Sandy Coke sat in her car, debating if she would knock on Amanda Murdock’s front door. She’d been invited to the home group by a couple of friends and had even been a few times before, but quiet by nature, she hadn’t gotten to know anyone very well. Despite being just a couple of minutes early, there were no cars in sight. Sandy even texted one of her friends to confirm she had the correct day and time.
After the isolation of COVID, Amanda had put a simple invitation on Facebook that brought 25 women of all ages and backgrounds to her home. These women were all so welcoming, but Sandy wondered how they could help her. Yet, she wondered if she could carry her news on her own.
The “what ifs” were coming fast and furious. What if I speak up and drop this bombshell on these women? What if they think I’m weak in my faith? What if everyone is a Bible scholar and expects me to quote Scripture to help myself?…What if I cry?
Still, no one had showed up yet, and after triple checking that the group hadn’t been canceled that night, Sandy felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit saying, “Go.” The voice was so clear that, despite the lump in her throat, Sandy immediately headed to Amanda’s front door.
“I don’t know if you remember my name,” she began as Amanda opened the door, “but I was just diagnosed with breast cancer.”
As Amanda wrapped a tearful Sandy in a big bear hug, she said she’d been praying they might have some time together. She, too, had been through a cancer journey. In that moment, there was no doubt in Sandy’s mind that God had brought her to this study and given her this time with Amanda.
Amanda sat with Sandy praying for God to be near her, to heal her, to bring about the right team of doctors and caregivers, and for her husband to be a support to her, and just as she said “Amen,” the other women arrived.
God blessed Sandy with this home group, the one she had anxiously joined. He gave her what she needed—immediate support and prayers—and it helped her plant deeper roots. She told her husband, “Everything is going to be okay one way or another.”
Eventually, the home group turned into a brand-new women’s Bible study at Southeast’s Prospect Campus. Still feeling like a newcomer, Sandy again saw God was right there, quickly finding encouragement from the women gathered around her table—a fellow breast cancer survivor, a pathologist, moms, and older women affectionately known as “the grannies.” Many attended the Prospect Campus, but not all, yet each had been through just about everything in life and had plenty of encouragement and wisdom to share. This group continued to laugh and cry each time they gathered.
Between the original home group, the women’s Bible study, family, and friends, everyone rallied to help Sandy. Women signed up to be chemo buddies, staying with her through hours-long treatments, while others prepared meals for Sandy, her husband, and their two daughters. All sent texts and cards and called to check on her.
Oncologists call one of Sandy’s chemo drugs “the Red Devil.” One of the hardest, it can be pretty overwhelming, especially for a young wife and mom. Sandy, however, never faced the Red Devil alone. Quoting a sweet “granny” from her table who was struggling with grief, she said, “It’s not as hard as I expected.”
It was in the sweet and tender moments of support from others that Sandy was reminded how the Lord was with her.
“My faith certainly has grown through this journey,” she said. “I never walked alone. And I learned how God is in all of the details. Big things happen in life. A small group can be like a warm blanket God puts around you and your family for challenging times.”
Amanda said it has been amazing to watch God move. After five months of chemo, Sandy, normally a private person, felt led to share her praises aloud, whether it was to a sweet nurse during chemo treatment or when given the opportunity at the large women’s group. She took hold of the microphone and gave praise to the God who was with her and publicly thanked Him for the friends who surrounded her.
“Now, there’s always a group around Sandy,” Amanda said. “And she’s the encourager, the one walking beside others on their journey.”
Sandy is so glad that she accepted the invitations to join the home Bible study and followed through with the larger group study at church. It wasn’t easy to take those first steps into the unknown—“Quite frankly, it is intimidating,” she admitted—but she’s happy that she listened to the Holy Spirit as she sat in her car outside Amanda’s home.
“Others should absolutely join groups to share, grow, and learn, especially if you see a glimmer of hope waiting for you,” Sandy said. “That glimmer of hope you have deep down is what spurred me on to open the car door and walk in. You won’t be the only newbie.
“Little did I know that God was preparing my life for the cancer journey that lay ahead of me.”