Finding Hope - Loretta
Church was part of Loretta's story from childhood. Her grandfather was a Baptist minister in Florida; fire and brimstone sermons were his specialty. Attending church was never in doubt even though like many young people, she often wanted to "sleep in" on Sundays.
With the passing of her grandfather and the loss of their family home due to Hurricane Donna in 1960, Loretta's family moved to South Jersey. Finding and attending a church was a top priority. Although less intense, she still felt like all she was doing was going through the motions. She doesn't remember any discussions about God's grace or forgiveness. She was taught to be afraid of God; the "Do as I command" philosophy.
There is a first lesson to all young parents here. Loretta developed a growing resentment of this lifestyle and when she became an official adult, she did what she wanted, when she wanted. This rebellion continued for many years. When she married and had children, she only attended church on holidays and special occasions. Her prayer life was nonexistent.
Going through the motions Christians often view their participation as an insurance policy. It seems to mean little at the time, but deep down you figure someday it will pay dividends. Unfortunately it's devastating when it doesn't.
In 1995 Loretta, who had now become a 7 day a week workaholic, was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. She had no family history of breast cancer, but there was the diagnosis at age 43, stage 2B in her lymph nodes.
Her family's approach was to cash in the spiritual insurance policy. Prayers would be offered on her behalf and she would be cured IF her faith was strong enough. Loretta was enraged with her family's attitude and turned away from God. She did however decide to fight. She became an advocate for breast cancer awareness.
In her own words, "one day, I was walking in a supermarket, and I had on one of my breast cancer tee shirts. A women came up to me and started asking questions about my breast cancer experience. She too had been diagnosed. During our discussion she invited me to church.
She was a regular attendee at a new church called Hope United Methodist. I was still resistant to going to church so she invited me to a 6:45am bible study that met on Monday mornings. Through that bible study I came to meet other women who had been diagnosed with cancer, including Marilyn Bills, the pastor's wife, who ran the bible study.
I started attending Hope when it was meeting at Eastern high school. Each sermon seemed like it was meant directly for me, and after some time I decided this was a church that I could get used to. I started praying regularly and even when the cancer reoccurred as stage four, 4-1/2 years later, I felt I had a good support system.
More importantly I found that God was a loving God and through him I could endure more than what I thought I could. I founded the SJ Breast Cancer Coalition in 1997 and still operate as its President. I have come to see my cancer as a blessing, I am able to relate to those afflicted. I can show people that God does have a plan and a purpose for each one of us. You just never know which way it is going to be.
My cancer has been in complete remission for 3-1/2 years. My doctors say I'm a walking miracle, and I just tell them God is not done with me yet."
The God we adore doesn't inflict punishment nor set cures based on some level of faith. God only asks for loving respect and faith. When you follow His principles the end result can only be good. I'm sure the teenage version of Loretta would have never seen "cancer as a blessing." The Loretta who now serves a loving, just God, understands why.
- Jim Randazzo
Finding Hope within a Community of Faith
Never give up on God even when it seems hopeless