October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast Cancer is a very common cancer, and I’m sure that many of you know someone who has been affected by it or passed away from it. My own Mother-in-Law has had it (and survived it) twice. It was such a miracle and I’m so grateful she made it through. I know that many people don’t make it through, which is, of course, a huge trial for all involved.
I asked my MIL to share her story on here, and I’m very grateful for the time she took to do this. She is an amazing woman!
It’s hard to decide what’s the right thing to say about having breast cancer twice. Maybe just knowing at the outset that I have beaten it twice is the best thing to know.
My first battle with it was in September of 2001. Yes. I was fighting and dealing with my own mortality while the nation dealt with 9/11. I feel oddly linked to that event having watched so much of the coverage while recouping from four surgeries in five weeks. Facing the possibility of my own death helped me relate to some of the terrible sorrow and loss of that attack.
It is a strange experience to have breast cancer save your life but it saved mine. While going through all the body scans they found a totally unrelated renal carcinoma (Kidney Cancer). This one is much harder to treat so you have to catch it before it spreads. We just discovered it by chance because breast cancer doesn’t go there. So they removed my left kidney and I began chemo two weeks later.
From the very beginning, I was filled with a very strong sense of peace. If you are a person of faith you may understand this. It was an overwhelming sense that God was in charge and that everything would work out right … even though I didn’t know if that meant I would live or die. It is hard to describe that sense. It was so powerful and sustained me through the many tests, biopsies, surgeries, the suffering, (which was sometimes intense) and severe weakness. It’s was like standing in the midst of a terrific storm with fierce winds raging all about but absolute stillness and calm surrounding only me. It is probably impossible to explain unless you have experienced it yourself. It is that “peace which passeth all understanding”. How grateful I am for that peace.
I have been fighting the return of breast cancer for most of this year so far. I began noticing a sore spot on my sternum in January but didn’t think much about it. Then in February, I had some abdominal issues that took me to see a doctor. They did an upper and lower abdominal CT-scan and nothing was visible in the abdomen but the upper scan showed the bottom of the lungs and they then felt I needed a chest scan to better look at those. Once again, by chance, we found through additional scans and a biopsy that the breast cancer had returned and this time was in my lungs, lymph nodes, and sternum and a rib. That was a heavy blow. I had begun to think that maybe I was getting close to being out of the woods and now it was back with a vengeance.
It was more difficult to find that place of peace this time around. I had too many plans for this year including the expected delivery of two new grandsons due in April and June and two family weddings. I also found that I was angry and depressed. The prognosis was not good. (two months to two or three years) I had a very hard time getting past that one.
I began aggressive chemo treatment the first of March and that in itself was very hard. I had so many side effects and problems and pain just to get through to the next chemo treatment. I didn’t want to die. I had too much to look forward to, too much to do.
It took me several treatments before I got used to dealing with all the pain and side-effects and it took me some real pondering and prayer to get me to that place of peace. It was as if God was waiting for me to give in or surrender to His will before the miracle kicked in….and we truly did get a miracle.
I remember that after one of the cat scans where they didn’t see any shrinking of tumors I began to think a bit differently about asking God for help. I offered my willingness to except His will for me even if it wasn’t the same as my will. I did however, also ask for the power of healing. I thought one day when I had to go in for a PET scan, what would be the best possible outcome. Of course that would be that nothing would be there, that the scan would come up clean. So, that is what I asked for knowing and accepting that it would be God’s will as to what would transpire.
There have been so many prayers that have been offered for me that I knew that God could not possibly not know of my need and desires. It seems that He waited for me, for my willingness to surrender to His will, and then that miracle occurred.My scan came back clean.A complete response to treatment! Even the spots on my bones had held. It really is a miracle!
So don’t give up! Learn as much as you can about the cancer, the treatments, the possible side effects and treatments so you can be prepared. Get loving support around you. Maintain a will to live, even in the darkest moments, and there will be dark moments of suffering and pain. Find ways to get through those times with distractions or work or just recognizing that the only way out is through.
Most importantly though, seek God. Seek His comfort, His power, and an understanding of His will, and then ask for His enabling power on your behalf. We have the right to ask and recieve that miraculous power as long as we are willing to accept His will in the end. Ultimately, “that peace which passeth all understanding” will carry us through whatever we must face.
I’m thankful to Libbie for sharing her story. We are so blessed that she has made it through these difficult trials. My prayers go out to all of you who have been affected by breast cancer.