Monday, May 12, 2008

Hope for the Journey through Cancer by Yvonne Ortega & Giveaway

I recently met Yvonne through a Yahoo group. Since so many people have been diagnosed with cancer, that I know in my life, in different ways, I believe God brought her to my attention for a reason! I'm hoping her book will reach people where they most need it when they are going through this journey. Yvonne has been there, she knows what people with cancer are feeling and thinking. Who else better to share God's love during this time? My prayer is that she will be an inspiration and be used by the Lord to touch those who find themselves in the same circumstance. If you know someone who is diagnosed with this disease, please consider sharing this book with them. It may bring the lift and love they need. Here is Yvonne's interview:

1.What would you like for our readers to know about you personally?

I’m an extrovert and love to laugh. Since I’m a “winter,” I prefer the deep vibrant colors for my wardrobe. I’m 5’ tall, but remember that diamonds and dynamite come in small packages.

2.Tell us about your family.

I am divorced. I have one son who is grown up and lives on his own. He insists I drink a lot of water daily and abstain from red meat. I do both. My parents inspire me to exercise every day and stay fit. If they can at their age, so can I. My younger brother and I both share a love for music.

3.Have you written other nonfiction books?

I am a contributing author to the book The Embrace of a Father, Bethany House 2006. The title of the chapter I wrote is It’s Part of Life, which tells about how my father’s care of my mother who has Alzheimer’s reminds me of my heavenly Father’s care for us. The more I need God, the more closely He hovers.

4.With all the books on cancer survivors already out there, why did you chose to write this book on cancer?

Cancer shattered my world. I wanted a book full of Scripture, prayer, and hope that would assure patients and their families that God would never leave them or forsake them. I also wanted a book that, with honesty and boldness, would address the emotional roller coaster ride that cancer patients, even Christian ones, endure.

5.Was there anything good that came about through your illness?

Oh, yes. I am a stronger Christian today. I know God loves me and that he is faithful. I no longer doubt his call on my life as a counselor as well as an author and speaker. After going through the trauma of cancer, I counsel with more effectiveness. When clients tell me they are scared, depressed, or angry, I understand because I’ve experienced those same emotions.

6.During your illness and now in recovery, have you ever asked God, “Why” or “Why me?”

I didn’t ask, but I lashed out in anger at God. I knew he called me to be a counselor. So I spent hundreds of hours studying, writing papers, and completing projects and paid thousands of dollars for my master’s degree in counseling. Half-way through my residency, I received my diagnosis of cancer. I thought the timing was outrageous and let God know it.

7.Is there ever a time when you can laugh about cancer?

I asked God to help me keep my sense of humor. The day my hair started to fall out, I went to work with wet hair. My colleagues thought I had a power outage. I told them I was afraid to blow dry my hair because I might blow it all off and arrive looking like a Buddhist monk. I laugh now about how angry I was with God. I thought he had made a mistake. Now I understand he used the cancer for good in my life and the lives of others. I laugh every time I reminisce about George, my radiation therapist. He entertained me with stories about his childhood adventures.

8.What is the most important lesson you learned from your experience in having cancer?

In God’s economy, nothing is wasted, not even cancer. Romans 8:28 (NIV) says: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I prayed that God would use cancer for good in my life and the lives of others, that it would be to his honor and glory, and for furthering his kingdom here on earth. I never dreamed he would do that through the publication of my book, much less through TV and radio interviews and speaking engagements.

9.Was the Bible real to you during treatment?

The Bible filled me with hope and peace. I clung to God’s precious promises during treatment and wrote verses with special meaning in my 3x5 notebook. Within days, I memorized those passages and repeated them daily. Terrified after my diagnosis, I slept with the Bible literally over my heart. I took my 3x5 notebook with me daily to radiation and reviewed my Bible memory verses on the way to treatment.

10.Why do some cancer survivors say cancer is the best thing that ever happened to them?

We say this because God has used cancer as a refining fire for us. He has used it to make us better people, stronger Christians, and more powerful in our careers and outreach.

11.How do you live differently today as a result of having had cancer?

I’ve learned to listen to my body. When I get tired, I take a nap. When I’m thirsty, I stop and drink water. Short breaks from my work help me relax. A weekend at the beach revives me. I don’t put off my plans and dreams because “next year” may never come. I signed up for a phone package with unlimited long-distance calls. Now I can call my family and friends any time. I appreciate the little things in life—thirty-minute walks to enjoy God’s beautiful world, a ride in my friend’s convertible, and sunrise and sunset at the beach. I also left teaching to become a full-time counselor because I felt God leading me to do so. I’ve never looked back.

12.How did you keep your spirits up while going through the cancer treatments?

I played praise and worship music every day and watched videos and DVDs by Christian comedians. During treatment, I planned the party I would have after completing my residency and obtaining my state license. I selected the music for the dance my friend would choreograph for us to perform. I dreamed about the sheet cake with white icing and hot pink roses with “Yvonne Ortega, LPC” and “To God be the glory” on the cake. I chose the Bible verses for my party invitations. After my diagnosis, I accepted an invitation to present a workshop on writing devotionals at the Maine Christian Writers Fellowship state conference the following August. I listened to tapes and researched the topic to prepare for my workshop and looked forward to the reunion with fellow writers in Maine and snacks of delicious Maine blueberries.

13.Did you ever think about giving up—that the treatments were too hard?

After my second treatment, my blood counts dropped to 500. Normal is between 4,000 and 11,000. My doctor hospitalized me. She said she would release me when my counts rose to 1,000. My counts dropped two days in a row. I called my parents to come see me, but Dad’s heart condition prevented them from doing so. I feared I would die alone in a military hospital more than an hour from my home.

After my final chemotherapy treatment, I thought I would never stop vomiting. I experienced a weariness that made my bones ache. I had to keep reminding myself that it would soon pass and in a few months I would travel to Maine for the writers’ conference.

14.What kinds of emotions did you experience during this time?

I experienced denial. If I didn’t talk about the cancer, maybe it would go away.

I experienced anger at God, the government, the Food & Drug Administration, televangelists who preached health and wealth, and anyone who told me Christians couldn’t be angry with God.

Fear overwhelmed me after my diagnosis and at times during treatment.

Depression forced me to my knees in prayer. When I found out the cancer had traveled to one lymph node and adjacent to another, I became depressed.

15.Are these emotions typical for every cancer patient?

Not every cancer patient will experience all of them. However, these emotions are typical. Also cancer patients don’t experience one feeling, get over it, and then go on to another one. They can go back and forth.

16. What can people do to help friends who are going through cancer treatments?

Listen without judging them. Expect cancer patients to ride an emotional roller coaster. Send cards, post cards, or e-mail greeting cards, especially humorous ones. Phone and visit them. Prepare a meal for them and take it in a disposable container or help with yard work and house work. Buy groceries and run errands for them. Take cancer patients to their chemotherapy and radiation treatments and pray with them and for them.

17.What is the most important thing you think women can do to start improving their heart health today?

I’m not a doctor or a nurse, but I can share with your readers what I do. On a physical level, I walk outside almost daily. As I walk, I review my Bible memory verses. I call the walk my double blessing exercise. I abstain from fried foods, pork, red meat, shell fish, soft drinks, and more often than not from sugar. I don’t drink or smoke. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a part of my meals. I eat whole grain cereals, mostly oat and buy Ezekiel bread from Trader Joe’s or Kroger’s. I have a juicer and make fresh carrot juice with Granny Smith apples. I see a doctor of naturopathy monthly who is also a nutritionist and an herbalist. Vitamins, minerals, and digestive enzymes compliment my meals. I get eight hours of sleep most nights. I watch comedies, read joke books and cartoons, and make sure laughter fills a part of each day. Interestingly enough, these same things help us women in the fight against cancer.

I enjoy the beach. I feel restored after walking at least two or three miles on the beach early in the morning and again late in the afternoon. The sound of the waves refreshes me and stirs up my creativity. I have lots of beach toys and make sand castles and collect shells.

The few times it snows in Virginia, I throw snowballs at the neighbors and make snowmen and angels in the snow. When it rains, I like to put on my knee high boots and splash in the puddles.

We women need to slow down and have fun. We get overwhelmed with household chores, outside jobs, church, and community responsibilities. Our hearts scream for a break.

On a spiritual level for heart health, when I first wake up, I kneel at the side of the bed and thank God for the gift of life and another opportunity to serve Him. Then I have a quiet time as I sip on hot herbal tea. I’ve already mentioned my daily Bible memory verse walk. Praise and worship music plays in my car, soothes my soul, and draws me closer to the Lord. Throughout the day, I pray for my clients and every need that arises in my life and that of family and friends. Before I go to bed, I kneel again at the side of the bed to thank Him for the day’s blessings and to seek His forgiveness for anything I’ve said or done wrong. On the weekends, I play praise and worship music throughout the day as I do household chores. If I’m working on a writing or speaking project, I set a timer on the hour to remind me to take a break to pray and review Bible memory verses. I need to focus on the source of my strength and wisdom to keep a healthy spiritual heart. These spiritual heart health tips serve the cancer patient as well as the heart patient.

I pray that some of these heart health tips will work for your readers.

18.What do you want the reader to take away from the book?

I want the reader to be honest with God. He knows what we’re thinking any way and longs to help us. He won’t be disappointed or fall off His throne if we experience fear, depression, or anger. These are normal emotions, and God won’t love us any less for being human. He made us with tear ducts, and it’s OK to cry.

God has promised never to leave us or forsake us. We can put Him to the test, and He will pass it.

19.Where on the Internet can the readers find you?

My website is at .
If you would like an opportunity to win this book, leave a comment about someone you know (including yourself) who is taking this journey. If you comment on this book for someone else, let us know why you'd like to win it for them. I will choose the winner on May 19th so enter before 8pm Central Time. This is only available for shipping in the US since it's being sent by Yvonne herself!
Blessings, Mimi


ChristyJan said...

Our son-in-law just told us yesterday that his Uncle was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. This is such a terrible disease. I don't think there is anyone anymore that hasn't been touched by it in some way.

Sarah/Robert said...

Our friend is battling prostate cancer. His wife is also so affected. They are strong believers and are covered in prayer at our church, yet I think this book might be an encouragement to both of them!

Anonymous said...

I have a close friend who is dealing with the possibility of pancreatic cancer. He has tumors and will soon undergo surgery during which the doctors will remove 2/3 of his pancreas. At that point they'll determine if the tumors are benign or malignant. His cousin died of pancreatic cancer, so they are praying they caught it early.

Yvonne, with your personal cancer experience, you're a wealth of wisdom and knowledge. Thank you for sharing what has helped you.


Anonymous said...

Yvonne lives in the USA. I live in South Africa. We belong to the same critique group, and have shared many of our experiences and written articles about this ghastly disease.

I can only say "Amen" to all she says in her book and in this interview. It doesn't matter where you live, the emotions and reactions are the same. I pray that this book will be a blessing to many.

Keep up the good work, Yvonne!
Love you in Jesus,


Anonymous said...

Yvonne is so very open and vulnerable in her writing. I applaud her courage and insight. She is helping many people. Her passion and love are very touching.


Anonymous said...

Greetings from Yvonne,
I pray God will bless each of you richly and that you will overflow with hope.
Let's pray for a cure for cancer.
Love & Prayers,
Yvonne Ortega
Romans 15:13

Mimi N said...

name: Rebecca


phone: 404-526-5446

comments: I would like to enter to win your book for a dear friend of mine -
her name is Pat and she is going through her third round of cancer - she had
a complete mastectomy and reconstruction. When she first heard the news
that she had cancer again she was angry at God and questioned why when she
had tried to eat right and exercise that this still happened to her. Now
she is in a much better place emotionally and is accepting of it - she is on
her way this morning to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Pat has been
such an inspiration to me. Thank you.

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Woven by Words by Mimi B is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.