Vertigo. Anemia. Depression. Receding gums. Early menopause. A double mastectomy.
These are just a few of the many terrors that Margaret Feinberg hid from the public after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis in 2013 before age 40. While the popular Christian author’s books have sold nearly a million copies and she speaks to more than 80,000 people each year, she couldn’t find the words to share this part of herself.
“I felt shame after the diagnosis, wondering if I had somehow brought it on myself,” she said. “And I felt a little embarrassed since it involved my female body parts.”
With the weight of her secret mounting, Feinberg sought the advice of Matt Chandler, the prominent pastor of the 11,000-member Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, and a recent cancer survivor himself.
Chandler said she had two options: Round up the wagons and tell no one, or invite her readers into the journey. She decided to test the waters of the second option, but the results were not what she’d hoped for.
“Many people were supportive and prayerful, but then there were those who filled our inboxes with unsolicited medical advice, stories of everyone they knew who had died from cancer, retribution theology and accusations that I had brought the cancer on myself because of a hidden sin or lack of faith,” Feinberg said. “Those kinds of comments are devastating when you’re in the fight of your life.”
The responses taught her “the church isn’t always a safe place to be when you’re sick.”