5 years ago and I can still recall every feeling I went through. I was waiting for a call from the nurse to tell me my biopsy results. I felt so sick to my stomach that I felt like throwing up. I just sat, staring at my phone all morning.
It had been day since I slept. I went in to see my gynecologist at the beginning of January and he told me he just didn’t like the way my breast felt and ordered imaging done. I went two weeks later for imaging, which turned into a biopsy. The cutest little Indian doctor, Doctor Shaw (I cannot ever forget his name) came into me and said “You know, I saw your age and met you and never thought I would even find anything.” I remember moving my feet in my shoes over and over, to keep me from jumping out and running out the door. I asked him if he thought it was cancer and he politely just said he wasn’t sure what he was looking at.
There I sat, on my living room floor, staring at my phone. It was January 25th, my husband’s birthday and just two days before my 29th birthday. I could feel tear welling up inside of me as the phone rang. I just knew what I was going to be told. I don’t think I could ever explain it, but I had been preparing for weeks over the news I was about to receive. “I’m sorry to tell you this, but the biopsy showed you have breast cancer.” A gentle voice from the other ended sounded. The tears overwhelmed my eyes as a steady flow streamed down my face. I wrote down as much as I could while she explained my diagnoses, type of cancer, preliminary staging and what the next steps were. I didn’t even have to say anything to my husband after I was off the phone. I let all of my emotion envelope me in that instance as he held on tight to me. I don’t recall what words were spoken but at the very moment, Lily, who was 4 at the time, was recording a video, and I yelled “Group Hug” and the other two ran as she explained “I taking a video” and then quickly stopped it so she could join us. I treasure that video.
Two weeks later a doctor walked into my room an explained that I didn’t just have breast cancer is my breast; the cancer had actually spread all through my body. Cancer was in both of my breasts, traveled through my lymphatic system to my liver, where it completely covered it and then invaded its way into my bones: my shoulder, ribs, parts of my spine and throughout my pelvis. This time when I cried, I couldn’t breathe. I was suffocating. My mind stopped working. It took all of my being to shipper out through the tears “Am I going to die?”. The silence seemed to last minutes until an exhausted answer came: “We are going to try and not let that happen.”. My prognosis was 18-24 months to live, less than a 15% chance of surviving 5 years. I cried so much, so hard and so long that my eyes were swollen for days. They were blistered and dry even though they had never been that wet before. If only I could make it 5 years.
. . .
So what has breast cancer taught me in the past 5 years? I wish I could sit here and give you all of these inspiring answers of how cancer has changed my life but the truth of the matter is, it has only done one thing and one thing alone: it has made me trust. See, I have believed in God my whole life. I believe he sent his only Son to die on this Earth for me, then was buried and rose again 3 days later. I believe Jesus saved me. I believe God loves me. I was saved by grace through faith in 2007 and I believed with all of my being in all of these things. But to trust something you can’t see, something not worldly tangible, now that is not as easy as believing. We can all believe in God, but how many times do we fight against trusting him? Trusting his timing. Trusting all thing work together for our good. Trusting things will be returned to us in full. Trusting HIM.
I wanted to know why: why me, why my kids, why my husband . . . I wanted to know what I could do to change this new course. I didn’t trust that God was with me on this. After all, my very existence was threatened. I felt persecuted, picked on and alone. There would forever be a “before this moment” and a “after this moment” and it was then that I broke. I fell deep, to rock bottom. I could see myself in this well. Dark. Cold. Dreary. And I sat in this well all by myself, curled up against the frigid wall, shaking; knowing that God is there but not trusting he would come rescue me.
All I did that first year was figure it all out myself. I would educate myself. I would do whatever the doctors told me. I would create a bucket list. I would do all of this on my own. I would finish my own damn story- my way. Who needs God anyway, right? All that did was keep my head spinning every night. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t function. I was so full of anxiety and worry and fear that I kept slipping down deeper and deeper into the abyss of my brokenness. And the deeper I went, the harder it was to see the light. Until one day I figured it was better for me to not even be on this Earth. I had been tortured enough. I was tired of treatment, tired of worrying, tired of being sick, tired of figuring it out, tired of the pain . . . Tired of life.
. . .
The hot water felt like a massage on my bald head as I stood underneath of it. I cried so hard, I couldn’t catch my breath. I was doing that ugly cry that no movie can every fully capture. My eyes remained shut and my head turned up towards the heavens. My mind was in a tailspin. When the most amazing, and terrifying, and incredible, and unexplainable event happened. I just gave up. I fell to my knees, opened my eyes, raised my hands, and just screamed out “I am done. I can’t do this anymore. I trust YOU. This is YOURS. YOU do with this whatever YOU want.” That is when my sweet, sweet Savior reached His hand into the well and pulled me out. He was there all along, I just didn’t trust that He was. I read through the scriptures, I knew the facts but I let my own feelings dictate my faith. I did it my way for so long and it only lead to pain and suffering. God tolerated all of my flaws but cherished my faith, even if it was as tiny as a mustard seed at times.
And there was an ocean of grace waiting for me.
In that trust is where I learned all of the lessons these past five years. I stopped trying to figure it all out and leaned into the gospel’s truths. My suffering, my brokenness, my hurt, my fears- all of that, it wasn’t for nothing, it was for it all. In that is where I fell completely in love with a God who loved me, never forsaken me and never left me. Once I trusted that this was God’s story to write the ending of is where I found my blessings, my miracles, the love, the inspiration and the courage. Cancer wasn’t a lesson. It wasn’t a gift. It didn’t enlighten me. It broke me. But in every brokenness is beauty, in every darkness is light and after every storm is a rainbow.
Three men were walking on a wall,
Feeling, Faith and Fact.
When Feeling took an awful fall
and Faith was taken back.
So close was Faith it Feeling
that he stumbled and fell, too.
But Fact remained and pulled up Faith
and Faith brought Feeling, too.