A longing for Hope

“It was His love that kept me going,” said Joyce Gassiott, on remembering the summer of 2011, the year of a monumental personal journey both physical and spiritual.

After a midst of great loss in her family, Joyce was diagnosed with breast cancer and remarked that through it all, it was God’s love that propelled her to keep her faith and ride out the storm.

Joyce said her journey with breast cancer was “hard to separate out from what all was going on in life” due to the loss of her daughter, Lisa, and also the loss of a grandson.

Within six weeks (April-May 2011) of Joyce’s daughter dying at age 34, a grandson was born and passed away shortly after birth, with Joyce diagnosed with breast cancer amid the losses.   

“In the summer of 2011, I had a longing. A great longing for my daughter who had passed away. I was tested in my faith during that time. They always say, ‘God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.’ At that point, I was handling a lot. I was searching and crying out to the Lord in the midst of great loss and getting ready to fight a battle of my own for my health,” said Joyce. “You don’t know until you are in the midst of terrible loss, illness or  in deep sorrow really how strong His love is, because it is His love that kept me going. His grace and love.”

Trials & Tribulations

In 2010, Joyce was president of Hope Pregnancy Center in Canton and acting director. When Joyce’s daughter, Lisa was 31, she was diagnosed with cancer.

“Lisa was diagnosed with cancer at age 31 and we thought the surgery to remove it had cured it. However, it came back in 2010. She then had a tremendous surgery which paralyzed her. For seven months, we fought for her life.  In December 2010, is when I noticed that I had a small lump in one of my breasts.  I couldn’t take care of it at first. I thought it was nothing other than a lipoma,” said Joyce.

Fresh with the loss of her daughter and a grandson, along with another grandson born shortly after with special needs, Lisa said the call confirming she had breast cancer was surreal.

“They told me they caught the cancer early.  I had noticed something in December, but I couldn’t take time to take care of it because Lisa was very sick. In May, my doctor got me into the first surgeon she could after the diagnosis came back as cancer. It seemed like everything was moving really fast. I was driving and on the way over there I was having a hard time wrapping my head around it.  I really had to pray to the Lord that whatever happened in my life that I would still be able to glorify Him in the midst of it and be faithful,” said Joyce.

Joyce’s cancer was localized in one breast and the plan was to try to shrink the tumor with chemotherapy and radiation.

“I went through 4 ½  months of chemo. We all want to have answers as to why certain things happen to us, but sometimes you won’t understand everything that you go through it. Sometimes, you just have to trust Him. My family and I had to circle the wagon so to speak and trust in the midst of all of this, that God was going to see us through it and he was going to bring good from it, just like it says in Romans 8.  Nothing can separate us from God’s love,” said Joyce.
Although Joyce relied on her faith in God and on her family, there were times where bitterness creeped into her thoughts.

“I had trouble praying sometimes. I asked where was He in my life and why was this happening. The longing for my daughter and the sorrow for my grandson was difficult to overcome, and on top of it all I had breast cancer. On Aug. 22, 2011, I could feel myself letting bitterness creep into my thoughts. But,  in the long run, what He showed me is that His word is true. It says he gives songs in the night, and he gave me a song, “There Within My Heart a Melody.” I questioned when it came through my mind that I had confessed that I wanted to long for Him, but I was in the depth of longing for my daughter. The key thing in the midst was giving thanks for what I did have. I began to give thanks. I had my daughter for 34 years, I had a loving family who supported me, a great medical team, and so many people praying for us.

Recalling the summer of 2011 brings tears to Joyce’s eyes, as she bravely tells her story in hopes of inspiring someone to know that God is with them.

“It is hard to tell your story,” Joyce said, “especially when it was a battle for your faith and life. I hope whoever reads my story knows that no matter what storm they are going through, or how dark it may seem, with God’s help you can get through it. Your faith can grow in the midst of it. I feel like my life is more abundant now, and my joy is deeper, my hope is stronger. His promises were tested, and I found them to be true. I can truly say that I was hanging on by a tread, but he didn’t let me go.”

Seven years later and now cancer free, Joyce continues to be an advocate for hope in many ways.

She said she felt she was called to work with families, mothers and children. She has been with Hope Pregnancy Center in Canton since 2008, but first worked as a teacher and then taught teenagers who were pregnant, so they would not drop out of school. “That started my career with at-risk kids. From there, she started a program at Roundrock ISD, named “Success,” that helps girls and boys who are dropouts from school. The program is still in use. “

Joyce and her husband, Glenn, live 20-miles from where she grew up in Wills Point. She has a large family and has two sons, six grandchildren with two more grandchildren on the way.

“Even when I was having trouble praying, He knew where I was. We go through things and ask “What’s happening, where are you? In your sorrow, keep your heart right. His promise is he will never leave us or forsake us, and he will be with us in the storms of life. I know that without a doubt. It has made my faith stronger. If we have never been tested, we never have a testimony. It was His love that kept me going.”