I’ve known Stephanie Diamond for almost 20 years. As you’ll see from the interview below, she’s made her home in China for over 25 years. What you might not learn from the interview is that she’s an amazing cook, one of the most generous people I know, and able to put on almost seamless trainings and orientations for people both on and new to the field. Like me, she believes in the healing power of diet coke, reading, and a good laugh. This interview first appeared on Velvet Ashes’ “Staying” week.
Stephanie can you share a little bit of what you’ve been facing this academic year?
Last August as I waited for my 13th August New Teacher cohort to arrive and as I celebrated 25 years of living and working in China, I discovered a game changer, a lump in my breast.
Wow, this situation is probably in the back of every woman’s mind. How did you initially respond?
Where there should have been worry and confusion God provided peace and calm to my soul. I reviewed so many of God’s mercies, so many of His blessings in my life these years in China and He reminded me of His infinite love for me. A few days after new teacher training with the teachers settled in their schools, doctors at Beijing United confirmed I had breast cancer.
What factored into deciding where to pursue treatment?
Many years before God had provided a verse to help me know where to invest my life: 1 Thessalonians 2:8 (Paul writing) …Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” NIV. And still the 1 Thessalonians verse provided a standard for decision making when I asked, “Is it time to leave?” As I looked at my options available for treatment the one that stood out was stay in Beijing.
Ultimately it was the fact that there was a huge Community of expats and locals already in place to provide what support I needed and it allowed me once again to share my life with the people I love. I built up my courage to call my parents and let them know what was happening and to talk through my decision to stay in China — there was complete agreement with the decision. Two days later my mom was hospitalized and two weeks later she died of complications from end stage liver and pancreatic cancer – a total surprise to us all.
So this is where things turn a bit more Job-like than I would wish for — since September and the passing of my mom, I had a mastectomy, started and finished chemo, my dad passed away in late January after four months of declining health, it was confirmed there was cancer in my other breast and by the time you read this I will have had another mastectomy. OK, I have to share with you that I sometimes refer to myself as Jobetta – Job’s younger sister!
Steph, I have known you for a long time. You will probably hold a record that will not be broken: the co-worker I had the longest in my life. I want to just pause here and let it soak in for others what you’ve experienced this year. Breast cancer, unexpected death of your mom, diagnosis of cancer in your other breast, and the death of your dad. I think I speak for everyone in saying, this amount of loss is hard to absorb on first (or 27th!) hearing.
But the truth is our Lord has continued to open my eyes to His mercies and blessings these days. And though I have cried a river of tears, they are saturated in Joy and Hope. One of the biggest blessings He has given me is Community. I am the kind of person who serves others and find it hard to have others serve me but in these last seven months I have been so served by my Brothers and Sisters that I know it is a great gift from God. What a family they have been for me, carrying my burden when I can’t.
So here I am in China, still sure that the Father will make it clear when it is time for me to go but for now He is making it clear that it is still time for me to stay. Again 1 Thessalonians rings true, “…we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” So many have shared their lives with me in my 25 years here and it is that Community that has continued to call me to stay.
Thank you for sharing with us Stephanie. Truly. We’ll keep praying for you!
What verses or other forms of encouragement has God used to let you know when you should stay?