This is part three of the interview with Connie Gibson. You can read part one and part two. Today she shares frankly from her experience with cancer.

Staring mortality in the face is different than knowing we will die “someday.” I feel a bit voyeuristic asking you to report from the front lines. But Connie, one of the things I respect about you is that you are a teacher to your very core. Would you please teach us?

Thank you Amy, yes, I am a teacher to the core of my being!

What have you learned about cancer through your experience?

I didn’t realize how fully indoctrinated the entire “cancer system” (or should I say cancer industry – a multi-billion dollar business), is into the one-size fits all mentality regarding surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and the like. I had no idea how very few oncologists and surgeons know about the importance of nutrition, diet and life style on your health and the prognosis and outcome of cancer treatments! They just RUSH you into decisions without giving you options or explaining that there are very real and viable, “safer” treatments that work.

By the time the cancer shows up in a tumor you can feel or detect, it has probably been growing for close to 10 to 15 years. There’s absolutely no need to run that fast to surgery, radiation and chemo without taking time for the patient to get their head around it, do some praying, research and thinking BEFORE choosing what to do and get other opinions. I’m sure glad that I fought and took the time to research, but ONLY after I was first pushed and frightened into taking immediate actions to DO SOMETHING… mostly what the doctors tell you to do.

How has having cancer impacted that way you interact with others?

Slightly over two years ago my ex-husband died of prostrate cancer. Even though my sons and their father hadn’t spent a great deal of time together over the years (while they were growing up), their relations improved after my youngest son Aaron had children and wanted them to know their grandfather. During his last few years they spent more time together and I was able to see the pain my sons experienced not having had such a close and healthy relationship with their dad. I also saw what they went thru near the end and after he died.

I am very close to both of my sons and I believe we each have a very special relationship with one another, having gone through the divorce and some pretty rough times together… but my knowing that I have cancer, and that it is now progressed to an advanced stage 4, makes things even more difficult for me to make certain decisions I have to make. I would give anything to help protect my sons and their families from having to go thru this again with me, but to some degree, I have to leave that in the hand’s of a Sovereign God who loves them even more than I do. I have to be honest that I find that hard to believe some times because I love my two sons SOOO MUCH!!! But I know it’s true. My times and life are in His hands and so are my sons. He is the God of comfort as well as the Great Physician.

What are small ways that people have ministered to and blessed you on this cancer journey?

One of the things that I have appreciate so much are the health care workers who have compassionate, listening ears to hear, and they really want to listen to what you have to say and take the time to answer the questions you ask.

I appreciate dear friends from near and far, current and from long ago, who take the time to go out of their way to let you know the impact you have had on their lives, something you can hold on to, to read over and over again. I call them rainy day letters, but they brighten my heart and give a warm smile to my face. I appreciate those who allow me to talk about and share my concerns of the coming “unknown” that affect how long I will live, whether I’ll be healed and be able to live many more years, or the possible “end of life” plans that I might have to make, IF healing does not come and show itself in my body.

I appreciate teammates who call when they are at the store, asking if there is anything that they can bring me so I don’t have to go out on a cold, rainy and windy day.

I appreciate little short notes telling me that they are praying for me, that they love me and that they have appreciated what my life and testimony mean to them….. I appreciate students and my assistants who go out of their way to make things easier on me, like making copies of materials for class or even stopping by to bring me a special treat or some fruit. I appreciate the Skype call to talk to and see my grandchildren or special friends and family.

How has this impacted your

 Body – I used to have a TON of unending energy {um, does this come as a surprise to anyone reading these interviews?}… I find that I get tired so much easier now than ever before. I’m trying to go to bed earlier when I can and forcing myself to try to sleep in later than normal…The pain has become much stronger and I feel it in the areas where the cancer has spread. I’m learning and teaching myself little tricks to help keep the pain down without taking drugs and pills.

 Emotions – my emotions seem to be doing good. I know whom I have believed, I know where I am going and I am not afraid to die… however, I have to admit that I am afraid of severe pain and I don’t want my family to have to suffer caring for me and watching me as I go through that in the end stages of cancer. It is NOT easy caring for a person you love who is going through that. It’s always been easy for me to laugh and to cry but I find that nowadays I start to tear up or cry earlier in my speech when I am speaking and sharing about my cancer or about what I am experiencing and what I want for those listening to me.

◦  Thoughts – I wonder about how my sons and their families will do and how very much I will miss them when I am gone. I don’t like thinking about missing out on the wonderful things they will do and experience. I want to see my grandchildren grow up, get married and have children, all along being an intricate part of their lives, as my grandmother was in mine. I think A LOT about two different couples, “heart-adopted” children of mine,  one here in China and another back home in the States, who for some unknown reason, we have parted ways, and I have NO IDEA why… Unresolved problems or conflicts (that I don’t understand), weigh deeply on my heart and the thought that they refuse to even allow the discussion to take place cause me great anguish!

When I love, I love deeply and I have a problem, a terrible problem letting go!!! I hang on too tightly. I want things resolved and when they aren’t I have a difficult time. Having cancer now and not knowing what the future time table of my life is, makes it hard to think about the possibility that I could die never knowing what has caused the distance and that the relationships might never be resolved. My heart breaks over that thought.

◦  Soul I am SO thankful that I know Jesus as my Savior. I have the assurance of the promises of God’s Word and the hope of Heaven as my destination. I will be immediately in His presence when this body dies, not because of any good that I have done but because of the blessed, saving blood of Jesus and what He’s done for me. That brings me great peace.

Has this been a time when you have felt near to God? or distant? Could you share a bit about that?

My Lord is always here with me and I know it! My relationship with God is based on scripture and His promises. It’s not about “feeling” as feelings can be so fickle, hormonal or menopausal and I’m long past menopause. I learned many years ago that my love with/for Him is not based on feelings. It’s the same as in marriage. If we allow our feelings and emotions to dictate the state of our happiness and marital relationship, rather than choosing to fulfill our obligations to our commitments, to our vows before God and to each other, then our responsibilities and obligations can easily escape us both physically and emotionally. It’s possible to walk out on a good thing without even knowing it at the time.

Any final thoughts you’d like to share with us?

My main concern now is to try and get as healthy as I can, to finish my race of life for as long as I can. I want to let the saving love of God be the measure of my life.

Connie, thanks for being willing to lift back the curtain. You have brought out into the open what many think, feel, and experience but aren’t able to express. Thank you again for honoring us with your honesty.

Tomorrow we wrap up our week on Beginnings and Endings—I’ve written a letter to Connie. See you tomorrow!


Categories: China, Cross cultural, Faith



Leave A Comment

  1. Jenny December 6, 2012 at 6:13 am - Reply

    Thank you, Connie, for your big heart and honesty. Thank you for letting us hear about your journey with cancer.

    • Marge December 8, 2012 at 7:08 am - Reply

      Dear Connie,
      You have always been an inspiration to me. I have seen over the years how much of a difference you have made in the lives of others, as well as myself. I have wonderful memories of visiting you in Nanchang and seeing the difference you were making there in the lives of the students and faculty.

      I have greatly appreciated your boundless energy and creativity, your insights and wisdom, your faith and courage, but especially your loving heart that has reached out to so many.

      You are in my prayers for God’s healing, grace, and comfort.

      • Connie Gibson December 9, 2012 at 9:48 pm - Reply

        Thank you so much Marge… I see that it finally got posted… I love you dear friend! Connie

  2. Connie Gibson December 6, 2012 at 7:57 am - Reply

    You’re welcome Jenny. I’m glad to.

  3. janet lise December 6, 2012 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    Thanks for all the hugs over the years, Connie!

    Thanks for sharing some of your story : )

  4. Aaron Gibson December 7, 2012 at 11:43 am - Reply

    I must say that, even with the cancer, my dear mother has more energy than most people that I know. She is (and has always been) an unstoppable force in the field if encouragement for others. She has always given more than she has for the benefit of others. Thank you for writing about her story.

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      Amy December 7, 2012 at 1:17 pm - Reply

      Aaron, thanks for sharing your mom with us for all these years!

  5. Michael Oviedo December 9, 2012 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    I just learned about Connie’s cancer this week and was greatly saddened by the news. Since then, I’ve been trying to think of ways to articulate not only what Connie has meant to me, but also to China as a whole. For those who haven’t met Connie, she is one of the warmest people you could ever encounter. I still recall the first time she touched my life. It was in November 2008. I was accompanying what would be my first contestant to the CCTV Cup in Beijing; and on our way to registration, we passed Connie. Even though we had never met, she waved and welcomed us to the competition. After we were out of earshot, my contestant nudged me and said, “That’s Connie Gibson! She’s a legend.”

    Although Connie is the most well-known coach in China for English Public Speaking contests and has received many awards for her efforts, such as the National Friendship Award – the highest honor a foreign expert can receive here; Connie’s impact transcends these accomplishments. When I reflect on what Connie has achieved here, I think about someone who has raised the quality of education in China despite its already exponential improvement over the past 30 years, someone who has fought corruption and not only survived but thrived in the face of its adversity, someone who has taught tens of thousands that it is better to give than to receive and that empathy supersedes apathy, and someone who loves others both when they succeed and, more importantly, when they fail. Simply put, Connie is the coach that I have aspired to become; though, will likely never equal – the archetypal teacher and the proverbial Good Samaritan.

    I would like to apologize to Connie for not posting this sooner. However, writing this reflection has been difficult. Not only has she been a great competitor, but also a friend and mentor. I’m deeply saddened that I will not be able to see her next year and am sure that I can speak on behalf of everyone involved in the FLTRP Cup that her presence at this competition will be missed and that the words I have expressed here nowhere near encapsulate the legacy she has created for herself. Take care “Connie Mom.” My thoughts and prayers are with you.

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      Amy December 9, 2012 at 8:19 pm - Reply

      Michael, thank you for commenting. I appreciate the difficulty you faced putting words to your time with Connie and the disease she’s facing. Again, thank you for persevering and commenting.

    • Connie Gibson December 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm - Reply

      Dear Michael, thank you for your kind and supportive words. You honor me far more than I deserve but I have to admit, it makes me happy as well as putting a huge smile on my face!!!! It was wonderful seeing you in Beijing this week for the National FLTRP Cup. It’s always wonderful to see you there and be able to talk to you. I told the leaders that IF I feel up to it health wise, I’ll return next year for “The Cup” even though I will not be teaching at my beloved Jiangxi Normal University. They were extremely happy. They said that they were going to ask me to be one of the judges for this years finals and then they learned about my cancer having metastasized… they were too concerned about my health to ask… maybe next year. We’ll see. Keep the prayers coming and maybe it will open up the possibility. Thank you again, Connie Mom

  6. Jenny O December 26, 2012 at 12:45 am - Reply

    Connie has been a light here in NC for a long time. She and I came to this city in the same year and as a single girl then I experienced her warm hospitality and saw the love and tireless service she poured on everyone in her path, especially her teammates and students. Connie does love hard. There is no little bit with her. A few have been overwhelmed and unable to accept it, but isn’t that true with even the greatest love? Many have, like the guard Joann mentioned in an earlier post, stared with bug eyes and mouth open because they have never experienced such love. This is genuine too. And those who get a second and third taste usually come back for more. People are seeing Jesus. She has been his hands to so many. Wrapping her arms around the numbers, loving those who have never known love, listening to those who have never been listened to, encouraging those who have never been encouraged.

    As a married woman now with 3 children I still look to Connie with admiration. She has given her all and continues to give it. I know how torn she is even now to be In America with those she loves the most, knowing that her life’s greatest work is here in China. But I can say this to you Connie. You have run the race. You have run the marathon. And I pray with you and your family for healing because I know you want to see all the wonderful things your grandchildren will become, you want to pour into them the way you have poured into your students here, you want more of this life. But I also know that you know that LIFE with Jesus, touching his hand, looking into his face, and taking that crown that will have so many jewels in it and laying it at his feet… nothing can compare to that. And for this hope and for this joy I just say Jia You! I love that you say “cancer” is just a word. Even in this you have been an inspiration. Thank you for you example. You have touched many. I am honored and happy to say that I am one of the many you impacted. I love you. And from many conversations with Matt, I know I speak also for him. Be blessed and as always make the most of every day, because God doesn’t waste anything.

    • Connie Gibson December 26, 2012 at 1:21 pm - Reply

      Thank you my dear precious jenny. It has been one of my greatest blessings to have met and served together with you and others in Nanchang! I appreciated what you had to say and as I read it a second time, this time out loud to my family, I cried and they were here to surround me with love and tender touches. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me on Christmas night… it was a special ‘end of the day’ blessing, bringing a touch of reality as we shared our time together. We are missing Aaron’s wife Sara and their littlest one, 9 month old Arlo, who is gone with her. Sara’s sister Becky (46) just walked into heaven a few short days ago, while all the siblings and mother were there with her. It was special hearing their understanding as they sat with their sister, as she walked through gates on the way to her new journey. What joy to hear the “living witness” that they experienced together. When my time comes, I pray that my experience will be both a blessing and a learning opportunity for others. I’m so glad you are in my life and I in yours. I love you!!!

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