Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Debt Free

Several weeks ago I told my sister, Leslie, it felt good to finally be debt free. She quickly responded, “It must be nice. I feel like I owe everybody!” I knew she thought I was speaking about my financial situation and corrected her by saying, “No, with the mounting medical bills I have I’m sure I owe just as much as you do.” That day, I was speaking about how good it felt to not feel as if I owed any person anything. And I still wasn’t talking about money.

Last night I went to bed kind of early, but found myself sitting up until about 1AM just listening to music. I reflected on what my life used to feel like. Before cancer, my entire adult life, and probably before then, I always felt like I owed someone something. I had my oldest daughter, Ashley, when I was 18. She came barreling into the world in grand fashion, with a lot of fanfare, not quite two months premature, via emergency c-section, weighing just over three pounds.

Before I had Ashley I had never even seen a premature baby before. She was by far the cutest little one I had ever laid eyes on and she was mine. I was really sick and unable to go to the neonatal unit to see her until she was three days old. But, the nurses brought me Polaroid pictures of her everyday (this was 1989 and Polaroid was a type of camera that printed instant pictures for those of you that may be reading this and are too young to know what that is. Lol).

When I was finally able to be wheeled down to see her and hold her for the very first time I did not want to let her go. This beautiful little person, that looked as if she could fit in the palm of both of my hands, had actually come out of my body. She didn’t ask to be my daughter. God chose to spare her life and mine and gave me the gift of being her mom. From that moment on I was indebted to her. I owed her the very best of me. 

By age 21, my debts grew exponentially. I was married to Ashley’s father, my high school sweetheart, and had two more daughters, also born prematurely. And so began my adventure into womanhood. During the 25 years that followed, I was a Mrs. twice, I’m still a mom, and am now the proudest nana on the planet! And throughout all of those years I felt I owed each of my husbands, my daughters, and even our dogs, the very best of me. So, I did all I could to be any and every thing I thought they needed me to be. I cooked, cleaned, listened, encouraged, chauffeured… all of the normal mom and wife responsibilities. When both of my marriages ended in divorce and my daughters as young adults spoke of the areas of dysfunction in our lives when they were younger, I rehearsed in my mind for hours at a time all the ways I missed the mark. If I had only done this or that better. 

This morning I realize I received a gift that maybe only having breast cancer could give me. When I had the stroke, my time was spent rehabbing, trying to help my two daughters who were still in college with all they needed, and I took in my “adopted” daughter and her brand new baby boy to help take care of them while she tried to finish college. Breast cancer, immobilized me immediately! I could not think of or do anything for anyone, but me. And the more I have thought about me throughout this process, I realized all of that time I was trying to give everyone else something I never had to give in the first place.

I never had the opportunity to discover who the best me is. I have stumbled around my entire adult life doing what I thought was best for others, never taking into account what was best for me. I will be the first to admit I was not the best wife, but I gave the best I had to give. I was not the best mother, but I was the best example of womanhood I knew how to be for my girls and I tried to show them how much I loved them in every way I could. I do think I was probably an exceptional dog owner. At least our dogs, who acted more like people than animals, seemed to think so. Lol.

Having all of this time on my hands and all of the places your minds goes when you have cancer, allowed me to recognize I have finally become debt free. I have forgiven and asked for forgiveness from everyone I needed to, including myself. I’ve revisited areas of my life that still “stung” when I thought about them and allowed Jesus to help me see those things through His eyes so they don’t hurt anymore. I know my marriages didn’t fail, because of something I did “wrong” or should’ve done better. And I know my daughters know I have and always will love them unconditionally.

For today, I am so grateful I understand Jesus paid my greatest debt fore me. The only debt I owe, as I continue to discover the best me, which is found in Jesus alone, is to offer my body as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God, which is my reasonable service, my true and proper worship (Romans 12:1 NKJV & NIV).

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