Cancer, it's a word we hope to never hear in our lifetime, but for Dan Epp-Tiessen and his family, it's a word they heard regularly.

"There have been 10 different times when a doctor has sat us down and said to one of us, you've got cancer, or you have cancer again, or despite the treatments, you have cancer again," Epp-Tiessen explains.

Dan, who teaches Bible part-time at Canadian Mennonite University, says his wife has had breast cancer twice. He says the last time was 16 years ago with no recurrence since. 

"I've had multiple rounds of prostate cancer and thyroid cancer," said Dan. "Doctors tell me I will have both of those for the rest of my life, but they say they'll keep me alive for quite a few years with treatments."

For the Epp-Tiesens, nothing pails in comparison to when the medical team sat them down and told them their three-year-old son had a massive brain tumour.

"That set off a round of major surgeries, radiation treatments, chemotherapy for a year," said Dan. "A year after that, Tim had a stroke related to the cancer treatments.  And then five years after that, the cancer returned and Tim died."

Dan says the pain from the loss of his son was overwhelming, so much so, that it changed who he was.

"Pain can poison us, and that's what happened to me," said Dan. "I became a bitter angry person. There was a period when I wasn't a good father or husband. I needed to get rid of that pain in my life."

"With the psalmist, I lamented, and I would cry out to God, and I would weep, and I would yell, scream and cry. That proved to be a healing experience."

Another thing that Dan says has helped them through their journey is the community that has surrounded and supported them.

"I'm a huge believer that we need a God with skin on," Epp-Tiessen explains. " All of those casseroles we got, they nurtured our bodies, but they also nurtured our spirits because our brothers and sisters in Christ were secretly stuffing those casseroles full of their love and their prayers."

He says every card, every hug, every phone call, every email, those are the things that God uses to shower us with His grace and love.

Today on Connections, Dan shares his family's story. He'll also share how they've managed to cling to their faith throughout this journey.