How Cancer Saved My Life

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a testimony of one woman’s survival story.
By: Shannon O’Brien

Marti hugging two of her children while fighting breast cancer in 1998.

Twenty one years ago, my mother Marti, was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.  I was the oldest of three kids, I was 14, my brother Derek was 5, and my sister Lindsey was 10 (pictured).  Our mother had a significant tumor in her right breast that caused for a complete breast removal (mastectomy).  On top of that, the cancer had spread; she had 19 of 20 lymph nodes infected with cancer, and 4 spots on her liver.  The diagnosis was grim.

At the onset of my mother’s cancer treatment, I had a burning question I needed to ask my mom- I walked into her room one afternoon, and I blurted out the question…

“Mom, are you afraid to die?”

The room was still and quiet and stoically my mom looked me in the eye and peacefully said –

“No, I am not afraid to die.  I know Jesus Christ and He knows me.  He is my Savior and I know I will be in Heaven.”

She went on to say,

“However- I do not want to die, I want to live, and I will battle for my life. But I trust that if God has allowed for me and our family to go through this, He will take care of us; regardless if I live through this or not.”

I sat there relieved, but also challenged- this God she spoke of trusting… I didn’t know that God.

To know means: have developed a relationship with (someone) through meeting and spending time with them; be familiar or friendly with.  As I began to grow in knowing God, I was also beginning to realize the reality of my sinful condition.  I was a sinner, and without Jesus permeating my life, my Sin would lead to be fatal.  I was presented with a very real moment of the Gospel in reading Romans 6:23, and John 17:3…

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

And eternal life means to know you, the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ, whom you sent. (John 17:3)

As the days came and went the next year, my mother battled. She went on a macrobiotic diet and would pray, visualize, and juice almost every day.  She went through intense chemo therapy which caused her body to go into clinical anorexia (not psychological), her waist size dropped from a size 12 to a size 2, and she became as bald as Mr. Clean. She would use wet tea bags to soak her fever blistered lips attempting to draw the soreness out.  In the midst of this, my mom recalls standing looking at herself in the mirror feeling frustrated, sick, and tired (of looking sick & tired), but retaining her sense of humor, she thought to herself  “I look like a hairless Mexican Chihuahua dog…”  And in that moment… she heard a whisper from God:

“Just remember, nothing looks good while it’s being remodeled.” (God)

Hope, and perspective.

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘Remodel’ means: to change the structure, shape, or appearance of (something). Through that year, my mom’s health deteriorated to eventually: improve.

Spiritually speaking, God was also remodeling me. The cancer in my mother’s body was like the Sin in my body.  As it went unnoticed and unaddressed, it grew larger and spread to other parts of my life that were vital to living & thriving.  Just like a cancer growing in the body, we need a form of spiritual “chemotherapy” to permeate our sinful hearts and begin to counter and kill off the sinful nature in us.


22 God puts people right through their faith in Jesus Christ. God does this to all who believe in Christ, because there is no difference at all: 23 everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence. 24 But by the free gift of God’s grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free. (Romans 3:22-24 GNT)

Metaphorically speaking, that authentic and private yes to Jesus between you and Him is like a cancer patient sticking their arm out to the nurse and willingly yielding to the chemo needle and its medicine. When you yield your heart to Jesus, His Holy Spirit will permeate you, and kill off the dark ugly sin that is robbing you of your life.  When you are baptized, it is a physical follow through of your life being “laid down” and brought up out of the water to be “made new” (remodeled). … “Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Today, my mom is in 21 years of remission!

My mom, Marti Monti, today.

Both my mom and I would tell you, being delivered through the trial, gains you so much more than being delivered from the trial. Today, if you know you have been gathering information about God, but have yet to act on yielding your heart to Jesus, I encourage you today to trust in Christ.  He has plans to prosper you, and to give you hope, and a future.  When you’re facing the ups and downs of life, ask Jesus to grow you spiritually through them (see 1 Peter 1:6-9). I am grateful that God allowed my mom to live, but I am even more grateful that he allowed my mom to share Christ with me and my family.  Jesus saved my life through the trial of my mother’s breast cancer, and for that, I am eternally thankful for God’s Saving power.


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Shannon O’Brien is the Director of Women’s Spiritual Formation in Lipscomb Athletics.
Marti Monti has spoken with many women facing their own breast cancer trials, if you would like to speak with her, email Shannon and she can connect you. (


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