Saturday, January 9, 2021

Making sense of breast cancer

Bonnie has the rabbit pin on her shirt

Today is the third anniversary of my friend, Bonnie's death. A post I'd written about it popped up in my Facebook memories. I'd almost forgotten about today being the anniversary of her death, but Facebook is so good to remind me year after year. 

It's so hard to make sense of cancer. When my friend, Bonnie Ferguson, and I met, shortly after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, she told me she was a 22 year survivor. That gave me such hope. My diagnosis was barely two weeks prior and I was so scared. Knowing that she'd beaten breast cancer helped me be less fearful. 

But then, at the midpoint of my radiation treatments, Bonnie began to come and go more frequently. I'd see her little golf cart coming up the gravel road by our house and I wondered where she was going. One day, on her way back from the produce market down the road, she saw me out in the yard and stopped to give me some tomatoes. We talked for a few minutes and then she dropped the bomb. After 22 years, her cancer was back. 

I don't know if it did, but I felt my jaw drop. How could the cancer return after 22 years? I was dumbfounded. And that's when the fear for my own mortality kicked in. Was I fooling myself to think I'd actually survive cancer and live a long and happy life? 

Understanding cancer is like trying to pick up a drop of mercury from a dropped thermometer. (If you're as old as I am, you'll remember they used to be glass and held a large drop of mercury in them. If, by some chance you dropped the thermometer and it broke, the liquid mercury would slide into many different sized balls of silver, impossible to gather together and clean up.)

I have several I love right now facing cancer battles. They're all in various stages and all have different outlooks on their future. At first glance, a person with no cancer experience would think they're doing quite well and fighting the good fight, but for one with a personal history of cancer, the truth is so evident. 

There's no understanding cancer. It is no respecter of persons. 

And yet, those in the fight choose to keep on fighting, because they want to live. 

Bonnie was that way. She did what she had to do to survive and though she gave it her best shot, cancer won. 

This year, I'll celebrate my 7th cancerversary. I'm looking forward to that day, but I'm not naive. In the next week I'll have a bone scan to check for possible metastasis to my spine. And while I pray for a good report, I know the good hand I've been dealt may suddenly be snatched away. 

The only thing a person affected by cancer can do is live one day at a time. That's all we've been given anyway. The Bible says God's mercies are new every morning and it also says we're not to worry about tomorrow. Those two reminders help me get through each day. 

So today, as I look out on this cold, gray day, I'll remember my friend, Bonnie. Her life was colorful and fun. She loved to garden and share her plants. She loved to paint and share her art. She loved people and shared herself. 

I am blessed to have made her acquaintance and I'm thankful she took time to let me be a part of her life.

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

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