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Finding God in the Midst of Cancer

Erin Weidemann discusses the devastation of a cancer diagnosis and giving her life to God. Read Transcript


NARRATOR: In 2006, Erin Weidemann

was a self-proclaimed atheist when she

got the shock of a lifetime.

Erin, an avid athlete, had cancer.

When a powerful radiation treatment quarantined her,

she hit her knees asking God for help.

Erin battled cancer four more times in the last 10 years.

Quite a story.

Please welcome to the show Erin Weidemann.

It's great to have you here.

Thanks so much, Terry.

Talk a little bit about your faith journey.

You grew up in church and knew about God.

How did you move into the realm of calling yourself an atheist?

I think I was just bombarded with what culture tells

really all girls they need to be in order to be beautiful,

to be loved, to be valued.

So I was very insecure.

I found myself, middle school and high school,

particularly, just comparing myself to every other girl

I met and feeling like I'm not beautiful, and I'm not enough.

Not measuring up, right?

Well, we tend to think that people who are healthy,

and you were in those years of your life and beyond--

you were an athlete.

You were very active in things that you did.

You you had a little knot on your throat.

And how did you get a diagnosis on that, and what was it?

Well, I was encouraged at my sister's wedding,

of all places, by a family friend

to go to an ear, nose, and throat doctor about a lump

that I had been feeling for the past couple of years,

who doctors at school told me wasn't a real concern.

And I went with my mom about a week later.

And it was very apparent very quickly in the doctor's office

that I was having a big problem that needed

to be dealt with right away.

Were you shocked?

To say I was shocked was just the understatement

of the century.

I had never broken a bone.

The hardest injury I had ever dealt with

was like a pulled muscle during softball.

So did you have any symptoms other than the fact

that you had this lump?

Zero-- zero symptoms, no weight loss, no irregular heart beat,

nothing that would have told you this woman is very diseased.

We need to deal with it right now.

Let's talk about that.

You say very diseased.

What did the doctor actually tell you?

What was your prognosis at that point?

Well, I use that phrase too because the op report

that the doctor gave me post-surgery

said the phrase "very diseased woman" probably 40 times in it.

And at that moment, as I read through that report, I

really just--

I came to know the gravity of the situation I faced.

We did not catch it early.

It was in the later stages of disease,

having metastasized to basically the upper half

of my entire body.

So it was a grave situation.

And it was in need of immediate solving.

Did you think you were going to die?

I definitely thought I was going to die.

I did have a very dark moment.

I wasn't walking with the Lord during that first diagnosis

and fell into a really dark, hysterical panic

about there were all these things

I wanted to do in my life and experiences I wanted to have.

And I just thought that those were never going to happen.

So it's easy to be an atheist or an agnostic

when all is going well.

But here you are with this incredibly serious diagnosis.

What happened faith-wise?

I found myself on the floor of my parents bathroom

during a 72-hour quarantine and having never

really prayed in a way I knew God was listening.

I cried out for help.

I asked God to help me.

I told Him I couldn't do anything anymore

without His help.

And I needed His comfort and His peace.

And I instantly felt better.

I was able to sit up.

And that was really the moment where things changed for me.

I started asking questions.

If I don't believe in God, who was I talking to in there?

Maybe there's something more to faith than I know.

And it was time to go find out.

So how did you pursue that?

I just spent time in prayer in those early days.

And struggling through a disease and not really knowing

am I am I going to come out of this?

Am I going to be healed?

Just talking to God and asking him questions.

A lot of my questions had to do with--

I was working in finance at the time, which was

completely ill-suited for me.

I've always been a storyteller and communicator and a writer.

And I asked God, if I'm not going

to live very long, what would you have me do?

And I felt just a little tug on my heart

that that was telling me to be a teacher.

Wow.

So to leap ahead a little bit, you actually

did well in treatment.

You got your degree.

You became a teacher.

You fell in love.

You got married.

Did you think you were through the battle?

I drug my feet for a while, a long time,

especially during the dating period with my husband.

He was very persuasive and persistent

in his pursuit of me.

And I started entertaining, after a few months,

maybe God does have a plan that's just something

I can't see right now.

And do I have the courage to try to find out what

that is, because is there more?

So you're married.

You have a family.

Talk to me.

Four more times you're struck with cancer.

What did you think during that time?

Yeah, we got married in 2010.

So it was right in the middle of just this sea of--

the cancer was initially diagnosed.

We treated it.

You're healed.

OK, a few months later a recurrence.

OK, well, we'll deal with it again.

My last surgery was at the Mayo Clinic.

We had to fly to Minnesota to have a surgery.

And he was with me throughout that process.

And I think God was just building strength

inside our marriage for some of the things

we were going to face in the future.

But I'm so thankful for that time and growing closer to him

and growing closer to the Lord in that process.

What's your health today?

I am five years cancer free.

My last surgery--

Yay!

I know-- was 2012.

And it seems ages ago.

And when you're in it at the time, it can be so devastating.

But there is hope for a life and an abundant, favored life

that God has for you much after that hard season of life.

So if that can be an encouragement to anybody,

I hope so.

God gave you a desire to write books.

You said you were a storyteller.

And you've done that in your series, "The Bible Belles."

Tell me about this, how this came to be.

So "Bible Belles" was really an idea born on the way home

from church.

My husband and I were debating what

to get our five-year-old niece, Hannah, for her birthday.

And Hannah, like so many girls today,

can name and tell the stories of every Disney princess.

But they can't name any women in the Bible

who they formed a true meaningful connection with.

So we wrote and simplified the story of Hannah

for Hannah, our niece, and gave it to her.

And the more we thought about this infatuation

with princesses inside culture, the more we thought,

can we get our girls excited about biblical women

who God used in a powerful way?

Because it was something about their character, who they were.

Can those women be heroes for girls?

Want to mention "Hannah, the Belle of Prayer,"

is one of them, "Esther, the Belle of Patience,"

and "Beautiful Abigail, the Belle of Bravery--"

you actually have two others in the series as well, right?

Yes our fourth book, "Ruth the Belle of Loyalty"

is coming out in about two weeks.

So we're so excited about that book.

That's really where the series takes an exciting turn away

from a focus on yourself and an outward focus towards service

and love and kindness toward other people, which

is God's great calling for all of us.

Yeah, boy, isn't that the truth.

And it's the thing we so want to instill in our girls.

And sometimes aren't quite sure how to get there from here

in a culture that gives such a wrong message.

Well, God has so used your life in so many ways

that you didn't expect.

And the cancer was all a part of moving you

toward this great end of being able to invest

in the lives of others.

What a great opportunity.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us today.

I want to mention Erin's book series of Bible heroes

for girls is called "Bible Belles."

I love that.

This one in this series is called "Hannah,

the Belle of Prayer," the one we showed you.

But there are a number of others, as we mentioned.

And they're all available wherever books are sold.

So what a great gift for the young girls in your life.

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