Meet Katie Pearce: wife, mother, woman with a great sense of humor, and—yes, breast cancer survivor. She told me, “Look for the bad hair,” but instead I’m watching for her radiant smile. Ah, here she comes.
JP: Katie, thank you so much for agreeing to meet with me and share your story with our church family! Tell us a little bit about you and your family.
KP: Troy and I have been married for almost 11 years. We have a daughter, Marah, who is 4 years old, and a cat named Dublin. I grew up in Des Moines, and we have lots of family close by. I graduated from Central College and got my master’s degree from the University of Iowa. I’ve been working at Des Moines University since 2006, and am now Assistant Director of Admissions.
JP: We’ll focus mostly on the events of this year, but, first, tell us how you came to Christ.
KP: I grew up going to church, and remember “asking Jesus into my heart” when I was a pretty small child. In high school I was an Awana teacher and played in the church orchestra, but didn’t have a real relationship with Christ. I knew the facts; Christ died for my sins. But I didn’t really know what that meant. In college I never bothered to find a church community, but that changed in graduate school when a new friend invited me to go with her. I still remember that first service I attended. The pastor was preaching on I Corinthians 9:24-25, about running the race to get the prize. I was captivated and wanted to learn more. I went out a bought a study Bible and for the first time ever spent time reading God’s Word. I fell in love with Jesus. I finally understood.
JP: Describe your life before you received your diagnosis.
KP: Everything was fine. We went to Mexico to celebrate our 10th anniversary. Troy broke his foot while we were there and had surgery, and right about the time the boot came off, he had to have an emergency appendectomy. But we just sort of took that in stride, and we had a good summer. I had started going to Farrell’s and was getting in great shape. Work was going well. Then I found the lump.
JP: That was in August, right?
KP: Yes, August 10th.
JP: With your blog, you’ve really worked hard to tell your story, and you’ve shared some amazing things. Let’s look at some of the highlights. (Editorial note: If you haven’t read it, you’ll want to. People, she named her chemo port “Chad.” Grab tissues; you’ll need them. But you’ll also laugh till you spit out your coffee. And, if you’re the type who gets easily offended, don’t miss out. There’s plenty for you to get all up in arms about. I won’t spoil it for you. READ IT: Cancerinmyboob.blogspot.com.)
August 22. First blog post: “Thanks, God, for the cancer.” Katie ends with, “God is in control here. No need to worry.” This has been Katie’s focus throughout these months of treatments, through all the ups and downs.
December 11. “I am what I’ve been through.” Katie writes about finding her identity in Christ. She quotes Pastor Mike’s sermon: “In Christ my suffering is redeemed and purposeful, therefore my suffering can make me better and not bitter!” She asks, “What is God trying to teach me? What does he want me to do with this? My cancer, my very small story, does have a piece in God’s big story. What can I do now for God’s glory because of my suffering that I was unable to do before my suffering? I’ve always loved Mercy Me’s song ‘Bring the Rain’ and sung along: ‘And I know there’ll be days When this life brings me pain, But I that’s what it takes to praise You, Jesus, bring the rain,’ but inside I was saying, ‘No rain, no rain, please no rain for me.’ But now that I’m in the rain, I am so grateful. I also love ‘Stronger,’ by Mandissa: ‘When the waves are taking you under, Hold on just a little bit longer, He knows this is going to make you stronger.’ This is making me stronger. And it is a good thing.”
January 22. Katie writes, “I've been told several times how strong people think I am. I don't see myself as stronger than others. I am doing what I have to do in order to get the cancer out of me and make sure it doesn't come back. I think most people would do the same thing. I have, though, found so many sources of strength in my weakness. I have leaned on friends and family, and these people have been vital as I have gone through this journey. However, my greatest strength comes from God. My favorite books of the Bible are Paul's letters. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul says he has a thorn in his side. He was probably sick. And God told him, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
I have also had times of anxiety. When I found myself really freaking out, I had to remember that I could lay those worries at the feet of God. Paul writes in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by power and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” And there were times when I couldn't pray. The words wouldn't come. I was miserable and all I could do was lay in bed. But I asked God to hear me: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we out to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. Romans 8:26-27.
There's lots of good stuff in Romans. “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither life or death, neither angels nor demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39. ISN'T THAT SO AMAZING!!!!
January 27. Katie shares her official cancer playlist—songs that reminded her of God’s love or provided encouragement.
He Knows (Jeremy Camp)
Blessed Be Your Name (Matt Redman)
Today Is The Day (Lincoln Brewster)
Strong Enough (Matthew West)
Bring The Rain (MercyMe)
Cornerstone (Hillsong Worship)
10,000 Reasons (Matt Redman)
Christ Is Risen (Matt Maher)
More Than Conquerors (Rend Collective)
This I Believe (The Creed) (Hillsong Worship)
JP: Katie, as you think back through the last seven months, what are the things that you don’t want to forget?
KP: One of the biggest things was learning how to accept help. Allowing people to bless you. That was something I had to learn. And I’ve learned how to rely on Christ. I never had to do that before, to this extent. You can have all the support in the world, but to know that you have God to carry you through—that’s kind of awesome! I don’t know how people who aren’t believers get through this. And I never want to forget all of the wonderful people who helped me along the way. The people who prayed for me, many whom I don’t even know. I don’t want to forget the face of the man I saw nearly every week in chemo who had stage four pancreatic cancer. He was there to prolong his life, but in the end his cancer will kill him. I always want to remember how fortunate I was to find my cancer when I did.
JP: When you think about all that God has brought you through this year, and all that He has taught you, how does the gospel impact you today? Is it different today than it was last Easter?
KP: Last Easter, everything was different. I had never really suffered before. Yes, life had had its ups and downs, but nothing compared to this cancer journey. Sometimes I wish I could get inside of God’s head. Don’t you just wonder what He is thinking sometimes? You know, beyond what is in the Bible? I imagine Him looking down on me last Easter, saying, “It’s coming, just wait, I’m going to test you.” I imagine him watching as the cancer first developed, when it was too small to detect and He knew the journey I was about to face. And when I think about that, I am absolutely overwhelmed with how much he loves me. We always hear that suffering is intended to bring a person closer to God. And that’s what happened with me. I am so grateful that through Christ I can have that relationship with God, Who loves me so very much.
JP: I love how God promises to use all things for our good—for our conformity to the image of Christ, and for His glory. What are some visible ways that you have seen His name magnified this year?
KP: This blog. At first, it was to let people know what was going on, but then I realized that this was an opportunity. I have so many unsaved friends. This was an amazing opportunity to share Him! And I got to see the body of Christ at work. God has designed us to care for one another. There were days when I should not have come to church. I could barely sit up. But this is where I wanted to be. We had started attending Willow Creek two years ago, when our neighbors, the Fogles, invited us. For us, being in a growth group was so important. We joined one almost right away. They ended up helping so much with that cancer benefit, and just spending time with them and knowing they were praying for me was huge. And there was that Tuesday night when I physically couldn’t get up, and needed to feed Marah dinner. Jenn Fogle texted me out of the blue, “Hey, can I bring you tacos?” And Kristen Green reached out, “Can I take Marah to go play?” God used these friends to provide for me in specific ways, and I’m so thankful for them.
JP: As believers, we know that our suffering is never wasted. It opens doors to speak truth out loud, for one thing. And, sometimes, the greater the suffering, the stronger the impact of our voice becomes. So here you are, in a position to shout from the rooftops, and people are listening. As we get ready to celebrate the empty tomb together, what are you shouting?
KP, laughing: Check your boobs! I was so lucky. I shouldn’t have found that lump. But also, God will always provide. It’s amazing. That benefit raised $5000, which basically covers the medical expenses. And know that, no matter what, God will carry you through, that you’re not going through your journey alone. It’s hard for me to understand why people don’t want to know Christ, because He’s so awesome. It’s like, when you have this super cool best friend, and you want everyone to meet them.
We chose the word “Flawless” for the shirts sold at the benefit last fall, because the Mercy Me song by that name really spoke to me after my diagnosis. Liz Rider came up with the idea, and I loved it. Like the song says, we wanted to make a statement, that, in Christ—because of the Cross—we are flawless.
Could it possibly be
That we simply can’t believe
That this unconditional
Kind of love would be enough
To take a filthy wretch like this
And wrap him up in righteousness
But that’s exactly what He did
No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
No matter the hurt
Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
Take a breath smile and say
Right here right now I’m ok
Because the cross was enough
Here’s the thing. When I started my blog, I didn’t know if I was stage zero or stage four. I could have been terminal. We didn’t know until after surgery that I was stage one. But, let’s imagine it was terminal. Do you know what? That would have been okay with me. Yes, it would have been incredibly sad for my family and my friends and even myself. I hate to think of my daughter growing up without a mother. But I have this amazing promise through Christ that, when I die, I will get to live forever worshipping Him. No pain, no sin, no suffering. Eternity with the Creator of the universe sounds pretty amazing, and that’s what the empty tomb promises us.