Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Today’s guests, Scott Hamilton and Rhonda Hodge, are both cancer survivors and teach us the power of resilience when it comes to facing trials in their lives. Scott Hamilton is an Olympic gold medalist and champion figure skater. After losing his mother to cancer, then becoming a cancer survivor himself, Scott became an activist against the disease. Scott talks to us today about his journey to skating stardom, how his wife led him to a close relationship with God, and how surviving cancer gave him purpose. Rhonda Hodge is a wife, mom, and cancer survivor. Rhonda faced cancer in her family over the years—with her husband, her best friend, and even with her own college-aged daughter—only to find out she too had the disease. She describes how she faced the diagnoses of family members and friends, and how she clung to God through her own diagnosis.
Cancer Doesn’t Win, God Does: Scott Hamilton and Rhonda Hodge – Jesus Calling Episode #109
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Today’s guests are both cancer survivors and teach us the power of resilience when it comes to facing trials in their lives: Scott Hamilton and Rhonda Hodge.
Our first guest is Olympic gold medalist and champion figure skater Scott Hamilton. After losing his mother to cancer, then becoming a cancer survivor himself, Scott became an activist against the disease. He launched the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation and other programs, including Chemocare.com and the 4th Angel Mentoring Program. Scott talks to us today about his journey to skating stardom, how his wife led him to a close relationship with God, and how surviving cancer gave him purpose.
Scott Hamilton: I’m Scott Hamilton. I’ve been around a long time in figure skating circles. I competed for many years, and then I toured as a professional.
I’ve been very involved in the cancer community and Special Olympics and, oh my goodness, a myriad of things. I like to do corporate speaking, or just any kind of speaking. And I like to write books. So it’s been a lot of work and a lot of fun.
I’m a married man. I’ve got a beautiful wife named Tracie and four children, so we’re very busy. And life is full and good.
Falling in Love with Skating
I was adopted at six weeks of age, which comes with this really cool thing. For the parents, there’s like limited expectation. When you’re a birth child, it’s like, “Oh, you know, it’s going to be academic or athletic, or they have my nose, your chin, or my eyes,” or whatever. When you’re an adopted child, it’s kind of like, “What’s going to happen?” It’s like we have no expectation.
But when I was growing up, it was just of fun household. My parents were great parents.
My parents liked church. They liked going to church. Looking back on it, I never really got the sense that they were dedicated in their faith life. I think that my mother was completely and phenomenally compassionate, so she lived as a Christian would live. You know, really being a part of the community and really helping people in difficult times.
We did the church thing. I went to Sunday school and then I started skating on the weekends and it just sort of went away. I always look back on that now and you can look at all the different little moments and different things. There’s always a belief. There was always something inside of me. I’d always be very prayerful and I knew that I needed Him.
“I’d always be very prayerful and I knew that I needed [God], not exactly knowing who He was, but I knew I needed Him.” – Scott Hamilton
So I was a very happy, undersized little boy. They figured out after a while that maybe the fact that I wasn’t growing was unusual, not to be expected.
And it was when I started showing some signs of stress, you know, my skin color was wrong, I had a distended belly, I didn’t have proper muscle development. And so it became very obvious that something was wrong, when tracking me against other kids my age. And so I started going from hospital to hospital to try to find any clue as to why am I under such physical stress and why I wasn’t growing properly.
And so it started off a local hospital, bigger hospital, bigger bigger hospital, biggest hospital. And finally we ended up at Boston Children’s. And they basically said, “We can’t figure out what’s going on here.” And they basically sent me home. They took me off flour, sugar, and dairy, so birthday parties weren’t in a lot of fun for me.
So once they took me off all that, I guess I was living more of like a normal life. I got involved in the skating club because it gave my parents a morning off to kind of recharge their batteries. And from there things changed remarkably, because I just started to get well.
You get on the ice, and it’s a new feeling. Your feet are sliding underneath you, and you’re hanging on the wall. I really felt like this is the first time I’ve been around big activity with a lot of well kids. I kind of grew up for a big chunk of the year around a lot of sick kids. So being around well kids was really exciting environment for me.
And once I started getting around the ice without touching the wall, and I started to play and get more competent, I realized that I could do something as well as the well kids. And soon after that, I realized that I could do something as well as the best athletes in my grade. And that first kind of taste of self-esteem is a pretty powerful thing. Pretty much all you want to do after that is that. You know, “I want more of that, because now I feel kind of confident secure for the first time in my life.”
Being the littlest one is always hard because I wasn’t really ever chosen you know even last for a lot of the sports. So getting into skating was kind of an equalizer for me. I loved it. And it just became my world.
“That first kind of taste of self-esteem is a pretty powerful thing.” – Scott Hamilton
Scott’s Dreams, God’s Plans
My senior in high school, my parents basically said that they ran out of money. And so that would be my last year in skating. My mother was going through cancer and chemo and surgeries and all that. And so I went for it. That was the first year I kind of went all in. And I ended up winning Junior Nationals, which was a huge deal because if I would have been fourth, or third, or even sixth, better than I’ve ever done before, I probably wouldn’t have caught the eye of a coach who had a sponsor that allowed me to keep skating. That was my senior year.
I made it to the 1980 Olympics as a third guy in a three man team, so there was no expectation for being a medal or anything else. But I still garnered a lot of attention. I was elected to carry the flag in the opening ceremony, which I still, to this day, “How did I do that?” And then I came in fifth, which was three places higher than I dreamed of coming.
So fast forward to October. I won my first competition of October 1980, and then all the way through to March 1984, I never lost a competition. So going into Sarajevo for the Olympics, I was a heavy favorite to win.
And back in those days there was three events: the compulsory figures, the short program, the long program. And I knew going in that if I were top three in all three that I couldn’t lose. So the strategy going in was build a lead, so no matter what happens in the long program, you’ll be okay. I wanted to place as high as I could in figures, which was my nemesis. Oh man, I hated figures. I just I was never any good at them. And I won the figures in Sarajevo. I beat the best guy in the world.
By the time I came to the long program, I was sick as a dog. The whole right side of my head was just congested and full. I couldn’t hear out of my right ear, so balance was off. You know, it’s just timing and exhaustion and burnout, and all that stuff.
So going onto the ice day, I was like, “Get to opening position, and do not choke.”
I got through my first jump, missed my second jump, got through the rest. The very last trip on the program, I doubled. So for someone who hadn’t missed, in six weeks, one jump in any run through— which I did a run through every day in my my long program—I never missed a jump for that month and a half approaching the Olympics. For me to miss two, it was devastating.
So the odds were were that I was going to win. It was just I wanted to win in a big way. But God had other plans.
Scott Faces Cancer for the First Time
Narrator: Scott eventually won the gold medal in the 1984 Olympics. As Scott continued a successful run as a skater, he honored his mother, who he lost to cancer when he was just a teenager. Scott describes this loss and the first time he would face his own cancer crisis.
Scott Hamilton: I lost my mother to cancer, and that was devastating. It was it was an unbelievable day. She was the center of my universe at the time. And then I realized when she passed that I wanted to honor her in a healthy way. And so I got to work, and that allowed me to win all those awards at nationals and Olympics and all that.
And then when I’m diagnosed with cancer, it was really unique. All of a sudden, I remembered how she went through it. And [for me] it was not a horrible thing. I was scared, and I was nervous. But I had good support, really good support, in helping me get through. Dear people around me, good friends, good doctors, management, all that.
And so I did the chemo, but there was something gnawing at me the whole time. And it was I had to stop [skating]. I was going through chemo, and I wasn’t on the ice, and I was just trying to get through this cancer experience. And I realized that there was something inside of me that was truly empty. I don’t know what that was. I just felt like I wasn’t the person I was supposed to be or that I wanted to be.
“I just felt like I wasn’t the person I was supposed to be or that I wanted to be.” – Scott Hamilton
And it was a pretty lonely time because I needed to be alone. Again, I wasn’t who . . . I knew that something in me was toxic broken not right, and it had nothing to do with the cancer. The cancer actually allowed me to see it for the first time. And I’m able to process it now, but back then I was like, “I’m unsettled. I need to go, I need to get out, I need to do.”
And so it was three years after I was diagnosed with cancer, three years to the day, that I met Tracie. And I just thought she was a friend of a friend and just said hi to her, and had no idea that she was going to be the one to save me.
Because she’s the one that truly brought me to Christ.
True Love . . . God’s Love
And so we were dating and she said to me, “Where are you in your relationship with Jesus? It’s important if we’re going to keep going. I need to know that.”
And I said what anybody smart in my position would say. I said, “Where do you want me to be?” Because I liked her a lot. I loved her. And so I told her all of my inhibitions, all my failures in faith, and all these misunderstandings and all the stuff that comes with being all invested in the secular world and accumulating wealth and doing all these things. I was very focused on that, more than anything else. And then when Jesus kind of showed up, it was like, “Well, I need to pay attention to this.”
And so I met with her minister. I told him all my apprehensions, all my feelings about denominational faith. I didn’t understand it for what it is and what it’s always been.
And so he just said, “I couldn’t agree with you more.”
I was like, “Really? Wow! Really?”
And he goes, “Yeah, I’m not a big fan of the separation with the Christian community. It’s religion, it’s not faith. It’s a different thing.” So he said, “Now have you ever read this book?” And he held up a Bible.
And I go, “I’ve tried, but I don’t understand it. I don’t know. It just seemed like a book of fables to me.”
And he said, “No no no. Do you like history?”
And I said, “I love history, my favorite subject in school.
And he goes, “Then you’ll love this book. When you read it, understand that these aren’t just stories of people. These are stories of how God touched these people. God is on every single page of this book. Every single page. He did this, He did everything. It’s a book of history. These things happened. Now read it. And when you get to the New Testament part, we’re gonna have to sit and talk about that because it’s a little different than the first part.”
So he mentored me, nurtured me. He was almost like a member of the family. He married me and Tracie. He baptized me. And I think it was his calm, intellectual, and sort of this familial stance that he took with me that allowed me to just go in, with 100 percent confidence, and know that I wasn’t going to fail at this, where before I just didn’t know what are the rules of the game. It’s not about that. It’s about learning and growing and understanding who you are in your relationship with Christ because we’re all different. And He has a unique relationship with every single one of us. And it was like, “I can do that. I can do that.”
Scott Hamilton Faces Cancer Again
Narrator: Six years after beating his first bout with cancer, Scott once again faced the return of the cancer to his brain.
Scott Hamilton: So brain tumor Number One was I had to tell my wife and 14 month old son, “Now have a brain tumor.” And I thought I was going to be a complete burden to both of them. And those were my feelings going in. And when I told her she just grabbed both my hands and started praying. It was powerful, really powerful. And then from there we had the biopsy, and it was successful. And and we just survived that.
Six years later it came back and that one felt different. That one felt like a kick in the stomach.
And I remember when I told Michelle, who works with me, I told her about it. She’d heard me speak up, and she just sort of like with tears in her eyes, she giggled a little bit.
I was like, “What are you thinking?”
She goes, “I can’t wait to see where this one takes you.”
And I thought, Now there’s somebody that knows you. There’s somebody that understands your journey. Because every single time I’ve been knocked down, it was to really really set my course and to allow me to live the life that I’m supposed to be living.
“Every single time I’ve been knocked down, it was to really really set my course and to allow me to live the life that I’m supposed to be living.” – Scott Hamilton
So I started making changes in my diet. I started making changes the way that I lived. I changed my water, I eliminated all the stuff that I knew would put my body at any stress or harm and allow this tumor to take off and do its will.
And I just sort of I told the doctor, he goes,”What do you want to do?”
And I said, “Just tap the brakes. Let’s just keep an eye on it. We caught it early enough where we can keep an eye on it.”
And I went back months later, and it hadn’t grown. That’s the best news possible because the nature of these tumors is they grow till they start pushing into things, and then they create all kinds of chaos and havoc. And then I kept doing what I was doing. And then they ramped it up a little bit more. And I went back months later, and it shrunk.
I asked my surgeon, “Can you explain this? Because I’m not familiar with a cranio ever shrinking without treatment.”
And he goes, “God.”
So God gets all the glory, all the time. And this one I really recognize was I’m being moved again. I don’t know what towards, or to, or for what purpose He has for me now, but I’m being moved again.
Walking With Others Through Cancer
Going through cancer is an interesting business. When I was diagnosed, the Internet was a source of information. Right. So I go to the Internet. Everything was written for third year medical students or oncologists or whatever.
And I realized, how many people actually get cancer that had the education in order to process this information? Zero, maybe 1 percent. Okay. Note to self.
And then I realized I wanted to quit at round 3 [of chemo]. I didn’t know know how I was doing. I had a lot of other things going on, where I was getting other illnesses during my chemo. And, Am I supposed to be this sick? I was sort of depressed. I didn’t know. I was flying blind. Nobody in my circle of friends knew, you know, how to speak to me or how to relate because they didn’t go through it.
And so coming out of my survivorship, I decided that I wanted to give back to the Cleveland Clinic because the care they gave me was extraordinary. And I just felt like I needed to make a difference in the cancer community, and they might be a really good partner.
And so we started the Cares Initiative and building a website called ChemoCare.com, which describes everything about the chemotherapy experience in eighth-grade English and Spanish and now, with Google translate, any language in the world. So now you can go on and every single drug is listed in combination or in individual terms, and it explains to you what they’re designed to do, how they work, and then it lists the side effects. And then there’s a whole other section about how to manage every single known side effect to chemotherapy.
And I thought, “That’s good.” Figured if we got three million hits a year that was like, “Yes! We’re really serving the cancer community.” And right now it’s doing almost probably by now almost 3 million hits a month. So it’s doing really good work.
And then the other side of it was that the kind of the loneliness of cancer and not knowing where I was, how I was doing. And so I decided the best person to do that would be a survivor. And so we created the Fourth Angel Mentoring Program.
So first angel is your oncologist, your second angel is your oncology nurse, your third angel’s your friends and family. There needed to be a fourth angel, and the fourth angel is someone who’s been there, done that. They can talk to you in language that you need to hear, and guide you through your experience, and share best their best practices and be able to describe things of how they felt when they were going through it. So it’s it’s truly mentoring and role modeling and it’s booming.
Cancer was the best thing ever because it totally showed me who I was, what I was missing, and it totally took me on a different path. And I’m so without that my life wouldn’t be what it is today, and I’m so grateful for it.
“Cancer was the best thing ever because it totally showed me who I was, what I was missing and it totally took me on a different path.” – Scott Hamilton
Being Called to God’s Purpose
Narrator: Scott believes that anyone can adopt the mindset of a champion to help reach their dreams and become the person God designed them to be. He talks about this concept in his new book, Finish First: Winning Changes Everything, which released earlier this year.
Scott Hamilton: Competition is a really great thing. I think it keeps us on time, it keeps us moving forward, it keeps us healthy, it keeps us alive inside. And so in the book, we talk about what it takes to be victorious in life, and how it is so important that we take on this champion-in-life mindset in order to be the person that we are called and the person that we were designed to be.
“Competition is a really great thing. I think it keeps us on time, it keeps us moving forward, it keeps us healthy, it keeps us alive inside.” – Scott Hamilton
And so it talks about showing up every day, about being accountable, All these all these things that really have been a recipe for success for so many people. We use a lot of examples. But it’s also teaching us how to process failure.
It’s a very short book, which means that I want you to get to work. I want you to get busy. I don’t want you to be scared off by something that’s going to take you three months to get through. It is a guide to, and an argument for, competing and winning. And once you start building your life built on these foundation of these little successes—and that means showing up, or doing something that moves you forward—all those are victories. And you start to build your victories and then pretty soon a big win shows up. And once you’re able to do that, that changes everything. It changes the quality of your life. It changes the the way others look at you, it changes you know opportunities that come your way. And I just felt like now in our history it was really important that we just start competing again.
I do believe that God has called us to be someone for His purpose. And to deny our purpose, to deny our ability to serve in whatever capacity that is, I think it’s cheating ourselves and our life experience in this time that we have here to live joyfully and triumphantly.
“I do believe that God has called us to be someone for his purpose and to deny our purpose to deny our ability to serve in whatever capacity that is.” – Scott Hamilton
I’m not trying to teach people how to do one thing. I’m trying to give them the permission and the structure to do anything, anything.
Falling and Getting Up Again
Narrator: Scott reads to us from the August 28th entry of Jesus Calling, which also happens to be on his birthday.
Scott Hamilton: So here’s my birthday.
Grow strong in the light of my presence as my face shines upon you. You receive nutrients that enhance your growth in grace. I designed you to commune with me face to face and this interaction strengthens your soul. Such communion provides a tiny glimpse of what awaits you in heaven where all barriers between you and my glory will be removed. This meditative time with me blesses you doubly your experience you experience my presence here and now and you are refreshed by the hope of heaven when you will know me in ecstatic joy.
Oh, that’s beautiful.
I have a friend whose wife became a minister. And he said, “Here’s here’s my opinion on all these years. My wife told me this recently, and it’s just absolutely 100 percent. What’s the definition of the Gospel?”
I go, “Tell me.”
You said, “You are loved. Deal with it.”
Man, that floors me every single time, that I’m okay. No matter what I’ve done, I’m okay. I rest in Him, always. And I’m going to trip a lot, but I’ll get up too and just try to learn and grow. Because I’ve got a lot of learning and a lot of growing to do.
I was a skater, so in my skating life and career, I estimated on the low end that I’ve fallen 41,600 times. The cool thing is I’ve gotten up 41,600 times. And once you’re used to getting up and processing failure, really nothing can defeat you in that way because you’re used to putting yourself out there and understanding that failure is information. Failure is an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to grow.
Narrator: For more information about Scott’s new book Finish First or the Scott Hamilton Cares Foundation, please visit scotthamilton.com.
Narrator: We’ll be right back after this brief message about a free offer from Jesus Calling.
Want a daily reminder that we can have hope, peace and joy each day in Jesus? Now it’s as easy as opening an email. The Jesus Calling Daily Email brings you a thought from the Jesus Calling family of devotionals every day. Brighten up your inbox with this little reminder and take a minute to connect with God during your day. To sign up to get your free, daily thought from Jesus Calling, please visit Jesus Calling.com/daily-email.
Rhonda Hodge Survives Cancer’s Worst Nightmares
Narrator: Our next guest is a wife, mom, and cancer survivor. Rhonda Hodge faced cancer in her family over the years—with her husband, her best friend, and even with her own college-aged daughter—only to find out she too had the disease. She describes how she faced the diagnoses of family members and friends, and how she clung to God through her own diagnosis.
Rhonda: My name is Rhonda Hodge. I am 51 years old. I am a dedicated Christian. I’m a wife and a mother.
I was actually raised in Sevier County Tennessee, the hometown of the famous Dolly Parton. I grew up in a loving family. I have a wonderful mom, dad, and I one younger brother. My brother and I, there’s six years difference in us, but we’ve always been very close.
I was a tomboy. I love playing outside, but I was also a girly girl. I could go from playing the dirt to being in a beauty pageant.
And as a child, my parents they worked really hard for us. My dad worked with our local electric system and retired from there.
I remember, though, when I was young, my parents they taught us so many good things about life and about people. And they never wanted us to look at anyone differently. I never knew if someone had more than me or less than me.
My parents sacrificed so much for me. And what a great life I had. What a great childhood I had. We had struggles, just like any family. When I was 17, my parents divorced. And they had been married for many years, and that was a real struggle for all of us. But to God got my family through all that. He’s always been there for us and he got us through that. And I can actually say that my mom and dad are friends now. And I’m just proud to be blessed with such a wonderful and supportive family that I have.
When Cancer Strikes The People You Love
My husband Randy was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 47.
He’s a wonderful father and a hard worker. And we just do life great together. We were married eight years before we had our first child, which was our daughter Tiffany. And then three and a half years later, we had our son Mason. Two wonderful children that God blessed us with.
So we were just heartbroken hearing that word “cancer.” We really didn’t know what to kind of turn that that was gonna take in our lives at the time. His doctor recommended that he have surgery, and they got all the cancer. They were sure that they got all the cancer.
His recovery was very difficult. It took a long time to get back to himself. That’s a hard recovery, prostate cancer is. I’m happy to say that he is now an eight-year survivor and doing great.
Tiffany graduated from the Johnson University college, and she was a media communications major. She’d been traveling, and she had come down with a cold and just couldn’t knock it. It was just kept hanging on. And of course like all mothers do, I made her doctor’s appointments, and we had to cancel a couple of them due to traveling. And we finally made her one, and I told her no matter what she was not going cancel it. And I made it with an allergy doctor, assuming—like mothers do—that it was asthma because she couldn’t kick it and that she had something going on.
So she went to the allergy doctor on April 14th, 2014. And they diagnosed her with having breathing problems, so they automatically sent her to the emergency room for a chest X-ray. And at that time, she called and told me that they wanted to admit her to the emergency room. And we automatically went to the hospital to be with her.
They went through a series of tests in that one day, and ended up taking fluid off of her lung because it had collapsed. Didn’t know at the time exactly what they were looking at.
A few days later, after many many tests, they came in and told us that she had cancer. And at that time they didn’t know if it was leukemia or lymphoma—they needed to do more tests.
And our family was devastated, I can’t even tell you. You have your daughter fixing to graduate college, and your son going to graduate high school, and all this is happening at one time. And we’re just amazed. We just can’t believe that we’re hearing all this.
The oncologist suggested that we go to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, which is about four hours from where we live. She thought Tiffany would get the best treatment there. And we did that. And we spent 37 days, the first time in the hospital, without even getting outside, she and I did.
Once we had gotten there, they did decide that it was leukemia and that it was really bad. Of course, as a parent, they can tell you that. You’re not really grasping how bad it is. You’re just not getting it. It’s not sinking in you just want your kid well. That’s all you’re thinking about.
Tiffany had many rounds of chemo. The first chemo bout was seven days straight for 24 hours a day. She tolerated so much. I mean, the cancer was so bad.
And once we did get out, the cancer had, they did many PET scans to check the cancer, and the cancer had dissipated. It hadn’t completely went away, but it had shrunk.
Her leukemia was not like anybody else’s leukemia. It was completely different. Most people that have leukemia it is in their bone marrow and blood. But she was very rare. And that within itself was a battle. Little did we know that, as parents, we really were not grasping how bad it was.
She was so tough through it all.
And so many tests, so many doctors, so many days. And basically she fought it for a year. We were in and out of the hospital. We did get to come home during that time in October of that year, of 2014. She had a bone marrow transplant, which our son was her donor—he was a perfect match. And that is just by the grace of God. Because even with a sibling a lot of times, that does happen. But it did in our case. We were so blessed by so many things: great doctors, great nurses, great hospital.
She was a Christian. She lived life to the fullest and she just brought so much joy to our lives.
She fought hard. But she was ready when the time came to go. And she passed away in March of 2015.
She truly taught me so much about life. She taught me so much about having faith and not losing hope, because she never lost her faith or her hope in God. She knew where she was going, and she knew that God was going to take care her, no matter what. And He did exactly that.
“[My daughter] truly taught me so much about life. She taught me so much about having faith and not to lose hope, because she never lost her faith or her hope in God.” – Rhonda Hodge
Rhonda Faces Her Own Cancer Diagnosis
I went for my annual routine mammogram in January of 2016.
And at the time I was four months behind, due to Tiffany’s illness and death. Normally I was always on time. And on January 12, 2016, I myself was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.
Learning that I had cancer was truly unreal. Boy, you talk about hitting you hard.
I couldn’t believe I was hearing that news. It just really had to sink in. Is this really happening? I mean, we just lost our daughter. And I just went through cancer. Can I do this again? I just don’t know, Lord. Can I do this again? What’s happening? I did not even immediately cry when they told me. I think that cancer has been so much a part of my life that, at that time, I was just amazed that it was even happening.
I remember my husband, he was sitting in a chair right beside me. And he just took my hand and he said “Honey, you can do this. I know you can.” He goes “I have seen you. I’ve seen how strong you are. I know what you can do, and you can do this.”
And I remember looking at him and saying to him “You know, if Tiffany can go through this and do all she did and not complain and know that God was going to take care of her, then I can do it. Surely, surely, I can do it.”
And I knew. That it was going to be a lot because I had been there. I’d been down this cancer road before. And I knew all the tests, the doctors the appointments the chemo, the radiation. I knew what to expect, unlike some people. And sometimes I wonder if that’s not a curse when you know, because you just know too much. And I actually had to just say, “God, you’ve got this. I know that I have been through everything, but I know that you’ve been with me through all my struggles every day. And I know that you can get me through this.”
“I truly knew in my heart that He would get me through it.” – Rhonda Hodge
And that day my biggest fear was, at that time, of having to tell our son. I remember that very day of finding out I had cancer. Once we got to the car, that was my big thing. “Are we going to tell him?”
And my husband said, “Yes. We have to tell him.”
And I knew that I had to be honest with him. He had been through so much in his life, and especially as much as cancer had touched his life, I had to be upfront with him.
So I immediately called him and told him what was going on, and that I had been diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, and I told him without crying. I just told him like I was talking to him on the phone about any kind of conversation, because God had it and I could feel that God had me. And just being able to tell him, “Son, it’s going to be okay. Mom’s going to be fine. I’m going to get through this. It’ll be over before you know it.” I think that put him at ease because he was such a trooper through it all.
And I just think that sometimes we don’t give our kids enough credit when something in our lives happens. I think we do need to include them. A lot of times we don’t include them because we’re trying to spare them the hurt, the heartache, the worry about the parent. But in my case, it was better for us to be upfront with him. And he took it, and he did great with it.
I think in order to realize that you have to turn it over to God, you’ve got to come to Him. You’ve got to be at your weakest point. And there’s a time that that’s going to happen, that you’re finally going to break and you’re going to be at your weakest point.
“I think in order to realize that you have to turn it over to God, you’ve got to come to Him.” – Rhonda Hodge
I remember times with my daughter, the doctor comes in and gives you bad news. The PET scan does not look like they want it to look, and it’s all you can do to hold it together without screaming, “Why, God? Why?” I mean that’s your first reaction. “Okay. She’s had enough. I’ve had enough. We want this over. We want to be well.” But something inside of me, the way I felt, I knew that I had to say, “God, you have got to take this off of me. Because if you don’t take it from me, I cannot function. I cannot do the things that I need to do. I cannot do the things that I need to do as a caregiver.”
On that end of it, I could not do it to take care of her the way I needed to take care of it. If I let all this trouble me and worry me and bog me down so much that I could not breathe. That’s when I finally came to a point in my life to realize, One day at a time. One minute at a time. Just thank God for what I have for that minute and get through that day. One day at a time.
I have finally, in my 51 years, figured out that you can’t live like that. You have to live for today. You have to live in today. You have to be there yet to be present in today. And if you do that, you can function in life so much better, I think.
Receiving Hope Through Compassion That Compels
I first received my Compassion That Compels bag right before my first chemo treatment. A very special friend sent it to me.
When it came, it was in this brown box. it was delivered by UPS to my home, and it had “Beautiful Rhonda” written on it. And I had no idea what it was. And I opened it up, and there’s this amazing bag in it that has a Bible verse on it, which is Joshua 1:9, on the front of it: “Be strong and courageous.” And when I started taking out the stuff, I was just amazed at all the great stuff that it has in it: a blanket, a journal, a Jesus Calling devotional—which is one of my favorites—a cup, some tea, some scripture mints, pens, just all kinds of great stuff in this bag that that you would need for your journey in cancer.
My first encounter with Jesus Calling was when my daughter became ill. Someone sent her Jesus Today and then also a Jesus Calling. And we loved both of them, and we would read them. We had both of those.
Jesus Calling was such a great devotional to me. It just seemed like every day was talking about me or something happening in my life. And after having a chemo treatment, I just really couldn’t concentrate on a lot. I love to read, but reading became really hard for me to focus on. But doing the Jesus Calling was small, and I could read it and meditate on it throughout the day.
And it’s just been a special devotional for me. I actually have three now. I still have my daughter’s, and then I received two more during my time of dealing with my cancer. And I love giving them as gifts. I just think they’re a great devotional. They just so inspiring with every day and every devotion. There’s just always something in there for me, and it just seems like that God is actually talking directly to me most days, telling me what I should or shouldn’t do.
My favorite devotional would be March 22nd, and that would be the first day that I had my chemo treatment in 2016. And it is:
Rejoice and be thankful. As you walk with me through this day. Practice trusting and thanking me along the way. Trust is a channel through which my piece flows into you. Thankfulness lift you up above your circumstances.
I do my greatest work through people with grateful trusting hearts rather than planning and evaluating practiced trusting and thinking me continually.
I absolutely love that. I just think that has gotten me through so many days.
My husband took pictures of me, and I have pictures with my blanket and my Jesus Calling and getting what they call the Red Devil. A lot of people know what that is: it’s a chemo treatment that I was getting. There’s a picture of it. And I was very excited with all my new stuff, so I wanted to show it off on Facebook because everybody was very supportive and keeping up with me, and I was put in a lot of things on Facebook so that my family and friends could keep up with me.
But during this time, my friend and I got involved with Compassion That Compels ministry. And we are now very passionate about it, she and I both. We have started a Compassion That Compels ministry in our area, and we are now delivering bags in our community and recruiting others to get involved in the ministry, which has been a blessing to many of us here. The bags are just a starting point to be able to talk with someone about having cancer. And not only talk with them about having cancer, but talk to them about their relationship with Christ. It’s a starting point to build a whole friendship from all that.
Living a Thankful Life
I am completely done with all my treatments. I’m cancer free and doing well.
I am 90% back to my old self. I don’t know if you’ll ever be 100% back to your old self, but I’m 90% back to my old self. And I am loving life and enjoying every day that I can of just being well. Because it was a journey that I never expected to take myself, especially after being through cancer with so many other people. I didn’t expect to be the one with cancer, but that was the way it ended up. I’m happy to say that it’s been a great journey. It’s been a learning experience for me. I think that it has only brought me closer to God.
It’s amazing what God can do if you do rejoice and you are thankful for everything, even the struggles that you’re going through. He wants us to be thankful for those, and I know that’s hard to understand when you’re going through it. But I think if you are thankful and if you can see the good side of it . . . I know when when I first found out that I did have cancer, my thoughts were, Okay, God this is happening. And if anything at all can come out of this, please let it be something good. Let me be able to use this my struggles my journey through cancer to help someone else that’s going to be battling it.
“It’s amazing what God can do if you do rejoice; and you are thankful for everything, even the even the struggles that you’re going through.” – Rhonda Hodge
That was my prayer.
And Jesus Calling helped me every day with that. Because every day I could read it, and like I said, I always took it to chemo treatments with me. And it always just gave me a comforting feeling to know that whatever’s happening through the day, there was Jesus Calling. I could always look back at it and think about, Okay, is this what God would want me to do today?
Narrator: To find out more about Compassion that Compels, and how to send a Compassion bag to a woman who is facing cancer treatments, please visit compassionthatcompels.org.
Narrator: Next time, on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we visit with Mark & Danielle Herzlich. Mark is a linebacker in the NFL for the New York Giants. Danielle is a captain in the New Jersey National Guard and a certified personal trainer. As young people, they both faced difficult circumstances early in their lives–both together and separately. They talk about the strength God gave them as they lived through these tough challenges.
Mark: Some people, myself included, have a problem with vulnerability. They think if I show weakness, if I show fear, if I show that I am vulnerable in this moment; how is that going to look to everyone else? I encourage them and I say, “hey look, you live a vulnerable life in God’s eyes and He loves you unconditionally for it.”