As long as I can remember, fear of some kind was lurking. It was as if I had a shadow of sorts always around the corner; never physically touching me but always looming. Through early childhood, I was afraid that something would happen to my mother. Early teen years brought fear of the dark. Being a newlywed, I remember thinking about ‘adult’ life and how I needed to ‘grow up.’ Leave the fears behind. Move on with my life.
On my 30th birthday, I had decided that this was the year. My fears were not going to stop me from living life to the fullest. I prayed fervently that the Lord would allow me to overcome them, and He did. Six months later, I was diagnosed with Stage 2a breast cancer. Strangely enough, though understandably broken, I had peace, not fear.
My doctors decided on an aggressive plan of action for me which included a bilateral mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and five years of hormone therapy. They always say that when Chemo is over, you are free to live your life; to go back to how it was…only it’s never the same. Accepting that unacceptable idea for me was a turning point, among many, that has transformed my fears into faith.
Please do not think that I have some great faith. I trust in a GREAT God, and my faith is ‘white-knuckled’ at best.
I relied heavily on humor through those days. (Five years out brings a new view and a whole lot of perspective.) When I saw myself bald and breastless in the mirror for the first time, I knew soul-deep that I had really been sick for much longer. I had been allowing my fears to suffocate my trust in Jesus. I prayed that He would deliver me from all of it. That I would wake up and it would all be just a horrible nightmare, but He didn’t. He chose to walk with me through it and to deliver me from my fear. Am I ever afraid? Yes, but it no longer controls me.
I was asked recently if the color pink bothers me. I would be a liar to say that it never has. October is a month of remembrance for many. TOO MANY. And pink is just a color. It raises only awareness, doing little to teach us how to really support those going through it or their families. Sometimes the best way we learn is to teach it. Do unto others as we would do for ourselves. The color pink reminds me that I am still learning and encourages me to share it with others. Living out the gospel with much grace. It’s messy.
There were so many wonderful and awful things that I learned through this journey. You become an expert of sorts on things you didn’t want to know. But the Lord doesn’t waste anything, so I want to share some of what I learned with you.
1) No loss of your breasts can make you anything less than just what you are: a beautiful woman created in the image of a Sovereign Lord, who knows the days of our lives and the number of breaths that we will take. He even knows the hair that will grow back on our bald heads…and it WILL grow back. And the scars? Let them become the roadmap that leads others and yourself to the cross.
2) Your femininity didn’t change simply because your hormonal or physical structure has. You are just as much female as the day you were born. Don’t lose your stature. Hold your head high and glorify the Lord in the work He is doing through you. You are royalty, so sister look up. You are not a victim. You are not just a cancer patient. Cancer can live with you, or you can choose to live with it. Work it sister…like a boss. He is crazy about you.
3) It’s ok to cry. To be angry. Let’s be real here…sometimes Jesus girls cuss. There is grace, and a really good and perfect God who can handle it. Receive it.
4) Your story is not my story. Mine is not theirs, or hers. We don’t know what tomorrow holds. It’s times like this, when we are broken, where the words come to life about tomorrow. (James 4:14) Live for today. He knows about tomorrow, but He’s waiting to show you abundant living today.
5) Learn to laugh. It’s part of who we are. It takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile, so you have my permission to ‘take it easy.’ God is ever present and always with us. Even in the bad times. The cancer diagnosis. The tests. All of it. Believe me, it took many nights over the toilet, crying like a baby, dealing with jealousy over hair and breasts and all things ‘unholy’ to realize that when we finally fall to our knees in worship, He is there. He never left.
Cancer is just a word. It doesn’t define you. His blood does. Let cancer become part of your story, and not the title of your book. He who began a good work in you will complete it. (Phil. 1:6) He is Jesus, The Faithful. And that my friends, is something to smile about!
Much love and prayers,