Thank you, Janeen, for sharing your story with us!
Tell us about yourself!
Hi, there! I’m just an ordinary woman who serves an extraordinary God! I’m almost 64 yrs old, married to Ray for almost 40 years. Together we’ve raised 9 children and 1 in heaven, and enjoy our 5, soon-to- be 6 grandchildren.
I was born in Brooklyn, NYC, and became a Jersey girl when I was 12 until this year. We bought a home in West Des Moines, Iowa this year and plan to retire here. I’ve home-birthed, home-schooled and have enjoyed being able to stay at home with our family.
I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroid disease and breast cancer in 2008. My breast cancer is known as triple-negative, which is an extremely aggressive type of cancer. I went through a mastectomy, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation as treatment and have been disease-free for 13 years. I do, however, suffer from chronic side effects that may worsen as I age. These include fatigue, anxiety, cardiac issues, and my Hashimoto’s, which contributed to those as well.
What has God taught you in your valley of chronic illness?
I think the biggest thing I learned was that I cannot control or fix my problems. My life and actions were carefully controlled by me, or so I thought. When God allowed me to enter this valley, I realized early that it was something that I could not fix, change, or direct. My life was forever changed by the mercy and grace of God. I tell people that I became the “new and approved” version of Janeen. I hit the brick wall of illness and it drove me to my knees. I cried out to God to take control, to guide me and to change me.
Some of the specific things I learned—
- that I didn’t need to know or understand the whole story before carrying on. I could trust him with my life from that moment on, and not worry about the “what if’s”.
- that even though I was disfigured and lost my hair, I was still beautiful in my inner soul and could have joy daily that no one could steal.
- how to comfort others in their affliction and help bear someone’s burden.
- the value of a husband who truly loves me in sickness and in health.
- to number my days and to redeem the time.
- that weakness is a great strength.
What Scriptures have spoken to you in your times of need?
Fear not, for I am with you;Isaiah 41:10, 13
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
For I, the LORD your God,
hold your right hand,
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
I am the one who helps you.”
It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.Deuteronomy 31:8
So we can confidently say, “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
“As your days, so shall your strength be.”Deuteronomy 33:25
What is the best part of your chronic illness?
The best part of my illness is
- a heart of joy, thanksgiving and praise for the goodness of God.
- being able to truly sympathize and empathize with those that suffer.
- being okay with my weakness, knowing that it allows God the glory of acting strongly on my behalf. He gets the glory, I get the good.
- the physical reminders of my illness teach me humility.
- it has taught me about prayer and has deepened my personal prayer life.
How would you encourage other women with chronic illness?
- Embrace your weakness.
- Stay rooted in God’s Word.
- Sing and listen to music.
- Spend time outdoors to meditate and pray–watch the evening sun set, etc.
- Find someone to pray with or to encourage each other.
- Venture out of your comfort zone at home–you will be blessed.
What resources have helped you?
- The Valley of Vision
- Beside Still Waters (Charles Spurgeon)
- A Small Book for the Anxious Heart (Edward Welch)
- John Piper’s blog, Desiring God
- Joni Eareckson Tada’s blog
- older hymns like
- Day by Day
- He Giveth More Grace
- O Love That Will Not Let Me Go
- beautiful contemporary music like these or others:
- Lead, Kindly Light by Audrey Assad
- Nothing to Fear by Audrey Assad
- Still, My Soul, Be Still by Keith and Kristyn Getty
- Consider the Stars by Keith and Kristyn Getty