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News for Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Column — Reflections
When Cancer Strickes, Lean on the Lord
By Lonnie Wilkey
editor, Baptist and Reflector

In 2001 I was diagnosed with colon cancer. Just a few weeks earlier, Bill Northcott, a TBC staff member who is now retired, was diagnosed with leukemia.

Until then I honestly had not been personally affected by people who had been diagnosed with cancer or were even dealing with it in their immediate families.

Since then, it seems like I know very few families who are not dealing with this dread disease. We are dealing with it on the staff of the Baptist and Reflector and I have some very close friends who have either recently been diagnosed with cancer or they are walking down that path with a loved one.

But I am just one of millions upon millions of people who are seeing cancer wreak havoc on friends and loved ones.

Cancer is no respecter of persons. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, white or black, old or young.

Last March, cancer invaded the staff of the Baptist and Reflector when Susie Edwards was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. For the past year Susie has battled this cancer bravely and just a month ago we celebrated the fact that her ovarian cancer was in remission.

Our joy was short lived, however, when spots were recently discovered on her liver. On Friday afternoon of last week, doctors confirmed that she does, indeed, have liver cancer. Please continue to pray for Susie and her family during this time.

Last week (April 2), cancer took the life of a very special lady — Linda Estey. For those involved in Tennessee Baptist Convention life, Linda is no stranger.

She worked for the convention in a number of capacities for more than 21 years. When she retired about three years ago, she had spent a number of years in the executive director’s office.

One of Linda’s tasks was coordinating many of the details associated with the TBC annual meeting. Organization was one of her strengths. Linda kept written notes and made sure she had all of her “t’s” crossed and her “i’s” dotted.

As a result the annual meetings over the years went like clockwork, or at least, the portions of the meeting that Linda was involved with. She had nothing to do with miscellaneous business from the floor in the final session of the annual meetings (that’s usually when something unexpected will happen).

After Susie was unable to work last year, Linda came out of “retirement” to work part-time on the B&R staff. She was truly an angel provided by God to our staff.

Because of her attention to detail and her organization, she stepped in with immediate impact.

In addition to her skills and expertise, Linda also had a great personality. Like Susie, Linda had the ability to make you feel special. Because of her contacts with people throughout the denomination over the years, she was a natural fit to help church leaders who would call our office regularly.

Though I had known Linda for a number of years and had worked closely with her on convention matters, I didn’t really know what a special lady she was until I was around her on a regular basis.

Late last year Linda’s health took a turn for the worse and she was unable to work as much as she had for most of the year.

Yet, she continued to fight through her health issues and worked several days for us in January and February.

In March she basically had to stop coming to work to deal with some respiratory issues.

To make a long story short, Linda was diagnosed with lymphoma and died within a matter of days.

To say we were stunned and shocked would be an understatement. Linda was an important part of the Tennessee Baptist Convention family and she was loved dearly by all who knew her.

As I first learned in 2001, when cancer strikes, all you can do is to lean on the Lord. God is there to carry us through the toughest trials of our lives.

We may never know why cancer had to take Linda so quickly but we take comfort in knowing she did not have to suffer and that she is in heaven today with the Savior that she served so faithfully.

As you encounter friends and family who are dealing with cancer either directly or indirectly (and you will), help them to lean on the Lord for strength.

God is faithful. While we may wish for different results at times, we have to hold to the truth that God is in control and He has a plan for each of us. 

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