Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
Words are powerful and precious. And cancer survivors can use their stories and words of encouragement to help others as they go through their own journey with cancer.
I don’t know how it happened. When I was first diagnosed with cancer, word spread among my family and friends. All of a sudden, my mailbox began filling up with well wishes. There were cards, letters and even gifts, many times, from people I had never met. I was astounded at the outpouring of love.
As I progressed through treatment, I would often read through the mail I’d received allowing the sweet sentiments to wash over me like a healing balm. The kindness was evident in each piece of mail and the one thing they all had in common was the fact that my health mattered to them.
Some of the mail I received was handwritten and some of it was typed. Some letters were long and others short. It didn’t matter. I was grateful to know people cared.
I was always amazed at the perfect timing involved in the receipt of those beloved pieces of evidence of care and concern. Many days were difficult and when I’d find a note of encouragement in the mailbox, I felt like I’d received a priceless gift. Those words offered me hope that I’d see a better tomorrow.
Though I’m out of active treatment now, I’ve kept every correspondence and have treasured them. Once in awhile, I’ll pull out that big bag of mail and read through the cards and letters again as I remember my journey. The carefully penned or typed words remind me there is still good in the world.
Words are impactful and important. According to Yehuda Berg, a bestselling author in the field of spirituality, “Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”
For the person battling cancer, positive words can provide a much-needed morale boost, especially during difficult times.
Organizations like Girls Love Mail, founded by breast cancer survivor, Gina L. Mulligan, understand the power of these healing words. After battling breast cancer and experiencing the support of others, Ms. Mulligan said, “After I won my battle with breast cancer, I knew just what I had to do. Starting Girls Love Mail was one of those AHA moments.”
Girls Love Mail is a 501(c)3 organization that provides the opportunity for individuals to submit hand-written letters to be distributed to women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. Their website offers tips, guidelines and sample letters so anyone desiring to participate can easily do so. The only investment for participants is a willing heart, a little time and the cost of a postage stamp.
One card that really impacted my life was sent to me by a 92-year-old woman named Sara. I’d never met her before and have no idea how she found out about me, but I’m so thankful she did. This is what the card said:
Dear cancer warrior,
You don’t know me, and that’s okay. I don’t know you either, but I know what you are facing. I am a breast cancer survivor, too.
I want you to know it will get easier. Yes, it feels very difficult right now, but I promise, there will be brighter tomorrows.
When you feel weak, remember to take one day at a time. Just try to make it through this day.
Sometimes you may feel very alone, but remember you are not alone. There are women all over the world fighting cancer.
You can do this. Just try. Give it your best shot. I’m pulling for you.
Her words were not eloquent, but they touched me profoundly. Knowing I had one person on my team gave me strength.
The Holy Bible sums it up well, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24.