Let Me Tell You About Jan

The year was 1988. The place was a hospital in Alabama. And the department in which I worked was called Patient Representatives. My boss Trisha, probably the best Patient Rep to ever walk the face of the earth, had just concluded an interview with a candidate for a part time position, and she was glowing. She raved about this person’s experience, competence, and vivacious personality. She was convinced this highly qualified woman would be perfect for our department and she wanted to bring her on board. After interviewing her myself, I agreed.

Jan (see: perfect lipstick!) and me

This person’s name was, you guessed it, Jan.

From the moment I met her, I too, felt her all-encompassing presence. An enormous bow held back her glossy dark hair, her lipstick was always perfect, her eyes twinkled with mischief. And did I mention her personality? She didn’t enter a room, she filled it; she didn’t talk, she influenced; she didn’t just do her job, she made a difference. She was an extrovert among extroverts whose big, warm presence made you glad you were alive.

In addition to all these wonderful traits, she was loads of fun to be around. I especially remember  Christmas time at the hospital when our volunteers would bring the most delicious cookies and candy to our office. Who could say no to a tin of homemade goodies? I’ll never forget Jan’s tiny voice floating into my quiet office from next door. “I just ate my third piece of chocolate.” Or sometimes it would be a voice message on my phone, “My fourth piece of chocolate!”

Trisha (far left), Jan, and me, surrounded by our sweet volunteers

Although Jan was a little older than me and a lot wiser, as fate would have it, I became her boss. I knew exactly how backward that scenario was, and I’m sure she did too, but nonetheless, she did her job without complaint, always cheerful and pleasant to be around, always respectful.

So that was Jan, nearly thirty years ago: fun, fabulous, and full of life.

And this is Jan now.

Jan is sick. Jan is struggling. But Jan has hope.

Let me explain.

About a year ago, not long after I’d reconnected with her on social media, and right around her sixtieth birthday, Jan shared that she’d been diagnosed with cancer. And it was not just any old cancer, it was stage four liver cancer. Whoa. I’m no doctor, but even I knew that wasn’t good. In fact, it sounded quite bleak. Stage four of any type of cancer is not the news you want to hear, ever. But that was the news she’d received, and with the help of her husband, a physician himself, and the support of her children, extended family, and many, many friends, she began her medical plan of action: a plan for healing and hope and faith. A plan for her future.

Jan and her family

One of the most endearing things I recall from my short time working with Jan was her openness. She was one of those people that appeared to have it all together, but at the same time, she didn’t pretend that everything was perfect. She knew how to laugh at herself while living a full life, focused on loving her Jesus and everyone around her.

This last statement brings me to my purpose in writing this post. Like most people, I struggle with the quandary of why terrible things happen to wonderful people. Ah, that age old dilemma that draws some people closer to God, while pushing others away. I won’t try to answer an unanswerable question, but like I’ve always told my children, if you choose to believe in God, then wouldn’t it make sense to acknowledge that He is on a higher level than us, intellectually and emotionally, and that as a result, we won’t always understand why He allows certain things to happen? And wouldn’t it also make sense that everything He allows to happen, good or bad, might be intended to bring us closer to Him? But I’ll admit that although I understand that God’s plans are often too complex for my comprehension, it still disgusts me to think about pain and suffering and illness, especially cancer. And clearly this stage four liver cancer is a very bad thing happening to a good person. But somehow, Jan’s open and honest fight against this horrid disease sheds light on the way God provides strength when we are at our weakest.

The best way to explain what I’m talking about is to follow Jan through her past year. She’s articulated the highs and lows in her own words, her hoping, fighting, believing words. It’s sad and funny and conflicted. It’s raw. It’s at its core, a Christian wrestling with her beloved Christ.

Take a look for yourself. If you’re like me, you’ll be enlightened.

The following excerpts are taken with Jan’s permission from: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/jancarter2/journal

June 2016 Life can change in an instant…I have stage four adenocarcinoma of the liver. It has taken my breath away, my family and friends’ breath away as well…In all of this darkness, can I just tell you what an incredibly amazing God I have? He loves me, He is my light, He is holding me and my family.

July 2016 God knows in my heart, He made me to give life and hope to others. You gain life…when you give your life away.

Don’t miss the blessings He has for you…I will never be the same and I desperately want this for all of you.

What the devil intended for evil, God will use for His glory.

IN MY WEAKNESS HE IS STRONG. I can’t lose, it’s a win-win for me and for you if you are a believer.

The answer to my situation and yours is the same. It’s JESUS.

August 2016 Having cancer will shake the very core of your being.

Faith is believing when there is not one thing that makes sense.

I’ve gone into unexplored areas of itching and it’s making me do weird stuff.

I feel I’m in the crucible and He’s taking me to another level in my walk with him.

September 2016 I fully believe what Satan has meant to crush me, God will use for His glory.

I’ve just finished my new children’s book God is Near*. I wrote it to honor my mother…but I know now, it wasn’t just for Mom, it was for me.

The long chemo this week knocked me for a loop…nausea, pain and fatigue like I’ve never experienced before. Even the itching has returned.

I just finished praying for each of you, and it warmed my heart.

October 2016 I have had nothing, and I have had everything…I don’t know what’s ahead and I don’t have to know.

I may respond well to a phase three drug that doesn’t have a name yet, only designated as AG-120.

The large tumor appears to be dying from the inside out, and the smaller ones are melting away.

Jan is a stage 2B.

November 2016 What God requires of His people, He always provides.

Tis the season to be stressed, Thanksgiving and Christmas…but some things that mattered so much to me just don’t matter anymore.

I’m sporting my new, fine wig.

December 2016 The cancer has not spread and the tumors have not changed in size.

It’s the eve of my 60th birthday.

God will make a way when there seems to be no way.

…six long months.

January 2017 I was looking at today with dread. Chemo wipes me out, makes me tired and hurt.

So, the plan now is chemo is every third week, and then we WAIT…for the AG 120 pill.

I can’t say that I’ve ever been in a harder place…I’m not sure I can do this cancer thing.

February 2017 I was approved and enrolled in the AG-120 trial. I need this pill soon.

We are getting good at beating on the doors of heaven.

Victrix Patientia Duris: You will have victory if you have patience during crisis.

THE CANCER HAS NOT SPREAD!!!!!!

I’m going wig shopping again.

I look pregnant and have a tight tummy. I NEED THE PILL.

I’ve lost 40 pounds…thank God for my fat ass! May end up saving my life!

I NEED to NOT receive the placebo.

March 2017 I’ve never been more tired, felt totally out of control of my body, a very bloated stomach…rash and itching back and thrush down my tongue making eating not a desire.

I wanna jump ship but I can’t.

The long awaited PILL is now in my body.

April 2017 My fluid buildup is now the size of twins, maybe triplets. I get the WORST ATTITUDE AWARD.

They drained four liters of fluid off my tummy. But low and behold…I now have a weenie hanging off my side! My boobies and bottom are no more, but I couldn’t care less. My HEART is bursting with so much LOVE.

What a difficult week. It hurts and it sucks, sorry.

I can’t go this alone and I’m so glad God has my “special army” interceding to the Father for me.

May 2017 The cancer has not spread!

Satan knows how much I love Jesus.

June 2017 I had a breast reduction three years ago, now to only see pancakes on my chest.

He’s not finished yet with me.

And Jan’s most recent entry: Don’t stop praying. Because of you, and a mighty God, I’m still here!

Jan and Jack

I will leave you with a final thought about this special person that has touched so many lives, in sickness and in health. In Hebrew, the name Jan means “Gift from God.” I don’t know much at all, but I do know that Jan Carter is a true gift from our God, to me, to her friends and family, and to so many others. Thank you, Jan, for sharing yourself with the rest of us, and may God bless you, your family, and your oh-so-precious life.

___________________________________________________

*This is Jan’s precious children’s story/coloring book entitled God is Near. It is available for purchase on Amazon.

 

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Reads

When a friend recently asked me to compile a list of my favorite books, I’m sure she had no idea the list would be so long. And neither did I. I thought I’d come up with 10-15 books, maybe 20 that could be considered my tops. But oh, was I wrong. I got out pen and paper (yes, some of us still use yellow legal pads) and started brainstorming. I recorded every book that I remembered loving as an adult, for one reason or another. I wrote and wrote and wrote and before I knew it, there was no blank space left on the page.

As I looked back over my list, I saw a little bit of almost everything. Some of the books that I’d recorded were considered literary masterpieces while others were not. They ran the gamut from young adult to memoir to fantasy to classics. There was humor and horror and romance. Some were contemporary, others historical. Some made me feel happy while others made me sad. Some just made me feel weird. But the common thread that ran through all the books I loved was that each one made me feel something very deeply. In short, they made an impact on me.

Naturally, if you compiled your own list, it would look very different from mine. Yours might be filled with non-fiction, mine is not. Yours might include Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Proust. Mine does not. Yours would reflect your own personality and be unique to you. And so is mine. So take this list for what it is: one person’s opinion about a number of fabulous books that have enriched my life and might, in some way, enrich yours.

By the way, one of the books on this list is the book that is solely responsible for turning me into a reader. If you can guess which one, I’ll have Amazon mail you a free book of your choice (May I suggest an enthralling family drama, The Weight of Lies, by my sister Emily Carpenter, coming out June 6, 2017.  The Weight of Lies: A Novel ). But I’m pretty sure you’ll never figure it out.

So, here’s my current list of favorites, beginning with the most recently published. I do reserve the right to make amendments going forward, because the minute I press publish, I’m certain I’ll think of five books I’ve left out. And if you are a reader or a wannabe reader, please download the free and fabulous Goodreads App on your phone and use it to determine which books are right for you. I hope this gives you some intriguing ideas, and will inspire you to, as they say, #keepreading.

 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman 2017

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart 2014

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell 2013

Daphne du Maurier

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes 2012

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple 2012

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green 2012

The Help by Kathryn Stockett 2009

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 2008

Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See 2005

Still Alice by Lisa Genova 2005

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer 2005

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls 2005

C.S. Lewis

the curious case of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon 2004

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini 2003

Dry by Augusten Burroughs 2003

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory 2001

Life of Pi by Yann Martel 2001

The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff 2000

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver 1998

1000 White Women by Jim Fergus 1998

Margaret Mitchell

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant 1997

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden 1997

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling 1997

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding 1996

The Giver by Lois Lowry 1993

A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers 1993

A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving 1989

Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody 1987

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card 1985

Oscar Wilde

Carrie by Stephen King 1974

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom 1971

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson 1962

The Bad Seed by William March 1954

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway 1952

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis 1950

Anthem by Ayn Rand 1938

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier 1938

1984 by George Orwell 1937

Charlotte Bronte

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck 1937

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell 1936

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 1925

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde1890

The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne 1850

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte 1847

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas 1844

Candide by Voltaire 1759

Revelation by John c. 95

Genesis by Moses c. 1446 B.C.