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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...


AGTV video
Connections: Janelle Hail

Helping Women Defeat Cancer

Janelle Hail is the founder and CEO of the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one of the most highly recognized and respected breast cancer charities in the world. She spoke recently with Pentecostal Evangel Editor Ken Horn.

evangel: Let’s begin by talking about your home life as you grew up. I know there were some challenges.

HAIL: There were. I grew up in a divided home. My mother was a wonderful Christian woman. My father was the opposite. When my mother, brother and I went to church, he would stand at the door and wave his fist and curse us. But my mother was such a godly woman she didn’t let that stop her. We continued to pray for my father, and she took my brother and me to church, and we learned the ways of God. I committed my life to the Lord at the age of 9 and have never turned back.

evangel: Your father eventually made that same commitment.

HAIL: Yes. He died a few years ago. He was very mean and cruel to my mother his whole life. On his deathbed, God led me to go to his nursing home, and I actually led him to the Lord. So those prayers that had been prayed by a godly woman for so many years came to pass.

evangel: What was your life like before the founding of your foundation?

HAIL: My life was going pretty smoothly. I became the mother of three sons. They were ages 3, 10, and 13, and we were building a new home when, very inconveniently, I got breast cancer. I was 34, and I was totally shocked. I had no history of breast cancer in my family. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t drink. I ate healthy food. I exercised. I did everything right, yet I got breast cancer.

evangel: You discovered that early detection is one of the most important things.

HAIL: It is, because early detection gives you choices.

evangel: Talk about what you faced after you found out you had cancer.

HAIL: That was the darkest time of my life. I didn’t know what to do. I faced the fear of the unknown, the fear that I would die, the fear that people would reject me. Even fear that my husband would leave me. All of those things swirled around in my mind. But as my mind focused on the Lord and I began to pray, I understood He is with us in these dark times and His presence was with me in my hospital room.

evangel: Your faith helped you to cope with this. Did your faith also help in making necessary decisions?

HAIL: When you have clear thinking, you make good decisions; and when your heart is fixed on the Lord, He gives you clear thinking.

evangel: A lot of people go through a severe depression at times like that.

HAIL: I was very depressed. When I went home from the hospital, I really didn’t know what to do with all of my emotions because I was a homemaker. I had to take care of my family, my children. Life went on. I remember one day standing in my kitchen looking out the window as I was washing dishes, and I saw this tree. It was rather short and it was fall, so all the leaves had fallen but one. There was one leaf that was just waving in the breeze, and it was red and fat and beautiful. It made me stop and look and laugh because it seemed so happy. I thought, I really want to be like that red leaf. I have found that the joy of life is what I’m experiencing and have focused on that joy since then.

evangel: What would you say to someone going through a depression of any kind?

HAIL: I had to realize that getting breast cancer was not the end of my life. It did not define me as a person. It was a part of my life. It was an experience I had, but I have a lot of experiences in life … good and bad. All of these things working together have made me who I am today and have built my character, have strengthened me. In those difficult times, we look beyond ourselves. We look to the Lord, because He’s the only One to turn to. Even though I was surrounded by family and friends and church friends — I had a lot of people surrounding me who loved me — in one sense, I was alone because there was nobody who could fix what was happening to me.

evangel: Well, your life certainly wasn’t at an end, because a few years down the road there came about this wonderful organization, the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Talk to us about that.

HAIL: The National Breast Cancer Foundation actually began at an altar of prayer. One day I felt a call in my heart to go to the altar at church and to pray to accept the call from the Lord to minister to the poor and needy. I really didn’t know what that meant, but I knew that it was a call of God. And the Lord spoke to my heart and said, I’ll send you the people who you need to help you in those areas that you don’t know what to do.

God started putting people into my life, and I saw the need. I began to volunteer for other organizations, and I realized there was a great need to help underserved women who could not afford mammograms. I had been very blessed that I could. I could get the medical help I needed, but there were so many women who could not.

At that time (in 1980), there was little spoken of publicly about breast cancer. Women didn’t talk about it. They didn’t know how society would accept them. Celebrities were not speaking out about it, and people’s jobs could be jeopardized because their insurance could be canceled and they could be fired. It was a bad time to get breast cancer.

evangel: It was a different world.

HAIL: It was. And I’m so thankful today that we, as a society, have changed. The need was so great for women to have help. And at that time everything was about research. While research is vital and important, I wanted to touch women where they are right at that moment of need. That was the seed that was planted in my heart, and it began to unfold.

evangel: If people want to know more about the foundation and what it offers and even how they can help be a part of this, how can they get more information?

HAIL: They can go to our website at We have wonderful educational tools there. One is called “Beyond the Shock” where they can get answers for the questions that a woman might have when she finds out that she has breast cancer. We offer far more than free mammograms; we also offer hope. Because it’s not just a disease; it’s an emotional attachment to our femininity.

evangel: What would you say to those who may be facing breast cancer right now?

HAIL: If you are in this dark time of your life, I want you to remember that you are not defined by what is happening to you right now. Breast cancer does not define who you are. In Christ you have strength, you have hope, and He will take you through that dark time. He will give you the joy of living as you serve Him and trust in Him.


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