I’m Diane Lankford, and this is how I’ve been living deeply.
It’s been 24 years, but remembering the devastating news my oncologist broke – ‘Diane, you have late-stage ovarian cancer, and I’m not sure there’s much we can do to conquer it.’- still chills me to the core. My husband Wayne and I had only lived in Knoxville for three years- we’d moved from South Carolina and got plugged into CSPC right away. In the dark days of my diagnosis and all that would follow, we were glad beyond words to have the strong support (spiritually and in every other way) from the friends in our Sunday school class. As soon as we knew I’d be in a fight for my life, Wayne started calling people -not just from CSPC, but from all the churches we’d connected with over the years- and enlisting them to be prayer warriors. David Sincerbox was our Sunday school teacher, and he even arranged for me to attend one of the CSPC elders’ meetings, where the elders anointed and prayed for me. Step one in my fight was surgery, then came treatment. I started with chemotherapy, then went through autologous stem cell replacement. After the doctors removed my stem cells, they administered a very harsh form of chemo (fighting a fierce enemy demands serious measures)- it left my body overwhelmed and exhausted; even brought me to the brink of death. Then they gave my stem cells back to me. My ravaged body didn’t respond well. I was extremely nauseated and in a lot of pain that was hard to control. I spent two weeks hospitalized in a sterile room, hooked up to more IVs than I could count. There, slowly, I started to recover. Honestly, it felt like I was coming back to life! I was even able to go home. My recuperation ended up taking about a year, but every day I could tell I was feeling a little better. My hair started to grow back. So did my fingernails, eyebrows, and eyelashes. I still didn’t look like quite the same woman I’d been before (you’re never the same after cancer), but I was getting there, and more than anything just thankful to be alive. God had granted the healing for which I and so many others had prayed!
It’s amazing to think, nearly two and a half decades ago, I was given very little chance to live. But I’m still here, and still thankful for every day! I’m sharing my story to offer hope and encouragement to anyone battling cancer. Stay prayerful, and keep fighting- there is life after cancer. And don’t miss the reminders of God’s grace along the journey. For months, our mailbox was packed with cards from people telling me they were praying for me; some of them I didn’t even know. Neighbors and CSPC friends also brought us meals and just cared for us well. We really saw and felt Jesus’s love through His people in a powerful way during those days. Recalling His strengthening grace from the past even helps me today. We’re very involved in the Covenant Sunday school class- everyone’s getting older and facing more issues that require prayer and support. Thinking about all the needs can be very stressful. One day recently during my quiet time, I was feeling overwhelmed and told God, ‘Lord, I just don’t know if I can do all of this or not.’ In that moment, it felt like He was responding to me: ‘Diane, I’ve brought you through the Red Sea, and you’re doing exactly what I left you here to do.’ My stress lifted, and I continue to pray for and serve others (many of whom prayed for and served me!) as He leads. I’ll end with a passage that still gives me great comfort, Isaiah 43:2, 4: ‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire you will not be scorched; nor will the flame burn you…. You are precious in my sight and I love you.’