My determination allowed me to get my Christmas decorations out and put into place. After a bit of sweet talking, I got my husband to bring in the artificial tree so I could decorate it too. This year, our tree is a Jesus tree. We decided to veer away from our traditional trees of the past and change it up. Our tree is covered with the names of Christ and the names of God and that's the way it should be! As Christians, everything we say and do should point others to Christ so why not our tree? Phil and I have decided we'll keep it this way for all future Christmases and only wish we'd thought to do this sooner.
|Hubby putting up the tree
|The finished tree
Now back to cancer...you knew it was coming, didn't you, after all, this is my breast cancer journey blog and cancer is one of the main topics of conversation. I won't only be focusing on me and my health today, I will also be talking about my friend, Jenny. Jenny and I connected through a breast cancer website 2 years ago, right after we were both diagnosed with breast cancer. We received our diagnoses about a week apart. There were a few differences in our situations and diagnoses. Jenny was much younger than I. She as 31. I was 56. She was a wife and mother of two young boys. All of my children are grown and I'm a grandmother. She was diagnosed with Triple Negative breast cancer. I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, stage 2B with metastasis to the lymph nodes. My cancer was fed by Estrogen and Progesterone. No one knows what feeds Triple Negative cancer. Triple Negative is nasty stuff and it's hard to treat.
|Jenny before diagnosis
Jenny was really open about her breast cancer. She posted all about her life on YouTube. She wanted to chronicle every step for others who might be diagnosed after her. She knew from the beginning the odds were stacked against her but she kept on fighting and trying to have a good attitude. She had two little boys to live for and a husband who adored her. She found the right doctors and did all the right things but it didn't matter. Cancer took her away anyway. The cancer had spread from her breasts to her lungs, bones, and brain. She wanted to be allowed to die with dignity. She begged for that right but it wasn't legal in her state. She went into hospice care months before the end of her life and was under heavy pain medication until the end. She fought her way and no one can fault her for it. Every breast cancer patient has to figure things out for herself. There are no rules, only guidelines.
The one thing I hated most about Jenny's death was knowing she didn't have the assurance of faith in God. I did my best to share my faith with her and encourage her with words from Scripture but she never accepted it. I can't even imagine dying and not believing there was a life after death. I can't imagine not having hope. For me, death is a time I look forward to with great anticipation. I know this world is not my home! I'm just an alien here, a sojourner passing through. I can't wait to get to Heaven, but there are some who don't feel that way and it breaks my heart.
|After losing her hair during chemo
If I could, I would have traveled to Jenny's bedside and held her hand. I would have talked to her and let her talk with me. I would have tried my best to help her see that there is something to look forward to after our time on this earth is done. But I didn't get that chance. She lived in another state on the other side of the country and she was actively going through treatment. I was able to send her messages and converse on Facebook. I did my best but it wasn't my job to fix her, only to present her with truth and speak that truth in a loving and kind way which is exactly what I did. I feel good about that.
I won't tell you her death didn't affect me profoundly though because it did. This is the fourth friend I've lost since I was diagnosed with cancer and that does a lot to your mind. It stirs up the cloud of "what if" that's been lying dormant for the past few months. As it begins whirring overhead, I have to fight hard to remember my days are numbered and nothing is going to change that...not even cancer. I hate living under constant fear. It's caused me to suffer insomnia and post cancer PTSD. And no, I haven't sought treatment from professionals about this other than to ask my oncologist to prescribe something to help me sleep. I've tried to work through it myself using my faith and the Word of God as my weapons of choice. There are good days and bad days. Some days I'm walking in faith and doing really well keeping the fear of recurrence at bay. Other days, it's hard, especially on days when another cancer victim loses her life. And when it's one I've come to know...that makes it very difficult because the demon of "what if" rears his ugly head and laughs in my face.
|Jenny and her boys
I do my best to take one day at a time. The past two years have taught me to live in the moment and it's very freeing to be able to live that way but when you're a type A personality, old habits die hard. I'm used to always planning, always going, always doing...being busy. God has been breaking me of that though and He's been teaching me to be still and to trust. I've learned to let go of the control I used to think I had on things. I've learned to be okay even when I'm not feeling okay. And I've learned to appreciate the small things.
Every. Single. Day. I am grateful. I'm grateful for my chance to begin again. Each morning the sun comes up, I'm thankful. I focus more on being intentionally grateful now. I look for blessings and count them.
Jenny's family is in the process of grieving. I'm sure her husband and little boys are in a state of shock and bewilderment. Would you please offer up a prayer for them that God would surround them with His peace and comfort them during this time? And pray for all the women who've been diagnosed with breast cancer or have just been diagnosed. We walk a hard road. Our journey begins with shock and learning to step out into the unknown. It's a path none of us chose to walk but I'll tell you from personal experience, I'd much rather walk that unknown, dark path with the light of my faith than in complete darkness any day. And I'm very thankful my faith is grounded in the One who never fails, Jesus.