It’s a courageous thing to pen your story, to make yourself vulnerable for others to examine, especially when you are going through a rough time. But when writers do, and when publishers take a risk by bringing such authors to market, readers reap the reward.
That’s how I feel after reading Vivian Mabuni’s debut memoir, “Warrior in Pink: A Story of Cancer, Community, and the God Who Comforts” (Discovery House Publishers, 2014). Five years ago, Vivian was a middle-aged Californian mom with three kids and a husband when she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.
Vivian had a choice: face cancer alone, relying on her own resources or invite others to share her fears and pain, allowing them to comfort and care for her. In spite of her Asian upbringing, which extols handling hardship privately, Mabuni chose to share her cancer journey with her community and friends – and now with her readers.
Mabuni’s story is powerful not because she faced a particular drama other cancer survivors haven’t but because of its emphases on our need for community. It is also a stirring story of faith in the midst of hardship. It’s easy to trust God when everything is going well. But when it isn’t?
For 25 years Mabuni has ministered to college students through Cru, formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ. If anyone had a right to be angry at God for allowing a life-altering illness, she did.
“Did God give you cancer?” her 11-year-old son, Michael, asked.
Mabuni writes, “I reached out and touched his arm. ‘Oh, Buddy, you are asking a good question. No. I don’t think God gave me cancer, but for some reason He is allowing me to have cancer.’”
“Following God doesn’t mean hard things or bad things won’t happen to us,” her husband, Darrin, added. “But we will walk through this together. God will help us.”
Mabuni chronicles a painful mastectomy and ten months of debilitating radiation and chemotherapy – details that help readers understand what this journey is like. Just as revealing are the specific ways friends reached out to help – carpooling her kids to school and activities, filling a garage freezer with meals, accompanying her to pick out wigs, praying in the middle of the night – including a trio Mabuni dubbed the “Awesome Threesome.”
“I knew they wouldn’t try to talk me out of how I felt or carelessly quote Bible verses or try to hyper-spiritualize the situation,” Mabuni writes. “They knew how to sit with me in my raw emotions. No fixing. No advice giving. Just listening. And being present with me in my fear and confusion… They were safe.”
Such words offer wisdom and hope. More than a first-person walk through cancer, Mabuni’s short but powerful memoir is also a roadmap for those who love them.
Have you faced a similar journey? What did friends say or do that helped you the most?