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Life's Mountains, part 1 - June 2011

This month's devotional is the first of a 3-part series by Legacy Retreat attendee Cheryl Broyles.

I’m a long term survivor of what is considered “terminal” brain cancer.  After living through 3 recurrences, 4 brain surgeries,

radiation and chemo - many people ask me:  How can you be so happy going through that?  What is it that gives you hope and that positive attitude?  Tell me what you do……

I love to share it with you because we all have something in common – we are all struggling through hard times in life.  I hope you will smile and feel at peace along with me through the good, bad and ugly times in life.

The doctors told me I had less than a year to live.  Four years after my diagnosis, I was still alive.  I decided to climb 14,167 foot elevation Mount Shasta to celebrate!  During the climb I truly became aware of the similarities between “climbing a gnarly trail” and “struggling a terminal trial”.  Here are the key strategies I learned to use to successfully make it to the peak of Mt. Shasta and to live through cancer - with a smile.

OK, it takes a whole book to really describe my strategies, but I’ll try to wrap it all up in a shorter summary.  You can always find my book Life’s Mountains, if you want to delve in deeper.  I also put together a video/slide show to share what I learned – at http://vimeo.com/22147466 The pictures back it up!

Here are the 12 things I learned in my climb.  I hope it reaches out and helps you too.

One - Prepare:  To successfully make it to the peak of Mt Shasta it took preparation.  I gathered gear I needed for the climb (ice axe, harness, boots with crampons) and I exercised five days a week to get physically fit.  To prepare for the battle through cancer I also exercise and gather gear.  Physical gear - supplements and organic healthy foods.  Spiritual gear - God’s Word the Bible.  It takes preparation.  Some favorite spiritual gear:  Ephesians 6:14-18, Isaiah 40:29-31, Roman 5:3-5, Roman 8:25-29, James 1:12.

Two - Guides are like Gold: Whenever you are trying to learn something new you often go to an experienced person to get good advice.  Right?  On Mt. Shasta I found out that guides are like gold.  Without my guide Genaro, I never would have made it to the peak.  Without his advise and example I would have failed.  Living life battling cancer I need mentors!  I tracked down survivors, pastors, elders, wise friends to gather guidance.

Three - Step-by-Step: Climbing Mt Shasta I had to take a slow pace called “rest step” so I wouldn’t get worn out and give up.  One, two, rest. One, two, rest. Without the step-by-step approach, I would have failed.  With “terminal” cancer, I take it step-by-step also.  If I look ahead, I lock in place and the future seems impossible.  So I take it day-by-day, sometimes even minute-by-minute.  And I take each step holding onto my Lord, Psalm 37:23-24, Proverbs 4:11-13.

Four - Overcome Anxiety: Going through cancer, we all know anxiety very well.  Early in my climb up Mt. Shasta anxiety took over!  Physical pain in my legs, fear I would fail.  Soon enough nausea and diarrhea overcame me.  I felt like stuff was going to come out both ends at the same time!  Anxiety is UGLY.  Being diagnosed with terminal cancer brings on anxiety, no doubt.  Overwhelming.  During the climb I realized that I brought the sickness on myself by getting caught up in the “what-ifs”.  With cancer the “what-ifs” can lead to anxiety and depression!  It gets deeper and deeper like falling into a black pit.  While climbing Mt Shasta once I started living in the moment, not thinking about the “what-ifs” the sickness of anxiety went away.  SO true for me battling cancer too!  I love the verse Philippians 4:6-7