When life is going our way, it’s so easy to find things to be thankful for. (Even though we aren’t always quick to offer up that thanks.) So what about when life comes to a hard stop or takes a drastic turn? Sharon Purcell talks with us about a particularly sharp turn in her and her husband’s lives and how focusing on learning from the difficult time kept them focused on thankfulness.
4word: The way you and your husband met is such a sweet story! Can you tell us about that?
Sharon: Meeting Patrick was really like a fairytale, and a funny one at that! We met on a blind date that lasted ten hours. And this blind date was set up by….my mother!
After confusion with their scheduled meeting and my mom almost turning Patrick away, they went forward with their meeting and my mother (being the assertive Texan woman that she is) decided Patrick and I needed to meet. When Mom presented his business card to me, she said, “I’ve met Prince Charming, and this is a MUST!” I had just been out of a serious relationship for six months and wasn’t in the mood to date a guy I’d never met, but several days later, God intervened and I had a change of heart. Mom excitedly called Patrick and the first words out of her mouth were “Guess who??”
Being the nice, midwestern Catholic boy he was raised to be, Patrick agreed to the date and planned dinner and the theatre (to accommodate me, as a theatre major). Scared to sit across the table from a guy I’d never met, I invited Mom to join us on the date. (Isn’t that crazy?) She was there for dinner, the Beach Boys concert (we didn’t make it to the theatre), and then a roller coaster ride at Six Flags. After she saw him put his arm around me on the Shock Wave, she politely made her escape. She said, “My work is done. This is my exit cue!”
Every year on September 26th, we celebrate that blind date – after all, it’s the day God introduced us each to our soul mate. On that night this year, we got to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the night He brought us together. We feel beyond blessed, and know that He’s had His hand in our marriage and lives throughout.
I share a little more of the story in the video below, so if you’re curious about it, and our testimony from the journey we are about to talk about, please give it a watch!
4word: When you learned about your husband’s cancer diagnosis, what went through your mind?
Sharon: Truthfully, the “peace that passeth understanding” washed over me. I knew God had big plans for my husband, and that he would be healed so he could live out God’s purpose for his life. After returning home from my husband’s prostate biopsy, despite his request not to tell anyone until “we had something to tell,” I went into action. I prayed hard that God would surround me with an army of angels and that He would show me the way through them. In confidence, I called my mom to start a prayer chain. I knew she would keep quiet with our family until we knew something, but could go to her prayer group confidentially to pray for my husband in the meantime. My army of angels went to work!
The biopsy was on a Friday, and that Sunday I had plans to spend the day with my girlfriend Kirsten, whose husband Don happened to be Patrick’s close friend. Kirsten and I went wine tasting and then to a jewelry party, while all the while I held a secret close to the vest. I dare not betray my husband’s trust again – I already felt guilty about telling my mom against his wishes. But I had asked the Lord to send angels, so I jumped when I had one in my midst!
As I drove Kirsten home, we talked about how we both had found whole-body healing through holistic medicine for our thyroid conditions. I asked how she discovered it, and she said, “It was really through my dad. He had prostate cancer a few years ago and discovered an amazing form of treatment through a faith-based hospital in California.”
My eyes flooded with tears as I realized my prayers had been answered. When I pulled into her driveway I asked if I could come in to talk to her and Don about something that was weighing on my heart. At their dining room table, I told them of the biopsy two days earlier, and that we didn’t know the results, but I wanted to be armed should we get “the call”.
Without saying a word, Don turned to pick up the phone and dialed his father-in-law, Richard. He told him that “a friend” was possibly going to need help. Over the speakerphone, Richard told me everything I needed to know about how he was cured of prostate cancer through proton therapy at Loma Linda. I left Don and Kirsten’s house that day with certainty that everything would be alright.
The next day Patrick walked through the door at the end of the day, as white as a ghost. He approached me with fear in his eyes. “The doctor just called and said it’s cancer.” I was stunned, but my expression didn’t show it. He must’ve been surprised when I smiled as I hugged him. With confident conviction I said, “We got this!” I knew without a shadow of a doubt that God had already healed him, but that we had to go on this journey to discover how He would use us to serve others.
4word: As you look back on your husband’s cancer journey, what are you grateful for?
Sharon: I’m so grateful for all the angels He put in our path, from my mom and her prayer group, to Don, Kirsten and Richard, to the doctors and program administrators at Loma Linda University Medical Center, and the entire community of Loma Linda, CA. There’s something very special about that place, and God’s presence is palpable there. Dozens of local citizens open up their homes to patients, or provide discounted rates for rental houses, apartments and condominiums to give them comfort in a homey environment while they’re away from their homes and families. When we found out Patrick could start treatment just two weeks after the biopsy, we had to act fast! We were given a list of 75 people who made properties available to patients, and I just started dialing. The short notice we were given was great news, but it meant very few vacancies. My first 15 calls resulted in “no room at the Inn” responses.
And then God put Annie in our path! She lived far from Loma Linda, and we never even met her, but we knew she was in the Lord’s Army. For seven years straight, she had rented exclusively to Loma Linda patients for very little money. Her heart felt for these people, and she knew this was her calling. She made all arrangements with us over the phone to rent her condo for three months, and even before receiving payment, or ever meeting us in person, she sent her key and security gate passcode to us in the mail. Although to this day we’ve never met her, we know God sent “Angel Annie” to us. There are no accidents or coincidences. God had His hand in all of this.
4word: How can someone going through a difficult time in their life focus on the positive and find things to be thankful for?
Sharon: Surrender. Turn it ALL over to Him with complete trust, praise, and thanksgiving. Even when it’s hard to understand why you’re going through this tough time, or how you can be thankful for it, thank Him anyway. Growth will come from that. You will be so much stronger on the other side, in lots of ways.
God is preparing and strengthening you to turn around to help others when they’re struggling. Because you’ve already experienced something similar, you’ll recognize their pain and will have empathy and compassion for them. Because you got through it – and YOU WILL – you’ll be stronger and will be able to help others.
God teaches us that we will face difficult journeys, but we won’t walk them alone. If we keep the faith, we’ll find there’s meaning in those journeys. Difficult times are painful, but growth in your faith comes from it (they’re not called “growing pains” for nothing)! Be thankful for everything, even the hard times, knowing that it’s all part of God’s Plan. If He brings you to it, He will bring you through it!
Coincidently, within 12 hours of this interview, a dear friend of mine sent me words of wisdom she had handwritten in her Bible during a sermon years ago. She had just run across it and had no idea I was doing this interview. For some reason, she felt compelled to send it to me today (don’t we love how God always knows what we need when we need it?!) It fits so perfectly with this interview, I had to share it: “Our hardships will always be hardships until we allow them to become our yardsticks (of growth).”
To anyone going through something difficult and trying, I offer up one of my favorite scriptures. Remember God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Are you struggling to find thankfulness in your current circumstances? Do you find yourself wondering if God has a plan in “all of this?” We hope that Sharon and Patrick’s testimony gives you hope to keep pushing, with the faith that God will bring you through.
Sharon Purcell has 25+ years of experience in sales, marketing and operations, having spent 20 years with Fortune 100 companies, and the last few years in healthcare start-ups. Currently Sharon heads up Brand & Marketing for Concure Oncology, where her daily work creating awareness about a kinder, gentler treatment for breast cancer is fueled by her passion for helping women live their best lives.
In her early years at GE, she co-founded the GE Women’s Network which was the first professional women’s organization of its kind. During her ten years of leadership, she helped the Network skyrocket from 15 women to 50,000 members across the globe.
Due to her success at leading, coaching and inspiring women throughout the Network, she was honored both nationally and globally for her work. She is proud to have been part of such an extraordinary organization whose focus on leadership, advancement, and career-broadening opportunities helped GE reach the point where women now run businesses generating billions in revenue. Sharon believes her work there was a vital stepping stone in the path of using her voice to change women’s lives, and strengthen communities.