It has been nearly six months since I was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer, mere months after completing my treatments for stage three.
During these last six months, I felt that it was not time for me to speak. In any given moment since my recent diagnosis, you could find me soaring with confidence or lost inside of the darkest night. I am discovering what it means to battle, not physically at this time, but emotionally and spiritually.
From January to March, I had surgery to remove all creators of estrogen in my body. I became a low carb vegan, to ensure that every bite of food entering my body had the highest level of cancer-fighting nutrients possible. I began taking a promising new medication that was highly recommended and came with many optimistic predictions of remission. Also, I started naturopathic infusions to help my body stay strong and also to potentially fight cancer via my own immune system.
When March came, there was a lot riding on my first non-baseline scan but alas the results were not good. The scan showed new white spots all up and down my spine and into my left leg. Not what I was expecting, definitely not what I was hoping for and mind-boggling on how the cancer could have grown so much. I concluded that the cancer had doubled in size in three months, despite the fact that I had used every possible tool to fight it. (Mat 19:26)
When I was initially diagnosed with stage four, there was hope. You will have surgery! Here are great meds! Try this diet! You can beat this! Now, three months into the process, after surgery, great meds, diet, and more, it did not seem like I could beat this. I was devastated, and so I engaged in what I have come to call, “a death march.” (Proverbs 13:12)
I came home from that scan in March and sorted my belongings into three piles, one for each girl. I wrote an outline for my funeral and contacted individuals who will be responsible for my arrangements. My future was set, it was simply up to me to be prepared for it. My mind was set. At this point nothing on earth could change my course. I cried everyday. I was hopeless. There were so many choices to make, but none of them were good choices. I became focused on how to spend time and money: memories, legacy, or treatment? Everything came down to one of these three choices. I walked this path, like in an darkened tunnel, for about ten days. (Job 19:8-10)
Then people began speaking into my life. A lady sitting beside me at infusions started passionately speaking about how God promises something more than cancer. I wanted to tell her, “I know! I have been a Christian my whole life, but look at where I am!” Instead I held my tongue and let her speak. I thought it was good for her to feel like she was making a difference, not knowing she was actually preparing the soil of my heart. Then a cancer friend, who is typically quiet and unwilling to ruffle any feathers, flat out told me to “stop it!” when I gave her my death march speech. Again, I wanted to fight her, to defend myself, but something inside of me told me to listen. And so I did. I listened to her words, and her heart. I read the scripture that had been given to me by the woman at infusions. Then I read the scriptures again, and again and again. I found music that spoke of freedom as if it were true. And slowly I began to hear. (Psalm 119:105)
When I was on my death march, I had plenty of evidence to back up my position. My label of “stage four,” my scans, the look in my doctor’s eyes, their off-handed comments of “when the cancer spreads” all provided the data I needed to support a decision to walk, head down, broken, and waiting for the pain to begin.
Then I began filling myself with something else. I started to listen, to hear, to remember the truth I built my life upon. I realized that if even one Biblical promise is actually true, then no believing Christian can engage a death march. (Gal 5:25)
My life is so much more than labels, data and cancer. (Romans 8:6)
My heart changed and almost immediately afterward, my life began to fill up with good things. As soon as my heart changed, I began to find reasons to live, rather than reasons to die. Friends approached me wanting to do fundraisers to express their love and support. Strangers were drawn to my story and compelled to support me. As my steps began to lead away from the death march, good news was all around me. My Stanford oncologist called and said my scans weren’t bad after all. Then my blood work started to reflect that interpretation. Good things emerged unexpectedly until there was more good in my life than I knew what to do with. (Rom 8:28)
My filters began to change and as I looked at the world I saw abundance where once I found emptiness. I saw love where once all I knew was fear. (1 John 4:18) When I read the Bible, and found hope on every page. (Psalms 16:8)
I stopped allowing the fear of tomorrow’s scan, tomorrow’s blood draw, tomorrow’s appointment, ruin today. I stopped looking for reasons to fear the cancer in my body and replaced it with finding the good in every moment. When my heart is listened to Him who guides me, I recognize the “goodness that chases me down every day” (Psalm 23:6).
If I choose to not worry about tomorrow then I find that today is whole and complete. I am not in pain TODAY, I have everything I need TODAY. When I choose to live in the moment I find that I have a rich, love filled life– today. (Matt. 6:34)
When I remain in this knowledge, I have no fear, scans do not change my life TODAY, and doctor’s words have no power over TODAY. (Is 26:3)
This is my starting place. Every moment I live in fear is a moment killed, stolen and destroyed (1 Peter 5:7-8). There are thousands of truths in the Bible that show me I have nothing to fear, but I must let them come to life TODAY, right now, this moment.
It is a constant battle. (Matt 26:41) Simply writing these words, taking a moment to acknowledge the struggle inside of me weakens me.
Today, five months into treatment my situation has not changed. My bloodwork goes up and down. The scans have not proven whether treatments are working or not. Nothing has changed, except my expectations. Life is often this way. What we believe creates our reality. It may not be a reality based in truth, but our belief controls our actions and our actions define our outcomes. (Mat 9:20-22),
As for me, I choose to not surrender myself to a death march. I choose to turn my back on fear. This choice is presented to me daily, or to be honest, I must choose every hour and sometimes every moment. (Luke 9:23-24) My prayer is that these hourly choices will accumulate over the years of my life, to create a legacy of compounding faith. (Psalm 34:4, 17-19)
(2 Cor 1:3-11)
*I have included scripture references that I may be fortified. For no part of my story is mine alone. (Deut 31:6) I first wrote my story without them and I was left feeling sad and lost. I pray that their presence alongside my account makes my story a testimony of hope. (Hebrews 11:1) For in my weakness, He is making me strong. (2 Cor 12:9-10)
Blessings (Eph 3:14-21)