I was (am) a woman of pride. I pride myself in my family. I have the tendency to take pride in my accomplishments. I pride myself on looks, material possessions. I struggle with pride daily.
At that time shortly after Carmen was born, I was living a life of storing up all treasures on earth and I was falling more and more away from God. I became focused on myself, I lost my dependency, or better put, I was not desperate for God. I was involved in numerous activities at church, but a personal quiet time with the Lord was not on my agenda. I rarely picked up my Bible. The world started to lure me in and lull me into complacency. Slowly, gradually, I started to become dissatisfied with my life. Believe it or not, with all the blessings God had given to me, I started to complain and I began to fall into a spiritual valley. Several years went by and I lost contact with God and as a result I started to question whether I even believed in God. I stopped praying. I wore a mask at church…no one suspected I wasn’t the perfect Christian wife. Yet at home, my true self showed, to my kids, and to my husband. Charles watched me build a wall between us. I became disillusioned and continued to feed “self”. I was losing touch with my husband, and my children experienced my cutting tongue and biting criticism more often than a hug. I was a good actress at church, a terrible actress at home.
As I recounted before, we welcomed in the New Year in 2001 and Cathey led us in prayer just after midnight. Her words prophesied change in the New Year and one thing she said impacted me profoundly. She said that as we start the New Year, we look at the hope a New Year brings, but we recognize too that it could be a year that could change our lives forever. She seriously looked into the faces of those young people and said, this could be the year of decision for some to follow God, to rededicate their lives, this could also be the year where someone in the room could become ill, or be involved in a car accident and we would have to surround that person with the love of God not only during good times but also during those trying times too. She also said that perhaps one of us right here in this room would not be with us next New Year alluding to the fact that God is control over our lives and he might move us to a new home, or we might follow Him to a heavenly home.
The year began in 2001 with my taking down the Christmas tree and putting away decorations, to my rebooking a missed routine mammogram appointment because I had been sick with the flu most of the Christmas holidays. Little did I know then how significant that “wait” would be until I had my mammogram done a month later and the technician discovered a problem in my right breast. Cathey’s words echoed in my head when the technician turned to me and said, “There could be a problem”. “I see something…” she said, “…probably nothing…it’s so small, barely detectable. Certainly I wouldn’t have seen anything if you had come in a month earlier, but I think we should investigate further,…just in case.”
An ultra-sound and within a couple of weeks, a biopsy, confirmed her initial suspicions. I was diagnosed with Stage 2 of 4 Breast Cancer. (There are four grades of Cancer…grading from 1-4 determines how aggressive the cancer should be treated. In my case because of the 2 of 4 staging and the fact that I had actually two malignant sites in my right breast, my surgical oncologist recommended I undergo a mastectomy of that breast followed closely by chemotherapy.)
I can’t describe the numbness one feels after hearing the diagnosis of cancer. Both Charles’ mother and my mother had died of breast cancer. I faced the possibility of dying.
Many women when faced with this diagnosis as well as surgery begin researching their options. I was no different. When we, meaning my husband and me, asked our doctor how long he considered my survival if we opted to have a less invasive surgery or not have surgery at all, he bluntly replied, “One year.” So we elected to be as aggressive as we could with the treatment based on that prognosis.
On March 6, 2001, I underwent surgery followed by four cycles of chemotherapy treatment. Two weeks after my first chemo treatment, I began to lose all my hair. Every three weeks between March and the end of June that year I submitted to the chemotherapy. Since many wonder and ask, I will relay that the treatments are nasty…no doubt about that but I thought of it as a race with four separate sections. It’s an endurance race and if I focused my eyes on the finish line, I was better able to handle the course.