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Entries in Rebuild Your Life (1)


Rebuilding Our Lives After a Winter Season

Joanie Shawhan is a wise encourager. She uses the experiences of her life, couples them with God's truth, and speaks that truth into others' lives. In this Personal Care UPGRADE, she explains some of the ways we can rebuild our lives after a tough season.

"Sometimes my life," Joanie says, "seems to mirror the two seasons dominating Wisconsin—winter and road construction."

HA! I (Dawn) lived through many winters in the Midwest, and I know exactly what Joanie's talking about. But there's a deeper application here.

Joanie continues . . .

For me, a diagnosis of ovarian cancer raised a stop sign and detoured me into a winter season.

Major life events can divert us into the barrenness of winter: loss of a loved one or a job, changes in finances or health, disruption of our marriage or home. Customary rites of passage such as moving, career changes, graduations, empty nest and retirement may also reroute us into a winter season.

But eventually winter yields to spring.

We attempt to merge into the previous traffic patterns of life, but discover that the flow has shifted.

Questions pop up like orange construction barrels.

  • Who am I in light of these life changes?
  • How do I re-engage?
  • What is my purpose?

My Story

When I emerged from my winter season of cancer, surgery and chemotherapy, I reached a crossroads filled with questions.

  • Who am I as an ovarian cancer survivor?
  • What do I do now?
  • How do I rebuild my life?

I sought out other ovarian cancer survivors, but found no support groups, Gilda’s Clubs or Facebook groups. Were there other survivors?

As I searched for answers, I joined a Christian writing group, Friends of the Pen. I started writing a book for women undergoing chemotherapy—the stories of everyday women with everyday lives interrupted by cancer, concluding each piece with a scripture and a prayer.

My hope was to provide the help I desired throughout my own ordeal.

I finally met other ovarian cancer survivors at an ovarian cancer camp in Missoula, Montana—Camp Mak-A-Dream. Some of these survivors were involved in a program called Survivors Teaching Students (STS) in which they shared their stories with medical students and other health care providers. These presentations raise awareness for ovarian cancer in hopes of earlier detection, thus saving women’s lives.

As a nurse and an ovarian cancer survivor, I was excited about joining the STS volunteer team.

While participating in STS, I met local ovarian cancer survivors. We formed an ovarian cancer group, “The Fried Eggs—Sunny-Side Up.” We meet monthly, sponsor speakers, plan fun outings and participate in fundraisers for ovarian cancer.

A cancer detour steered me into a new purpose and calling for my life—to write a book encouraging women undergoing chemotherapy, and to advocate for women and educate regarding ovarian cancer.

Several new roads were paved into my life. I love the changes.

If you find yourself in a construction zone following your own winter season, don’t lose heart.

Instead, consider these 7 areas of focus as you reconstruct.

7 Tips to Rebuild Your Life

1. Pray.

Ask God what He has for you in this new season of life. Study His word. Ask Him for specific scriptures that define this season.

2. Identify Your Passion.

What energizes or inspires you? Cancer awareness, pregnancy information, adoption, foster care, civic or church activities?

3. Dream Dreams.

Are there dreams you have laid aside or new dreams you discovered? Travel, write a book, learn a language, play an instrument, own a home, start a business?

4. Try a Hobby.

What activities do you enjoy? Music, photography, crafts, painting, gardening, traveling, biking, hiking, reading?

5. Use Your Talents.

What are those things that come easy for you?

Have others around you affirmed a particular gift or ability?

6. Try Something New.

Try a job, class, mission trip or volunteer opportunity.

When we attempt a new activity, we may discover a hidden talent or the ability to do something we never thought possible.

7. Connect.

We often relate with people who have undergone a similar experience.

In sharing our stories, we can make new friends as we help and support one another.

At the time of my cancer diagnosis, I could not imagine how God would rebuild my life. What began as a winter journey blossomed into a life enriched by the wonderful people I met along the way, including my Christian writing community and my fellow ovarian cancer survivors.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT).

How has God rebuilt your life after a winter season?

Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor and a registered nurse. She writes articles and encouragement for women undergoing chemotherapy. Publishing credits include Coping with Cancer Magazine, Upper Room and God Still Meets Needs. Visit with Joanie here.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Annca at Pixabay.