22 Sep CARRIED THROUGH CANCER
Spring Break is always a blessing for a teacher. The week of rest, relaxation and fun was typical for my annual break from school, and I looked forward to Spring Break 2014. A month before, I had found a lump during a breast exam and had scheduled a mammogram during the week of my break. I wasn’t alarmed, due to my history of fibroid cysts, and didn’t mind waiting a month to see the doctor. After a mammogram and sonogram that week, a biopsy was recommended. I frustratingly agreed to do one the following day, more annoyed by the inconvenience than concerned by what the results of the biopsy might be. After all, I had regular check-ups, had no history of cancer in my family, and I lived a relatively healthy life.
The day I returned to school after Spring Break, I received a call from the doctor’s office with the results of the biopsy. I had breast cancer. I immediately called my husband and shared the news with him. My mind began to race…How could this be? And how would this change our future?Could this possibly be wrong? Lumpectomy/Mastectomy? Will I have to undergo chemotherapy treatments? Maybe I could just have radiation…But wait….what do I know to be true? “Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
My husband and I had the opportunity to discuss everything we were thinking that evening. As we talked, we knew our faith would be tested. We wanted, no matter the outcome of the diagnosis and treatment, for our lives to be ones that reflected Christ. Having accepted Christ as my personal Savior in my childhood, I had complete confidence of my eternal destination. I knew that He had the perfect plan for my life. He had always been faithful, and I knew He always would be. Having just studied the book of Nehemiah with our Sunday School class, the verse we claimed was Nehemiah 6:9, reminding us that though the enemy may try to discourage us, we could cry out to God to strengthen us and help us to complete His work despite our circumstances. “They were all trying to frighten us thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’ But I prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands.’”
After meeting with my surgeon and oncologist, surgery was scheduled for two weeks after my diagnosis and chemotherapy would begin one month later. A total of 16 rounds of chemotherapy and 28 of radiation would be my treatment plan. My mind was trying to process all the information…that was more chemotherapy than I usually heard of a breast cancer patient having as a part of an initial treatment plan. It didn’t sound good! I would lose my hair, and likely my dignity. In all my childhood dreams, losing my hair had never been a part of any of them, nor was having cancer.
Everything began to happen so quickly, and I could see God’s hand working in it all. I was so thankful God provided the perfect teacher to step in to finish the school year. The precious angels who were my students that year, were prayer warriors on my behalf with their new teacher and supportive parents. God used each one of them to encourage me through letters, cards, pictures, gifts, and meals. My daughter would be graduating from high school in a few weeks, and I would be able to attend her graduation…with a wig. But I could be there for her. I was blessed with the gift of many wonderful friends and family throughout the dark road of cancer, and I saw the hands and feet of Christ at work in ways I had never experienced before. I learned how important it is for me to be those same hands and feet to others in need and the disappointment I felt when someone refused to allow me to bless them during their own hardship.
God drew me close to Him and blessed me in so many ways during my journey of cancer. While life wasn’t going as I had planned, I knew my life was in His hands. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11. Rather than wallow in pity for myself, God allowed me to understand that I could fully trust Him. My eyes needed to be fixed on Him and not myself or my circumstances. While vision was definitely a side effect of the chemotherapy I struggled with, and my ability to read my Bible many days was effected, I tried to not only cling to His promises, but commit to memory new truths.
Among my favorites:
As for God, His way is perfect: The Word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Who is God besides the Lord? And Who is our Rock, except our God? For it is God, who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. Psalm 18:30-32. But as for me, I will always have hope. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, and of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure- Psalm 71:15. I was reminded of the Biblical account of the Israelites fighting the Amalekites in Exodus 17. It was through the support of Aaron and Hur holding up Moses’ arms that victory was possible. My friends were that support to me throughout the long and dark journey I was on. My desire is to be that same light to others in their daily lives that others were to me in my darkest of days—hands and feet of Christ, prayer warriors, encouragers, and friends. No matter the struggles we face, God’s grace is sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9) Though we may not understand the circumstances, we can trust the One who loves us and whose plans are greater than our own. (Isaiah 55:9)
I am thankful that I have been cancer free almost three years. While life can be difficult and our days are numbered, I am confident that “I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12.