Bout With Brain Cancer Kindles New Mission: ‘I Shall Not Die But Declare the Works of the Lord’

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Donna Hill Cutline No. 1-1“There’s power when people are connected by similar circumstances. We give Scripture and encouraging words to each other.” There was a time when Donna Hill was tentative talking to strangers about Christ. A bout with brain cancer that kindled a deeper move of the Holy Spirit has engendered her with a new mission.

"I have a testimony now that's great and I'm not ashamed to share it with people who will listen," said Hill, 68. "If I see someone who doesn't have hair (because of chemotherapy treatments), I'm not intimated to go up to them. I just share how God got me through my battle and He can get them through it too, and one of these days they'll have hair again just like me."

Hill initially assumed she had suffered a stroke in March 2015 when her husband of 48 years, Ron, drove her to Mercy Health Southwest Campus (formerly St. Mary's) in Byron Center.

Instead, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that resulted in a malignant tumor confined only in her brain.

And thus was the start of her journey of a thousand miles that began with a single step. Hill affirms her walk with the Lord enabled her to survive and thrive in what had an ample share of personal valleys, compounded by what a handful of people told her.

"I felt like I should start planning my funeral," said Hill, a grandmother to five. "It's true the words people speak into you can cause fear or faith."

Her chemotherapy sessions were anything but a cakewalk, particularly her final one that brought her to the brink of death.

Words of life

But amid her physical trials, words of life enabled her to gain traction against the dread.

"A nurse from the Sudan shared his experience of carrying a water container in the desert and he collapsed and when woke up his container was filled," recalled Hill. "And he said to me, 'The same God who was in the dessert with me will do the same for you.' He was the first one who spoke life and faith because fear had been spoken into my life."

Another time was when Hill laid on a hospital gurney awaiting a magnetic resonance imaging test, or MRI, and received a rhema word from God, meaning a specific path from the Holy Spirit her life would take. In Hill's case it was essentially Psalm 118:17: "I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord."

Declare the Lord's works

"It was a little bit different wording but the basis is the same thing: I will live," said Hill. "I shall not die but declare the works of the Lord. I go back to the rhema word and that word I stand on all the time. It takes faith to believe that word. When God gives you a rhema word you have to stand on it. When I didn't have a clue it was in the Bible it just came out of me. It was a supernatural experience.

"That was the Holy Spirit speaking life to me."

Hill smiles. She was declared cancer-free in October 2015.

And as a result, life has taken a new and deeper meaning.

What remains the same is Hill continues to work the same job she's held for 34 years as a receptionist at Grand Rapids First, 2100 44th St. in Wyoming, a church associated with the Assemblies of God fellowship.

Encouraging words found here

It's there she leads a monthly support group called Victors that's open to women who have cancer or previously had cancer. A closed Facebook group for women by the same name can be found here.

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"We speak the same language," Hill said of Victors. "There's power when people are connected by similar circumstances. We give Scripture and encouraging words to each other."

She also is wiser. She recounts something she learned during staff devotions that came from Louie Giglio, pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, Ga. and founder of the Passion movement.

No sugarcoating

"In one of his teachings he said, 'Out of your worst period of your life can come ministry,'" said Hill. "That's happened with me. I shall proclaim the works of the Lord. That's what I'd like to say what happened in my life.

Hill's husband, Ron, adds it's important not to sugarcoat how difficult his wife's treatment for cancer was.

"Just because you know the Lord doesn't mean it's (cancer) a hard sell," he said. "She's a tough nut to crack. I give the glory to God. She had to be wiling to get to a place where she gave it all to Him and she did."

Meet Mrs. Claus

Donna Hill Cutline No. 2JPG2017 is the first year Donna Hill portrayed Mrs. Claus. “I’ve always wanted to do that.” She's also done something new for the first time: Portraying Mrs. Claus at the staff Christmas party and as an outreach to Wyoming City police and firefighters.

"That was a dream come true," said Hill. "I've always wanted to do that."

Advice: Hold tight to God

For those facing a similar ordeal, Donna Hill says: "First and foremost hold on tight to God. The words of God, Scripture, is living. It brings life to you. For a while I went into a stage of depression and I would just sit all day and look out the window. When I couldn't pray anymore, my friends and family would pray. You've got to connect with God with all your strength. God was the only thing that got me through it."

"It's made me so tender now. I cry very easily. Before I didn't. Now I feel so sensitive to the Holy Spirit. I want to make good use of my time. I listen for His voice."

Ron and Donna will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary Sept. 7, 2018.

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Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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