The words no one wants to hear. I had heard them before.
My dad died at 47 from brain cancer when I was only 16. My grandmother lived with us when she had stomach cancer and my uncle would come once a day to change her bandage. I couldn’t believe how you could see inside her open stomach when he changed the dressing. My aunt, who lived right next door to us got breast cancer and within a year, had died.
Nine years ago I had some breast pain and thought I felt a lump so I visited the doctor who wasn’t sure he could feel anything but sent me to get an ultrasound. Several lumps showed and they wanted to do a biopsy. The doctor had a hard time getting the needle in the proper place and after sticking me with several needles we tried a new position. I laid on my stomach and he was able after several tries to get some fluid from the lumps. Before I left the hospital he told me to expect the worst. I had told my sisters and just one other friend what was going on.
The call came the next day from the nurse who had assisted the day before. She said, “It is cancer.” She had told me the day before that she was a breast cancer survivor and so she encouraged me to remember it was not the end of the world.
I had decided, that whatever the outcome was, I was going to thank God. So sitting on my couch in my living room, I thanked the Lord and asked Him for strength and guidance for what was ahead. I then got on the phone and set up a conference call with my two sisters. I wanted to tell them both at the same time. I told them it was cancer and I was having a doctor’s visit to see where we went from there. I told them I was at peace. Of course, given what my family had gone through with cancer in the past it was tough for them but they were very encouraging. I later learned, as soon as they got off the phone with me they called each other and talked and cried together. Then they went into action.
I was living in South Carolina at the time and my one sister had recently moved from there to Ohio due to her job. My youngest sister was in Maryland with the rest of the family. My Ohio sister showed up at my house the next day and stayed for two weeks to help me go to all the doctor’s appointments before surgery and get everything ready. As school was to start in less than a month and I was going to miss it so she helped me set up my classroom.
Once I got the date of surgery which was three weeks away my other sister arranged for all of us to go to the beach and stay in her condo while we waited. My brother, came for several days and we had a wonderful week at the beach – eating crabs, swimming, boating in my brother-in-law’s boat and reading. We read all about the proper foods to eat and at the time there was a big thing about links between beef and breast cancer. One of my sisters has not eaten beef since. Views on this, due to new studies have changed somewhat but I still limit myself to beef once a month. We also were introduced to flax. It was a great time and every night everyone prayed for me. Two of my cousins and their wives also were down the ocean so they joined us several times to play 500, a family favorite card game and then pray with us. It was fun, restful and I felt loved.
People’s reactions to my getting cancer were different. When I went to school during that summer one day right after the diagnosis, people had just learned about it and most did not know how to react. We had just lost our secretary the previous year to a long bout with ovarian cancer and I think they were thinking, oh no, here we go again. Some were holding back and trying not to cry. I kept telling them I was OK. I got a good laugh when we went down the hall and one teacher said, “I don’t know what the big deal is, everyone dies from something!” Others were horrified but I know this person’s sense of humor and thought that is true though it was hard for my sister to hear.
I bring this all up because a friend has found out she has breast cancer and it has metastasized to other organs. She is presently having chemo treatments. She is in a good place and knows that God is still on the throne. As it was tougher for my family in many ways than it was for me, I think that is even truer for her as she is married and has children, the youngest starting college in the fall. Many times it is harder emotionally for the family as they don’t want to lose their loved one. No one wants to see people they love suffering. My heart goes out to them and I ask that you pray for them. Read about their journey here.
Life can be difficult I know, but I am thankful that we have a God who is bigger than all of our problems and in the midst of the pain and the uncertainty we can lean on Him, cry to Him, rest in Him. He is faithful.