God takes you through challenging, life-changing experiences because He’s already identified the person who needs your skills, your strength and your faith to help them on their own journey. His preparing you for the mission consists of a set of tests to help you discover your inner strength and capability. God uses me to provide a nurturing, support system for persons facing significant health challenges.
When my friend Tanishia Pearson Jones was diagnosed with cancer, I was blessed to become part of her team. I will be eternally grateful for the three years Tanishia played a significant role in my life. We made an initial connection from the first book evaluation she wrote for my novel, What You Can Get Away With. When she shared her diagnosis, I listened and prayed with her, and offered her a safe place to share her fears, her joys, and the soon-to be changes in her family’s life.
Tanishia knew I’d walked a similar cancer journey with my sister from 2004 to 2007. I understood the medical terminology, could clarify doctor speak and had learned how to walk alongside the patient, letting her faith and stamina lead the way forward. God gave me the needed insights to understand the ferocious battle Tanishia was facing from the day she told me about her rare cancer, the existence of very few treatment protocols, and the distances she would have to travel, whether to Houston, Texas or Zion, Illinois to receive treatment.
When she decided to seek treatment at CTCA in Zion, she’d say, I have to be in Zion for X number of days. I’d say I’ll be there. Ongoing support is vitally important during cancer treatment. I focused on what Tanishia needed by observing how she responded to pain, surgery, bad news, and uncertainty. I learned more about who she was by seeing how she interacted with the people around her. No matter what the medical prognosis revealed, her spirit was loving, filled with laughter and caring about others around her. Her hope was the belief in a better tomorrow, a joyful expectancy in the face of contradictory evidence. It was not enough to mouth the words; she acted on her profound faith. And in watching her and listening to her on-going testimony, my beliefs were strengthened.
Tanishia’s first surgery lasted for 11 ½ grueling hours. However, the night before surgery Tanishia threw a surprise birthday party for her mother. From Delhi, Louisiana, she called ahead to the hotel and arranged the details of the party, including dinner and a special birthday cake prepared by the kitchen staff. Tanishia focused on abundance and LIFE.
In doing so, she taught me how to assist her through the journey. One week after surgery, she insisted on gifting one of the nurses with a new pair of Sketchers’ shoes. From her bed, heavily sedated and adjusting after major surgery, Tanishia noticed the young woman’s old shoes needed replacing. Using stealth, she figured out the woman’s shoe size, ordered the shoes on line and gave them to the single mother who cried and gushed that she had worn the last pair for five years so that her boys could have the proper clothes and shoes they needed.
Following surgery, Tanishia underwent an additional six weeks of radiation treatment. Her beloved husband, her mother, and I each spent two weeks with her. During my two-week stint, we broke up the monotony of hotel living and eating out by spending one weekend at my home. The weekend was a chance for her to prepare one of her famous dishes— a hodgepodge. We returned to Zion on a snowy Sunday afternoon. It was the first time she’d driven in a Chicago snowstorm with cars inching along while snowplows tried to stay ahead of the wet, heavy snow.
During follow-up visits, Tanishia adapted to the cold and snow, never confining herself to the hotel room. Weekly, we drove to the Zion Walmart for manicures and pedicures and light shopping. Tanishia was a diva and looking her best was part of the fight. We explored the area, including finding restaurants, driving into nearby Gurnee for Tuesday movies at the Gurnee Mall, complete with lunch and light shopping.
Tanishia’s second surgery lasted eight hours. Throughout her recovery period, we lived every moment and counted it all joy. Together we learned to be there in the moment, to love, laugh, and treat each day as special regardless of what the doctors reported.
When Tanishia made her transition, I learned another truth. Death has lost its sting because she stepped out of this world into a new one where she will show me what awaits on the other side.
-Joyce A. Brown
Joyce Brown is a motivational speaker and author who uses her creative energy to give voice and meaning to the challenges women face in all walks of life. She grew up in Rockford, Illinois in a household of strong women. She graduated from Bradley University with a B.S. and M.A. Her professional career expanded her reach into Peoria, Illinois; and Battle Creek, Michigan. Joyce obtained a PhD from Western Michigan University.
She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and has served as a direct services worker, executive director, program director for a major foundation, and an entrepreneur. Joyce has experienced many uplifting moments as a professional and as a dedicated parent and strives to bring those events and lessons to life through her characters in the contemporary fiction novels she pens.