Healing Grace

The Healing Grace of God knows no bounds.

Thank you for checking in on me as I take this journey of healing grace. I will periodically post on this page meditations, reflections and art that emerge from this time. I am grateful for the outpouring of love, hope and support I’ve received from across the diocese and beyond. 

If you desire to send me a message directly, please e-mail me at healinggrace@thediocese.net. I will deeply appreciate your prayers and your reaching out.


Last Chemo!  At Last!

A Reflection of Susan Goff

The Power of Prayer in the Wilderness of Cancer
Bishop Meditation for the Eighteenth Week after Pentecost
Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The meditation I offer today in this time of division, uncertainty and daily change in our national life is personal. As I complete active cancer treatment, I reflect on the journey and offer my thanks to you for accompanying me in prayer. I pray that this reflection might be a support to you as you journey through every wilderness of this time. 

It was a doctor named Gabriel who first told me that I had breast cancer, Gabriel the messenger who brings news that changes everything. A week later, a doctor named DeHeart said to me, “This really sucks. I’m so sorry,” and I thought, “Since breast cancer strikes one out of every eight women, why not me?” From those first days, I needed a visual, poetic and biblical image to focus my response. The frequently used language of “battling” cancer or “fighting” cancer or “kicking cancer’s butt” wouldn’t work for me. I didn’t want those images of violence in my life in a time when I really needed to breathe deeply and find hope. So I prayed and listened and was led to enter the time of cancer treatment as a journey through the wilderness.

As the Israelites spent forty years in the wilderness on their way to another land, I would willingly enter the wilderness of illness on my way to healing. As the Israelites spent much of the forty years camped in the desert, I would pitch my tent in a forbidding place, there to discover not only stinging scorpions and biting snakes, not only burning sun and howling wind, but manna and quails and water from the rock. I would enter the wilderness of cancer treatment as I’d previously hiked and camped in wild places of nature – with careful planning, with humility and with deep respect for the journey. I’d also go with more than a little fear and trembling, even though I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was already there and I would never be alone. 

As I camped out and wandered through the wilderness of illness, I was blessed with messages of hope. Again and again passages from the book of the prophet Isaiah, which were sent in cards and songs, or which I stumbled upon when I wasn’t looking, came alive for me. “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old,” I heard one Tuesday morning. “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19). That promise moved me to tears. “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,” I heard the evening before one chemo infusion. “The desert shall rejoice and blossom; . . .Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God.’” (Isaiah 35:1, 4) These promises went with me into the wilderness and they made it bearable, even beautiful at times, though it was still a place of terror.

Throughout the entire journey, from diagnosis to surgery, through chemo and radiation, I felt absolutely buoyed by the prayers of others. When I was too tired or worried to pray, I was lifted by the prayers of the community. When I didn’t know how to pray for myself, I was strengthened by praying for others. Time and time again I felt, literally felt, hope flowing through my soul in the midst of fear, light pouring into my mind in moments of darkness, strength surging in my body in hours of weakness. Prayer carried me through the wilderness and guided me to recognize and rejoice in the presence of God there. I thank you for your prayers which were such a huge part of sustaining me. 

I have now completed active treatment and begin the next five years of follow up care. My hair is coming back. My fingernails are beginning to grow normally. My full stamina is returning. I’m ready to leave this particular wilderness and enter whatever is next. Thanks be to God who is with us always, in every wilderness. Thanks be to God for the wonder and power of prayer. 

 May God bless you in every wilderness journey you take.


Original art:  The Desert Shall Rejoice and Blossom.  Collage made of cards sent to me by people from across the diocese and beyond.  +SEG 2020


Glowing Radiantly
Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Last week I met LINAC for the first time. This week I’ve begun my daily dates with LINAC at the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center in Richmond. Every weekday at 9 a.m., for 16 days running, LINAC and I spend some quality time together – all for the sake of healing grace. LINAC is a Linear Accelerator, the massive instrument that produces the beams of radiation treatment. 

I’m told by people who have walked this way before me that radiation is a piece of cake after chemo. I’m counting on that being true as I look forward to the completion, at the end of this month, of this leg of my journey with cancer. My medical team is marvelous, which is a particular blessing in this continuing pandemic time when family and friends cannot accompany me to the cancer center. I see competence, compassion and confidence when I meet their eyes, which is another particular blessing in this season of masks when their eyes are all I can see. I am in good hands. I am filled with hope. I am blessed. God’s healing grace is dependable. 

I thank you for your continued prayers. Please pray also for all who are in cancer treatment, especially in this time when it can feel lonely. Please pray for doctors, nurses, technicians and all who work in medical centers in this time. Please pray for healing grace in your own life and in the lives of those you love. Know and trust that God is present and that you are loved beyond your wildest imagining. 


Last Chemo! At Last!
A Reflection of Susan Goff
Saturday, July 25, 2020

Chemo has been a wild beast in the wilderness. God, who is always present in every wilderness, has been stronger. Surrounded by the great blessings of good care and prayer, I will face the beast one last time during and after my final chemotherapy infusion on July 29. 

I contend with the beast in art and prayer, which overlap until they become one experience. Two paintings emerged this past week when the beast taunted me with a new side effect. 

“Honey Heals the Itch”

Oh yes, it does!


“Milagros” is based on a Mexican tradition of praying for particular parts of the body by wearing small charms of those parts. 

As I wrestle with the chemo beast for the last time over the next few weeks, I find that I don’t want to slay it. It has been a necessary partner in my healing, after all. I don’t want to tame the beast either, since I don’t want it following me around. Instead, I ask God to show me how to send the beast far into the remotest part of the wilderness where it can’t bite me again. When the beast of chemo is finally behind me, my wilderness journey of grace and healing will continue in other ways.

Thank you for your continued prayers. God’s blessings be with you and all whom you love. 


The Journey Continues
Wednesday, June 17, 2020

I’ve just completed my second chemo infusion. I’m now half way through the treatments! My care team is wonderful and helping me to manage the side effects well. I’m expecting that this cycle will be even easier than the first, which had only three real “down” days. I am ready for anything, though. God is good. Healing grace is amazing. 

I continue to feel the prayers and good wishes of so many people and am abundantly blessed by them. Thank you. Never doubt that prayer is powerful. Never think for a minute that prayer is not real action in the world. Prayer changes things. I’ve seen it countless times in my life. I’m feeling it now physically in my body and spiritually in my heart and soul. Prayer is a true force for change and for good in the world. Let’s keep unleashing that power in a world that is so desperately in need of change right now.

Some of my praying is in color. I pray for healing by imaging or drawing with the color associated with a particular part of the body. (Yes, there is ancient wisdom and experience about that). Wearing colorful headscarves now that my hair is gone is part of it. Prayer everywhere. Color everywhere. 

One of these days I may even post the bald head itself, which is beautiful in its own right, though I’ll never look as good as Persis Khambatta playing Lieutenant Ilia in Star Trek, the Movie.


Friday, May 29, 2020

Thank you for infusing me with prayer and support as I received my first chemo infusion on Wednesday. I felt surrounded by love, joy and great hope. The nurses were compassionate, competent, confident and kind. Jesus was at my side in new and beautiful ways. 

As the nurse removed the needle when the infusion was complete, she said, "Now you are one quarter of the way through." Her words were balm to my confused and questioning body. When I stood to leave the infusion room, I heard a voice call out, "Bishop Goff!" I searched for the voice, not recognizing any faces behind the masks. Soon I made eye contact with a beloved parishioner of one of our congregations who was there for her infusion. Her words were balm to my confused and questioning soul. It was goodness for me to be in that room for a moment not only as Patient Goff, but in other parts of the fulness of who I am. God is good. Love is real. Joy abounds. Thank you for your continued prayers for me and for all in need of our prayers in this time of uncertainty and change. 


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

I am cancer free!
I will undergo chemotherapy to stay that way. 
Chemo came into my treatment picture late and unexpectedly. Genomic testing on my tumor revealed an unacceptably high risk that this cancer could recur in another part of my body, so I’ve chosen to make the sacrifice of comfort in the short term for the sake of health in the long term.

I invite you to join me in two things this summer as I undergo this treatment:

First, Prayer.

Pray for care givers.
Pray for patience for all who long for life as it was before March and who continue to exercise restraint for their own health and that of others.
Pray for all who are at risk in this time of pandemic because they are receiving medical treatments or for any reason.
Pray for each other. Pray for yourself. Pray for me.

Second, Joyful Fun.

I will likely lose my hair by mid June. I choose not to wear a wig in the heat of summer, but to play with other kinds of head coverings. I’d enjoy seeing pictures of your suggestions for what I might put on my bald head until my hair grows back. Our diocesan staff has already blessed me with their ideas, some beautiful, some delightfully silly. I will try on anything, at least once. I’ll even take and post a photo on this blog page. 

I am blessed by the community of this diocese in this season
of unanticipated changes and challenges.
We are blessed by God’s strong arms of love that hold us tight.



Sunday, April 26, 2020

The journey of healing is filled with blessings given, received and doubled by sharing. This collage is made from cards that I received since my cancer diagnosis. The meditation below weaves together lines from notes that were sent to me at healinggrace@thediocese.net. May these words and images, given to me and now returned to you, be a strength to your own healing journey in these changed and changing times.

The Peace of All Peace Be Yours
La Paz de Toda Paz Sea Tuya

The peace of all peace be yours this day.
Overflowing peace.
Living water to parched souls.
La paz incomprensible de Dios. [i]

Peace and more peace.
Prayers and more prayers.
Hope beyond hope.
La paz del Señor. 

“Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul.”[ii]
God pour down genuine love and hopefulness 
So the next few months go by easily.

The peace of all peace be yours this day. 
Overflowing peace.
Living water to parched souls.
La paz incomprensible de Dios.

God’s Spirit is binding us together
And sustaining us. 
Cristo renueva tu interior para que
todos vean la gloria de Dios.

We pray for you.
I pray for you.
Ruego a Dios, nuestro padre
Que ponga su mano sobre tu dolor.

God heard our prayers.
God hears our prayers. 
Seguiremos orando.
Let the healing begin!

The peace of all peace be yours this day.
Overflowing peace.
Living water to parched souls.
La paz incomprensible de Dios. 

You’ve joined the club that no one wanted to join. 
It seems like more than any one person
should have to deal with. 
I admit to being more than a little angry. 

The peace of all peace be yours this day.
Overflowing peace.
Living water to parched souls.
La paz incomprensible de Dios

There are sweet,
sweet moments
when we are aware
that there is only God. 

Be gentle with yourself.
You are the only you we have.
Relax like a goofy dog asleep on his back
Until you are all better. 

“In this body, no fear.
In this body, safety.
In this body, great happiness.
In this body, deep peace.”[iii]

The peace of all peace be yours this day.
Overflowing peace.
Living water to parched souls.
La paz incomprensible de Dios

I can sort of see
The Holy Spirit right there
Hovering and blanketing you
With love and courage. 

I woke this morning
with you on my heart
and a gentle mystic whispering,
“All shall be well.”[iv]

Hugs to you.
Virtual hugs
Holding you tight in love.
Waves of healing love. 

The peace of all peace be yours this day.
Overflowing peace.
Living water to parched souls.
La paz incomprensible de Dios.

[i] Translation - the unfathomable peace of God.
[ii] Emily Dickinson (254)
[iii] “In this Circle,” by Joan McMillan.  Music that Makes Community
[iv] Dame Julian of Norwich


Thursday, April 2, 2020

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."   Philippians 4:6-7

My spirit, mind and body are filled with thanksgiving today. My surgeon called with the wonderful news that the surgery was completely successful; the margins and the lymph nodes are clear. I feel blessed and uplifted by the immeasurable wonder of God’s healing grace, and by the indescribable capacity for the human body to be healed.  

My next step is to meet with a radiation oncologist and prepare for three to six weeks of daily radiation. I don’t know yet if that will be able to happen soon or if it must wait until after the coronavirus pandemic. Either way, I trust fully in the power of healing grace and will continue to embrace the journey, as this batch of “Cancer Cards” suggests.

Women friends, if you haven’t had your annual mammogram yet, do it!  Call and make the appointment today!!  I would not have known that I had breast cancer for a dangerously long time if it hadn’t been for my annual mammogram. Healing from this cancer is so much easier when it is caught early. 

I thank you for your prayers and wish you healing grace for the days and weeks ahead.


Saturday, March 28, 2020

I am uplifted and blessed by your continued prayers and those of so many. I came home from the hospital after surgery yesterday evening. During the long, long day there, I was surrounded by kind, skilled and compassionate people who played roles, large and small, in my healing. This doodle, which emerged during the times of waiting, names each of them. I give thanks to God for them and pray God’s blessing upon each one as they serve God and others in such concrete ways.


Friday, March 27, 2020

6 p.m. Update: Bishop Goff is now through surgery and is heading home from the hospital tonight. 


Sunday, March 22, 2020
Fourth Sunday of Lent

I continue to be deeply blessed by your prayers. Thank you.

Surgery remains scheduled for this Friday, March 27, at 1:15 p.m. I anticipate that Tom will not be permitted to stay with me as I prepare for and await surgery. We plan for him to drop me off in the morning, go home, then return to pick me up when I am released, presumably in the late afternoon or early evening. He will not come into the hospital at all. Given the increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 at the hospital, it is for the best. While I will enter that particular mile of the journey by myself, I will not feel alone. Your prayers will lift me. God’s love will enfold me. 

In preparation for surgery and recovery, I have made more “C” cards. Along with ID and insurance card, some of these will go with me to the hospital.

God bless us all in these days of pandemic. Although we each walk our own steps along the way, we are on the same road. We are in this together. 


Monday, March 16, 2020

Thank you to all of you who have written me notes, particularly the women who have been on this journey before or who are on it now.  I am blessed to be in the company of such courageous sisters, my true bosom buddies.

Surgery is scheduled for the end of next week – if it is not bumped because of our current, wider health crisis. As I wait and wonder about the surgery, and as I wait and wonder along with all of you about the coronavirus, I turn to my go-to stress relief strategies – prayer, humor and art. 

I am making myself a stack of “cancer cards,” a deck of 52 playing size cards (2 1/2 X 3 1/2), each of which shows a word that begins with the letter C. As you can observe in the photo, they are a mix of irreverent, playful, hopeful and prayerful. (I’ve omitted the few raw, “R-rated” cards).

A purpose of these C-word cards is to counter and change the fear narrative of the C-word that has just entered my life – Cancer. It seems to me that the cards will also help change the fear narrative of a couple of other C-words – coronavirus and COVID-19. Perhaps you’ll want to make your own C-cards. Or make a couple for my deck. Pull them out when you  need to be cheered. Give them to others who are on the journey. Above all, hold onto courage, calm, curiosity, creativity and all of the good things that give you life. 

Thanks be to God that we have each other. Thanks be to God for healing grace.

Your sister in Christ,


Monday, March 9, 2020

Dear Diocesan Family,

I write to you with news that is personal and that touches on our life together as a diocesan community. I have been diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. It was detected early in a routine mammogram in February. While the cancer is not aggressive, my marvelous medical team and I are responding quickly. I anticipate that I will have surgery before Easter and begin additional treatment a few weeks later. My prognosis is excellent.  I am otherwise in very good health and have a strong support system. While this is not a season I ever would have chosen, I am on a remarkable, creative and holy Lenten journey.

As I take care of myself during treatment, I will be able to do the ministry to which God and this diocese have called me, although with a somewhat lightened schedule. In particular, my Monday through Friday travel will be limited for some weeks during the second phase of treatment. This reality will not require rescheduling Sunday visitations.  During the time of reduced travel, I will embrace electronic meetings more fully than ever. My colleague Bishop Brooke-Davidson, our team of visiting bishops, our committed diocesan staff and our Standing Committee are working together with me to ensure that our diocesan life remains healthy during these next months. I anticipate resuming my normal round of activities before the end of June.  

Diagnosis and treatment do not change my retirement plans. I will continue to serve as Bishop Suffragan and Ecclesiastical Authority through the election and consecration of our next Bishop Diocesan in 2022, and then as Bishop Suffragan until I retire in 2023.

I invite you to send any messages or words of encouragement you might offer me to healinggrace@thediocese.net. Your notes will be collected in a folder in my inbox. I will open and read them once a day during a prayerful time. In addition, I will post periodic updates, reflections, meditations and art that emerge from this healing journey. You can find the blog at www.thediocese.net/healinggrace

I feel buoyed by prayer and covet your continued prayers for me, for my husband Tom, for our diocesan staff, and for all the people of this diocese. 

Faithfully yours,

O God, the source of all health: So fill my heart with faith in your love, that with calm expectancy I may make room for your power to possess me, and gracefully accept your healing; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.