Thank You God for Breast Cancer

I will never forget the night before my first mastectomy. I was early October and the house was very quiet. As I sat in my favorite “God spot” – I was praying and contemplating what was about to happen. I think most everyone thinks they will go to the grave with all their body parts intact. It simply had never occurred that might not be the case for me. I began to quietly sob. What happened next is something I have a hard time explaining. As I quietly cried I felt arms wrap around me and heard the words, “You don’t have to cry, because I am right here beside you – but, you can cry it you want to”. I know it was God’s arms and His words saying He understood the “want to” of crying because of what I was going through humanly, but that I didn’t have to cry out of fear and discouragement. Of course, then I cried like a baby…a child of God who knew, like never before, that I was being taken care of.

You might ask why I didn’t pray for a miraculous healing. I did, during the weeks between diagnosis and surgery. I knew my Lord was completely capable of healing me and prayed to that end. However, I didn’t get a miraculous healing and I am thankful I didn’t. Do you think that an odd response? Possibly, but I know now that if I had experienced a miracle I would praise God for that experience always pointing to that time and place as where God met me. Without a miraculous healing I learned to see God in each step of my cancer journey and praised Him for every moment of every day He sustained me. I believe my faith grew unlike it would have had God instantaneously healed me.

I was healed enough by early November to begin grappling with doing chemotherapy. How could I knowingly “poison” my temple? Together, my husband and I decided to go forward with what the doctors were recommending, praying that we would know if and/or when the Lord told us to stop.

Following the second treatment, and just four days prior to Christmas, I began running a 105° fever. I was admitted to the critical care unit. Everyone knew I was infected with something, they just didn’t know what. As I lay in my hospital bed that first night, I felt completely helpless knowing I was too weak to even get myself out of bed and that I was at the mercy of the staff. Those of you who know me know what a “doer” I am. There was nothing I could “do”, making this the most difficult place to find myself. My feeble prayer was simply “please God protect me”.

Early the next morning the doctor told me that, although they still weren’t certain what I was infected with, they were certain I was allergic to chemotherapy. My spinal cord was shutting down. All my blood results were at critical stage putting me on the verge of death. At that moment I knew God had screamed “stop!” I could not and would not ever do chemotherapy again.

The following day the answer to what I was infected with came. Staph! Then it struck me – this infection named “staph” had saved my life. Had I not begun running a fever, indicative of the infection, I would have died quietly at home never knowing the death grip chemotherapy had on me. God saved my life with staph! Not something very many people can say…but, our God uses some pretty unconventional tactics, doesn’t He?

On Christmas morning I was released and able to spend the celebration of Jesus’ birth with my family. The story doesn’t end there, though. On New Year’s Eve day I was back in the hospital with an abscess. The infection was surgically removed and the wound left open to heal. As I belly-ached to a wonderful nurse friend, asking why God didn’t just clear up the staph with the intravenous drugs instead of needing surgery – she quietly explained that my route was the most effective way of getting completely rid of staph. Once again it was clear God was in complete control and I was the recipient of His blessings.

…and so, I began to heal.

“Thank you God for breast cancer”. Without it my faith would not be as strong; my life not as rich; and I would not have a passion to help someone everyday be ALL God made them to be. Anyone who says Christian’s use Jesus as their crutch doesn’t get that we, as followers of Jesus, are the only ones walking straight and tall while all the rest of the world walks with a limp. My faith is not a crutch – it was, and is, my source of strength, hope and daily joy through life’s valleys of the shadow of death.

I have much more story to tell, because it was eighteen years ago this month that I began sojourning cancer. I will share from time to time in posts, so check back often.

Can You Say “Stage One” Five Times?

There it was…a lump in my right breast. I wasn’t looking for it, my hand just slid across a hard little lump during my shower that evening in January. I knew God had guided my hand over that exact spot because it remained elusive to being found again for several minutes.

Let me back up several decades… to my formative years. At the young age of eight, I climbed into bed with my mom one early Saturday morning after dad had left for work, and asked her how to invite Jesus into my heart. From that day forward I had a strong faith that only deepened when I married my high-school sweetheart at eighteen and became a mom to two sons in my early twenties. Our sons took us on a roller-coaster journey through possible leukemia, ADHD, fractured skulls, (yes both of them from different accidents) a dog attack to the face, and multiple other injuries that sent me scurrying to the closest first-aid course. I too, found myself dealing with multiple health issues that no one seem to be able to diagnose or help relieve the symptoms of. In 1986 I found myself in a women’s Bible Study at our church called “Diet, Discipline and Discipleship.” It intrigued me because much of my pain came from eating. I would later see that this study was homework for the biggest lesson of my life.

Here it was now 1991, and once again the doctors had no answers. A mammogram and ultra-sound revealed nothing, but I saw my doctor each month for a year. Each time she palpated the lump concluding that it was not changing. At the year anniversary we decided it would be prudent to just have me keep a watchful eye and report any change.

Fast forward and it is now spring of 1994: Our lives were full of activity with one son still in high school. I was happy to be a mom, wife and now model and actress. But, then – it happened again as my hand slipped over my soapy breast…a second lump just a short distance from the first.

Another mammogram and ultrasound to help diagnose – this time adding an MRI, and still the lumps remained invisible. I recall the doctor’s words being something like “well, we really should probably just take them out” and biopsies were scheduled. I had none of the risk factors for breast cancer – at least none that had been determined by 1994, so each medical professional I saw before and during the procedure assured me all was going to be fine. But everything was NOT fine. The words “cancer” and “multi-centric” were uttered before my husband and I walked out of the surgical room that day.
Life felt like a whirlwind over the next few weeks as I began to learn more about my specific diagnosis: multi-centric infiltrative ductal carcinoma. To spare you all the medical verbiage let’s move fast forward to about three weeks later when the final diagnosis came in following a subsequent surgery. They had found a total of five separate tumors – all in one-quarter of my right breast. The good news was I had five separate tumors; meaning none had metastasized, so the doctor did not have to add together the sizes of the tumors to stage me. The bad news was I had five separate tumors, which is all but unheard of!
Thus my cancer journey began. My faith was tested as my health eluded me…but, my faith became stronger, and more personal than before. “Thank you God for Breast Cancer” will be the continuation of my story. Please check back in a couple of days to read it.