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.