During the bouts of cancer diagnosis and treatments, Rachel writes e-mails to keep her friends and family updated on her thoughts and spiritual walk.

Our news

January 21, 2009

For those who have not yet heard, my cancer has returned.


After being ill for a couple of weeks over Christmas with what I thought was a flu, I finally went in to the doctor and discovered, after 24 hours of lab-rat-ness, that the cancer has spread to my liver and bones. It is in over half of my liver and has also spread to virtually every bone on my spine and perhaps elsewhere.


This, obviously, is not good news.


There is no cure. My oncologist has offered chemotherapy in the hope that it will shrink the cancer and make me more comfortable as the cancer progresses but, at this point, we are likely going to decline. The side effects and time involved with doing chemo are not really worth the potential benefits that it offers. And, really, I do not want to spend any more time waiting for appointments, getting bloodwork, having scans, etc. when that time could be spent with my family.


Many have asked how I am feeling and, at the moment, I am feeling alright. In fact, much better than I have felt in three or four weeks. The fever and pain are under control with medication. I have some discomfort but nothing that is not manageable.


And everyone is wondering “how long” and the truth is, we don’t know. It is likely several months but it could be less or it could be more. How I hope it is more as the tears flow freely when my mind wanders to the birthdays, Christmases, summers at the cabin – all the moments I will miss.


This is, by far, the hardest part of this for me: leaving Neil, Quinn and Kate. Serving them is my joy. Loving Neil and helping him has been the most wonderful privilege I could ask for. And being a mother has been a gift that I did not deserve. Quinn and Kate are treasures that were entrusted to me for a time and I am grateful that I was able to be their mother for these years. I struggle, of course, with the knowledge that I will not be there for them for much longer and wonder what life will be like for them without me. But I wrestled with this years ago, as some of you will remember, and was gently reminded that there is One who loves them even more than I do. And so He gently reminds me again.


We are overwhelmed, once again, by the love and care being offered and given by our family and friends. Thank you so much for your words of comfort and offers of help. And especially for your prayers.


Last Friday night in the hospital, as Neil sat on my bed and we weeped together at the news we had just received, we said, “God is still good.” And He is. We will not doubt Him now when the road ahead is dark. He will use this for good and for His glory. There is no doubt. And, in the depths of my sadness, that makes my heart glad.


with love,


  1. Neil and Rachel, this is Buffy, I am a good friend of the Brandsma’s and I met Neil several times at Bryan’s poker parties. Jenny Brandsma shared your news with us in January, which was just a couple weeks before my husband, Eli (6) and Leo who was just born moved to WIsconsin to live for a year and spend time with my mom who was diagnosed with a stage IV GBM brain tumor (the worst kind). I stumbled across your website today and have found it to be very precious. God is working through your family…I am sure in many ways, but specifically in reaching me. I apprieciate your rawness and honesty in emotion. There is a Timothy Keller article called “Don’t Waste Your Cancer” and I believe you are not. You guys are really just walking through it. Like Psalm 23 says we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death”….the encouragement is “through” and that it is just a “shadow” and it’s not permanent. God takes us through it and out the other side. We don’t stop and stay in the valley of death. So like you said, “death is not dying. You guys are on my heart and I will pray for you, Rachel, as well as Quinn and Kate and Neil. Keep walking.

  2. ….sorry Rachel…the above article is by John Piper, not Keller.

  3. I think, you are feeling what Paul felt when he said…

    “But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” -Phil 1:22-24

    Thanks for your story, it was convicting to my own soul. Even though I know all these things, it’s a good reminder for my need of Christ and His humility.

  4. Rachel, I have been getting to know your story today, and have rejoiced in the grace of God in your life. I have to tell you that it is a blessing to read of your faith in the midst of this trial.

    My mother died in 1998 of cancer. She was diagnosed in the fall of ’97 with stage 4 bone cancer that had already metasticized to her brain and other parts of her body. Her will to live was very strong, and she fought long and hard. She did NOT want to die, not at all, and she was determined to win the bitter battle. She was not a Christian.

    Although I admired her determination, it broke my heart to see that she did not know the One who controlled her life. She did not acknowledge that cancer could have been given to her by a loving God, who sought to correct her wrong thinking. As far as I know, she died without Christ.

    There is such a contrast in the bravery and rebellion of my mother and the faith and submission of you, Rachel. You know that you deserve worse than cancer. You know that God will work all things together for good for those who love Him, and that He will give you the grace you need. I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to hear you speak of God.

    I will be praying for you, and praising God for His work in your life.

  5. Rachel, you must know that this video testimony has taken on a life of its own. It is currently sweeping through many, many lives that I know of personally (including my own), not leaving anyone the same after viewing. God IS good, and He cannot lie~which as you know means you WILL enjoy Him forever. Your willingness to be used directly by His hands is bringing hords of people into His kingdom. My friend, I cannot wait to meet you and your beautiful family.
    Though we don’t know you, there are countless people here in Alabama who send love~hugs~prayers from afar.
    God’s speed, dear saint.

  6. Your witness through your letters and story tell the story of redemption. Your knowing that “God is still good” and submitting to His love. God does not “give” cancer though. This old tired sinful world allowed mutations to take place. God is the giver of Life abundant and full and soon, you will see His beautiful face! Blessings to you in your journey and may God hold your hand every step of the way. Thank you from my heart for sharing your story. You are a beautiful woman!

  7. Rachel, thank you for sharing your life and the wonderful love you have for our amazingSaviour, Jesus Christ. My Dad died in 1991 and in my eyes was as close to a Saint as I will ever meet. I was devastated. He was one who shared God’s love in all that he did and was a wonderful Christian example for his family. When he died, a pastor friend told me to remember that my Dad does not miss usbecause in heaven everything is absolutely perfect. He said we will always miss him but never will he miss us. Please share that with you husband. It may help him deal with his grief when you start celebrating eternal life. You are my sister in Christ and I am very proud to call you sister. Thank you for your witness!!

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