Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Speak Life, Overcomers!

Transcribed from the speech given at Wilkes University on 4/18/2015.  Be blessed, Overcomers!!!

Good Afternoon, Relay for Life Enthusiasts! 

I have been asked to address you today because someone felt what I had to say would encourage and inspire.  That is my heartfelt hope! 

As a mental health nurse, I realize that all of us need hope!  Hope to confront the dark emotions which can imprison minds.   Hope to face the uncertainties of tomorrow with resolve.  Hope to instill courage when facing the grim diagnosis of cancer.  Hope to overcome whatever mountain blocks life’s path.

But before we talk about hope, let’s talk about mountains.

In December of 2010, I asked my friends on Facebook…When a mountain is placed in your path, what do you do?

One friend said,

"Fret over it for a while. Stress out and make myself crazy until I finally realize I can do nothing. Only when I reach that point do I finally surrender to God, place everything in His hands and let go. It's at that point God begins to move that large boulder at a time."


Another replied,

"Take pictures! :)"


And another was to



One friend said to

"I usually start digging a path and hope a friend or two shows up to help. They usually do. Good friends show up with big shovels. The best friends show up heavy machinery. : )"

Finally someone said,

"Get 2’s not ur first or ur last!! But ull get over it!!"


It occurs to me that perspective influences just how the mountain is perceived. If a mountain is in the path, could it mean that the path one's on must change? A person could look at the mountain and be overwhelmed.  A mountain could cause a person to fear or panic; conversely, a mountain could inspire bold courage. A person could ignore the mountain and hope it goes away.

Mountains...everyone experiences obstacles in life!  Unpaid bills, strained relationships, employment stressors, health issues and emotional upheaval, and yes, a cancer diagnosis are ALL examples of mountains or obstacles, which may block our life's path.

The mountain that I faced in 2010 was foreknown by God and He has brought good, a lot of good from it!  I wouldn’t be here today encouraging you, if I had not faced my mountain as an Overcomer.

My story began on Christmas day, 2010.  As I was driving to work, I was asking God “What’s up” for 2011?

My heart heard clearly, “Do not trust in the horses and chariots of men.  Trust in Me.”  From Psalm 20:7

I understood that to mean do not trust in the power and wisdom of men APART from God.  Immediately, I began pondering His statement and attempted to apply it to any current situations, which gave me a choice to either trust man or trust Him.  I knew God was speaking, but was not certain how His word applied to me.

Two days later, I was visiting my momma in the hospital.  My cousin, who I don't see very often, was also visiting my Mom.  She was telling me about her numerous past surgeries, the latest of which was a double mastectomy. 

After the visit, my husband and I had decided to eat out for dinner, and eat somewhere fun, so we decided to eat at a local hibachi grill.  My phone rang as the chef juggled knives and threw eggs, slicing them in midair.  As I watched the visual food display, my surgeon's voice cut through the moment with the surreal statement, "The biopsy showed cancer in your right breast." 

The next two months were filled with overwhelming amounts of information, statistics and decisions, but I remembered that God had given me a heads up.  Every decision, every choice I made, I remembered that God said, “Trust Me.”

Originally, I was scheduled for a lumpectomy on my right breast followed by radiotherapy (5 days a week for 5 weeks) combined with Tamoxifen (5 years).  But I didn’t have peace with that plan.  I felt God was leading me to trust Him for a different plan. 

Because of my discomfort with the treatment plan, the surgeon proposed another option of double mastectomy, thus eliminating the need for follow up radiotherapy and Tamoxifen.  I felt peace, God’s peace with this course of action.

So On February 3rd 2011, I had a bilateral mastectomy.  I felt God leading me to have the left breast removed as a prophylactic (elective) treatment.

Let me ask you.  Do you live your life seeing it as a glass half empty or do you live as though the glass of live is half full? This was the conversation I had with the women employed by my plastic surgeon about a week after the surgery. One of the women remarked, "You have a really good attitude about all of this." I responded, "I try to look at life as a glass half full with the help of Jesus." Little did I know, testing of my half full statement would soon begin.

The next stop was the postoperative visit to my breast surgeon.  The surgeon proceeded to explain the pathology report. As expected, an aggressive type of cancer was found in the right breast, but ONLY in the area identified by the biopsy with No lymph node involvement!!!

Then she began to explain the findings of the left breast pathology report. Remember, having the left breast removed was a prophylactic (elective) procedure due to the chance of cancer forming at a later date and my choice of not undergoing Tamoxifen therapy.

 Invasive mucinous carcinoma (extremely rare cancer) on that side as well. Since this cancer was not expected, no sentinel node test had been performed so the extent of metastasis (spread) was undetermined.

The surgeon read my face as she revisited the idea of Tamoxifen therapy as well as possible chemotherapy and now the need to see an oncologist.

I will be honest, my awesome peace was attacked in that moment. The surgeon then pointed her finger toward Heaven and said, "Apparently, there is Someone up there looking out for you."

As the surgeon left the exam room, I began to get dressed, and with tears in my eyes, I said to my husband, "I'm not leaving this room until I get my peace back!" I began to thank Jesus for the fact that the cancer was already removed, and began thanking Him for granting me peace throughout the "ordeal." I felt Him touch my emotions as I reported to the checkout desk.

Later, while using the ladies' room, the Lord reminded me of the earlier conversation with the women at the plastic surgeon's office. Glass half full? I thought to myself. Then God broke in saying, "Not a glass half full; you are a cup running over."  At that moment, I received a new infusion of courage and peace to continue facing and overcoming my mountain. 

Psalm 23:5 (Amplified Bible)

"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over."

A few days later, I was sitting in the oncologist’s exam room.  The doctor asked how I decided to have the left breast removed.  I told him I was not at peace with the Tamoxifen treatment and after praying, felt peace to have a bilateral mastectomy. His replied, "That's not logical." I quietly responded, "Faith isn't always logical."

It turned out that there was not enough tumor tissue to perform the genetic testing.  During that time, my resolve was tested, but my faith was invigorated by my awesome dad who said, “Bellann, Jesus is in your heart. I'd follow my heart."  So, I followed my heart!!!

I received the initial pathology report the Monday after Christmas 2010, stating that I had breast cancer. The Monday after Easter 2011, I received the results of the PET scan, no metastasis!!!

Although, the cancer had been completely removed, I knew that my lifestyle needed to be dramatically changed.

Lifestyle change #1.  Sweating exercise!

I used to joke, “The eleventh commandment says, Thou shalt not sweat.”  I didn’t enjoy sweating, nor did I appreciate sore muscles post exercise, BUT deep down I knew exercise was beneficial for a healthy and properly functioning body.  Then I found out that cancer "Reoccurrence rates decreased by 40 percent among those who exercise at least 3-5 hours per week, compared with those who were sedentary," according to Harvard Medical School.  I had been sedentary most of my life and I knew I had to change!

So my journey as an athlete began.  I started walking short distances, than I began to combine walking and running.  By September 2011, I was able to run my first 5K race, and I completed my first sprint triathlon in August 2013.


Lifestyle change #2.  Dietary overhaul!

Previous to cancer, I ate, loved to eat, and ate whatever I wanted.  As a nurse, I knew all about balanced diets, but knowing and doing are very different.  But having had cancer changed my attitude and behavior.

I found out that organic (pesticide-free) foods are healthier. 


·        Did you know that the body processes and breakdown the pesticides we eat into “estrogen-like” compounds? 

·        “Currently there are some 160 *xenoestrogens that may be involved in breast cancer development.”3  These can be found in cosmetics and UV screeners, as well as foods that have been sprayed with pesticides.

*any by-product of industrial or chemical processing that have estrogenlike effect.1


I found out that most Americans are deficient in Vitamin D.

u 30%-50% of the adult US population is vitamin D deficient (Centers for Disease Control)

Vitamin D affects up to 200 genes that influence cell division and cell death.  Vitamin D not only affects bone strength, affects the kidney, breast, pancreas heat and blood vessels, muscles, and immune cells.

When I had my vitamin D level checked, I was deficient!  Now I take supplemental Vitamin D3.


I found out that I needed to dramatically decrease my intake of processed food and sugar.

I increased my intake of fish and limit other animal proteins.

I limit my consumption of dairy products.

·        There are high levels of estrogen in dairy foods.  Think about it milk comes from a cow, which is a female mammal.  Of course, the estrogen levels would be high.


Lifestyle change #3.  Follow Peace

After I received the cancer diagnosis, I realized the importance of maintaining a positive thought life.  I was able to resist fearful thoughts by listening to worship music, especially at night when fearful thoughts tend to scream.

I made certain that as I faced my mountain, I didn’t forget others who also were faced with mountains.  I refused to allow a diagnosis shift my focus toward me, which has the danger of stimulating self-pity. 
Self-pity does not solve problems and it certainly does not remove mountains. 

I focused on the many blessings in my life.

I made certain I was not harboring unforgiveness towards anyone.

Fearful thoughts, self-pity and unforgiveness are not the way of Peace!


All of us face a mountain at some point in our lives, sometimes many mountains, but the way we “see” that mountain makes all the difference. 

Let me submit to you today that we are not merely survivors, because the word “survivor” implies one who has faced an enemy and has narrowly escaped.  I believe we are Overcomers.  We are ones who have faced our mountain with strength and have prevailed.  Survival implies a position of weakness, but an Overcomer shouts strength.

We will not be victims, merely surviving.  We will be an Overcomers!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Zechariah 5-6: Building the True Temple of the Lord

Zechariah had been encouraging the Israelites to rebuild the temple, yet later he talks about a time in the future when the true temple of the Lord would be built by Jesus.

Zechariah 6: 12
And say to him, Thus says the Lord of hosts: [You, Joshua] behold (look at, keep in sight, watch) the Man [the Messiah] whose name is the Branch, for He shall grow up in His place and He shall build the [true] temple of the Lord.

Later, it is written that those who are far off (that's you and me) will assist in building the true temple of the Lord!  WOW!

Zechariah 6:15

And those who are far off shall come and help build the temple of the Lord, and you shall know (recognize and understand) that the Lord sent me [Zechariah] to you. And [your part in this] shall come to pass if you will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God.

If we are to assist the Lord in building His true temple, then we should know, "What is the true temple of the Lord?"

I believe the true temple of the Lord is a spiritual temple; Ultimately, the true temple is symbolic for the Bride of Christ, Christians!  This true temple is not made with stone and mortar, but by cultivating the Holy Spirit in ourselves and in others. Notice, the fulfillment of the promise of being co-builders with the Lord rests on whether or not we diligently obey His voice. WOW!

Each time we "hear" and then "obey" what the Lord instructs, we effectively, build in ourselves and in others the true, spiritual temple of the Lord!

How have you cultivated the Spirit in yourself?

How have you stirred the Spirit in others?

I hear the Lord calling.  Will we respond in obedience?  YES!!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Speaking Life at Wilkes University

Wilkes-Barre, PA

Teams of college students had set up tents selling various items
(mostly food)
to help raise money for cancer research.

This distinguished gentleman is my father. 
I really appreciate his support!

Relay teams competed throughout the day in fun competitions.

This is a pic of me and my greatest earthly supporter, my husband!

I was given the great privilege to share my story as a cancer overcomer this past Saturday.  It was wonderful to be able to speak of God's awesome interventions in my life and how He continually guided me in every decision. 
As I spoke, many eyes filled with tears.  I pray that the resolve to stand firm in the fight was released, no matter if the mountain is cancer or some other earthly obstacle.
Thanks to all who prayed for me.  I could feel God's pleasure as I spoke.
The highlight of the day was receiving a gift bag as a thank you for speaking.  For those of you who know me, you know that purple is my fav color!  I received a purple tee shirt, purple travel mug, and a purple trimmed canvas bag.  It was as though God was winking at me. 
 I already had a purple folder to hold my speech notes. ;)
I really do love Him!!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Zechariah 4: Who Are You, O Great Mountain of Human Obstacles?

Mountains...everyone experiences obstacles in life!  Unpaid bills, strained relationships, employment stressors, health issues and emotional upheaval are ALL examples of mountains or obstacles, which may block our life's path.  So it is today the same as it was when Zechariah penned this encouragement.

Zechariah 4:6-7

Amplified Bible (AMP)
Then he said to me, This [addition of the bowl to the candlestick, causing it to yield a ceaseless supply of oil from the olive trees] is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit [of Whom the oil is a symbol], says the Lord of hosts.
For who are you, O great mountain [of human obstacles]? Before Zerubbabel [who with Joshua had led the return of the exiles from Babylon and was undertaking the rebuilding of the temple, before him] you shall become a plain [a mere molehill]! And he shall bring forth the finishing gable stone [of the new temple] with loud shoutings of the people, crying, Grace, grace to it!

So there you have it, folks!  Whether leading a people out of captivity and rebuilding a temple or plowing through the life obstacles of today, what we need is oil, the oil of the Holy Spirit. 

His Spirit empowers us to maintain a healthy focus.  We focus on God, Who created the universe, Who knows no bounds,  Whose power is unmatched, rather then being distracted by the earthly "mountain" in our path. 

Often the very solution to transforming a mountain into a molehill is the proper perspective.  We may need to "reframe" the mountain.  In other words, we need to look at the obstacle or situation with a positive mindset rather than a negative one. 

A negative mindset set might say...

Why do bad things always happen to me?

I take two steps forward, then get pushed back ten steps.

I just can't take anymore.

Reframing the mountain and looking at it positively might sound something like...

Life is filled with bad things, they are bound to impact me at some time or another.

When I feel the pushback of life's circumstance, I will fall to my knees and worship.  God can take the pushbacks and use them to strengthen my spiritual muscles.

I "feel" like I can't anymore, but the truth is God will NEVER allow anything to touch me that I cannot handle with Him.

Holy Spirit, empower us to always reframe difficult situations seeing them through Your eyes and not our feelings.  Help us to identify the positive and be thankful for all You have done and provided.  In Jesus' name, AMEN!



Monday, April 6, 2015

Relay For Life Event

Dear Beautiful Grace Readers,

I have been invited to speak at a Relay For Life event at Wilkes University on April 18th.  My story of breast cancer will be expressed to students, professors and community participants highlighting the power of God to empower to climb any mountain as an Overcomer!

I humbly ask that you would pray for me to be BOLD and to SPEAK CLEARLY about the wonders of God's love.  Pray that every heart would be touched by His Spirit and encouraged to face and conquer whatever mountain is faced with Him!!!

Love you all!

Beautiful Grace

Friday, April 3, 2015

I Wish We'd All Been Ready

Yesterday, while running outside on the beautiful spring day, I was praying for a group of people as I listened to DC Talk's "I Wish We'd All Been Ready." I looked up and saw this... 
I think God heard my prayer, don't you? LOVE!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Zechariah 3: Grace-Empowered Coping Skills

Chapter three begins with Zechariah watching Joshua the high priest stand before "the Angel of the Lord (Jesus)."  Satan is standing at Joshua's right, accusing him.  But the Jesus rebukes Satan and assures him that He continually chooses Jerusalem. (Zechariah 3:1-2)

Then the filthy garments (representing sin) Joshua is wearing are removed as Jesus assures "I have caused your iniquity to pass from you, and I will clothe you with rich apparel." (Zechariah 3:4)

Jesus, stood by solemnly and earnestly protesting and affirming Joshua! (Zechariah 3:6)

Then comes the awesome promise...

Zechariah 3:7
Amplified Bible (AMP)

Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in My ways and keep My charge, then also you shall rule My house and have charge of My courts, and I will give you access [to My presence] and places to walk among these who stand here.

As a psychiatric nurse, I often discuss triggers with my patients.  A trigger:  to initiate, actuate, or set off by a trigger <an indiscreet remark that triggered a fight> <a stimulus that triggered a reflex> (Merriam Webster).

I ask my patients to list their "triggers," because if we know what precipitates an unpleasant emotional reaction, we can develop a plan to manage ourselves.  Some triggers can be avoided, like developing a progressive study plan in order to avoid cramming before a test which triggers an anxiety attack.

But some triggers cannot be avoided, such as, the bully trigger, which may set a bullied child up for self-esteem/depression issues.

In order to manage their emotional state, I counsel my patient to develop a safety plan, which includes identifying personal coping skills. "In psychology, coping is expending conscious effort to solve personal and interpersonal problems, and seeking to master, minimize or tolerate stress or conflict"(Wikipedia).

As human beings, we all have triggers, but as Christians what we do with those triggers makes all the difference.  The coping skills used to manage our personal triggers includes God's grace! 

For example, we need to remember, when Satan accuses us through a bully, reminding us of our real or imagined faults, that Jesus stands by "solemnly and earnestly protesting and affirming" us.  His grace empowers us to forgive and pray for those being influenced by the evil one.  In this case, forgiveness and prayer are used as coping skills, powerful coping skills!

Forgiveness and prayer not only protect the person being bullied, but also will affect the bully, releasing him/her to our Father.  

These grace-empowered coping skills are tools, which God commands us to employ.  These skills are a way to "walk in My ways and keep My charge" and the resulting promise, "you shall rule My house and have charge of My courts, and I will give you access [to My presence] and places to walk among these who stand here."

Holy Spirit, empower us with the grace to forgive and pray knowing that Jesus stands by us affirming us and rebuking the evil one.  Let us be lights in the dark, encouraging others to utilize the grace-empowered coping skills You have made available.  In Jesus' name, AMEN!