Big Books & Bold Ideas with Kerri Miller

Women of Faith: Kate Bowler on living with chronic cancer in a fix-it-quick culture

Kate Bowler
Kate Bowler is a professor, author, and self-proclaimed “incurable optimist.”
Courtesy of Rebecca Ames Photography

Three years ago, Kate Bowler was handed the diagnosis that changed everything: stage 4 colon cancer. With a grim prognosis, she immediately started treatment and simultaneously wrote the memoir “Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved,” which went on to become a New York Times bestseller.

She still has cancer. But she’s still here, to the surprise of even herself. Now she lives from cancer scan to cancer scan, a living reminder that mortality stalks us all. She recently wrote about that juxtaposition in The Washington Post:

Our society finds it especially difficult to talk about anything chronic — meaning, any kind of pain, emotional or physical, that abides and lives with us constantly. The sustaining myth of the American Dream rests on a hearty can-do spirit, but not all problems can be overcome. So often, we are defined by the things we live with rather than the things we conquer. Any persistent suffering requires being afraid — but we hang our fears in the balance of our great loves and act, each day, as though love will outweigh them all.

Life is chronic. Fear will always be present. I can only make those brave, soft choices to find my way forward when there is no way back.

On Wednesday, host Kerri Miller spoke with Kate about chronic cancer and the beautiful precarity of life. It’s the latest conversation in our Women of Faith series,. You can also find another discussion between Kerri and Kate here.


  • Kate Bowler, professor at Duke University’s Divinity School and author of the book “Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved”

To listen to the full conversation from today you can use the audio player above.

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