Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: The Silence of Suffering

A lot can be said during moments of silence. Since I was diagnosed I have been shocked by how many women I know personally, friends of my mother’s, or friends of friends, that I have discovered either have or have had breast cancer. I think what boggled my mind, especially with the women I know personally, is that I never knew. I honestly don’t believe I would be talking so much and so candidly about my fight if Jesus didn’t ask me to. I’m sure I would’ve written about it eventually, but long after the dust had settled and it was a distant memory. A nice feel-good, won’t He do it, testimony. Never would it have entered my thoughts to write and talk about it publicly while I am still in the trenches. I even said to Jesus, ‘I’ll do it. But, I really think You may be sorry You asked, because I may embarrass You.’

I can only imagine how many torrential rainstorms of tears have been cried, deafening screams of despair, and profanity laced conversations have occurred during the moments silence of my fellow breast cancer warriors (survivor just doesn’t adequately describe the journey) unable to find the words to express how they feel inside. I get it. I know all cancer is horrible. But, speaking purely from the perspective of a breast cancer warrior, as a woman it blatantly and unapologetically attacks your womanhood. You suddenly have to address things like hair loss, body image issues, having to buy new clothes to fit your new body….and it wreaks havoc on your emotions! Not to mention how many times you have to silently listen to well-meaning friends, loved ones, or medical professionals tell you things like, “It’s just hair. It will grow back” or, “You can just get implants.” While those things are true, for a breast cancer warrior, with all that comes with the disease and its treatment, it isn’t “just” hair to us. And although for us over 40 warriors breast implants may make the “girls” look more perky, I’m sure most of us would prefer to keep our own.

Last week was a tough week for me emotionally. It seemed I could not get through a day without crying. I felt pretty bad physically too, but having the stroke 6 years ago helped me learn how to determine if I felt bad or weak enough that I couldn’t do anything or if I could press past how I felt and try to do something. Compared to trying to walk unassisted, be able to use my right hand to do basic things like brush my teeth, and rehab my brain to try to process and comprehend words, getting out of bed to do SOMETHING everyday while doing treatments for breast cancer really isn’t much of a challenge. 

What has been most challenging for me is the helplessness I often feel. I woke up this morning, at what has become my usual time, 4 AM, listening to a song called, “Let Go,” by Dwayne Woods. It’s a beautiful song about letting go and letting God. In my quiet moments with Jesus sometimes as much as I try not to I still feel a pull inside like a tug of war between Him and me. I am so tired and want this battle to be done now. He says, “Just rest in Me.” I want to know what is waiting for me on the other side of this. He says, “Just take one breath, one step, one moment, one day, at a time.” I want to know why me? Why couldn’t the stroke be enough? He says, “Why not you? You made it through that. Why would this be any different?”

Last week I gave myself a deadline for crying tears of sorrow over having to do 12 rounds of chemo. If I didn’t give myself a specific date to tell my emotions they were no longer allowed to signal my brain to open the floodgates from my eyes every time I thought about having to sit in that chair with a needle in my chest while poison is being pumped into my body, I would be crying all summer into the Fall. The deadline was yesterday. I made it with an hour and a half to spare, drying my last tear at 10:30 PM. I have my 3rd chemo treatment tomorrow. Should I feel the urge to cry from this day forward, they will be tears of joy that I am one day closer to the expected end of all of this!

Usually the day before chemo is like what athletes must do before a big game, race, fight, etc. They get pumped up and prepare themselves mentally and physically to face their opponent. I try to stay busy and not dwell on what I am going to feel like after chemo and tell myself I am not going to get worked up when I get there or right before the put the needle in my chest to start the treatment. But, I won’t be doing any of that today. Instead, I have decided to do exactly what Jesus said. I am going to rest in Him. He’s got this! Though stroke and cancer are two different names, the name above all names is the same (Philippians 2:8-11). Just as Jesus walked with me until I could walk again unassisted, put His hand over my hand until I could brush my teeth by myself, and continues to allow me to use His mind when mine struggles to process words correctly, He will sit with me, calm my spirit, and hold my hand when they put the needle in my chest tomorrow.

For today, I am going to focus on celebrating my middle daughter, LiAnne’s 27th birthday! She is my miracle baby. She was a preemie, born weighing a little over two pounds. She stayed in the hospital NICU for three months before they finally kicked her out, because she was such a fighter. She would pull her IVs out and disturb the other babies with her screams for attention. She came home on oxygen and a heart monitor. I had to be trained in CPR and how to take care of her overall. I still remember how frustrated one of the doctors was when she told me all of the things my baby would probably never be able to do, and I responded, “I don’t receive that about her.” Not only can she do all the things the doctor said she would not, she is the healthiest, most physically fit member of our family. She’s a University of Maryland graduate and the manager of the fitness center for a government agency. I am a very blessed and proud mom! 1 Peter 5:10 (NLT) says, “In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.” I am determined to walk sure footedly  on this promise from heaven for the rest of this journey. 

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