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!
Scripture Thought for the Week: “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.” Luke 11:33
As I contemplated what I would write this week as I continue to give tribute to those who have dealt with breast cancer or are dealing with this diagnosis, I wondered what I could share that I haven’t written about in the past. Being a breast cancer survivor I know the importance of bringing attention to this worthy cause and also giving alms to the Great Physician, our Lord Jesus Christ.
I discovered this poem that I think is a beautiful reminder that although we cannot understand the mind of God, He is sufficient regardless of our journey.
Unfolding the Rose
A young, new preacher was walking with an older, more seasoned preacher in the garden one day. Feeling a bit insecure about what God had for him to do, he was asking the older preacher for some advice. The older preacher walked up to a rose bush and handed the young preacher a rosebud and told him to open it without tearing any of the pedals. The young preacher looked in disbelief at the older preacher and was trying to figure out what a rosebud could possibly have to do with his wanting to know the will of God for his life and ministry. But, because of his great respect for the older preacher, he proceeded to try and unfold the rosebud while keeping every petal intact. It wasn’t long before he realized how impossible this was to do. Noticing the young preacher’s inability to unfold the rosebud without tearing it, the older preacher began to recite the following poem:
It is only a tiny rosebud
A flower of God’s design;
But I cannot unfold the petals
With these clumsy hands of mine.
The secret of unfolding flowers
Is not known to such as I.
GOD opens this flower so sweetly,
Then, in my hands, they die.
If I cannot unfold a rosebud,
The flower of God’s design,
Then how can I have the wisdom
To unfold this life of mine?
So, I’ll trust in Him for leading
Each moment of my day.
I will look to Him for His guidance
Each step of the Pilgrim’s way.
The pathway that lies before me
Only my Heavenly Father knows.
I’ll trust him to unfold the moments,
Just as He unfolds the rose.
Lord, thank you for those who have become survivors of breast cancer. As children of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, aid us to never hide the light of truth regarding our faith in you. Just as you made known you were the Son of the Most High God, may we stand true, tall and strong in that announcement today. Thank you for those who surround us in a time of need to encourage our souls, pray for us, walk alongside us and make our loads lighter and may we never forget those who have been healed eternally from breast cancer.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
To finish up this month of blogs that has dealt with the subject of breast cancer, I decided to reprint the first of four devotionals that are found in my first devotional book, And I Heard God Whisper, 'Walk with Me' that journal my encounter with breast cancer fourteen years ago. I praise God that He has given me these past fourteen years to speak, write, teach and share about His goodness and mercy, not only in healing my body, but saving my soul! May these writings that are shared this month bring encouragement to your heart or to someone you know dealing with a diagnosis of breast cancer. So many advances have been made and continue to be explored in this area. May God bless you and bring you peace!
Walking through the Waters of Breast Cancer
“I have good news and bad news…”
Thought for the Day:“Therefore we do not lose heart, though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” II Corinthians 4: 16-18
It was August, the day following my husband, Gary’s, birthday. I received a phone call from my family doctor’s office asking me to come in for a consultation. Usually tests results are given orally over the phone. I knew I was in trouble.
“Well, I have some good news and I have some bad news.” That was the beginning of the unfolding diagnosis from my medical doctor three days after a painful extraction of breast tissue at our local women’s clinic following my yearly mammogram. With Gary by my side, the doctor preceded to explain that although small, the lump discovered by a self-breast examination, and later confirmed by a mammogram and ultrasound, was cancerous. I was floored, to say the least. After all, I come from good “stock”….my mother and her sisters are all in their 80’s and there is no history of breast cancer in my family. To magnify the puzzle of cause, I breast fed my kids, exercised like a maniac and watched my diet which kept my weight in the correct column as required on all the physician’s charts. So, how did this happen???
Talk about an untimely discovery. It had only been five months since our family had experienced the death of my father-in-law, a ten-year cancer survivor, who had been diagnosed two months before his death with acute leukemia. How could my two children, both in college, go through this heart wrenching news after just losing their grandfather?
But all the questioning in the world didn’t change this startling revelation. I had cancer….period….and I needed a surgeon. Gary immediately took over and began making the calls to suggested surgeons and oncologists. Gary called his dad’s oncologist to find guidance for breast cancer patients and was told to make an appointment at his office. Dr. Stanley Marks, one of the leading oncologists in the country, was a blessing from God and only one of the many provisions by my gracious Heavenly Father throughout this adventure.
Besides getting the medical team assembled, our next priority was to tell our children. Kimberly was in the process of getting ready to return to college and Nicholas was already at college since he was a member of the men’s soccer team and had returned two weeks before the start of classes. The children were told individually and each time I began to cry and apologize. “I never wanted to bring you any grief or added pain,” I would say. A mother never wants to be the cause of stress, pain or unhappiness in her children’s lives. Being college students is difficult enough, but affix the loss of a grandparent and then your mother being diagnosed with breast cancer, how does a young person assimilate this news?
Being a child of God, I wanted the church to begin to pray since I was having a difficult time praying for myself. A shock wave was flowing throughout my entire being that is complicated to describe. For instance, Nicholas was due to graduate from college the following May. I began to wonder if I would be alive to attend. Remember, I was of the generation when cancer was mentioned, the next question was, “how long does he/she have”….
Another example of my clouded thoughts happened during my initial appointment with the surgeon. He revealed the cancer was a bit more concerning than what my family physician communicated to us. At this point, I simply began arguing with the surgeon about the conflicting reports. His answer….”go home and get yourself together. Your mental outlook is 90% of the cure. This is a slow growing cancer and your chances are excellent for a full recovery, but you need to mentally be prepared.”
Mentally prepared….now that’s a mouthful. Let me see, I have a disease growing within me and the extent is unknown until the lump is removed and surrounding tissue is tested. Lymph nodes should be tested as well to ensure the cancer has not gotten into the body’s “vine” system and become a conduit for the disease’s transfer throughout my body. Oh, and let’s not forget the treatment could possibly be chemo and that would make me sick and cause my hair to fall out. Is a woman mentally prepared for that?
It was at this point I needed to call in the troops. My Christian fellowship of believers; the church body, my pastor, my family and friends were exposed to this startling news and asked to pray. They were also requested to give me space and time before calling on the phone. I just couldn’t talk with anyone. So, as a Christian, where was my faith? Where was the covering of peace to enable me to realize God was in control? First, when prayer seems to be difficult and the exact wording arduous, pray anyway. Scream, shout, question, whatever the emotion, whatever the thought, just tell it to God. He knows what you’re feeling anyway, it’s no surprise to Him.
Second, there is a peace that begins to flood your thoughts to calm the anxiousness of not knowing the outcome of the situation. That’s the prayers of the Christian community. Remember Moses needing his arms to be held up when his own personal strength was gone? That’s the fellowship of believers coming alongside and being God’s arms to hold and sustain us.
Third, although prayer was challenging, scripture emerged from the alcove of my mind to remind me of God’s love and provision. Bible verses I memorized as a child seared through the emotions and turmoil of the unknown to energize my faith and give me peace that God was in control and everything would be as He designed. All I needed to do was hang on.
As my pastor prayed the Sunday following this diagnosis as Gary and I went forward for prayer, “God this isn’t a surprise to you. You knew before Cookie was born that she would have to face this day because all her days were ordained by you before one of them came into being.” Talk about Psalm 139 becoming reality!
Prayer: Dear Father, this writing may bring back memories for some who are reading its contents as it has for me. It may be a comfort for someone walking through the waters of a recent diagnosis. Whatever emotions are filling hearts at this moment, please enable each reader to realize that You alone are greater than any disease, emotion or trial we can face. The blueprint for each life is only known by you, Father. Willingly handing the reigns of our life to you is the beginning of our cures. Use us this day, Father. Amen.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Thought for the Week: “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.” Psalm 18:32
This verse will make a person stop in his tracks. God makes our way perfect? In the midst of despair, loneliness, illness, death, abandonment, heartbreak…are those experiences considered perfect according to God? It is very difficult when life takes a sharp adverse turn and you are trying your best to live a life that is pleasing to God. Unfortunately, Christians and even “good people” are not exempt from the heartaches of life.
It all began when Eve took that big bite of the apple from the forbidden tree. After being instructed by God on which fruit trees to choose for a snack, she was questioned by the snake as to the validity of what she’d been told. Through twists and turns, Satan tempted her beyond what she could explain and she took the fruit of the forbidden tree and ate; thus, sin entered the world and havoc has been reigning ever since.
I Corinthians 10:13 quotes, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” What was Eve’s way out? Possibly call on God to clarify her understanding of which tree to eat?
But let’s go back to Psalm 18:32 and read again the first part. “It is God who arms me with strength…” If God arms us with strength and makes our way perfect….maybe the assumption is that God needs to equip us with strength and then our direction will find the correct reading on the compass to become perfect…to find our way back to His plan. For how can we possibly have God and perfection in the same sentence without allowing Him to do the strengthening of our resolve? We can do nothing apart from God’s Will without His covering over our daily lives and resurrecting our souls with His horn of salvation.
To follow up with another verse from Psalm 18:30, “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him.” God represents perfection; that we know. His word is flawless, without sin, stain or blemish; that we’ve been taught. God is a shield, the ultimate source of protection for ALL who take refuge in Him; do we truly realize what that means? Delve into the word, refuge. It means a safe haven, a sanctuary, a shelter, a place of safety, an asylum, a harbor, a retreat…sound like a place you’d want to spend some time? For those of us who run to our Creator to seek refuge; He will become our shield, our guard, our defender, our protection, our screen, our safeguard, our armor. This is where I seek to remain.
Going through breast cancer wasn’t one of my highlights on the timeline of my journey, but it was important for me to endure and others to witness. It was at this juncture in life that I realized life will someday end. I need to be prepared and stay that way; however, on this earthly journey I desire to be closer to the Lord. I crave knowledge of the Lord Jesus and His Word. I yearn to be a prayer warrior and an inspiration to those who know me. I implore of the Lord to allow me to teach my grandchild and tell her about the Lord’s goodness and read her the stories about Jesus and the other great stories of old.
I am thankful for each and every opportunity I am given to tell others about my journey and I continue to work hard until Jesus calls me home. God’s way is perfect, His word is flawless and yes, He arms me with the strength to face whatever comes my way that my way will be made perfect in Christ.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your goodness, mercy and especially for your healing power. May we continue to learn the interpretation of scripture through the guidance of the Holy Spirit knowing you desire to make our way perfect for your glory! Amen!
Living on a parcel of farm land from "back in the day" we have an abundance of Osage orange trees and walnut trees surrounding our neighborhood. With the coming of fall and the changing of the seasons, the walnut trees are among the first to loose their leaves along with a boatload of nuts. After returning from a busy weekend of activities, I went into my master bathroom which faces the front of our home to find the trees across the street, walnut in description, have lost almost all their leaves. Since we have a nice window in the bathroom which welcomes an incredible amount of sunlight during the daylight hours, at night I am always a little skeptical of what might be seen through our shades when the overhead light is on from across the street. (That is purely my modest upbringing, but it's always a ready question in my mind.)
During the summer I don't give it a second thought. The trees are displaying a phenomenal leaf display and I can hardly see any homes surrounding ours. Bottom line, I don't think twice about that master bathroom shade in the summer. My husband assures me, even by going outside and looking up at that window when I am standing in front of my sink, that nothing can be seen. Still I am uncomfortable....my leaf barrier has been taken away until next Spring.
When I was contemplating what to write on my devotional page today, I thought about the barriers we use to cover those parts of us that would expose a deeper side of who we are; the failures we have encountered, the hurts we have suffered or possibly the misdeeds inflicted on others. Often we like keeping people at arms' length, smiling on Sundays at church and occasionally making a few cookies for the requested bake sale or perhaps a meal once in a while for a church member. But if we were the ones needing help or assistance, if the barriers or facade of pretense were exposed, what would be seen by others? Who are we without our barriers?
Life is messy, there are no two ways around it. We mess up and others mess up because life will never be perfect. It wasn't intended to be. Life here on this earthly journey is temporary. There is a much better, no guilt journey coming. One filled with perfect peace, joy uncontainable, calmness unexplainable delivering a painless eternity, empty of sadness, Barriers will be lifted and destroyed just as that thick curtain in the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom without any help or assistance from man. God removed it giving us the opportunity to walk directly to the foot of the Cross and receive His blessings through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Barriers.....God can rid you of them....and cover you with His steadfast love.
Be with us Father God and give us the courage to shine for Jesus allowing all our self-made barriers and facades to fall so that others might see the Light of the World in us. In Jesus' Name, Amen!
Psalm 61:3 "For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe." NIV
Proverbs 18:10 "The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe." NIV