Health & Body

5 Surprising Truths from a Cancer Survivor and Husband

Doug Bender

October 25, 2019 | 3 minute read

Donna Ward’s life seemed to be going exactly as she hoped. She married her high-school sweetheart, baseball player-turned-coach, Turner Ward, and had a family she loved. But with just three words, “It is cancer,” everything changed. Here are the five surprising truths that jump out from their story.


The Physical Affects the Spiritual

“Life was predictable and then in a moment everything changed. Three little words, “It is cancer.” My stable world became a world of unknown and fear.” -Donna Ward

I know this, but I forget this. Our bodies affect our emotional and spiritual lives. I had Nate Larkin (a must see White Chair film if you haven’t seen it) on the phone earlier this week to learn what he’s found out in his years of coaching recovering addicts. He told me the same thing. When our bodies are not healthy, it upsets our emotional stability and even our interactions with God. The tear-inducing story of Donna and Turner Ward makes this point like no other.


God Has a Point in the Pointless.

“I realized for the first time in my life that I had never totally, 100% depended on God or trusted in him. I didn’t know how I was going to do it.” -Donna Ward

Cancer is not a battle I’ve personally had to deal with, but I have had my own set of struggles in life. In the middle of those struggles, I’m always tempted to think how pointless it all seems. “Why would God let this happen?” is really a way of saying, “God I don’t trust you know what you’re doing.” And it’s a temptation I have fallen for many times. It’s only in looking back do I see the point he’s trying to make in my life. He has different priorities. My comfort doesn’t always make the list. He values things like maturity, trust, peace, and hope, and these things only grow in times of discomfort. It was only through cancer that Donna could grow and mature in these areas. To God, they are worth the struggle.


Inner Struggles Make for Inner Strength

My wife has brought so much more strength to me. Its helped me to be more prepared in my prayer life. To really rely on God because there was a time where I was completely helpless. And that’s tough because as a man you want to fix things and when you can’t it’s hard. I really had to trust even more that the Lord knew what he was doing.” -Turner Ward

Turner trains elite athletes to compete at the highest levels. He understands that you have to work out and stress your muscles to grow those muscles. But what we all forget: the same is true about our inner strength. Spiritual strength doesn’t come from ease and comfort, good health or happy endings. This kind of strength is forged like steel in the fire and heat of hardship.


Great Difficulty Brings Great Opportunity

“The cancer has been probably one of the greatest gifts of my life. The friendships that I have developed with some breast cancer survivors are priceless. I would not trade those friendships for anything.” -Donna Ward

This was the most shocking confession in the film. Throughout she describes the hardship, the tears, the pain, and then she says this! How can all that pain and difficulty be the greatest gift of her life? Because great difficulty brings great opportunity. I know I have let a lot of great opportunities slip by with a sour attitude, lack of faith in God’s plan, or just plain selfishness. But I also remember those difficulties where I took the opportunity to grow. Those have become the brightest spots in my life, the greatest points of growth and hope were found in those dark times. It reminds me of a verse from the book of James in the Bible that says, “Your faith will be tested. You know that when this happens it will produce in you the strength to continue. And you must allow this strength to finish its work. Then you will be all you should be.”


God Loves You

“I heard somehow, ‘Do not fear. I am with you. I am your God. I will give you strength.’ From that day on I saw hope as something different. Hope is a person. It was not just a casual word of something you wish for.” -Donna Ward

Difficulty and loneliness travel together. And the harder the difficulty, the greater the loneliness. That’s a truth I’ve seen in my own life, and one I see loud and clear in Donna’s story. But it was in that very lonely and empty place that Donna could look to her side and see that no matter what, God still loved her. God still saw her as complete, whole, and lovely. I wonder sometimes if that alone is the message he wants us to hear when he lets things like cancer into our bodies. Again I think of a verse in the Bible that says, “God always gives you all the grace you need. So you will only have to suffer for a little while. Then God himself will build you up again. He will make you strong and steady.”



iasBook_image_sideIf you loved the Donna and Turner’s story of hope in the face of difficulty, then you will love I Am Second’s newest book, I Choose Peace: Raw Stories of Real People Finding Happiness and Contentment. Pre-order it today and discover you can choose peace no matter what you are facing.

Doug Bender

Doug Bender

Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer and small groups coach. He developed many of the small group tools found at and has coached churches, organizations, and individuals to use I Am Second groups to share the message of Jesus with their friends and family. He also works with I Am Second's parent organization, e3 Partners, as a church planter and pastor in countries such as Ethiopia, Colombia, and the US. Doug and his wife, Catherine, have four children: Bethany, Samuel, Isabella, and Jesse.

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