Kelsie Barnhart doesn’t think she would want to go back to “Kelsie before cancer.”
“I have a deeper appreciation for my life as it is,” she said during a break at Samaritan Ministries recently, her head wrapped in a scarf. “It may not look exactly how I want it, but I’m still here, still alive. I still get to spread the good news of the Lord.”
The 28-year-old Samaritan Needs Advocate, by all previous measures a healthy young woman, was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer as a 27-year-old in December 2018. She underwent surgery in February 2019, had chemotherapy for 3½ months, radiation for 1½ months, and is now receiving maintenance infusion treatments. Then she’ll be on hormone blockers for five years.
But besides her deeper appreciation of life, she has a more intimate relationship with God.
“I relate to the Lord in a completely different way now,” Kelsie said.
It was difficult for a while, though. She had come to terms with being a woman in her 20s with a disease typically found in older women and was hoping she would be able to avoid chemo after the surgery. When surgeons went to remove her breast, though, they found a lymph node full of cancer as well. The “sentinel” node, the first to which cancer cells are likely to spread, was “visibly black,” showing that the cancer was spreading.
Plus, the cancer was determined to be HER2-positive, meaning the cells make too much of that protein and multiply quickly. Doctors recommended she get started right away with chemotherapy.
“It was very disorienting and discouraging to wake up and to be in that haze and to hear somebody telling you it had spread and the next year of your life is going to be full of treatment,” Kelsie said. “Everybody in my life had been praying that it wouldn’t spread. I had never asked to not have cancer, but I had asked to not have it spread.
“I lay in my bed and really hashed it out with the Lord, and what immediately came to mind was Jesus in the garden asking for the cup to pass and being told no. I remember the Lord really encouraging me and saying, ‘You’re in good company. You’ve asked, and that’s right and that’s good. It’s not a lack of faith, but you’re being told no, and that’s OK.’
“I think that interaction with the Lord, being able to come before Him and hear from Him in that way is honestly one of the sweetest gifts because I feel like that point in my story could have gone in two very different directions. It didn’t completely change the situation, and there were still many negatives to chemo and radiation, but it made it a lot easier to accept and to know that He still loved me. I’m still a daughter of the King. I’m still full of faith.
“I was disappointed, but I’m equally thankful, and OK that those things can co-exist.”
The Lord also let Kelsie know He was with her in other ways. Her biological family and church family “helped me tremendously.” When Kelsie was going through chemo, her mother, Kristine, would stop by her house daily to make or bring meals. Her parents would visit frequently, and family and friends took turns going for walks with Kelsie through the neighborhood. Her pastor, Tom Eckhardt, who is a cancer survivor, told Kelsie that she would feel the Lord’s presence “in the day to day of treatment.”
“I was well taken care of,” she said.
Other signs from the Father included a blanket with a ladybug design.