In January of 2016, I went in for my routine, annual physical. When examining me, the nurse practitioner said, “I feel a small lump. It’s probably just a cyst, but I want you to have some additional tests in addition to your mammogram.” I really wasn’t too worried at this point. Even after the mammogram and CT scan when they said I needed to come back the next day for a biopsy, I thought, “I have fibrous breast tissues; besides, there’s not a history of breast cancer in my family.”
I approached the cancer diagnosis much as I approach any task in my life…just tell me what I need to do. Show me the path and the finish line and I’ll get there. Through the surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, my eyes were always on the finish line. I have a husband and kids who need me to be strong and healthy; what do I need to do to take care of this cancer?
I work in a healthcare setting where my patients see me every week. Before my surgery, I told patients that I would be on leave for a few weeks for a medical procedure. Thankfully, no one asked questions because I was not ready to share my story. However, one very special and intuitive patient asked me to go to his bag and take out an envelope. “There is something there for you,” he said. In it was a laminated card with a writing of St Francis de Sales.
“Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life in fear;
rather, look to them with hope that, as they rise God, whose you are,
will deliver you out of them.
He has kept you until now – do you but hold fast to his dear hand and he will lead you safely
Through all things;
And when you cannot stand, he will bear you in his arms.
Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father
Who cares for you today will take care of tomorrow and every day.
Either he will shield you from suffering or he will give you strength to bear it.
Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.”
I read this occasionally throughout the months of my treatments, but I don’t think I really grasped the message. Now when I look back, I can see that while I was going through chemo and radiation, getting by day to day, God was providing me with the strength and the people that I needed to get through it.
This past summer, I had the amazing opportunity to spend a week white water kayaking and rafting in Montana with ten other cancer fighters and survivors from my company, and eight instructors (many of whom also are cancer survivors). We had opportunities to reflect on and talk about our illness and recovery. One of the ideas we pondered was to compare life to the river. A quote from my dear friend “Speedbump” who is still fighting her fight… “The river is like a life, just stay afloat and wear a life jacket for backup.” God is my life jacket, keeping me afloat.