There’s no way to prepare yourself for a diagnosis of breast cancer. Not really. Because in an instant, everything changes. You find yourself grappling with a host of overwhelming emotions: fear, grief, and denial, to name just a few.
One moment you were going about your everyday life, and the next you’re wondering how long… or short that life may be.
This unlooked for privilege comes with its own by-laws. There are rites of initiation for new members, confusing rules to learn, and endless dues to pay…
No wonder it feels like you’ve just become a member of some sort of select club. It’s like a semi-secret society that you’ve heard of, but desperately hoped you’d never have to join. Somehow, though, with no effort on your part at all, you find yourself a bonafide member.
It doesn’t help that you find yourself having to grapple with a new identity too… that of cancer survivor.
My membership in “the club” began in April of 2016. I was 56 years old and completely floored by the news. I had thought my risk of getting breast cancer was almost nonexistent:
- I had no family history of breast cancer.
- I hadn’t used birth-control pills.
- I had breastfed all of my children.
- I exercised regularly for years.
- I went through menopause before age 55.
What I hadn’t realized was that “the main factors that influence your risk include being a woman, and getting older.” (CDC)
What? Just being a woman and over age 49 increased my risk? Yup.
It turns out my particular type of cancer feeds on estrogen and even the tiny dose I had been taking since my hysterectomy eight years earlier was entirely. Too. Much.
So here I am a year later. I’ve been through a lot, medically speaking. My body has endured poison by toxic chemicals, the trauma of surgery, and the effects of radiation.
I’m still getting used to the changes in how my body looks. I have aches and pains that weren’t there before and my energy levels, never great to begin with, have hit a new low. In addition, unforeseen challenges in my overall health continue to pop up.
But despite the onslaught my body has endured, it’s the effect on my mind, emotions, and spirit that has made these months of dealing with breast cancer such an eye-opening experience. I am not the woman I once was…
God has used breast cancer to challenge and stretch me.
He’s shown me things about myself that, frankly, I would have preferred to ignore. But He doesn’t allow me to, and for that I am very grateful.
While I don’t believe that God gave me breast cancer, I do believe that He allowed it. I also believe that He has used this time of suffering for my ultimate good. And I truly believe that in the ways that truly count… I am better for it.
Why? Because I have come to know without a shadow of doubt that:
- I am no longer as much a slave to fear; when it rolls in, and it does, I know who to take it to… Jesus!
- I am never alone; no matter how bad circumstances get there is comfort in knowing that Jesus is in the trenches with me.
- I can be real about my pain and my Heavenly Father still loves me; I no longer have to fake it until I make it.
- No matter how hard things get… God is good; there is rest and peace in knowing this is true.
God’s grace and mercy have been with me every step of my breast cancer journey.
Mind you, I understand that my travels with breast cancer are nowhere near done. Although I have been declared “cancer free,” I still have the murkiness of the next four years stretching out ahead of me before I reach that faraway destination called “remission.”
As a result, I can look towards the future with increased confidence in the One who brings grace and mercy, to all who love and trust Him.
Below is a list of posts that I began writing when I was diagnosed in April 2016 and continue until the present, one year later. I offer these essays in the hope that others going through similar struggles will be encouraged.
And please… feel free to contact me for prayer or perhaps to share some of what you are going through. It would be an honor to come alongside you.
In His love,