For the past thirty five years, I have hosted a daily radio show simply titled “I Love Life.”  We feature people throughout the country who share powerful stories of encouragement, faith and hope.   Our guests---over 1,300 of them---also answer the question: what does it take to turn adversity into victory?  Judging from the reaction of the listeners, they are ‘life changing stories,’ stories that inspire those of us experiencing tough times in life.

Among the guests---Tristen Larson Merriman!

Tristen, who passed away June 9th, 2003 battled cancer on four different occasions.   Prior to her death, Tristen candidly talked to me about the cancer that would eventually take her life.

As I learned from the interview, there was never a time when Tristen came close to throwing a pity party.

“I never asked myself, ‘why me?’  I’m not sure why I didn’t ask myself the question.   I’ve always known that God knows what going on.  I just really  had a peace about the cancer and knew that everything would be o.k.  I also have a great support system of friends, family and church.  They came right around me.  My first bout with cancer—the radiation  was pretty easy compared to the last couple of years.   I just went through life and just had cancer on the side.”

How did the cancer affect Tristen’s attitude about life?

“You definitely appreciate things a lot more.  You really love your friends and family.  You don’t take any breath for granted.”

Just as important, Tristen never took her faith for granted---not for a moment.

“That’s number one.  I think it would be impossible to go through something like this without God and the Christian brothers and sisters in Christ.  It would be absolutely impossible to do this with Him.  That’s what gives me hope and security.”

In other words, Tristen had hope in what many people would consider a hopeless situation.

“Absolutely!  God is a great physician.  It doesn’t matter what you go through.  He knows what’s going on all the time.  He’s truly in control.”

During our interview session, Tristen proudly discussed what she calls her ‘Attitude of Gratitude’ in spite of the cancer that was growing in her body.

“Look for the little blessings and the little joys in everyday life.  Cling to your friends and family and God.  Rejoice every minute that you have.”

When the times get really tough and they do, Tristen says the best response is a smile combined with laughter.

“That’s amazing.  I laugh all the time.  My friends and I always tell jokes.   We don’t make light of the cancer but we do make jokes about it.    This is just another stage of my life and this too shall pass.”

Before she passed away, Tristen wrote a letter to her family and friends.  The words express Tristen’s love for God and the lessons she learned from the disease that was taking her life.  Here’s part of it, “Who would have ever thought that cancer could be a blessing?  But, I assure you it is true.  I have learned so many things about true friendships, grace, the healing power of laughter, the awesome power of prayer and the treasure of an intimate relationship with God.  I am not saying that cancer has come with no challenges or frustrations for me.  But, it’s true God never gives you anything you cannot handle.  With the presence of Christ and a life full of love and laughter, no feat is to great.”

I thank God for having met Tristen and personally witnessed the qualities of a true winner:  purpose, positive mental attitude, perseverance…what I call the “Triangle of Success.”  Aside from the 3 P’s, Tristen Larson Merriman was also consumed with faith.  Without faith, she told me, nothing is possible.  With faith, nothing is impossible!

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