Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Unbeatable- My friend's new book about her struggle with cancer

While I was in Cleveland last week, my friend Laurie Frey and her husband Don came to hear me speak at Oak River church. At the end of the service, she hands me a signed copy of her just released book called Unbeatable. The book is a VERY honest look into her struggle with stage-3A invasive breast cancer.

Laurie wrote the book after the musical she created of the same name opened in Arizona and Houston. Unbeatable, the musical, is a story of Laurie's yearlong struggle with breast cancer but also a look into her fix-it, control everything personality that affects not just her outlook on the cancer but her relationships as well.

The book takes the story a step further and delves deeper into her issues during her struggle. It really zeroes in on her relationship with Don and her faith. I love how the book has a journal feel to it and how Don responds in his own words about what he was feeling at the time.

I was on staff at NewSong in Cleveland at the time and I turn up in the musical and in the book. I can still remember the day, 5 years ago from last month when Laurie told me that she had cancer. It hit me hard and I instantly felt God-sized compassion. It is interesting to see the events and our interactions through Laurie's eyes in the musical book. She writes about it beginning on page 28. This is right after she got off of the phone with her doctor who told her that she has cancer.

So who could I tell? I had to tell someone. I was heading in the general direction of the church office. Good. That'll do. Mark. Mark was the executive pastor.

We had been friends since he moved to Cleveland, and Don and I served as leaders for the youth group with him and his wife, Stacey. Mark's encouraging. He laughs a lot, he's athletic (I really didn't tell her to put that in), he's a "team" guy and he's encouraging. He's got to be in. He's got to. He is.

"Hey Laurie, what's up? Did I forget a meeting?" He was smiling. Of course he was smiling.

"No, I have breast cancer." Just like that. No plan. No clever phrasing. Right out of the mouth.

Now it was Mark's turn to be frozen in time. I was right there with him. His eyes staring into mine, concern flooding to the edges, mouth open a little.

"Wow." He paused. How long? A second?"... "When did you find out?"

"I just got a call while I was driving. I had a needle biopsy, and the tumor was as hard as a rock, so I thought there was a chance I had cancer. But you just never really think it could be possible."

I remember smiling. Smiling. And there it was. The first tear. Mark hugged me. Not a pastor hug. A brother hug. A truly human hug of another human being.

More moments passed, and I started to pull away, wiping my eyes. His hand was on my shoulder, and he began to pray, "Father God, You know everything that Laurie is facing right now. She needs You. I ask that Your arms come and wrap around her as You comfort her and guide her."

I know he kept praying, but I couldn't remember the words to save my life. I do know that when he was done, I could breathe. I remember breathing.

If you know someone who has gone through cancer (and who doesn't), this is an excellent look inside the world of someone who has been there. Cancer is a devastating disease, but there are stories of amazing inspiration from those who have fought against it. Unbeatable is one of those stories.

And since this is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here are some links about unbeatable and how we can beat back cancer.

Unbeatable- the whole story-

Unbeatable- the musical

Livestrong- Lance Armstrong Foundation

Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation