around. so when cancer gets into SOME lymph nodes, it can very quickly spread into a persons whole body and that will often cause people to die. You can imagine that that was kind of scary for me and my family. So once the dr’s knew this they started me on a medicine called chemotherapy which was to shrink the cancer. But good medicine can also come without some nasty side effects. I was so sick in my stomach that I had to lay in bed all day every day because moving made me want to throw up, I was so weak I could hardly get out of bed, my head hurt so bad I could barely open my eyes, my chest  felt like it was burning inside every time I ate, but I had to eat a lot otherwise I felt more sick, I was very achy all over my body just like when you have the flu and on top of all of that I lost all of my beautiful long blonde hair, my eyelashes and eyebrows. Not very often could I play with my kids, make them food, help them get ready in the morning, walk them to the bus or take them to their sports. Their mom was pretty much gone for a couple of months. Now that was a difficult time. After that I had to have surgery to take out the cancer. I had so much pain sometimes I had to get my husband to help me roll over in bed and get up because I couldn’t do it on my own. I had tubes coming out of my side that I had to bandage up and try not to hit or rub. My kids couldn’t wrestle with me anymore or really even hug me. After that I had radiation which burns the cancer. I had 3rd degree burns across my chest, up my neck and under my arm. It was kind of like if you got burned by touching the hot stove but it was a very large area that was burned, blistered and peeling. I had to put cream and bandages on it every morning and night and be so careful to not get an infection because I didn’t have very many good cells left in my body to fight off an infection. I had to sit in my room by myself every day for a while to let the wounds heal because I couldn’t wear anything that would be touching it. I know what it’s like to go through difficult times. But the word that I have used over and over this year is that I felt blessed. How in the world can someone feel blessed going through something like that where they could die?! But I did. You have to focus on the good stuff when you’re going through a hard time. If you look hard enough, there is always something to be grateful for. Blessings to me were things that gave me joy and that I felt grateful for. I felt very blessed to have such a good family who was willing to sacrifice what they wanted in order to help me, I didn’t have as bad symptoms as I could have, I was able to see alot of good in people as they brought my family meals, paid for me to have wigs so I didn’t have to bald all the time, and helped me with taking care of my kids. And you know how I was talking about friends being so helpful. Well I was very lucky because I had alot of friends. My family was there for me, my friends were there for me and I also had a best friend whose also my hero. his name is Jesus and He was there for me. He’s a supernatural friend and part of what I believe in. We all have different beliefs and mine is in Jesus and God. If you have a good friend or faith in a higher power that’s huge for getting through a tough time. My Faith is what has kept me going. So when I was sad, I asked God to help me and he made me happy, when I was scared, I asked Him to help me and he gave me peace. He may not choose to heal me but I know that His plan is the best plan, AND so far I know that the cancer has shrunk! In fact I may not even have cancer right now! We’re not sure yet, but it could be all gone. Many many things to be thankful for during such a hard time.

So I want you to always remember, when hard times come, they won’t last forever, there’s always something to be thankful for, and there’s always someone or something to go to for help. Either your faith, or a friend, or family or any one of the staff that works here, would love to help because they care about you. They wouldn’t be working here if they didn’t. And also remember, if You’re not going through a hard time right now, somebody else probably is and a real hero comes along side and helps out that person. So, go be a hero today! take care, and thank you for letting me come and talk to you today.“

How I’m doing after 10 months of cancer treatments

I thought I’d share today a post that I put on my Facebook account a couple weeks ago just to share how I’ve been doing lately in my cancer journey.

“I was feeling discouraged last week because even if I make it through this next year, I will never be my “normal” again. I ended up with swelling in my fingers/hands (lymphedema) because I did too much when I first got home and it’s kind of painful because the fluid is resting on my joints.  The Radiation oncologist told me I’ll have to watch that arm for the rest of my life and be careful to not lift heavy things or have anything tight in that arm, be careful with flying, shaving my armpit (it’s numb) or doing anything where I could gets cuts on that hand/arm for risk of infection, which means I’ll probably always have to wear a glove when I do a lot of things, I’ll have to ask for help instead of moving furniture on my own, and I might not be able to scuba dive or sky dive or do a lot of things I would like to do. I also might have to wear a compression glove abscess sleeve forevermore to prevent any further swelling. Not enjoyable, but this week I’m feeling like if I had to go through all of that but I was still alive in 50 years, than it would all be worth it:)

other than that thankfully be energy is decent because I have one child starting grade 1 today and going into ballet and Awana and another starting hockey and ball sports and doing preschool at home… so besides doing normal housewife duties and trying to work a bit I’ll be kept quite busy which will be good to keep my mind off of the “high risk” of seeing this cancer again this year. We will only know if it’s still there if it grows, and because it’s so aggressive, if nothing shows on CT scans in the next year, then it’s most likely gone and treatment worked. It’s good to be busy and have a giant trust in the Lord that His plan is the best plan.”

The reason for my passion

I just want to take a moment to tell you why I’m so passionate about living for Jesus. I’ve mentioned before that I feel very blessed. There are a lot of reasons for that but the biggest one is that I’m so grateful for The plan of Salvation. I believe in the Bible and the Bible teaches that if we accept that Jesus is God’s son who died for our sins, that we will have eternal life. (The famous John 3:16) Jesus has the power to forgive sins and He forgave mine when I asked Him to. I am living my life for Him because I am SO grateful!! The Bible says that everyone has sinned and that the penalty for sin is death (Eternal death which is Hell) but the gift of God is eternal life (Heaven) through Jesus. We just have to accept the gift! My sins are forgiven because I asked and I’m going to Heaven when I die because of that. Not because I’m a good person. You can never be good enough. Perfection is the only way and the only person who has ever been perfect was Jesus. Take the gift people!

The other reason I feel so blessed is because I am absolutely amazed and baffled that the God of the universe, the God who created everything, wants to have a relationship with ME, a mere peasant in the grande scheme of things. (And it’s not that I’m so special-He desires that relationship with everyone!) 

The other incredible thing to me is The fact that He designed a way to talk with me by giving me His Holy Spirit when I became a christian. That’s why I say “I felt like God said to me…” It’s not an audible voice, but it’s a feeling of His presence saying something to me. That is crazy amazing to me. So Not only do I now have peace and joy amidst a life threatening illness-gifts He gave me through His Holy Spirit- but I also have a hope that is greater than anything. I have the hope of knowing where I am going when I die because of His death and resurrection and my receiving that gift from Him. The hope that I have does not come from knowing God will heal me in this life. the hope that I have is knowing I’m walking this life with God present and loving me through every difficult situation as well as knowing when this life ends for me I will be in heaven with God. Can I get a whoop whoop?!! Now that is hope my friends! And there ain’t nothing anybody can do to take that from me! So… I am living life abundantly, peacefully, joyfully and with great hope that whether I live or die God is with me. Death is not scary but exciting! How can a person not be passionate about something so incredible?! It’s called “good news” for a reason. It’s the most amazing news!

I try not to be “preachy” because I know people don’t like that But please try not to  be annoyed or angry at someone who “preaches” to you. If this is what you believed, would you not want to tell people about it?! 

Live life abundantly and for eternity and you’ll have a blessed life no matter what comes along!

Thoughts about life

(Originally written around March/2018)

I wanted to share a bit of what’s been in my heart lately:

I don’t know why God grants miracles/blessings to some at certain times and not to others. I don’t know why he gives us what we need/want sometimes and other times lets us struggle. but I can say with confidence that I have experienced both and I can also say with confidence that God is a good and loving God so there must be a good and loving reason. When my kids were babies/toddlers, I struggled. I cried out to God every day for help but I often felt like I was drowning and defeated. God gave me little glimpses of himself and I knew he was always there with me but I wanted to be rescued and for some reason he didn’t rescue me. I was meant to go through that difficult time. 

And for some reason The Lord has chosen to give me a huge blessing at this time of my life. The Father gives his children good gifts and I have been given some of the best. And I didn’t even ask for them! I can’t describe how blessed I feel that God would choose to give me such peace, joy and strength right now. It is supernatural and God given because anyone who knows me knows that I would normally be an overwhelmed, stressed, crying mess right now. But Jesus has chosen to give me a glimpse of what it looks like to walk in fullness with Him. What it’s suppose to be like when your circumstances don’t dictate how you feel. 

That doesn’t mean life is perfect when we follow Him, it just means when the storm hits, He’s the anchor to have. He’s the only one that knows what wave is coming next, so I want Him to be guiding the boat! It’s a crazy feeling, and not easily understood but I’m so grateful for where I am right now. Right where I’m suppose to be. 

Things I’m learning on my cancer journey

(1-5 Originally written January/2018)

  1. Life is not about this life. Think eternally 
  2. Don’t worry about what you eat /striving to keep ridiculously healthy. God’s got it all figured out and it doesn’t matter too much what you do. We all have to die sometime. He wants you to enjoy life! Not be in bondage.
  3. Don’t hold so tightly to this life and the things of this life including our kids. They are His. (Ecclesiastes) Hold them loosely.
  4. Let go of control and having things done “right” and let Your husband lead, giving him grace to make mistakes. 
  5. Take the time to think about what’s great in your life. The things you’ve seen in the past and present that have been changed for the better or always were great. Be grateful for everything! Never forget what God has done. He didn’t have to give us anything, but he wanted to because He loves us.