Things get real simple when one is faced with a cancer diagnosis. All of sudden all priorities in my life shifted. You realize that survival is the most important thing. But I was not the only one who received a cancer diagnosis…my whole family did. You see, when one family member experiences cancer, the whole family goes along on the journey with you. Charles felt the helplessness of not being able to fix my cancer. My children also had to face seeing me sore from surgery, sick from chemo, and too exhausted and weary to care for them like they needed.
Despite that, cancer changed me for the better. Knowing that I had no one to turn to except God, the one thing that happened almost instantaneously with my diagnosis was my realization that I was as far away from God as I could get and I needed Him now more than ever. I had failed God so miserably but when I cried out to Him He was there.
I felt Him close. I asked for Him to miraculously heal me, but He didn’t. Instead He sustained me through the cancer journey and I experienced God in profound and dynamic ways throughout that time. It’s interesting, I never once blamed God for my diagnosis, in fact, I truly think cancer was God’s way of getting my attention. God allowed me to experience cancer not only to awaken my spiritual passion again, but to change me physically, mentally and emotionally so He could refine me to be the woman of God He had always intended me to become.
I did not have long to prepare myself for the battle ahead of me. Henry Blackaby was preaching at our church the Sunday I went forward and told my church family that I had cancer. God had led me to scripture in Isaiah 38:9-20 and I read this lengthy passage to my church family. Throughout the next two years I returned to that scripture daily.
I don’t know what happened next exactly, but my church family suddenly became this mighty army of prayer warriors, and angels of mercy. No sooner had I returned home from the hospital than my refrigerator was bulging with food. Car pools had been set up for my kids to get them to school and after-school activities. Women were jockeying for position to clean my house…wish they still did that :)…hint, hint.
People started to send me emails, jokes, anecdotes, cards, letters, and I was overwhelmed with all the care and attention I was receiving. It was the koinania I had read about but now saw in action. The church family loving on me, ministering to me in ways I never imagined. Being a writer, I started writing about my experiences and I journaled and I spoke and gave my testimony and I had opportunity to pray with doctors, nurses, technicians and share the Gospel with other sisters of breast cancer.
That said, it was a long journey and one I would not wish to repeat or have it experienced by anyone else. Chemotherapy was the low point for me. I was disfigured from the surgery (gone was my vanity); I was bald (gone was my beauty); my identity as a woman was marred…and I wondered if Charles would ever look with the same eyes of love at me again.
I needn’t have worried. I don’t think I honestly knew how much Charles loved me, until he tenderly bathed me a week after I was out of the hospital, because I could not lift my arms above my head after my operation. Feeling vulnerable and self-conscious with my scars and deformity, I could barely look at myself in the mirror. But my sweet husband told me I was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. When I started losing my hair in clumps after my first chemo treatment, he was the one who shaved my head bald. I laughed but he cried.
It was a two year battle. I have battle scars for sure but I am here to testify to God’s faithfulness and His protectiveness of me throughout the battle. He showed his love through the people of God. He cared for my children and reached out to my husband. Scripture became nuggets of gold to be cherished and pondered upon. I heard God’s voice more clearly then, than at any other time in my life and I trust Him more now than ever. I appreciate life more; it is God’s gift to me. I appreciate my church family so much. My church family had no idea how much phone calls, cards, loving on my kids,cleaning my house meant to me at the time, but I pray that they do now.
I believe God has allowed me the opportunity to come alongside other women who face breast cancer, and show to them in a tangible way through my experience that there is life after cancer. God is faithful.
I know that every day is a gift. Cancer free today, does not necessarily mean I will be cancer – free tomorrow. That said, I believe God has a plan and a purpose for me yet and I will follow wherever He leads.
It’s all about thriving, not just surviving!