Jentrie Williams: Lessons from Cancer

JentrieGrid

 

There is a power that can come from pain, a maturity that can come from suffering, and a perspective that can come from life-challenging trials.  When the pain, suffering, and trials are endured well, a person can be changed, elevated, and receive an aura of power and light.  I have had the honor of associating with a few people like this and Jentrie Williams is one of those people.  Jentrie is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary trial.

In the summer of 2014, Jentrie began to experience pain in her chest and shoulder.  Thinking it was a result of working out, she visited a chiropractor multiple times to find some relief.  While the pain was off and on, it never improved.  In fact, it became worse and worse.  Jentrie experienced sleepless nights as a result of the pain; however, often it would disappear in the morning.  Finally, on November 13, 2014, it all hit.  Jentrie woke up coughing, unable to breath, with excruciating pain.  Her husband gave her a blessing and she was able to calm down.  The next night, the very same thing happened.  Despite Jentrie’s husband urging her to go to the emergency room she waited until the morning to visit her family doctor.

Jentrie’s doctor, normally a very outgoing person, was all but that when Jentrie came in.  During the exam, he never looked her in the eye, gave her a prescription for something and casually told her to get an x-ray on the way out.  Looking back, it seems obvious that the doctor knew what was most likely going on.  Later that day Jentrie received the call that no one wants to receive.  Jentrie’s doctor told her the x-ray revealed a tumor larger than a softball in her chest, and it looked cancerous.  Later that night, Jentrie went through more tests and yes, the tumor was cancerous.  All of that happened on a Thursday and by the next Monday she was a patient at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, beginning chemo.  In one week, life changed significantly for the 24 year old wife and mother of three.

Now, there is no doubt that Jentrie is fortunate.  If you have to get cancer, Jentrie’s type of cancer is the one you want to get.  After eight months of intense treatment, Jentrie is done with chemo and radiation and living a fairly normal life.  Most fortunately, Jentrie is still alive.  There are many, many people whose experience with cancer is not as fortunate.  I do not want to put Jentrie on a pedestal and she doesn’t want that either.  But this is what I do want, what I hope for.  Jentrie experienced something that basically forced her to put everything in perspective.  Jentrie thought deeply about things that normal, healthy people do not usually think about.  As the reader and/or observer, we have the opportunity to learn lessons and gain insights (without experiencing cancer) that can change our lives.

Jentrie’s interview highlights four main topics:  (1) the power and reality of God, (2) the importance and power of family, (3) the great potential of community, and (4) experiencing trials can help you grow and help others (but only if you allow it).

The Power and Reality of God

Jentrie is a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) and has been her whole life.  When asked about her initial reaction to finding out about her cancer she said, “I was nervous but never scared… I just remember leaning on my Heavenly Father… I knew that He knew me, I knew the way He worked, I knew His plan and so I knew that this was part of my plan and so I didn’t worry.”  Jentrie absolutely admitted that there were many rough times and lots of tears shed.  She knew, full well that she was going to be extremely sick, but she always had that inner peace and confidence.   Jentrie knows that God is real and that Jesus Christ lives and understands us perfectly.  They love us.

Lesson for us:

If you believe in God the Father and Jesus Christ, then rely on Them and follow Them.  If you don’t believe in God the Father and Jesus Christ, then give it a try.  Say a prayer, help someone, read the Bible or Book of Mormon and apply something that they teach to your life.  Look for feelings of joy and satisfaction, like a warm or “full” feel in your heart.  God is good and all good things lead to God.

I too am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I know and testify that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ exist.  Jesus Christ suffered through the Atonement so that all of us may be saved and supported in our life.

The Importance and Power of Family:

Within minutes of Jentrie calling her family to inform them of the news they were by her side, her dad being the first to arrive.  Jentrie was fortunate to have a mother, mother-in-law, and husband who were able and willing to take care of her three beautiful children 100% of the time.  Her children were able to stay at home and sleep in their own beds.  Jentrie’s dad was constantly by her side.  During his lunch breaks he would sit next to her in the hospital, even when she was sick and incoherent.  Jentrie’s grandma also spent a significant amount of time next to her. Jentrie’s siblings and in-laws were angels and did everything they could to lift her up and support her.  It was a combined effort of immediate and extended family, and they were all amazing.  Jentrie’s family did exactly what a family is supposed to do:  love, support, and sacrifice to help and serve each other.

Lesson for us:

You are a member of a family in some sort of way.  You may be part of a family who loves one another or you may be a part of a family who doesn’t.  I invite you, right now, to decide to be the best family member possible.  Be positive and kind, be willing to sacrifice and help.  There is nothing better than being a dad or mom, brother or sister, uncle or aunt, and a part of a family who loves each other.

The Great Potential of Community:

It was a privilege for me to see, first hand, Jentrie’s community stand up and provide overwhelming support for Jentrie.  There were countless bake sales and auctions to raise money for her treatments.  Jentrie loved the many visitors and messages of encouragement (often times those came completely by surprise).  People provided meals for her family month after month after month.  The amazing thing is that Jentrie essentially only had to worry about battling cancer and that is it.  Everything and everyone else was taken care of by her family and the community.

Lesson for us:

Help others.  From my experience, it is almost always inconvenient to reach out and serve someone, but do it anyway.  Jentrie said, “It means the world to those who are struggling through trials to have other people reach out and help.”  If you have a thought to help someone but are hesitant because you don’t know them or don’t know them well or you think it may be weird or unexpected, do it anyway.  Life can be very difficult.  However, the good news is that we are all in it together, so let’s help each other.

Experiencing Trials Can Help You Grow and Help Other People:

In a shaky but determined voice and with tears in her eyes, Jentrie said, “I have learned that, if you choose to look at your trials as a learning experience… and try to be positive… that they can be your greatest blessings….  Though it was not fun, I would do it again in a heartbeat to know how much I have grown and how many people I have been able to help.”  Jentrie also learned how to better “mourn with those that mourn.”  Ultimately, you could say, that Jentrie’s heart was softened and her mind was enlarged to better see other people’s pain and know how she can help.

Lesson for us:

Trials can either make you miserable and angry or humble and happy.  Choose the latter.  Choose to learn and choose to reach out, even in your suffering, to help other people.

 

It was a honor, privilege, and a humbling experience to sit down with Jentrie and listen to her story.  I hope you gained an insight or an idea that will help you become better and be happier.  I want to hear your feedback and thoughts.  Please leave a comment below or email me at daniel.spencer.toney@gmail.com.  Thank you.