NFL quarterback Brett Favre's wife, Deanna Favre, has seen a lot. She chose not to abort their out-of-wedlock baby, she watched her husband battle an alcohol and pain killer addiction, she fought breast cancer, and she has experienced the spotlight again in recent weeks. Brett Favre met with NFL officials on Tuesday over allegations that he sent sexually explicit text messages and pictures to a woman who worked for the New York Jets. Deanna Favre declined to address the allegations against her husband, but she spoke with Christianity Today on how faith has helped her through the current news cycle and during her struggle with breast cancer. Favre also addresses these ideas in her new book called The Cure for the Chronic Life, which she co-authored with Shane Stanford, a pastor who has detailed his experience living with HIV. Favre spoke with Sarah Pulliam Bailey this morning about how her faith has been a central part of her response to her life's struggles.
You've gone through a lot with breast cancer and having a spotlight on your family. What are the appropriate emotional responses to suffering? For instance, can one be angry?
I dealt with that when I lost my brother in October 2004, and four days after I buried my brother, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was furious. I had a lot of fear and disappointment, and coming from a strong faith background, I couldn't believe these things could happen to me, to my family. That's what the "chronic life" is. You start to turn inward, and these patterns, despair, and depression cause us to turn inward and focus on ourselves. The message in the book and what we're hoping is to help people turn outward. The focus then is on others.
You wrote about how one of your friends told you, "Sure you have cancer inside your body, but you also have Christ." You wrote, "I will never forget those words. They were simple, to the point and incredibly true." How did your faith shape your response to breast cancer?
I think at that moment I realized, this isn't about me. God obviously didn't give me cancer, but he certainly prepared me for it. I knew there was a bigger plan. I knew that God had a reason, a plan for this, and a reason that I had it. It just opened my eyes, and when I went to my treatments and sat in the waiting room with different women, just watching these women or men going through cancer and treatments. They were sicker than me. They were maybe alone. … I started to notice other people. I also overheard conversations like, "I don't have insurance. What am I going to do, how am I going to pay for this?" There was one shot that you get the day after a treatment. I believe you have to pay up front for that one, and it's like $3,500. I thought, Wow, this is just crazy. When I was younger, I was a single mom, and if I had gotten breast cancer then, I didn't have insurance either. So I decided I would start a foundation to help women who were going through breast cancer without insurance.
How do you cope with suffering as a Christian compared with someone who might not have faith?
I think we always see the way out. Our strength obviously comes from God. We see the better way. People who don't have faith, I think they just get stuck; they don't see a way out. In the book, I hope we can lead those people maybe to Christ. They'll realize there's more to life. There's a better life, and God has a purpose and a plan for them and [can] provide hope.