13 October 2013

Losing My Sister to Breast Cancer, and Overcoming My Grief - Interview With Heather Blanton


Heather Blanton


Heather, welcome to Overcoming With God.  We appreciate your willingness to share your testimony of overcoming with our readers. 

Would you tell us about the most difficult thing in your life you have had to overcome, with God’s help?
The most difficult thing I have done so far in my life is watch my sister Susan die of cancer. She was a young, amazingly Godly woman who had overcome some incredible circumstances in her life. When she fought this battle, and then lost it, it affected me deeply. After a long absence from the keyboard, I started writing again to deal with the loss, and what happened next is nothing short of a miracle.
I wanted to tell the story of my sister’s life, but in a very cloaked way. You see, Suzy was an unwed teenage mother. But what most people would call a mistake, my God called the first link in a chain of miracles.
My sister got pregnant at the age of fifteen. Both families pushed her to have an abortion and she agreed. In the doctor’s office, however, she changed her mind and said she couldn’t go through with it. The phone rang and it was the father of the child; he didn’t want Suzy to go through with it, either, but he still couldn’t marry her.
So, Suzy went to a half-way house to have the baby and give him up for adoption. A month before she was due to deliver, the father of the baby finally stood up to his own father and told him he loved Suzy and was going to bring her home. She and her new husband gave their hearts to the Lord and went on to have two more children. Suzy matured into a mighty, spirit-filled woman of God, finished her GED, earned a degree as an R.N., and became a licensed minister in the Church of God, all while raising children and helping her husband farm. She was a popular speaker at women’s conferences, and worked as a Hospice nurse for over two years, leading patients to Jesus on their death beds. And the “unwanted” baby that was almost aborted grew into a Godly man who boldly preaches the gospel.
When I lost my sister to breast cancer I struggled with my grief and turned to fiction to “write it out.” Initially, I had no big plans for the book. I just needed to write. A Lady in Defiance tells the story of three, good Christian sisters who get stranded in a pretty wild mining town. Suzy was the inspiration for my character of Hannah, the young, unwed, teenage sister.
God opened doors for me to get an editor and then an agent, both totally unexpected. Last February I asked my literary agent, David Shepherd, if I could self-publish the book and use it as a fundraiser for an American Cancer Society event. My goal was to sell 200 copies. I wound up selling nearly 9000 copies in 2012 and actually made some bestsellers lists at Amazon. No publisher, no PR, no marketing. Just God. All God.
I’m writing fulltime now and working on the sequel to finish Suzy’s story. Praise the Lord for an amazing journey!
(CFP: What an amazing witness, Heather!)

Disability friendliness: Is this latest release available in audio format or do you have any other works available on audio?  Do your e-books have audio capability? Do you have any in large print? 
I hope to have the audio version available by Christmas!

A Lady in Defiance is full of bibliotherapy uses. Can you comment?  How to deal with grief, and anger at God. Naomi is widowed along the trail to California, which is how the sisters wind up in the mining town. Her struggle to trust God and accept his plan has resonated with so many of my readers, especially since her grief manifests itself as anger.
Also, this is a rough town with rough characters. Hannah shows us how to love and not judge, because no one among us can cast that first stone.

Thank you, Heather, for agreeing to answer these questions.  Have a blessed day and keep on writing!! 


Giveaway: One copy is being given by Heather and one by OWG. Please answer the following question to enter (also leave your email address): Do you have a loved one who had had breast cancer?  How does Breast Cancer Awareness month affect you?

55 comments:

  1. Wow Heather, what an amazing story and testimony. I was blown away by how many copies of A Lady in Defiance were sold. Nearly 9,000! Only God could do this. Your Sister Suzy, through God, accomplished so many things in her life. Those she helped and nurtured, and shared God with, truly was God given. Praise God too that she did not have an abortion!

    I have battled with breast cancer as well as my sister and two first cousins. Sadly we lost one of our first cousins to breast cancer 15 months ago. I visited with her a month before she passed away and the strength she had, and the love for God she had was like a breath of fresh air for me. She longed to be with her Lord and thankfully God granted her that desire.

    Breast Cancer Awareness month means a lot to me. Actually, it can be painful when we remember those who have lost their battle. This gives me a stronger incentive to get the word out to please do your self-exams and to get those mammogram's! I urge everyone to support this cause through buying items at your local stores that give a percentage of their sales to help stamp out breast cancer. Think Pink!

    Blessings!
    Judy B
    judyjohn2004(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Wow, Judy, thank you for sharing your story. Breast cancer has touched so many lives. But God is our refuge and our strength and we are overcomers! I'll keep you and your sister and cousins in my prayers. I wish no one would ever have to go through this horrible trauma. Let's pray for a cure!

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    2. JUDY, I am so sorry about your loss. But am also grateful God healed you! Yes, thinking pink!!! Hugs!!!

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  2. Thank you for sharing your amazing testimony with us on OWG, HEATHER! I was so deeply touched by it. I am praising the Lord for working in your sister's life, her husband's, and of course, the baby that He called from the womb. Please accept my sincere condolences on the loss of your sister.

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    1. Diana, thank you. My sister is gone from this earth and I miss her even now, but she left behind an awesome legacy. I pray my book and the sequel(s) share it with a few more people who might never have had the chance to meet her.

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  3. What an amazing story. My family lost my mother's half-sister to breast cancer several years ago, but she is still very much a part of our family through memories and traditions <3 Looking forward to reading your book!

    colorvibrant[at]gmail[dot]com

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    1. Heidi, thank you and I am sorry for your loss. Memories and traditions are all we get to keep, so keep them warm and protected. Thank you again and I hope you like A Lady in Defiance.

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    2. I am so sorry for the loss of your aunt, Heidi.

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  4. Wow. Such an amazing and beautiful testimony to God's faithfulness to His children. My granny had breast cancer at the time of her death but that's not what caused her death. I also lost my mom to cancer 12 yrs ago. It's a horrible thing and indiscriminate. It not only affects the cancer patient but their entire family. Thank you for sharing such a powerfully emotional time in your life, Heather.

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    1. Anne, thank you for your comments. And I am sorry for your loss. I saw how losing their mother affected my nieces and nephew and I hate it for you. But together we are stronger. We will all stand beside each other and fight and pray for a cure. Someday it will happen.

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  5. In our family my Mothers Aunt Martha, had breast cancer when I was a little girl, She had a double mastectomy and she is still living cancer free , Praise God ! Later in my 30's my pastor from when I was a teen's Wife Stella Bennett had breast cancer and they felt she lived a long trying life with COPD and she refused treatment and died with a smile on her face I am told. I loved her so much, she shared life and recipes with us, but the life she lived was one for the Lord God ! When I had Daniel 5, almost 6 years ago, I made my Midwife a double fleece blanket with roses and breast cancer ribbons on it, it was a lovely pink, mauve in color and She just loved it. I wanted her to have something that would inspire her as she had told me of dealing with so many women who had breast cancer. I want ot say thank you for this interview and sharing, I know it could not have been easy. I too had a teen pregnancy, not as young as your sister but at 18 and had my daughter just before I turned 19, I was not as blessed as your sister to marry then to the father, he was selfish man. I am married to a man who loves me and hates that I had to suffer so as a young woman. I cannot wait to read your book, it sounds so good.
    Love and Blessings
    Linda Finn
    faithfulacres7@gmail.com
    Faithful Acres Books
    www.faithfulacresbooks.wordpress.com

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    1. Linda, God works all things for good, right? We know that, so we know there is a reason you didn't marry the baby's father. Maybe your husband needed you two! And I mean two. We may never know in this life why God works things the way he does, but I sure have learned not to question him! Blessings to your family! And thank you for sharing!

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    2. LINDA, ditto to what Heather said--isn't she a sweetie? Glad God brought a good hubbie to you!

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  6. My cousin's daughter in law is now undergoing treatment for breast cancer. My stepmom underwent a biopsy on Friday. We are anxious for the results. I have been going for mammograms since my 30's. Only 2 that were suspicious. Fortunately all turned out OK for now. fishingjan@ aol dot com

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    1. Praying for all involved JAN! Hang in there!

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    2. Jan, I surely hate that you guys are going through this. I try to remind myself that Jesus made us a lot of promises, one of which was "in this world you will have trouble, BUT be of good cheer because I have overcome the world." Trouble comes. But we don't have to take it lying down. We take it on our knees. I will be praying for you!

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  7. I have a cousin that passed away from breast cancer many years ago. I have not had anything to be concerned about in any mammograms at this point in my life, praise the Lord!
    I have read 'A Lady In Defiance'. It is a fabulous book, which I enjoyed very much. I have it on my Kindle. While I would love a physical copy, I think they should go to someone else.
    Thanks so much for sharing this difficult time in your life, Heather! I am so glad that the book has been read by so many people! What an incredible blessing!
    God bless you as you continue writing what He wants you too.

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    1. BETTI, I have a copy on my Kindle and am looking forward to reading it!. Thanks for sharing!

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    2. Betti, I really appreciate you taking the time to read my book and comment. Man, I wish I had the words to explain how humbled I am every time someone does that. I have promised myself and God that I will use the gift of writing to write fiction that shows how REAL He is. That sounds like an oxymoron, I suppose, but I have rec'd emails from people who saw themselves in various characters and felt God speaking to them. Wow, that is something. Maybe they wouldn't have heard him any other way. So I endeavor to be a vessel. Thank you again, Betti. Hope those mammograms keep coming out clean!

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  8. Such a touching story thank you.

    I'm actually surprised that I don't know anyone who has had breast cancer.

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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    1. Wow, MARY, I am pretty shocked. That is a blessing. My two BFFs had breast cancer 3 years ago, right after my mother died from pancreatic cancer. I felt like I'd gotten a one-two punch but God spared both, PTL!

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    2. Mary, that is amazing! Praise the Lord. I sincerely hope you can continue to say this for the rest of your life!

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  9. That's an awesome testimony. My aunt had breast cancer and Praise God, she's still going at 80 years old. The Lord kept His hand on her. Unfortunately, I have had a couple of friends that lost a love one to breast cancer. I know this month is breast cancer month, but I am also reminded of other cancers. My Dad had cancer and has been cancer free since 2004. This year the Lord gave us a miracle and healed my only brother of cancer. He's been very good to my family, but I've lost three friends in the past two and half years of cancer. One had been a childhood friend. I know we don't understand, just hold to the Lord and trust Him.

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    1. Barbara, as the years have passed, I have also lost friends and other loved ones to different types of cancer. That is why I am a big fan of the American Cancer Society. I also love the Pretty in Pink Foundation. My sister would have wanted me to help others, not JUST victims of breast cancer.

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  10. A very sad yet uplifting story. It is such a trial dealing with health issues in life that cause us to follow completely different paths then we had intended. We can only keep praying and staying in constant contact with our Heavenly Father. I too, have had many people in my life with this to work through and deal with. Sometimes it is also hard to understand the outcomes.

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    1. Sonja, interesting that you say that. Just this morning I was wondering where I would be/what I would be doing if my sister was still with us. I've always enjoyed writing, but when Suzy died, I felt really CALLED to write this story. I guess A Lady in Defiance is one good thing the Lord brought out of her death. I've decided that my writing must have an impact for the kingdom or there is no point to it. Thanks for your thoughts!

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  11. Heater what an amazing testimony of your sister, thank you for sharing this difficult time for you and your family.

    My cousin is a breast cancer survivor of about 12 years.
    I am an R.N. and worked at our local hospital on an oncology unit for 13 years. Our unit participated in the annual Relay for Life events. I also have cared for many family members who battled cancer as well as having friends that have cancer too. Cancer awareness is important as it impacts whole families not just those who battle cancer.

    Blessings, Tina
    tfrice@comcast.net

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    1. Tina, that is a great reminder. We should pray for those fighting cancer, but also for the families. It does take an incredible toll on them.

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    2. Wow, TINA! I did not know all that about you! God bless you for your work. And so glad your cousin is doing well! Blessings and congrats! You are a winner!

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  12. Thank you HEATHER for sharing your story, and for writing this book in honor of your sister. I imagine she would be so completely proud of you! You've not only highlighted her legacy of bravery and dedication to the Lord but have kept it going. I pray your book 'A lady in Defiance' will only continue to exceed all your expectations and bring glory to God! I'm looking forward to your sequel!

    I know people who have had breast cancer and other cancers, some have beat it, some have succumbed to this awful disease, and others are still battling. I always get checked and support the cause when we can.
    Bless you Heather!!

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    1. Yes, Noella, we should all do our exams and get those mammograms. Did you know that exercising 4 or more times a week can cut your risk of BC by as much as 45%? Get out there and move! I also pray that God has more in store for A Lady in Defiance. I'm praying that there is a movie in the future. I would just love to see these gals come to life! I think this story could reach a lot of people who aren't Believers. With God, all things are possible!

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  13. HEATHER, thanks SO much for sharing your testimony with us on OWG! My two BFFs are breast cancer survivors, PTL! I SO enjoyed meeting you and your son at Shirley Plantation and getting to share lunch with you at Charles City tavern. You are such a sweetheart!

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    1. Carrie, I really enjoyed that field trip and the company of all those ladies! What a great group. Hope to do that again sometime soon. Include me, please!

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  14. HEATHER thank you so much for sharing Suzy's story with us. Our family has been touched by the big "C", my husband has been a survivor since 1999. One of my mother's sisters had breast cancer so I have had to have mammograms since my early 30's because of that. Even though it's not as common, men can have breast cancer also, my father had to have one of his breasts removed. I have had two biopsies one as recent as three years ago and PTL all is well.

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    1. Teresa, I will repeat what I said a bit earlier. Studies show that exercising 4 or more times a week can reduce your risk of BC by 45%. So I hope you are hitting the gym or the walking trail or something. I'll be praying things continue to be clean for ya!

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  15. Heather, thank you for sharing your sister's legacy and your own amazing story. We lost my husband's grandmother to breast cancer several years ago. Cancer is such a devastating disease and touches the lives of so many!

    texaggs2000 at gmail dot com

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    1. Britney, I am sorry for your loss. Sounds like your risk is low, but don't skip the self-exams and mammograms! Thank you for sharing.

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  16. I am so sorry Heather. I have been through this very same thing. The sister just older than me out of four. The one that was my best friend . We were the last girls to live at home. She was only 36 I believe when she got breast cancer. We alwas wrote each other after we both married 6 months apart. I would hear from her that it was time for another Chemo treatment, and they made her so sick. She lost all of her beautiful red hair. She was such an inspiration to so many people in our small town because of the way she just kept trudging along doing what needed to be done. She was also working. She made it to the so called safe 10 year zone, but then it showed up in various places in her body. She lost one breast. She went to be with the lord at 47 years old. Was the first death in our family of 10. It was the hardest thing I had been through. She left behind a husband and 2 children. Later I had another sister who died from cancer in her stomach. And, I also lost my oldest niece with breast cancer. They were to remove one breast, but she chose to do both. Later two of my best friends. I think of them and everyone who has or had this, especially at Breast Cancer Awareness Month. and keep praying for a cure. Thanks to the OWG for having you here and I would love to win your book. Thanks for a chance. MAXIE mac262(at)me(dot)com

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    1. Maxie, I am really sorry to hear how cancer has touched your life through so many people. Man, I hate this disease. I too come from a large family (of six) and lost my older brother back in January to heart disease. The more you love, the more you have at risk. So be it. It is better to have loved and lost ... I'd bet you agree.

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  17. It wasn't breast cancer but I lost my dear husband to cancer 16 years ago. Also i of my 3 brothers Had Lymphoma and a huge tumor in his stomach, but had a bad heart problem and couldn't have surgery. Had so many diseases in his body but just kept taking his time as Chaplain at the Vet Hosp,. and preaching every chance he had, tho he had COPD really bad. He would take his oxygen off and preach then put it back on. I ask him how he could do that when he could hardly breathe. He said GOD just let him. Also a nephew 2 nephews had colon cancer. They neither show any signs right now. And, 3 of my siblings had skin cancers. The Big C is a horrible thing. All of you girls take care.
    Maxie

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    1. Yeah, I saw my sister preach while she was attached to oxygen. Gotta respect that kind of faith. They were/are inspiring people.

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    2. MAXIE, I agree. Cancer is a terrible thing. Thanks for sharing with us. You are such a sweetheart--I hate that you have had to go through this in your family and with your husband.

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  18. Thank you for sharing your story! I haven't lost a loved one to breast cancer, but I did lose my father in 2007 to the effects of cancer, so I do understand the grief and heartache, plus I was only 19 and in my first year of college. I'm so glad I chose to go to a Christian University because I had strong godly support (still do!) and God made it known to me that He was is my sustainer. :)

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    1. That is an inspiring story. God will sustain us through everything if we'll just let go.

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    2. So sorry you went through this. Cancer is so awful. Praying God will put some strong male influences in your life to step into the breach.

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  19. I would love to win a copy of your book honoring your dear sister. I too have a sister that "had" breast cancer 20 years ago.
    PTL she has been cancer free for 20 years. I would give the book to her if I am the winner.
    Thanks!
    Janet E.
    von1janet(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Janet, man, I wish I could give you all a copy. I'm so glad to hear that your sister kicked cancer's butt. It means a lot to me to hear from folks like you.

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  20. Thank you for sharing this heart-level look at the story behind the story. You and your sister sound like amazing women! Congratulations on the success of your book. I am happy to hear you are writing the rest of the story! Blessings, Carrie

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    1. Wow, Carrie, I am a big fan. It's really exciting to hear from you (eventhough I see you on fb all the time! Thank you! I am a big fan of fiction based on truth. There are some amazing stories I would like to write of some overcomers like my sister. I know it is in God's hand. I just sent the sequel off to my editor, the amazing David Webb, a little while ago. Talk about something that makes you sweat bullets. Thanks again.

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  21. I already have my copy so I'm not entering I just wanted to say...Thank you Heather for sharing this beautiful and amazing story! :) You touched my heart deeply! I thought Lady in Defiance sounded GREAT when I first found it and got it for my Kindle, but now I can not WAIT to read it knowing it's back story!!! And I'll be on the look out for your sequel! Thank you again for sharing. :)

    Many Blessings, Amada

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    1. Oh, that's so cool, Amanda. You are meant to read it. Sounds like you just need a nudge. Laugh. I hope it blesses you. Thank you for spending time with my "sisters."

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    2. LOL! I hope so to! :) Thank you for sharing your "sisters" with me/us! Hugs, Amada

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  22. Heather, thank you for sharing - what a wonderful story of God in the midst of it all! I'm sorry you lost your sister to cancer. I do not have anyone in my family with that at the moment. I'm praying for a cure!
    Susan
    lattebooks at hotmail dot com

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    1. A cure is coming. I'm really glad to hear that you all are cancer-free right now and I hope you stay that way! Blessings!

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  23. I have been a missionary for a semester and for a year, plus other shorter term mission trips. I have also been to India for a summer. I would love to read your book and hope I win a copy.

    I have known several people who've had breast cancer. The most recent is my daughter's mother-in-law. After the radiation and chemo battles, she seems to be doing better, but one is never sure.

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