The very word "cancer" has a frightening effect on people. When I was told that I had breast cancer, I felt like I'd been taken from a relaxing soak in a hot tub and dunked in freezing water! I was only 29 years old and was told the cancer had been growing inside me for five years.
I knew that I could react to this depressing news in either a positive or negative way. I could become full of despair and whine and complain about the unfair hand I had been dealt, which would only make life miserable for my children and certainly would not teach them how to handle their own challenges in life. Or, I could decide to learn all that I could about this disease and accept that I did have cancer, but not allow it to totally dominate my every thought and action.
I chose the latter approach because I have great faith and trust in God. My spirit would not allow me to just let cancer "swallow me up." Once I came to terms with my situation (which took only that first evening during which I cried and prayed for strength and understanding), my life took on new meaning! I decided that I would never blame God for my disease and that I would find out as much as I could to help me understand what was going on inside of me. I read books and spoke with women who had already gone through this. And most importantly, I determined I was going to take time to really look at all the good things and people in my life.
And I did. It was right before Mother's Day when I was diagnosed, so I wrote my mother a letter. I told her that no matter what the outcome of this disease, I was forever grateful that she gave me life. I thanked her for the way that she loved me and for teaching me the importance of loving God and myself. I took the time to study a flower and to watch a potato bug feel his way around the ground. I watched birds and butterflies for hours. I focused on my boys' laughter and would hold them for hours while they slept.
When it came time for me to leave for the hospital, I was ready. I felt that life, and God, had been very good to me and I was thankful. Whatever the outcome, I trusted God to take care of me. I did not pray that I would be healed—He already knew that I wanted that—I prayed for the strength to handle the outcome with dignity and with His peace.
When I was told three days after the surgery that the cancer was not found in the 13 lymph nodes that were removed, tears flooded my eyes. Even though testing has to be done yearly, I feel I have been given another chance to love life, to watch my children grow and most importantly, to help others find the positive in the most fearful of times. Cancer taught me that one day you are here, and the next you may not be; that I need to be thankful for every day and to love each experience with the awareness that with wisdom, comes growth, which goes hand in hand with pain; to love all that is put on my path as I journey; and not to take anyone or any experience for granted.
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