The professor asked 10 women to stand up in front of our medical school class of 150 students. I stood in the lineup not knowing what to expect. “One of you will get breast cancer in your lifetime,” he said. One in ten. It was a sobering statement about the prevalence of breast cancer among women. But I shrugged it off: “That will never be me.”

At age 23, I was invincible. But by age 50, I was rolling into the operating room to treat my invasive breast cancer.

This was not in my plan – cancer was not supposed to be part of my story! My life was suddenly overtaken by trying to figure out what I did wrong, what caused this, and who I could blame. I lived for the results of the next lab test. Self-preservation became ultimate because I didn’t grasp that a better Author than me was writing my life story.

In the following years, as God gently revealed Himself to me, I was able to see cancer as only one thread in the tapestry God was weaving in my life and the life of the world. My small story of self-preservation was inadequate to contain all that God wanted to do. I viewed cancer as a damaging, destroying, devastating event that was taking away the life I wanted. But God transformed it into something that actually added to who He had made me to be and how He wanted me to contribute to the world. Cancer became a gift. 

Once God introduced me to all the complexity and intrigue and mystery of His Story, He drew me in. But the beauty of that Tapestry also showed me other ways I was still clinging to my small story, centered on myself. God opened my eyes to see where I had been blind to a bigger narrative. When the blindness of the past became evident, it increased my desire to be more attentive to the blindness of the present. I learned – and am still learning – to surrender the places where I am preserving myself rather than clinging to Him.

The big story of my cancer is not about me. It’s only a brief interlude in the glorious Story that God is writing in the life of the world. So in a way, my 23-year-old sense of invincibility remains. Cancer can’t ultimately destroy me, and it doesn’t define me. Because even if I don’t yet know the end of my story, I know the end of God’s.

When have you experienced glimpses of a story bigger than yourself? In what difficult life circumstance could God be transforming pain into an experience that enriches you and enlivens your relationship with Him?

Shauna Schneider

Shauna Schneider

Shauna Schneider is a surrendered follower of Jesus with an enthusiastic and encouraging nature who yearns to learn and demonstrates wisdom in discernment of Gospel truth. Always aware of the Lord’s leading and the many ways we can hear God’s voice, Shauna’s enthusiasm for her faith and gift for hospitality spill over into a wide network of friends and community connections she loves to serve. Wife to Phil, mother of three adult children, and retired physician, Shauna is cofounder, board member, and ministry director for Flourish San Diego.
Shauna Schneider

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