Dawn’s Story

Site created on February 12, 2019

On February 12, 2019, Dawn was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. Her passion and beauty, amazing strength, her deep faith in Jesus and deep love for her dear daughter, her husband (me), her friends and her family sustain her and will keep her grounded in each day she will live as it is given by God. Her prayer is for a full life and for her many people to be for this world a real community of hope. Thank you for your love, your prayers, your compassion and presence whether near or far. 

Newest Update

Journal entry by Daniel Harrell

Today was a hydration day--go and get your body back to a good level which makes for good blood pressure and receptivity to chemo. It was also a day to try yet again to get the vomit in check (after another pukefest last night). The doctors (who agree that, yes, Dawn is special once again), decided that the pill which helps at night might help during the day if it doesn't make her too tired though they can up her steroid to offset that and everything will be bliss, unless, of course, this is all caused by the turtled tumor pressing on her gastrointestinal system, which we could possibly see if we did a barium swallow test, before the CT scan when we get back, though you can decide, and basically cancer is awful.

So much.

Our bathroom sprung a leak today too.

Speaking of water, as Dawn was finishing hydration, her nurse pulled me aside to ask how she was doing. "Meh," I replied. She remarked how Dawn was that one percent who had a more than usual difficult time with chemo. To which I bitterly responded she's exceptional that way: the worst cancer, the one who's port doesn't work, the one for chemo is like constant morning sickness, without the joy of new birth.

The awfulness of cancer was mitigated a bit by the delight I enjoyed in holding newborn Kaiden Krueger in my arms (the baby boy of Jess and Stephen). What a beautiful baby and then to have him fall asleep in my arms was so magical. A lot of life ahead for him, but for now completely dependent and deeply loved by so many.

Cancer makes us dependent. Any suffering for that matter. And eventually suffering finds us all. Turn to Romans 8 and we read that God does not withhold suffering from us. In Christ, he joins in it. As followers of Christ, “we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered” (v. 36). This is somehow good news. In Christ, suffering joins us to Jesus and does not separate. “Hardship, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword--nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 38,39). Theologian Willie James Jennings writes, “This true word has breathed through centuries to Christians, providing inexplicable confidence and irrepressible joy in the midst of monstrous horrors. It has turned suffering from a killing field to a place where God is working out flourishing life for us and with us.” As Romans decrees, and we have witnessed, “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (v. 28).

This does not mean God makes suffering good or allows suffering for our good. This is a common misinterpretation. Suffering is not good. But suffering is powerful. In God’s hands, suffering contains a transformative capacity. In the right hands, God’s hands, suffering unites and does not divide us. It joins us to Jesus and even to each other.

If Romans is right—that suffering cannot separate us from God—then it must not separate us from each other—even if we are the causes of the suffering. In Christ’s hands—in his nailed hands—the suffered separation of his body and blood unto death become the source of new life. To resist suffering’s power to unite through Jesus is to yield it to those who would only segregate and isolate and build as many walls as possible to keep us safe—even safe from God.

God is not safe. He does not withhold human suffering. As we read in Romans 8, he did not even withhold his own Son, but gave him up for us all. Will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, neither will death, nor life, nor angels, nor governments, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor cancer, nor anything else in all creation. We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Love conquers everything.

From the Puritans: "May my every cross be sanctified, every loss be gain, every denial a spiritual advantage, every dark day a light of the Holy Spirit, every night of trial a song."


Thanks to Lynn for the barf bags, to Eric & Kari for the Galilee wine, to Steve for the caregiving book, to Stephanie for helping us ready for our travels, to Babs for the plumber recommendation, and for all on this bridge who are cheering us on to Israel. Jerusalem here we come.
  • The day Violet was born. Go Tar Heels.
    The day Violet was born. Go Tar Heels.
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