A few weeks before Easter, our pastor, Will McLeane, approached me with an idea: “What if you shared a live witness of your breast cancer journey in front of the congregation on Easter morning?”
What I heard: “No pressure, but how about sharing your testimony in front of hundreds of people on the church’s most visited day of the year?”
I love public speaking, but there’s something so reverent about being on stage at church and leading those in the congregation. It was something I had never done before and hadn’t very much seen before, as I spent a majority of my faith life growing up in the Southern Baptist church.
But it was an easy yes - I’ve known throughout this breast cancer experience that God is calling me to share with as many people that will listen. His faithfulness to me and our family is something to be shouted from the rooftops, and if my story can encourage and support other women and families faced with the same diagnosis, who am I to keep my experience to myself?
So as we approach Penecost Sunday, here is my witness from Easter.
My hope is that this video reminds you of the hope we have as believers throughout the year and not just on holidays.
The transcript of the video:
My name is Jen Hoverstad and on March 28, 2018, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, HER2 +.
If you aren’t familiar with oncology diagnoses, that’s breast cancer with small proteins attached to the cancer cells that made them multiply more quickly. When I discovered my tumor, it was 6cm large and had spread to a lymph node so I was categorized as Stage 3.
This diagnosis didn’t make sense to me - WHY ME?
Each year, less than 5% of women under 40 will receive a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Why was I in the less than 5%?
I was 34 years old, Halle was getting ready to turn 1 and Elin was 3.5. Don’t these kids need their mom?
Carl and I were getting ready to celebrate 10 years of marriage. Doesn’t he need a wife?
I was finally finding my stride in my career. Can I not just enjoy what I have?
I was scared and anxious of the future.
I wasn’t strong enough to tackle cancer.
I wasn’t ready for this!
There wasn’t room in our lives for cancer.
And then God gave me the story of Gideon.
When the Lord called Gideon to rescue his people - Gideon questioned him.
He said “If God is with us, why is this happening to us?
And he followed that up by saying, “HOW CAN I DO THIS? I’m the least of the weakest.”
And then God told Gideon “I will be with you.”
And, in 2018, God was telling me the same thing - Jennifer, I will be with you.
God never promised me timelines or outcomes. God told me he would be with me.
God provides for the people he calls to do his work - in whatever life situation that maybe - illness, tough relationships, physical and mental tests, even death.
On Easter Sunday last year, the first Sunday after my diagnosis, I showed up to The Gathering knowing that God was calling me into a narrative that involved cancer.
I have never felt more alone and scared in a crowded room of people celebrating than I did last Easter.
And it’s as-if Will knew that me - sitting on the left side of the room, tearing up during the music and barely able to pay attention to the sermon - he said this:
“Easter meets us when the world’s life is sad. But we do not need to feel hidden in the tomb.”
He challenged us to go and reclaim our life by meeting the risen Jesus, because there is power and hope in the risen Jesus.
There’s a God who wants to write a story of resurrection that’s too good not to be true.
My resurrection story since last Easter is that cancer allowed me to know God better than I have ever known him before.
God has given me a miraculous peace through six rounds of chemotherapy, a bilateral double mastectomy, and 28 rounds of radiation with multiple unexpected obstacles throughout.
I have seen the Lord.
I am seen by the Lord.
He has called the unqualified, the scared, the tired, the doubters, to do his work.
It was through cancer that I realized God called me by name.
And it’s on Easter that remember darkness has no power over us.
That first week of my diagnosis, his call to me was simple. He said:
“Go forth, Jennifer. Do something. Show people who I AM.”
On Easter 2018, I realized that God chose me for this particular journey.
That day, I wrote in my journal, that I committed to answering God’s call and showing his provision in my life - whatever that might look like.
Today, Jesus has risen so that each of us might experience a life that we never thought we would have.