Faith has guided Danielle Ripley-Burgess through the many hardships fate has handed her, and she’s now intent on helping others with their struggles.
Ripley-Burgess, a two-time colorectal cancer survivor from Lee’s Summit, has written and published her first book, “Unexpected. 25 Daily Advent Devotionals,” to help others also find peace during difficult times.
“I wrote these devotionals in July intending to put them on my blog and post them on my website,” she said, adding that she was soon inspired to take her words a step further.
“After talking with an author at a writer’s conference, I realized the devotionals were not blog posts, they were a book.”
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Along with inspiration to write her book came a greater purpose for the project — to reach out to her peers, the millennial generation.
“Trials and suffering are not fun and I wanted to open my life and share what it’s like to go through hard experiences,” she said. “There is suffering, but there is also light. I wanted to show both and offer an encouraging path to endure the dark.”
Ripley-Burgess, 35, was first diagnosed with colorectal cancer while in high school. Her treatment then included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Eight years later, the cancer recurred and this time treatment involved surgically removing most of her colon.
Though she has been cancer-free for several years, health challenges have continued and Ripley-Burgess still faces many days in which she must fight to find a silver lining.
Shortly after her second diagnosis, Ripley-Burgess was simultaneously diagnosed with Lynch syndrome, a genetic condition that results in high risks of colon and endometrial cancer, as well as many other cancers. She’s had a hysterectomy to lower her chances of the disease attacking her body.
“I’m never going to be out of the woods,” she said, adding that scans and tests are a regular part of her schedule.
Through the nearly two decades of unknowns surrounding her health, Ripley-Burgess says her faith has been the one constant.
“I was a teenager in high school with my whole life ahead of me when I was diagnosed with cancer,” she said. “I had to grow up and put a life together with an illness that would be with me for the rest of my life.
“In the midst of all of the tumultuous activity, my faith was constant. I found myself turning to it because it was the only thing I could count on. I said the serenity prayer because it helped me accept what I can’t control and I really took it to heart.”
Her hope, Ripley-Burgess said, is that her way of dealing with pain and uncertainty might help others.
“If I can’t have that hope, I would be in a puddle on the floor. My faith gives me an understanding and purpose for this suffering and helps me take my eyes off of the immediate pain. My only way to get through it is to take my eyes off of the seen and look for the unseen. Then, things make sense and I feel peace.”
Michael Burgess, Ripley-Burgess’ husband, has also learned how to persevere through the unknowns that accompany his wife’s illness. Married for the past 14 years, the couple began dating in the fall of 2000, three months before Danielle’s initial cancer diagnosis in high school.
“Cancer and the possible reoccurrence of cancer brings with it the cognition that your days are numbered,” Burgess said. “In the last few years, we’ve come to recognize that life is about balance. For every season of battling there will be a season of joy and playfulness — and most of the time it’s up to us to appropriately identify each season for what it is. If we don’t stay present we could miss it.”
One of the more difficult aspects of this author’s journey was having to let go of an important childhood dream.
She’d hoped one day to be a medical missionary and realized she had to accept her limitations.
But Ripley-Burgess has found another way to make her dream come true. She’s donating the proceeds from her book to Youth with a Mission in Australia.
“Being a medical missionary looks different than I thought it would when I was a kid. My body can’t go there, but my words, heart and money can.”
Visit DanielleRipleyBurgess.com. Her book, “Unexpected.” is available on Amazon and locally at the Living Stone in Lee’s Summit.