Undergoing Cancer Treatment Strengthens Relationship with God and His People for 28-Year-Old Samaritan Ministries Staff Member
After a Breast Cancer Diagnosis, Kelsie Barnhart Says She Has a Deeper Appreciation for Life and Better Insight to Work with Samaritan Members
February 18, 2020
PEORIA, Ill.—As a Needs Advocate for Samaritan Ministries International (samaritanministries.org), Kelsie Barnhart spent her days talking with members of the health care sharing ministry, listening to their struggles and challenges, helping them through the financial aspects and praying with them.
The 28-year-old Samaritan Ministries staff member, however, was soon on the receiving end after a shocking diagnosis of an aggressive form of breast cancer in December 2018. But despite the difficulties, Barnhart said she doesn’t think she would necessarily return to who she was before the diagnosis—to “Kelsie before cancer.”
“I have a deeper appreciation for my life as it is,” she said during a break at Samaritan Ministries recently, her head wrapped in a scarf. “It may not look exactly how I want it, but I’m still here, still alive. I still get to spread the good news of the Lord.”
Barnhart underwent surgery in February 2019, had chemotherapy for 3½ months, radiation for 1½ months, and is now receiving maintenance infusion treatments. Throughout it all, she came to terms with being a woman in her 20s with a disease typically found in older women. While hoping she would be able to avoid chemo, surgeons found that the cancer had spread to a lymph node as well. Plus, the cancer was determined to be HER2-positive, meaning the cells make too much of that protein and multiply quickly. Doctors recommended she start chemotherapy soon after her surgery.
While this wasn’t the answer to prayer that she, her family, friends and co-workers had been hoping for, it was an answer all the same.
“I lay in my bed and really hashed it out with the Lord, and what immediately came to mind was Jesus in the garden asking for the cup to pass and being told no,” she said. “I remember the Lord really encouraging me and saying, ‘You’re in good company. You’ve asked, and that’s right and that’s good. It’s not a lack of faith, but you’re being told no, and that’s OK.’
“I think that interaction with the Lord, being able to come before Him and hear from Him in that way is honestly one of the sweetest gifts because I feel like that point in my story could have gone in two very different directions,” Barnhart added. “It didn’t completely change the situation, and there were still many negatives to chemo and radiation, but it made it a lot easier to accept and to know that He still loved me. I’m still a daughter of the King. I’m still full of faith.”
Barnhart also now feels she has better insight into the challenges faced by her fellow Samaritan members who are going through cancer or facing other types of large financial needs.
“I have a better sense of knowing how their entire world has shifted in a moment and they’re dealing with things that they never expected to go through,” she said. “It’s just a continual reminder that we get to be the hands and feet of Jesus for one another, and we get to help each other not just financially but with encouragement. I think that’s such a beautiful aspect of Samaritan that I would never want to lose.”
Barnhart’s experience as a Samaritan member has also included large discounts in her treatment. For instance, she was able to travel to another city in Illinois for a recommended treatment that wasn’t available locally. Some health insurance companies do not cover this type of treatment—proton therapy—because it’s still being developed. Barnhart, however, didn’t have that roadblock because Samaritan Ministries Guidelines allow it to be shared. The original cost of $240,000 was also discounted to $40,000 for upfront payment, which Barnhart was able to make by submitting written estimates so the expense could be shared by Samaritan members before the treatment.
“Being cash pay is one of the reasons that process was able to be so streamlined,” Barnhart said.
Besides the cash-pay discounts, more than 200 Samaritan Ministries members have shared in Barnhart’s needs—and personally prayed for her and sent cards and notes of encouragement.
“The fact that there are that many people who I’ve been able to thank and who have come alongside me in prayer is awesome.”
More than 270,000 individual Samaritan Ministries members (nearly 83,000 households) like Barnhart pray and send monthly financial shares directly to other members. Through this effective, God-honoring ministry, Samaritan’s growing Biblical community shares approximately $30 million in medical needs person-to-person each month. Over the past 25 years, Samaritan Ministries members have shared over $1.8 billion in needs.
To interview a Samaritan Ministries International representative, contact Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, Patrick Benner, 610.584.1096, ext. 104, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.