Several years ago I asked friends of mine who had walked through those waters of breast cancer if they would like to tell their own unique stories. One of those who wrote for me was a beautiful young woman named Kathie Sieffert. Kathie was first diagnosed in November of 2011. She wrote this beautiful devotional which walked us, as readers, through her experiences.
This year, in August of 2017, Kathie had a reoccurrence. The cancer had returned and only two months later, God extended His loving arms and escorted her into her eternal home.
This article and posting is not to be a discouragement for those who are reading and experiencing breast cancer. It is meant as a realization that one day each of us, whether through a health situation, an accident, or simply the call of God, we will enter our eternal resting place.
Please read this beautiful entry written by Kathie's hand and know she lived her life to the fullest, not in fear of a reoccurrence of this disease, but with the hope of living all her earthly days with her husband, children, family and friends and with an assurance of an eternal dwelling place with her Lord and Savior. This is certainly not the end for Kathie and her loved ones....she just made it home before them!
My name is Kathie. I come from a family where breast cancer is prevalent. My mother had breast cancer, as well as three of her sisters. One of my aunts is a part of a group of business women that assemble beautiful satchels that are full of things useful to women who are undergoing cancer treatment, and each year I would help them put these together. One day while assembling the satchels I remember thinking in the back of my mind, “I actually have an increased chance for getting breast cancer,” and it caused me a lot of concern (although I wouldn’t share that worry with my family). Every time I went for my yearly mammogram I would have a sonogram as well, and often I would have cysts that needed drained. I had a cyst so large on one occasion I actually lost a cup size once it was aspirated, and I was only an A cup to begin with! I will admit these yearly exams caused a lot of anxious moments for my husband and me.
It was the week before Thanksgiving of 2011 and we had just sold our house and were making preparations to move in to our new home three days after Christmas. I had been having pain in my chest which was worrying me some. “Probably just stress,” I thought to myself, although I didn’t voice it too often since I didn’t want my husband to worry or my children to be concerned. At the time I was one month short of my yearly mammogram and I had just seen my gynecologist and everything was fine; so we thought. I was putting off getting the mammogram, but my mom and I decided to go together to support each other. I was called back by the radiologist and told they found a papillary lesion, and they would test it and get me the results before Thanksgiving. Waiting for the results was very difficult for my husband and me, but the test came back negative; only a pre-cancerous lesion and I was advised to see a surgeon. We were so happy and relieved and celebrating my “near miss,” but little did we realize then the ordeal was far from over. When talking about the results and my family history with my husband I was very surprised when he said to me, “You should just have a double mastectomy so we don’t have to worry as much about you getting breast cancer.” I had to let that thought sink in for awhile. I know how important female body image is to men, and I know how important it is for women as well. It certainly wasn’t something my husband (or I) preferred, but we both realized there was something far more important at stake here.
I thought, “Well,” mine are so small anyway and worn out from breast feeding two children, and I am 44 years old; I guess I don’t really need them, and I won’t miss them that much. Besides, it will be a relief once they are gone; let’s do it!” Soon afterward I had no doubt this is what I wanted to do. Little did I realize that this mutual decision was to be one of the very most important decisions of my life. I believe the Lord was superintending these events and His hand was upon me and my family. My surgeon asked me if I was absolutely sure that I wanted a double mastectomy and if I would like to go through genetic counseling first to see if I really needed to do something as radical as this. I said, “Nope, my husband and I prayed about this and this is what we want to do.” After routine testing and a targeted MRI we were surprised that the surgeon found a “questionable area” in the same breast where the lesion was found. The fears and concerns that we once celebrated as over were now back, and more serious than ever. Again, the wait for the test results was grueling. My husband was not sleeping well, or at all, for several nights in a row; then one morning, four or five days later, the phone rang.
The surgeon said this was cancer, but said it may not be very big; maybe 2 centimeters. Our lives changed radically from that very moment. My husband and I wept while at the same time trying to comfort one another and stay somewhat positive while our minds were racing with a million “what ifs,” and “how do we do this?” It had always been someone else; now it was me. Surgery was scheduled for January 10th. What was to be a surgery of a few hours turned into several hours. My husband, sitting in the waiting room, saw several families come and go as he waited in silence. The lack of sleep and deep concern seemed to make time stand still for him. The waiting room attendant had no update at all throughout the long time I was in surgery. When the doctor finally did come to get my husband she did not have good news, and he could see it on her face. He was at least hoping the cancer did not spread to a lymph node, and that the surgery would take care of most everything. The surgeon informed him that several lymph nodes were affected, and that I would definitely have to undergo intensive chemotherapy and radiation. The problem area was not 2 centimeters as previously estimated, but a cluster of cancer 6 centimeters with 7 lymph nodes affected. Stage 3b; we were devastated!
Had my husband not suggested I get a mastectomy, and had I not got the testing associated with mastectomy surgery, I would not have know about the life-threatening issue in my breast. Had it been left until my next mammogram appointment, it would have been far too late. It was my husband who helped me make that decision and it was God who gave me the confidence in that decision and be comfortable with it afterward. Once the chemo began, I tried to take it in stride. My husband and mom took care of me and the kids and a whole host of family, friends and my church were praying for me. I lost my hair of course, which was not easy after losing both breasts, but my husband was at my side, and we got through it. I drew closer to God in prayer, tried to keep a journal, and tried to continue to encourage my family. Next came intensive radiation (32 treatments every day except weekends). This too I found very difficult, yet was very doable; I even continued to work throughout much of this treatment. In time I came to realize I really didn’t miss my breasts. I was relieved they were gone. I was confident I could wear a prosthetic bra and no one would even know. I just went through what I and so many others are terrified of; it can be done.
When my ordeal began I had no idea of the journey I had ahead of me, but I was confident God had a plan for me, and He would use me and my journey for something good and for His glory. A friend of mine from church (who had also been through breast cancer), gave me a piece of paper that said at the top, “List of Times God Has Not Been Faithful.” The paper is blank, and the paper remains blank. The bible verse at the bottom of the page is from Hebrews 12:2 which reads, “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Yes, God is still in control, even as I walked to the edge of life and death; even as my family and I went through lengthy treatment, he is still in control, and if you are his, he has you in his loving hands. This paper still hangs on my refrigerator door, three years later, as a reminder of his love and provision. As I was going through all of this, a particular Scripture verse seemed to keep popping up everywhere around me (on coffee mugs, cards, etc.). It was Proverbs 3:5-6 which says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” I had always loved this verse and God knew that it would give me much needed comfort in time of need. It certainly did. Paul the apostle also said something that provides hope and comfort in time of need:
Romans 8:18; 37-39 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The song, “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” was popular at the time of my ordeal, and I found it to be very true. Not to say I wasn’t a mess at times, I was; but with God and my family I survived and came out on the other side of things stronger, and my family is closer than ever realizing just how short life can be and knowing all the more just how precious life is.
Kathie Sieffert has been married to her husband, Mark, for 18 years. They have two children; Sarah age 17 and Joshua age 14. Kathie is a hairstylist who loves cooking for her family and friends and loves the outdoors.
Father God, we ask that you continue to pour out Your strength, comfort and peace to Kathie's husband, children and the rest of her family and friends. May the Word of God be spread as a result of Kathie's testimony of faith in Jesus Christ. Please be with those are reading this devotional. Your name be praised, Jesus our Lord, Amen!