In October 2011, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I had six months.

Soon I had no energy, lost so much weight it looked like a strong breeze could’ve carried me away, and some days all I could do was lay on the sofa and pray.

But when my church found out about the diagnosis, I was overwhelmed with the immediate outpouring of love. They became my family and loved me through every step.

Every day for months, my mailbox was crammed full of handwritten cards from the wonderful people in my church. It was so sweet to know people cared that much. I could hear the creak of the lid on our old metal mailbox beside the front door every afternoon when the mailman came. Just the excitement of knowing there would be a card inside gave me enough energy to get up and walk to the door.

Filling Up My Treasure Chest

Now I keep all those cards in a big cardboard box I call my treasure chest, and every so often I get them out and read them again.

It seemed as though the people who sent those notes were on my spiritual wavelength. For example, when I was diagnosed I immediately claimed Philippians 4:6-7 as mine. And as I read the cards people sent me, nearly every other one contained that particular Scripture, which says,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Recently, I pulled one out from a lady with whom I had volunteered before my diagnosis. On the front of the card was a beautiful purple iris, which was significant because purple is the color of pancreatic cancer. At the time, I hadn’t noticed it was hand-drawn. But when I looked at it again, I thought, “How sweet that she took the time to draw this for me!” That card was so special I framed it.

When people take the time to draw you a flower or write a note to say they are praying for you, you know they really are. I never felt like it was something they said just to be polite. And after three years, they are still praying for me; I’m reminded that even on my worst days, I know God loves me, and so does my church family.

The Purpose of Cancer

My treasure chest of cards is one of the sweetest things in my possession. I got a card just the other day because I was going back to Cancer Treatment Centers of America for another procedure. Somebody knew I needed a little bit of encouragement.

My battle with cancer is not finished; I still have another round of chemotherapy. But three years after being given only six months to live, I know God has a purpose for me. Through this experience, my life has been blessed more than I can say. I now see chronic illness differently, and I have a deeper compassion and stronger desire to help others because of it. I believe God’s purpose for me is to share the blessings I have received and give back in whatever way I can.

My husband and I got connected with a cancer care ministry called Our Journey of Hope. We went through the training and now help people who are going through cancer, and in turn those people help us. We regularly send cards and letters of encouragement to cancer patients, many of whom are too fatigued for visits or calls. But I know from my experience that handwritten notes can be powerful. It was the biggest impact on my life during this time, and I firmly believe those cards are a big part of why I am still here. If my story can encourage you to write a letter or send a card that will give someone else the courage to keep fighting the battle, then I’ve done what God has called me to do.

The Power of a Card

You might not know what to say or how to respond to the news that someone has cancer. Try writing a card. All it needs to say is, “I’m shocked by the news, and I don’t know what to say, but I love you and I’m praying for you.”

That means so much. Just knowing that people care makes a big difference. Faith is everything, but attitude helps, and that kind of support helps keep a positive attitude. Cards and letters are rare in this age of technology. But that makes a handwritten card that much better.

Write a letter. Send a card. Let them know you’re praying for them. You might not make just a difference, but the difference.