My daughter, Perrin, was a warrior and a saint. Three years ago today, November 25, 2016, she passed away after an almost 7 year battle with kidney cancer. I have never known someone who was so courageous, so faithful, and so full of joy in the midst of the worst of life’s circumstances. On this day, I want to honor her by sharing an article she was asked to write for the Washington Post’s online section, On Faith.

“In every life, there are turning points, both expected and unexpected, that will shape us into who we are, and who we will become. We expect birthdays. We hope for marriage. We pray for children. But no one ever predicts that cancer will become a major turning point in his or her life. And yet, for me, it was the biggest turning point that I have ever faced.

When I was 20 years old, I was diagnosed with a rare type of kidney cancer, which had already spread into my lymph nodes and spine. For months after my diagnosis I was in and out of hospitals and doctors offices, as the doctors tried to discover how I had gotten this cancer and what was the best way to proceed. As a 20-year-old, I had to look doctors in the eye as they told me I might not have long to live. My cancer had spread extensively, and kidney cancer itself has no cure. My worst nightmare had become the reality of my life.

I cannot even begin to describe the immense anguish of those first few months after hearing my diagnosis. I had to drop out of college for the semester, and go back home to Richmond, Virginia for treatment. Two weeks after hearing the diagnosis, I was at the hospital for major surgery to remove my kidney, a surgery that left me sicker than I could have ever imagined. I spent the following two months in bed, barely able to move or eat, and being carted to and from different doctors to hear their evaluations of my condition. I vividly remember crying with my dad one night, and telling him that I could not remember what it felt like to not be sick. In my mind, it seemed like I would be sick for the rest of my life, and I could barely remember a time when I had not felt like I was slowly fading away. I began to doubt how long I could hold on, and how much I could continue to combat cancer. I became tired of fighting.

Famous theologian and author C.S. Lewis once said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscious and shouts in our pain. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” And I could not agree more. My whole life prior to cancer, the Lord has been whispering to me, and at times even speaking to me, to remind me of His presence and love. But my diagnosis became like a megaphone, blaring the Lord’s love for all to hear. Christian and non-Christian friends alike all gathered to pray for me in those dark days. The Lord had to constantly remind me that it is He who controls my life, not the doctors or the statistics I was facing each day.

Due to the Lord’s protection, I was able to return to Furman University less than six months after my diagnosis to start another year of college. I began a targeted therapy that worked in my body like chemotherapy, and with many of the same side effects making the year a daily struggle. But I was so grateful to be back at school, and to feel normal again, that it barely even mattered. And while my cancer never left, it remained stable for a long time, allowing me to finish out my junior year and begin my senior year.

But in December of my senior year, the doctors discovered that my cancer had spread further. I am in a stage of life right now where I am simply waiting to see if it will continue to spread throughout my body, and praying that it will go away forever, although the doctors have told me that that is very unlikely, if not impossible. I am now a two-year cancer survivor, and I can undoubtedly say that these past two years have changed me in monumental ways.

Cancer has been a turning point in my life that I never could have dreamed of, and I know that my life will never be the same. But despite the hard times and the multitudes of tears, the Lord has been protecting me every step of this journey. Whether I live, and one day become cancer free, or I die, I know without a doubt that God is good, and that does not change based on my circumstances. For now, I can rest in the assurance that the Lord is looking out for me, and therefore I can simply strive to live life joyfully for every day that I am given.”

In the years after she wrote this article, she married and enjoyed three wonderful years with Joe Hall. Despite constant treatments, she traveled and filled her day with rich times with friends and family. She is my inspiration as a writer, and more importantly, as a follower of Christ. She will never be forgotten.

Join the discussion 45 Comments

  • Paul White says:

    I will never forget Perrin’s incredible courage and undaunting smile throughout her battle with cancer and her ultimate victory in Christ. She was and remains an incredible witness to the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit! My heart grieves with you and Weezie on this day and yet rejoices in the grace and mercy of a loving God. It is sufficient!

  • Kathy White says:

    You are right, Tommy, she will never be forgotten! Love and hugs to you, Weezie, Chris and Alex,

    • Thanks so much Kathy! Love back to you!

      • Peg Ellison Wolpert says:

        What a lovely tribute. Perrin and her outlook on life, especially during adversity, should be an inspiration to all of us. I often remember her spirit on the softball field and her commitment to her team, friends, and family.

  • Karen says:

    Hugs across the miles…

  • Karen Hayes says:

    You are right, Tommy, Perrin is unforgettable. She pops into my thoughts frequently. I think God brings her often to mind as an encouragement. She was such an incredible and true example of how the joy of the Lord is our strength. I have always been amazed and fascinated by people who exude joy during hardship because of their bedrock of trust and faith that the Lord will do what He says…that He has good things planned for them and in fact, that He has already accomplished the most important things.

    God also brings you, Weezie, Alex and Chris frequently to mind – to pray for His joy to continue to be your strength too, but also because you have demonstrated, for all who know you, how to suffer and grieve with grace, honesty, vulnerability and hope.

    The pastor on Sunday asked us how our lives proclaim the gospel. Perrin’s life and the way she relied on God, and the way you all do, are great examples of lives proclaiming the gospel. Praying God fills you all with hope and peace today, and even with joy amid the sorrow of missing her.

  • Mary Margaret Ryan says:

    Truly an angel on Earth. I know that I feel safe and hopeful knowing that Perrin is watching over us all. She continues to inspire others-from her home with our Lord. A beautifully written reminder that life is fragile and to be thankful for every day. Much love.

    • Thanks so much Mary Margaret!

      • Angela Mackay says:

        What an incredible tribute to Perrin, a beautiful woman, created and loved by God, who exuded joy and spoke truth. I am in awe of her courage and faith despite the immense challenge and suffering she faced. Her perspective on God’s goodness and love displays the magnitude of her faith. Thank you, Tommy, for sharing this lovely tribute. Perrin is not forgotten and her testimony lives on – to God be the glory.

  • Amy Ziegler says:

    Thank you Tommy for sharing this today. Perrin truly taught us many things. Her joy was contagious and her courage and faith inspired us all to be a little more like her! She is missed and as you say– she and her smile will never be forgotten.

  • Doug Dunnevant says:

    Incredible. And she continues to inspire since I just forwarded this article to a dear friend of mine who is battling stage 3 breast cancer. What a beautiful human being she was…

  • Donna Word says:

    I never had the honor to meet your beautiful daughter but have been so inspired by her faith, love, and courage. You just can’t smile like Perrin did without a deep, abiding joy in Christ. Much love to your family during this time of sad tears and happy remembrances.

  • Kathleen Mills says:

    I never knew her well, only as one of the kids we “knew”, but watching her journey from afar, praying for her, and in the end hearing from all she impacted, has been a joy. Her life was far too short, but she lived her testimony to the glorious God that gave her life. It’s the goal we all should have. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  • Lynn Babcock says:

    Not only is she fully alive with her Savior, she is also alive in our thoughts so often! That precious smile left an imprint on our hearts and she makes me smile every time she crosses my mind. I have never met anyone like her. ❤️ So happy you posted this!

  • Susie Hartman says:

    Thank you for sharing this tribute, Tommy. Perrin’s legacy continues today, these three years after her earthly battle has ended. She bore witness to the faithful love and goodness of God even as she faced down sickness and death. May we all be found so faithful. What a precious gift she was. Praying for you, Weezie, Chris and Alex.

  • Susan says:

    Perrin’s story is a beautiful reminder of being thankful in all circumstances and living in the present. She had, and continues to have, a profound impact on so very many. You all do. Love and blessings.

  • Mollie Greenhill says:

    Gosh, we loved her so. And we still think about her all. the.time. Thankful for our special relationship with your family over the years, especially those 3 amazing kids. Really grateful for the Thompsons!

  • Alex Massie says:

    Beautiful and Inspirational just like your daughter. God Bless

  • Heather Beam says:

    I hardly knew Perrin, but I followed her journey while she was battling cancer and was in awe of her bullet-proof faith. I pray for that same faith in my own children. Thank you for sharing. I will never forget Perrin.

  • Bob says:

    Thank you! Praying for you all. Love you all.

  • Marsha Williams says:

    Perrin was (and remains a constant presence of) a most courageous, beautiful and faithful person. What a blessing she continues to be to many. With special love to all of you on this loss to your lives, but yet a blessing of the joy her continued witness and spirit provides.

  • Kathy Ames says:

    Perrin was everyone’s hero. There was always a light in her eyes and a joy in her being that not even cancer or the threat of death could dim. Each time I think of her, I remember her words: “Whether I live…or die, I know without a doubt that God is good.”

    Much love to you all.

  • Alfred Walker says:

    Thank you for sharing this Tommy. These are good words to consider in our own blessings and challenges. Love to you and your family.

  • Dan says:

    Incredibly inspirational to see her courage and faith. Thanks for sharing.

  • Shaun Mortensen says:

    We haven’t met but your daughter’s precious story has reached many. I am in Collegiate Womens Bible Study and we have talked about your sweet daughter and her faith. Thank you for sharing this article.

  • Jean Sommerville says:

    Dear Ones,
    Of course, November 25th is a day for those of us who prayed for your dear Perrin, Joe & your dear family all the days that have passed to make sure you know we continue to remember and most of all, that we hold you in our prayers, always,

  • Kim says:

    How amazing! She is an inspiration to all! Thanks so much for sharing on this difficult day. Love to you all!❤️🙏

  • Kim says:

    How amazing! She is an inspiration to all! Thanks so much for sharing on this difficult day. Love to you all!❤️🙏

  • Eileen Beane says:

    To know Perrin was to love her. She radiated beauty and joy. Her faith was unfailing. I will never forget the impact she had on me and continues to have each time I think of her and read the beautiful messages that she wrote for us to treasure.

  • Pam Brizzolara says:

    Your family is in our thoughts and prayers today.
    Perrin was a remarkable young woman and will forever be remembered for her tremendous strength and faith.

  • William Childrey says:

    A wonderful piece, Tommy. She was the best! My thoughts are with you, Weezie, and the boys on this and so many other days. Love, Bill

  • Kristen Barnett says:

    In the brief time I knew Perrin, she impacted our lives and our daughter’s life immensely!! We loved her dearly! She is greatly missed!

    I believe this is a “so Perrin story!” We has just started attending TCC and the youth were having a discipleship weekend. My daughter’s Jeep had a sticker that Perrin loves.
    She rushed into the sponsors house, yelled “Who’s Jeep is that in the driveway?”
    Our daughter, her first time with the youth group, says “Mine.”
    Perrin runs over to her, hugs her, and says “We are going to be best friends!” She loved and lived fully!!!

  • Brooke says:

    I keep so many reminders all through our house. She is such a continued presence in my life and I’m so so grateful to her. The Lord is doing so many things through her still and I love y’all so much.

  • Mignon says:

    Oh Tommy. Your nurturing in faith helped Perrin face bravely the most difficult transition in life with grace and courage—death. What a lovely child who I know is resting in the arms of Jesus. Mignon

  • Gina Scott says:

    Tommy, I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Perrin personally, however did through so many others. Richard and I prayed for her and your family throughout her journey with cancer. She was and is an inspiration to so many. I hope she and Cooper are dancing together in heaven.

  • Ann Sharpe says:

    So beautifully written. I remember when I first read this and then as I read it again today, I am so moved by her strong faith. Her smile in this photo says it all — JOY! unmeasurable JOY!
    I am so thankful I knew her; Perrin’s life touched so many and continues to do so even now.

  • Paula Roop says:

    I’m new to the story of Perrin. I never met her on this side of eternity but her story inspires and encourages me to trust God more completely, to love people more deeply, and to find joy in each day as God’s gift. I love her and thank the Lord for her life. Thanks, Tommy, for sharing her with us.

  • Sherry Sharp says:

    Tommy, your tribute to Perrin is beautiful, and her words you have shared with us are inspiring and so very true. Her love of Jesus and family and friends will live on forever. I am deeply moved by her courage and wisdom at such a young age. I look forward to meeting Perrin one day in heaven!