Deanna Thompson


Deanna Thompson was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at age 42 that had metastasized to her bones. The doctors told her she had fewer than five years, but when I interviewed her, it was more than six years after her diagnosis. She lives in St. Paul with her husband and two daughters and teaches religion at Hamline University.

“Initially, I thought I was on sabbatical to get ready to die. Then it became clear that I wasn’t dying right away.”

“Peace is not just the absence of conflict. Being in a peaceful relationship means you have to go really deep. We are unsure of how to do that, because it’s complicated and because we all have insecurities.

We feel like we don’t ever have enough time. To deal with the heart of the matter takes time. To sit with people who are grieving takes time, and our current pace discourages us. We like to wear how busy we are as a badge of honor. When you get very sick, all that busyness looks superficial.

When I got sick, it became clear I couldn’t do any of this, and I realized that saying yes to other people who want to care for us was an incredible experience of grace. It was overwhelming. Opening yourself up to being cared for and ministered to and prayed for has opened up an understanding of gratitude and a sense that all will be well even if my time here isn’t too much longer.”

Deanna Thompson short audio clip

Deanna Thompson full audio 

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever lived knowing that you were dying? If so, how did that change the way you lived your life? If not, how do you think you would view life differently?
  • How often do you tell someone you’re doing well when you don’t really feel that way? How do you respond when someone tells you how they’re honestly feeling?
  • When have you said the wrong thing but your intentions were good? How did the recipient respond?
  • What do you have trouble accepting as reality? Why is it difficult to accept?
  • What are the most peaceful relationships that you have? What is unique about those people? What makes those relationships peaceful?

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