I first met Vivian Mabuni online, and have been blessed by her encouraging presence and her personal story of faith. Vivian joined staff with Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) 25 years ago, and currently serves as part of Cru’s Asian American ministry. in honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’m pleased to host Vivian on my blog, and we’re also giving away a copy of her first book, Warrior in Pink: A Story of Cancer, Community, and the God Who Comforts. Please leave a comment and/or share this post if you’d like to enter to win a copy of this helpful and inspiring book.
Vivian, could you please start by explaining the title of your book? In what sense are you a “warrior in pink,” and what’s the significance of your subtitle?
The book title captures the idea of battling breast cancer. Pink, as everyone knows nowadays, is the signature color for breast cancer. Warrior is a great word for fighter. For me I found warrior especially significant as the Hebrew word used in the Old Testament to describe Eve in Genesis 2:18 was ezer (rhymes with razor) and is defined as strong warrior. The subtitle: “A Story of Cancer, Community and the God Who Comforts,” captures what I believe are the most important ingredients in any type of trial. We all have a choice when faced with difficulties whether we will turn away from or turn to God. Often when faced with hardship, especially in North America, people shake their fists at God and question His intentions. In my experience, as I chose to turn to God, I experienced His tender comfort despite the hardship. Community is a term we throw around loosely. But learning to be vulnerable and to allow others into raw, unprocessed, messy life yielded for me the soul-altering experience of God’s comfort through His people.
Being diagnosed and treated for cancer is both physically and spiritually demanding. What are some of the spiritual lessons that you have learned in your journey?
I experienced a new freedom in my relationship with God as I learned He welcomed ALL of my emotions, all of me. I did have times of withdrawing and feeling angry and bewildered, and instead of waiting until those feelings passed to approach God, I went straight to Him with all the mess. I think having my body taken all the way down left little room for putting on a “nice face” with God, and since I had no margin to fake being nice, I found new levels of grace and acceptance from God. In the time since my cancer battle, I’ve learned on a heart level about God’s sovereignty and His ability to redeem the years the locust have eaten (Joel 2:25).
What encouragement would you give to others who face cancer or other serious health issue?
My strong encouragement for anyone facing a serious health issue is YES, lean into God, but also let others in.
After my cancer battle I read the Bible with new lenses. Verses I thought were familiar became more meaningful after experiencing true community. Hebrews 12:1 (New American Standard Bible) is just one example [emphasis added]:
Therefore, since WE have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding US, let US also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles US, and let US run with endurance the race that is set before US.
God designed you and me to live in close intimate connection with Him and with others. Learning to trust Him and to trust others is a worthwhile lifelong endeavor.
One of the things I love about Vivian’s book is her openness and vulnerability in sharing her story. Here is a brief excerpt from Chapter 1:
When I finally made it home, I headed straight to our bedroom. I lay on the bed, pulled the covers over me, and closed my eyes. I tried to rest, but my mind couldn’t settle. My prayer in the food court about letting people in came to mind. I found myself at the same crossroads of deciding whether to muster up self-sufficient strength and go all Christian Rambo—just me and Jesus—or take the braver route to open my heart and let people into my fear. My Asian heritage and cultural value of “don’t rock the boat” or “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down” amplified my struggle of not wanting to bother people with my problems. I saw this dynamic played out over and over with my family and my Asian friends. One friend tweaked her back so badly she could barely walk. We had planned to have people over for a luncheon. I suggested we order out for pizza so she could rest.
“Oh no, it’s okay. I’ll be fine.”
“No, seriously, we can cancel the whole thing or have someone bring the food. You can barely move!”
But instead of letting others help, I watched her push through the pain, and she hosted a small army in her house with a smile on her face. It was dishonorable and shameful to put people out or bring attention to themselves. I imagined the Asian Martha Stewart had similar thoughts. She ended up deciding against burdening others with her emotional struggles. I did not want my story to end like hers.
Transparency is the willingness to share about difficulties one has undergone after the fact. Vulnerability is sharing difficulties raw, in real-time, without the lesson-learned end of the story. I was comfortable with transparency. Mostly.
Vulnerability? Not so much.
Last week Vivian reached another milestone in her journey — as of October 22, she celebrated 5 years since her last cancer treatment! Five years ago, she wasn’t sure that this day would ever come, but since then she’s had many precious milestones with her husband, Darrin, and three wonderful children, Jonathan (21), Michael (17), and Julia (12). They live in Mission Viejo, California along with their German Shepherd, Koa.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: In what ways can you identify with Vivian’s story as a Warrior in Pink? In the physical and spiritual trials you face, what are you learning about community and the God who comforts? Enter your comment below and/or share this post [before the end of the month], and your name will be entered into a draw for Warrior in Pink: A Story of Cancer, Community, and the God Who Comforts by Vivian Mabuni.
For more on everyday acts of faith,
sign up here for free email updates and receive
a copy of How to Pray When Prayer Seems Impossible