My First Post-Cancer Interview: “When Life Becomes Undone,” with Dr. Juli Slattery

Jun 1, 2015

It took me all weekend to get up the courage to share this.

Call it vanity or insecurity. It’s probably both. Regardless, there’s a deep and honest part of me that wants to hide. For as long as possible.

The reason?

I’m not the same person I used to be.

Before November 25, I was healthy. Put-together. I didn’t have obvious scars. I didn’t carry around the physical evidence of trauma and loss. I didn’t look sick or sound funny when I talked. I seemed, well … normal. At least relatively so.

Not any more.

I’ve changed. And I’m just beginning to grasp how all-encompassing that statement really is. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything about me and my life that remains the same.

And you know what?

I miss who I used to be. Desperately.

But today I’m fighting back against all the loss and grief, just a bit. I’m looking forward, reaching for peace, trying to take a single step into what is.

And so I’m sharing this interview. With you. My first Undone interview post-cancer. Even though the insecure me aches to hide it.

The reason?

God promised to USE IT. And the only way to see any good that might possibly come from the mess is to move out of the way and let Him DO IT.

On April 13, 2015—eight short weeks after my last treatment—I headed to Colorado Springs to record my first post-cancer voice interview. I was still sick, still throwing up, still on massive pain meds. The day before I couldn’t get out of bed. That morning, I wasn’t sure how I’d talk clearly enough to be understood by a podcast audience. But I knew I needed to step out, to dig deep and find a lingering mustard-seed-of-faith to believe He could redeem the loss. Otherwise, I feared I might never step out again.

And so I recorded this podcast interview with Yvette Maher on Java With Juli. Dr. Juli Slattery and Yvette are two of my favorite people. I admire both, deeply, and trusted them both to hold my heart gently. They made a terrifying step bearable.

In our interview, we discussed some of the hardest questions of life, including:

  • How do you make peace with a life that hasn’t turned out like you thought?
  • Is it okay to wrestle with questions and doubts during grief and suffering?
  • What do you do when God doesn’t behave like you expected Him to? Can you still trust Him?
  • How does physical suffering differ from emotional suffering? 
  • What does it look like to walk with a friend or loved one when they endure significant suffering?
  • Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21) What does this mean for you and me, in the face of living in an unexpected, undone life?

I hope you enjoy the interview, my friends. But more than that, I pray it touches something deep and honest within you, perhaps giving you the courage to to find your own mustard-seed-of-faith to take a single step into your impossible.

Because the only way you’re going to see good come from your mess is if you get out of your own way and let God DO IT.

{P.S. I’m with you.}

Yvette Maher, Dr. Juli Slattery, & Michele Cushatt

April 13, 2015: Yvette Maher, Dr. Juli Slattery, & Michele Cushatt

[callout]When Life Becomes Undone

Have you ever felt as though you’ve gotten “the short end of the stick?” Has there been loss, sickness, tragedy or injustice in your life? Dr. Juli Slattery has an inspiring conversation with two women who have walked together through the fires of this world, and are continuing to move forward even though hardships are in their future. If you have a tendency to feel sorry for yourself, this is the program for you!

Listen on Dr. Juli Slattery’s website, Authentic Intimacy[/callout]

33 Comments

  1. Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

    Michele. Just listened to your interview. I am still having trouble with speech due to waking up with my tongue and mouth (the entire left side of my head) from brain surgery. Listening to you, I could totally picture coming to hear you speak and being so blessed by you because you are putting yourself out there without having to sound “perfect.” It gave me hope and seriously inspired me. I loved listening to Yvette. What a wonderful friend. Bless you today as we listen to your words of courage and wisdom. Love you, Linda

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Thank you for this, Linda. It’s harder than I thought it would be. But worth it when I hear of stories (like yours). As for Yvette, she’s a gem. One of my dearest, most faithful friends. Few people walk with others through pain and suffering like she does.

      Reply
  2. Wayne Stiles

    You are, Michele, one of the most courageous women I know. I’m asking God to use your ministry after surgery far more than He has beforehand. Thanks for the transparency. Thanks for being real.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Thank you, Wayne. Your faithful prayers and support have meant the world to Troy and I!

      Reply
      • Ricardo

        Dear Michelle,
        Courage is a beautiful vocal cord.
        Sincerely,
        Ricardo Whyte

        Reply
  3. Meg Sharpe

    Dear Michele. Bruised and shadowed, ever so slightly tongue-tangled (perhaps) you may be, and yet in all this your essential shiningly lovely personhood, your faith and honesty and charmingly self-deprecating sense of the ridiculous, burst through ever more clearly and brightly. How blessed is the American Church, particularly, to have you pointing out what so desperately needs to be said and acted upon, the need to embrace and march into and own suffering, in our midst, abroad, at every level. Your deep understanding of gratitude is both a banner and a sharp prod, if I may say so, in our collective backside.

    When I hear and read your thoughts on the physical consequences of your painful, enervating illness and treatments, I am reminded of something Ruskin said. “Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless. Peacocks and lilies.” And I like Khalil Gibran here: “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls. The most massive characters are seared with scars.”

    You have a massive character, dear sister, and I know our Lord has even greater plans for you to impact the world for him.

    Reply
    • Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

      Meg, thanks for sharing the quotes…so true and inspiring. When I was a new Christian and even for years afterwards I thought (maybe got the message somewhere) that unless it is in the Bible, it is worthless and even untrue. How ignorant is that attitude?! People everywhere notice things, become inspired, and give us gems to help us live. Thanks again!

      Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      How do you do it, Meg? You have a wisdom and ability to capture and communicate the heart of life (in all its beauty and pain) so exquisitely. Besides that, you manage to encourage me and strengthen my faith like few others. Perhaps it’s because I know your story, and am aware of the fire YOU have walked through, are still walking through. Please KNOW this, deep in your soul: Jesus shines in and through you. It’s is so apparent how He loves you, has filled you. I’m honored to call you a friend.

      Reply
  4. Melissa

    I love you. You are such a blessing.

    Reply
  5. Lily Kreitinger

    Can’t wait to hear! Walking with you every step of the way!!

    Reply
  6. Gloria Nofsinger

    I just heard about this today on Moody Radio and plan to listen. Thank you for sharing this journey with us.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Nice to meet you, Gloria. Hope the interview encourages you! He IS with us.

      Reply
  7. Tracy L

    Loved this Michele. I always love your authentic, honest testimony. Great job, you are sure to touch many with this one.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Such an encourager you are! Thanks, Tracy. Not easy, but worth it.

      Reply
  8. Christine Print

    Thank you for being an inspiration to me. You get it. Having pain all the time is a lonely place but it is not lonely anymore because you understand. I have come to the place where I have said to the Lord I am yours and whatever you choose for me in life I may not like it but I accept it. Thank you for your honesty and for being real.

    Reply
  9. Becky B

    Loved the message, and the messenger!

    Reply
  10. Christy

    Your words were so powerful. Thank you for giving of yourself to do the interview in spite of your reluctance. I just finished your book this past week. I heard about your story from Michael Hyatt’s podcast. I do believe Undone is the first book I’ve read cover-to-cover in at least five, but probably more like ten years! My lack of book-reading has been due to my own undone life juggling kids, a job, home displacement, and caring for my husband who has been debilitated by chronic illness. Your story and your candor has ministered to me more than I can express. I could hardly put the book down. God bless you in your ministry, as well as your fight and recovery.

    Reply
  11. Deb

    Thank you for sharing this. It was so great to hear your voice again, even if it is imperfect right now. The woman behind the voice is the same. Don’t forget that. You are missed on This Is Your Life. I do hope you are able to return at some point…but only if that’s right for you. Your faith and your heart is so admirable. You have the potential to truly touch even more people now. So many struggle with handling their imperfect lives. It’s comforting to hear how you are coping so the rest of us don’t feel alone. Sending love…

    Reply
  12. Jana Botkin

    Each week I “race” to your blog to see if you have posted anything and I listen to Michael Hyatt to see if there is any news of your recovery. It was very exciting to read you did an interview! How nice to hear you in your unscripted conversation with friends, and I recognized Juli’s voice too. Thank you for your bravery – it wasn’t hard to understand you, and the beauty of your speaking voice is still present.

    P.S. I also enjoy Michael’s podcasts for the content, but they just aren’t the same without your laugh.

    Reply
  13. Kathleen

    Michele,
    I listened to the interview and cried. I cried at first because I could feel what you were feeling as you struggled to speak and were embarrassed. And because I put myself in your place and know how hard it would be for me to let people hear me speak with such difficulty. But then as I listened I cried tears of victory – for you. Your message was so powerful, and made more so by the fact that it was raw. Not cleaned up and made pretty. As it was in the moment. As you were. It was one of those stones in the Jordan River that will be a permanent reminder of what God did. What you said was important. And needed. Thank you for sharing your imperfect life with us. It gives us courage to do the same. Blessings, Kathleen

    Reply
  14. Melanie

    Michelle,
    I read your book about a month ago and was blown away by your transparency and your courage! Immediately after reading it, I headed over to your blog to see how you were doing. Obviously, there were not many recent posts.

    I am a new blogger and was given an assignment through Blogging 101 to post a comment on a blog I follow. I headed over to your site and read your entry about your struggle to share your radio interview. I plan to listen to it as I clean my home.

    God knew what He was doing when He arranged for our stories/lives to intersect. Just yesterday, I was faced for the umpteenth time with a situation that deeply affects my life and seems very unlikely to change. And then, today…

    I listened to a message by Beth Moore on Life Today entitled “I Am Blessed” which I highly recommend to everyone. In it, she reminded me that “it is God’s will that [I] am profoundly effective and live out the impacting presence of the gifts He has placed in [my] life.”

    She went on to explain that God has spoken His blessings over us in advance and that we already have the power through His words to fulfill every purpose He ordains.

    I believe that this was a Word for me and for you, too!

    Today, I pray God’s blessing over you, over myself, and over the person I am struggling to understand. I hate what you are going through but God loves you far too much to waste your pain. Please know he is using it to help me “put my big girl panties on” and to put things into perspective in my own life.

    I close with this prayer.

    Father, it is so easy to get caught up in our very real struggles and I am thankful we have a High Priest who can relate to us in every way.

    Father God, please help us to keep our eyes and our dreams rooted solidly in You, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. You alone can save us and use us. You alone can show us how to be set apart to you, through you and for you.

    Give us today our daily bread – all that we need, Father and help us to let go of those things which would stand in the way of your will.

    Forgive us for the many times we forget that you have indeed blessed us with everything we need. Help us to forgive those who have knowingly or unwittingly wounded us, Lord.

    Thank you for Michelle and for your ministry through her. I pray your richest blessings over her as a fresh reminder of your amazing grace and love. I pray the same for myself and for the challenging relationships in my life.

    Be glorified, Lord.

    “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

    Grace and Peace All Because of Jesus,
    Melanie

    Reply
  15. Wellington Paez

    Michele, we’ve been missing you, welcome back!. Love and prayers go out to you

    Reply
      • ann marze

        Michele, thank you for your interview on focus on the family. I just started a bible study last evening and we just study Luke 1 where Mary speaks with the angel after being told she would carry the savior of the world and she responded “may it be” I never realized that quote was in the bible.
        I asked God to give me “may it be” experiences in my life daily. You were the first message I heard after my prayer….
        Thank you for being a modern day woman of Trust, acceptance, and power!
        May I succumb to be able to live out that scripture as you have!!!

        Love,
        Annie

        Reply
  16. linda

    I am leading a book club group from our church on your Undone book. I was wondering if there might be some discussion questions published somewhere to help me out. I am looking so forward to reading this book. I am looking to find peace in my upended childhood and I hope to find some pointers in that area. God bless!

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Hi there, Linda. Thanks for leading a group through Undone! Grateful. I’m in the process of developing discussion questions, and will have those available by the end of the year, for 2016 small groups/book clubs. But it’s not yet available. 🙁

      Reply
  17. Betsy Powell

    Hi Michele! I have a friend who has tongue cancer and who has been through several surgeries, and currently undergoing 6 weeks of radiation therapy at Stanford. I can’t seem to link to this interview – probably user error! I think he and his wife would enjoy listening to it. Where can I find it online? And which of your books would be the best to share with them? Thanks!

    Reply

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