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!

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