My life changed forever on October 13, 2017, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was immediately thrown into a whirlwind of doctor appointments, scans, tests, weekly blood draws, 2 surgeries, and then I had to make life-altering and life-saving decisions all within a month’s time. It was overwhelming, to say the least.
Entering the Ring
My oncologist said that if I didn’t follow the aggressive treatment plan that he had designed specifically for me, I would die within a year. So, I put on my boxing gloves and entered the ring for the fight of my life.
I was diagnosed with ER-positive, HER2-negative invasive ductal carcinoma stage IIB, at age 47. I didn’t have a family history of breast cancer, so it was not something that I had expected. The tumor grew rather quickly and was located in what the oncologist called “an uncommon spot,” which he referred to as a high-traffic intersection of blood vessels and lymph nodes that provide a lot of ways for the cancer to spread. The cancer had begun to micro-metastasize into the sentinel lymph nodes, he said.
It was a shock to get this diagnosis, and at the same time it wasn’t, because 3 days before my diagnosis, God revealed to me that I would walk the road of breast cancer so someone else would come to know Him through my journey. I never had to ask “why me,” because I felt there was a purpose for my struggles. When everything seemed overwhelming, I held on to the belief that it was okay for me not to understand everything.
Smiling Through Greater Purpose
I underwent an aggressive treatment plan consisting of 5 months of weekly chemotherapy treatments, with 3 different chemo drugs, followed by 2 months of daily radiation treatments. The treatments were long and grueling, but I smiled and laughed through it all.
An oncology infusion nurse told me that in all her years of working there, she had never seen anyone smile and laugh as much as I did while undergoing treatments. She said that it was like having a party when I was there, telling me that I was different from her other patients. She asked me why I was so happy while going through something so awful.
My answer was that the joy of my faith in God was my strength, and I had hope. No matter how grim the oncologist’s prognosis for me was, I had hope, because my God was bigger than my cancer. He was in control, and as long as I was still breathing, I had hope.
Knowing that there was a greater purpose for what I was going through made it so much easier to endure. I looked at my cancer journey as a win-win situation. If God used the chemo and radiation to heal me, I won. If God chose to call me home, I still won, because I would get to go to heaven. I was guaranteed a healing, whether it was on this side of life or the next. That gave me great hope and peace.
To keep from getting too overwhelmed, I took it one challenge at a time, one treatment at a time, and one day at a time. I celebrated the small victories along the way. The best victory of all was being able to ring the bell at the end of chemo treatments.
Music also played a role in my getting through treatments. I had a playlist in my MP3 player that I titled “battle songs.” I listened to these songs continuously throughout treatments. It helped to keep me calm, and to keep my focus on winning the battle, and more important, to keep my eyes focused on God.
Of course, I had some very low days, but I never gave up hope. I set a time limit on the moments when I was feeling low. I allotted a small amount of time to feel whatever emotion I had, and allowed myself to express it anyway I needed to. When the time was up, I refocused myself.
I made myself find the good in every situation—in the sickness and in the challenges. It was okay to have a bad day or a low moment, but I didn’t allow myself to stay there.
Cancer has a way of changing your perspective. It made me see that the “big things” that I worried about before cancer were really the “little things” that didn’t matter in the grand scheme of life. I realized that the “little things” that I took for granted before were really the “big things” that were the most important.
Cancer made me appreciate so much about life, and it taught me never to take anything for granted again. It deepened my faith, and strengthened my relationships with others. My family, friends, and church family rallied around me to provide meals and rides to my treatments.
Boxes of Hope
In 2019, after my treatment was over, I started a program called Boxes of Hope (www.boh4bc.org), to give back and to walk alongside other women as they go through their breast cancer journey.
Walking the road of breast cancer was a very long and difficult road. It was extremely hard, and was full of many bumps and curves along the way. But I never walked it alone. If I stumbled and fell down, I picked myself back up and soldiered on, with a fierce determination to keep going.
If I felt too weak to stand back up, there was always a hand to help. My body might have weakened during treatments, but my faith grew stronger than ever—steadfast and unwavering, because it was anchored in hope.