Wednesday, June 30, 2021

7 Years is a Long Time to be Cancer Free

Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Stage 2B with Metastasis to the lymph glands. When I heard the words, 2 jumped out at me – carcinoma and metastasis. I knew those words and knew they were bad. I didn’t pay much attention to the stage or the type of cancer. The only thing that concerned me was whether I was going to live or die. 

The first year was tough. Being thrust into the world of breast cancer is challenging. There were so many experiences I never dreamed I’d face, from surgery to treatment and then, learning to live life after those were through. 

It took time to learn to cope. Most days, I felt alone and helpless like I’d gone to sleep and had woken up in a bad dream, a dream that seemed as if it would never end. But as I fought through each challenge that came my way, I found myself becoming stronger. I was determined to live, no matter what the cost.

 As a person of faith, I found myself relying on God for each minute of the day. Whenever I was discouraged, felt unlovely, or like I didn’t matter, I turned to the Bible and found solace there. 

My family and friends were also a source of strength. They offered their love and understanding when I needed it most. Without them, I don’t think I would have made it. 

Learning to live as a breastless woman, I had to conquer the feelings of self-loathing and learn to extend myself grace. When I finally learned to accept my appearance, I found others did, too. 

I look back now and it seems a lifetime ago that my life was turned upside down, but it’s only been 7 years. 

 Seven, in Biblical gematria (the study of the significance of the usage of numbers in Scripture) has great significance. It’s the number of completion. That makes this cancerversary ominous for me. With cancer, a fear of recurrence is normal, but sometimes, especially in instances like this, the fear seems to loom and a sense of foreboding engulfs me. 

 I wonder how to shake the feeling that maybe, just maybe, my time of being cancer free is over. I can’t help but question, what I’d do if the cancer returned. 

I’d like to hope I’d fight with the same determination and resilience I did when I was first diagnosed but it might come back with a vengeance. If that happened, I might choose to do chemotherapy instead of refusing it, like I did 7 years ago. I might choose to take drastic measures to fight the cancer, instead of doing everything I could to fight it naturally like I’ve been doing for the past 7 years, or maybe not. Perhaps I’d just give in and give up…who knows. 

I don’t like to wonder and worry about something over which I have no control. That’s no way to live! I think I’ll make a conscious effort to stay in the zone of positivity. If I’ve survived for the past 7 years, chances are, the cancer won’t return. More than likely, at the age of 63, I’ll die of something else, right? And then I think of my dear friend who also suffered from breast cancer. She was diagnosed over 22 years ago and then, when she least expected it, her cancer returned and took her life. When that happened, I was devastated and even more afraid than ever. But if you give fear the power, you lose. 

Once I read an acronym for the word fear. It said, “Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real. And that’s the truth, isn’t it? Fear causes us to accept the thing that appears to be true even if there’s no substantial evidence to prove otherwise. 

I can’t live that way. 

So today, and every day forward, no matter how many days I have left, I choose to live like it could be the last day of my life. None of us are ever promised tomorrow anyway. And if we choose to live like we’re dying, the choices we make will be profound.

I am not going to let go of my survivorship crown, the one I’ve been wearing for the past 7 years. I earned it and I’m going to trust God to give me many more years of life to live, love, and enjoy.

This survivor is grateful for every minute of life and I won’t let fear scare me any longer. I. AM. A. SURVIVOR, today and forever. 

Amen.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Power to Forgive

I'm a writer. I write all the time. I was probably born with a pen in hand. My mother used to get so mad at me because I was constantly writing. Every slip of paper in our house was fair game for me. I'd write on scraps, napkins, even toilet paper! As far as I know, I never wrote on anything other than paper but I could be mistaken. There were always so many thoughts running through my head I just had to record them. Usually I'd write with a pencil but every now and then, I'd write with a pen. The only problem was, when you write in pen, it's not easy to erase. As I grew older, I gave up the pen and pencil opting for the ease and speed of a typewriter. Whiteout became my best friend until I learned to type quickly and efficiently. My first typewriter was a manual Royal, a heavy machine, from the 1950s. I loved that typewriter and still have it to this day. When computers came along, I was in heaven. Not only could I record thoughts quickly, I could store them easily on disks or hard drives for posterity's sake. But, there was one key on the keyboard that gave me absolute power - the delete key. In an instant, I could wipe out everything. I loved depressing the delete key and seeing the words permanently gone. I could start over with a clean slate and if I didn't like the words I'd written, I could delete them and start over again. Thinking about the delete key, I wished we had one for life. A few weeks ago, one of my family members hurt me. In a volatile situation, words had been shouted and the wounds cut deep. I stood in shock as I listened to venom spew from that person's mouth. It was evil and ugly. I cried myself to sleep that night wondering where the poison had come from and why it had poured forth so easily, but deep down, I knew. When we walk in the flesh, things can get nasty in a hurry. My heart had been hurt. I loved this person. And I knew, Satan wanted me to allow a root of bitterness to grow up in my heart. He wanted me to be angry and for our relationship to be strained and broken. But God wanted restoration. I wished we could delete the incident and start over. That's when God reminded me of the delete key. He spoke to my heart and said forgiveness is like the delete key on a computer. When we choose to forgive, it's like giving a promise - the promise that we'll never bring up the offense commited against us again. Forgiveness gives us the power to delete the mental record of the pain of our hurt. We eliminate it. It's as if the sin never occured. And isn't that exactly what God does for us? When we ask Jesus to forgive us, when we repent of our sin, He doesn't say, "Oh, no... you owe me." No. His arms open wide and He says, "Yes, beloved! I forgive you." And not only does He forgive us, the Bible says He forgives us as far as the East is from the West. And He remembers our sin no more. Now if God can do that, why can't we? Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. Why hold onto an offense that will constantly remind us of an unhealed wound? The power to forgive is a gift from the Father. I hope you use it and use it often.

On this day, 7 years ago...

  I was just 3 days out from surgery to remove both my breasts when a stranger came to visit me. We'd "found" each other throu...