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. 


Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: The Truth About Sex

I slept in this morning until around 5:30. I woke up with a song called, “Let’s Talk About Sex” by Salt-N-Peppa from 1990, playing in my head. As I listened to the song this morning I thought it was hilarious that a line in the song says it wouldn’t get played on the radio, because of its content. In comparison to the songs now, their song about sex sounds like a baby’s lullaby. It actually has a good message in it. 

If you are squeamish or uncomfortable talking about sex, which I don’t think many people are in today’s culture, you can stop reading now and move on with your day. I know my adult daughters stopped reading as soon as they saw the title for this blog post. I’ve always talked to them as openly as I could about sex. But, now that they are adults and I don’t have to filter my word choices as much, they generally run away screaming when the subject comes up. During our last conversation my oldest daughter, Ashley, who is 28 said something like, “Mom, I want to shove something in my ears and vomit right now.” I get it. My mom and my aunts (her sisters) are very transparent about EVERYTHING. Though most of what they say is HILARIOUS, it is still an awkward image of your mom that sends your mind places you NEVER want it to go. Lol. In our family our mothers are superheroes that have achieved a level of holiness that my generation of our family can only hope to achieve some day. 

Because I invited Jesus to become my Savior and Lord when I was five, there are many things I didn’t do just because I was told in church it was wrong or it was a sin. Having sex outside of marriage is one of the things I unsuccessfully tried not to do and ended up marrying the young man I got pregnant by at age 18, hoping that would somehow cancel out the sin. I know that sounds crazy now, but it made perfect sense to me 28 years ago! Lol. It wasn’t until I entered my 40’s that I began to ask Jesus questions about sex and try to understand for myself what the Bible actually says about it.

My quest for understanding developed, because I wanted to understand what was “wrong” with me. I have always felt detached when it comes to sex, meaning, to me sex was just sex no matter what you called it. Rather it occurred between a husband and a wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, friends with “benefits,” strangers with nothing else to do… it was all the same in my mind. It was just a physical act with very little meaning. I carried that mindset with me into both of my failed marriages. But, deep down inside I knew my thought process could not be the correct, because God made a distinction and set apart sex within marriage by saying, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral,” (Hebrews 13:4 NIV). And there are a plethora of other scriptures about the dos and don’ts where sex is concerned.

Though separated at the time, I wanted to understand what should have been happening in my marriage bed when my husband and I were together that was not, at least from my perspective. There was something broken on the inside of me that I didn’t understand or know how to fix. I was able to completely detach myself from sex all together in that I could participate in it and be a million miles away from the whole experience. It was no different then any other responsibility I had at the time. I have since discovered there is a tremendous difference between just having sex and what Jesus described to me as, “loving someone with your body.”

Anybody with a penis and a vagina is capable of having sex. Sex just requires body parts. It is mechanical, based on lust and/or basic physical attraction. However, loving someone with your body is something quite different. Yet, people often use the terms “sex” and “making love” interchangeably. Because I have recently become a fan of Bruno Mars’ music I will use two of his older songs as an example. On his Unorthodox Jukebox CD he has a song called, “Locked Out of Heaven” and another called, “Gorilla.” In “Locked Out of Heaven” Bruno is basically singing about how having sex with a particular woman takes him to paradise and makes him feel like he has been locked out of heaven for far too long. One line of the song says, “Swimming in your water is something spiritual. I’m born again every time you spend the night.” (SN: Generally speaking, women talk to each other about sex as much as men do. The only difference is men say stuff like, “Man, I was swimming in her water and it was spiritual” or something more graphic about body parts or their perceived performance. Women tell the truth. Lol. If a woman talking about sex with her friends says, “Girl, he was swimming…” She wouldn’t even have to finish the sentence, before all of the women would tell her either with their facial expressions or words how sorry they were for her. It’s not really a compliment for either person involved. But, it is a cute, catchy song lyric. And the song was a big hit!) 

In the song, “Gorilla,” Bruno is again talking about having sex with a particular woman only this time what he describes is what he calls, “Makin’ love like gorillas.” (SN: If I had a spouse and he ever came to me talking about us making love like gorillas I promise you I would contact our cable company provider to have Animal Planet, National Geographic, the Discovery channel… removed from our cable line up IMMEDIATELY. And there would be no more trips to the zoo! 😄 But, to each his own.)

My point is in both songs he seems to be describing the same thing, but calls one act sex and the other making love. To him there may not be a difference. Or there is and he was just doing what he does extremely well, which is just writing some songs that he didn’t intend for people like me to put under a microscope in a blog post. But, I used that example, because until Jesus explained the difference to me I honestly didn’t see one.

Jesus explained to me that since my introduction to sexuality was forced upon me at such a young age, through molestation, I never had the opportunity to naturally discover things about my body, men, and how much I would actually be giving up when I chose to relinquish my virginity. In the King James translation of the Bible when it speaks about a man and a woman having sex it says they “knew each other.” That is actually a perfect description for what Jesus explained to me as “loving someone with your body,” which is set aside for marriage. He said what should happen within a marriage is you should be so connected with your spouse spiritually and know one another so intimately that when you come together as one flesh physically, it should be as natural, comfortable, enjoyable, and pure as a hug and a kiss. It should be a physical expression of the unconditional love you have for one another, forsaking all others, by desiring only to love and know your spouse in this special unique way set aside by God, for marriage.

When He explained it to me that way I knew I had never loved either of my husbands with my body and I can’t say with any measure of certainty that either of them ever loved me with theirs, which is really sad to me. Now that I understand and know better, I can do better. Jesus also told me that each time I had sex before I came to the knowledge of what sex is truly meant to be a spiritual rape occurred. Meaning, each sexual encounter took something from me spiritually that I did not voluntarily give, because from the moment I was molested my ability to make godly decisions about sex was skewed. He said virginity isn’t just a physical purity; it is a spiritual purity as well. Now that I know what is truth the decisions I make regarding sex from this point forward are mine to be held accountable for.

For today, I plan to continue on with what I call my “refurbished virginity.” To say I’ve decided to continue to remain celibate sounds like I just decided to not have sex. But, to me, refurbished virginity is like when you buy something and it is refurbished. You know it has been used before, but all of the broken or messed up stuff has been removed and replaced by brand new parts to make whatever it is in like-new condition. In that way I hold Jesus accountable to His word that says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV).” I don’t know that I will ever have the opportunity to experience loving a spouse with my body and he loving me with his. But it is well worth it to me to wait it out on the off chance that it could happen. I value myself, my body, which is God’s temple, and the sacrifice Jesus made for me way too much to give away something, which I now understand is priceless. Cancer really makes you pause and take an introspective look at all areas of your health. 

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: My Side of the Bed

I woke up this morning at 4 AM with a song called “My Side of the Bed” by LSG (Gerald Levert, Keith Sweat, Johnny Gill) playing in my head. I finally gave in and downloaded the song from 1997. At 4 AM my house is so quiet. The only noise I hear is the sound of whatever is in my mind (usually a song or a bunch of words) and cars traveling up and down the street. My bird friend doesn’t even arrive on my windowsill until after 5 AM. It is the time and perfect atmosphere to write out whatever is on my mind or heavy in my heart. I’m beginning to think maybe it isn’t chemo that is waking me up so early each day, but rather my mind and heart seeking an outlet for relief.

My family and I took an overnight road trip to Pittsburgh over the weekend. It is approximately a four hour drive from Maryland to Pittsburgh. We ran into traffic due to construction on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. So the trip took about five hours. I was just a passenger, but by the time we arrived I was exhausted and my whole body was aching. After visiting my nephew who was the reason for the trip, and going out to dinner together, we all crashed at my mom’s house. And I literally crashed on the twin sized bed in the guest room. I quickly fell asleep on the bed just big enough for just me.

Though I have been divorced for six years, and my former husband and I were separated two years before the divorce, for the last eight years when I get into my bed each night I still sleep on my side of the bed (the left side). I never noticed it before. When I returned from Pittsburgh and got into bed I noticed how I felt as if I was lying in the twin sized bed at my mom’s house. There seemed to be an invisible barrier between my side of the bed and the right side where my former husband used to sleep. I purposefully moved my pillows and myself to the middle of the bed and stretched out as much as I could to remind my bed and my body there was only one occupant in it now. 

When I woke up this morning with LSG serenading me with the chorus of “My Side of the Bed,” I started thinking about my stance on marriage, dating, and relationships. Once you are divorced for a while people begin to ask when are you going to start dating and/or do you want to get married again. My response has never wavered. The idea of dating, being married again, or dealing with all that comes with being in a relationship really creeps me out. Most people believe I am speaking from a place of bitterness or resentment toward my former husbands. But, that really isn’t the issue at all. While I did experience some hefty bumps and bruises in both of my marriages, I am thankful for those experiences. I’m not bitter or angry. And I still believe with my whole heart marriage, done God’s way, is the BEST example of how He loves us. 

My issue with dating, being married again, and relationships is me. I texted my closest friend yesterday and told her that even if I didn’t feel how I feel right now I honestly don’t know if there is a man that I would ever be able trust with my whole self. I think I have had this distrust or leeriness when it comes to men almost my entire life. I don’t believe it is only because of being molested so early in my childhood. I’m sure that’s a large part of it. But, I saw some crazy things in my parents marriage. My dad was one of the most loving, kind, funny, and generous men I knew. That is who I knew him to be as a dad. However, as a husband, he looked very different to me as did many of the men in my family. That helped me learn men were ok until you marry them. After that you better have your guard up at all times to protect yourself from imminent heartbreak. I mastered that skill and was still heartbroken in the end.

So, my trust issue doesn’t have anything to do with my former husbands. I went into those relationships not trusting them with my whole self. So they were already set up to fail. Anything that happened just confirmed that there is no man that I can trust with my whole self. My whole self being, the most intimate part of me. That part of me that only Jesus knows. The part of me that sees what other people don’t see, hears what other people don’t hear, and understands what other people don’t understand. The part of me that would be content to spend the rest of my life just praying for people, giving people hugs, and making people laugh out loud. The part of me that would rather cuddle up with someone I love and do nothing than dress up and go somewhere “fabulous.” The part of me that thinks stars can only be found in the sky and Jesus is the only “celebrity” worthy of all the praise we give people who are just really good at whatever it is they do. The part of me that looks at the world we live in with all of its craziness and still sees the beautiful, visual masterpiece God created, with its array of colors of people, the beauty of nature, and variety of animals… the part of me that makes me, me. 

Between the stroke and cancer I have discovered life, with all of its complexities is pretty simple and basic for me. My default facial expression is a smile. I would rather laugh or cry with you about our similarities instead of argue and debate about our differences so I try discover what those things are with whoever I meet. If I could wrap my arms around the whole world and give it a the biggest, warmest, most loving hug I would (I know it sounds kinda Miss America-speech-cheesy, but I really feel that way 😄). In many ways I am still discovering who “me” is. Most days I feel like an alien or an outsider looking into a really crazy place. 

For today, I don’t see myself dating anytime soon. Just working on sleeping in my whole bed and pressing on to the other side of breast cancer is enough for now. But, I guess I will allow Jesus to help me tackle this trust issue so I don’t become one of those women who says, “I don’t need a man. All I need is Jesus.” While that is true, many women say that because they have given up hope that the right man they can trust with their whole selves will find them. When you say, “All I need is Jesus” in that way it is not making a bold profession of faith. It is making Jesus the consolation prize instead of having the man you really want. For me, Jesus is THE Prize so it goes without saying. Should I decide I want to be married again someday, having the right man find me would just be an extension of the gift Jesus already is to me all by Himself. 

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Walking on Water

I woke up this morning with my 4 year old granddaughter lying beside me. That is always a wonderful way to start the day. A dose of her and my 17-month old grandson seems to overshadow the effects of chemo. They have so much energy and joy it’s contagious! I told a friend that one of the things cancer has done is force me to be still so God has my undivided attention. 

I’m not a big TV watcher, but with so much time on my hands my sister, Leslie, who was recovering from throat surgery, and I lay in her bed one day and binge watched a show called, “The Carmichael Show” on Netflix. On one of the episodes Loretta Divine’s character, Cynthia, the mother in the family, was standing in the kitchen ironing and crying. She later explained that she had been crying alone for weeks and didn’t know why. She had gone to Wendy’s one day and realized she knew exactly what to order for her husband and her adult children, but didn’t know what to order for herself. She didn’t know what she actually liked on the Wendy’s menu. In the end she realizes she is depressed and begins seeing a therapist. That episode really resonated with me. It magnified how little attention we often pay to our mental health. 

I can remember a time when my mind was so broken and fragmented it felt like my brain was hurting. I would get random feelings of tightness in my chest or feel like I couldn’t breathe as if I were drowning. I mastered crying so silently every night, with my former husband lying next to me, that he never heard a sound. To me all of that was normal. It wasn’t until I had the stroke 6 years ago and my doctor asked me what was going on the week before the stroke that I realized it wasn’t normal. My doctor asked me a series of questions and then asked me to walk him through my days the week of the stroke as much as I could remember. My husband and I were separated at the time, I was working long hours with a hectic commute, not sleeping, not eating a balanced diet, not taking care of me.

I would like to say the stroke cured me of my self neglect, but it did not. As much as I could I just kept going, never realizing you cannot outrun your own mind. It was filled with thoughts of abuse, abandonment, fears, pain, despair and disappointments. Little by little day by day Jesus and I have examined the fragmented pieces of my heart and mind. The Bible promises that I am transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2). As with all things with God, I have found His word to be true. My mind is continuously being renewed, repaired, and restored. Nothing will ever erase the memory of being molested or many of the traumatic events that have occurred in my life. But, when I keep my mind and eyes fixed on Jesus, I am able to live in the presentness of Him and me. 

With all that I have been through and all that Jesus has done for me it still took something like cancer for me to stop, be still, know He is God (Psalm 46:10) and treat Him with the honor He deserves by making Him the focal point of my days. I’m learning I really can keep my mind and eyes stayed on Him and still get things done. In fact, I get more things done and it’s easier. It’s like Peter, who stepped out of a boat being rocked by wind and waves, in the middle of the sea, was able to walk on water. His eyes were fixed on Jesus, walking toward Him. But, then He got distracted by the wind and waves, became afraid, and began to sink (Matthew 14:22-33).

I’m not feeling well today, but I plan to do a lot of water walking with Jesus! My grand babies are here and we have a lot of dancing to do, songs to sing, dolls and trucks to play with… For today, my eyes are fixed Jesus so He can give me His strength to walk on water with my grand babies! I hope your day is as wonder-filled as I know mine will be! 😊

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).

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Tears in a Bottle

I woke up the first time this morning around 4:30 AM. That has become the customary time I start the waking up process for the day since I started chemo. I was fully awake, with coffee in hand, by a little after 6 (some mornings I am able to drink really weak coffee – small pleasures). I started my morning humming a song called, “Nobody Greater,” by Vashawn Mitchell, talking to Jesus. I was reflecting on how down I have felt the last several days. Sunday night I cried myself to sleep at the thought of having to continue to do chemo for the rest of the summer into the Fall. But, when I heard my bird friend stirring outside my window, before he began to sing, something shifted in my heart. The heaviness began to lift. As I talked to Jesus, I was able to tell Him He still has my, ‘Yes,’ even in the midst of chemo and the ups and downs of my emotions about it.

I am growing and maturing in my relationship with Jesus in ways that may not have been possible without breast cancer. I’m growing to understand my, ‘Yes,’ to His free gift of salvation doesn’t stop at the foot of the cross or in a natural sense during the Sunday service alter call invitation or however it is that the decision to invite Him into your heart is made. Not if you are seeking a relationship. That is just the beginning. My yes encompasses the totality of our life together, similar to what the “I do” in a marriage ceremony is supposed to mean. I am in this with Him and He with me through good days, not so good days, sickness and health, financial crisis or living in the lap of luxury, tragedy or triumph…but for us, not even death can separate us! Somehow the faifulness of my bird friend, showing up every morning, singing outside my window, reminded me of God’s faithfulness toward me and my commitment to be just as faithful to Him. 

Before my daughter, Jasmine, left for work this morning I told her I decided May 2nd is the last day I will shed a tear in sorrow about having to do chemo. My 3rd chemo is on May 4th and my daughter, LiAnne’s, birthday is May 3rd. So, May 2nd seemed like a good day to be done crying about it. I don’t know that I will ever not have some days where I’m a bit overwhelmed and upset with the whole process, but I am going to get the last of my tears out by May 2nd. I have to do this 10 more times over the next 6 months. If I am going to cry tears of sorrow, it is NOT going to be about chemo. There are a whole lot of other aspects of the cancer treatment process I can cry about if I choose to. But, I’m hoping I can start to just cuddle up with Jesus and enjoy as much of the ride as I can. I have never had this much free time. Nobody expects anything from or asks me for anything. Most conversations I have with my family, friends, or the wonderful people God has placed in my path thus far start with, “Is there anything you need?” That alone is a true blessing. Not to mention the army of people willing to remember me in prayer. 

Years ago, when I cried just about every night as quietly as I could so no one would hear me, Jesus said, “I am capturing every tear you cry in sorrow and will return them to you as tears of joy.” That is a promise I am STILL cashing in on daily! For today, I am thankful I serve a promise-keeping God who is true to His Word 100% of the time! The scripture I am anchoring His promise to is Psalm 56:8 (NKJV) “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?”

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: 2 Down 10 To Go…

It has taken me an entire week to be able to actually write out my experience at my second chemotherapy treatment. By all accounts it was a pretty great day. My youngest daughter, Jasmine and I wore bunny ears and distributed candy bags just like I planned after my first treatment. That morning my goal was just to see one person smile. My goal was met exponentially. I saw smiles from the parking lot to the building, in the waiting room, in the infusion unit, and on my way back to the car after.

While in the waiting area, I met a beautiful older woman who was waiting to have her final chemo treatment. This had been her second bout with breast cancer, 23 years after the first. She shared that she was retired now, but when she first had breast cancer she worked everyday and this time she had not been sick once. She smiled as she told me about her Easter shopping plans for her grand babies after her treatment. She absolutely loved my bunny ears. She said I thought of everything, because my ears matched my shirt. She went on to encourage me by saying, “You can do this. I know you know God’s got you. It is His load to carry. Just keep your eyes on Him. Before you know it, it will be your last day too.”

I made “special” candy bags for the staff that included a card thanking them for the care, compassion, and excellence they show in doing their jobs. The ladies in the lab, who are always very pleasant, were happy to have a pick-me-up for later in the day. With all the smiles and all they joy I felt inside I was unprepared for the sudden drop in my spirit when my name was called to go into Dr. Mendoza, my oncologist’s, office. His nurse, Lakeya, took my blood pressure and it was elevated. When he came in the room to begin my exam we talked a bit first. He was surprised by and graciously accepted the small gift and card I gave him. He was also a fan of the bunny ears.

I told him the night before when I got out of the bathtub I looked at my body and saw all of my battle scars and thought out loud, ‘My body has been through A LOT!’ I shared that at age 46 there are days I feel more like I am 86. He said, “Ms. Ransome your body has been through a lot. But, your positive attitude and optimism is an encouragement to others who have been through a lot less than you.” I appreciated his kind words. After he gave the green light, it was off to the Infusion Unit. 

The Infusion Unit had a totally different vibe that day. My Jasmine, in grand Easter Bunny fashion, went from patient to patient with our Easter “basket” (it was really an Easter gift bag from the Dollar Store. Lol), offering candy bags, which got a lot of smiles and laughter. It was wonderful. When I sat in what my friend and fellow breast cancer warrior, Wanda, calls the “big chair” the feeling that rose in Dr. Mendoza’s office resurfaced. My infusion nurse, Fini, was a real sweetheart. She agreed to continue distributing the candy bags to the patients after I left and any that remained the next day. As she began preparing the first of the medications, just before she placed the needle in my chest, I could feel the tears beginning to fill my eyes. 

I told myself, ‘Stop it! You cannot sit here and cry with bunny ears on. It goes against the whole concept!’ Still the tears began to swell, but before one drop could fall, just as the needle pierced the port in my chest, I felt a very real presence rise up inside of me and step in front of me. It’s hard to put into words. I know Jesus is real. I know Holy Spirit is real and lives on the inside of me. But that day, I could feel Him stand in front of me while I, Lisa, cried inside as He continued to smile and love on all of the people in the Infusion Unit through my body. No one in that room knew what I felt like in those moments. 

The rest of the day was wonderful. I spent time with my beautiful grand babies, which is heaven on earth to me. Though I felt pretty bad physically, I was able to make it to Sunrise Service on Easter/Resurrection Sunday. We had our family dinner at my older sister, Leslie’s, house. I wasn’t able to eat much, but being with my family made my day. We ended up watching a marathon of a show called, “Being” on Centric. It’s an autobiographical show in which different celebrities tell their story. The one we watched about Vanessa Bell Calloway stuck with me. She is a fellow breast cancer warrior.

In her story she told how she reacted when she was diagnosed. She said she was so angry when she got home she wanted to throw things, but didn’t wanted to break her nice stuff. Instead, she laid on the floor and just pounded the floor. Listening to her and her loved ones speak about how they felt struck a chord with me. I thought about the day I was diagnosed. I didn’t feel anything. Though I cried, to me it was just another thing that was happening. It didn’t warrant any massive expression of emotion. It was no different than the car accident, the stroke, the abandonment, the divorce, the childhood molestation, the every-other-thing that had happened in my life to that point. It was as if I had grown to expect the worst of things to happen.

When I got home from Leslie’s house I shared with her and my baby sister, LaShawn, how I felt watching that particular episode. Breast cancer isn’t like any other thing I have experienced in my entire life. The day of my diagnosis I knew I was in for yet another fight. Today, I’m no longer expecting the worst of things to happen in my life. I believe with my whole heart come what may, my very best days are ahead of me. Still, I told my sisters I need this to be the last hard battle for a good long while. Only time will tell… 

For today, I am so thankful that whenever I need Him, Jesus is always right there. I fell in love with Him 41 years ago and the sound of His voice still melts my heart. A touch from His hand still chases the blues away. He is still my Healer, my Deliverer, my Lord, my Love, my King, my Savior, and my closest Friend. Our relationship thus far has been a true fairytale with lots of dragons to slay, chains to break, dungeon rescues… But, my Knight In Shining Armor has always been up to the task and never let me down. As we continue writing the epistle of our relationship for all the world to read according to the way I live my life, I have no reason to believe He will not continue to be who He has always been for me, my Everything, the Man of my dreams.

(Pictured above: top left, the beautiful nurse, Lakeya; bottom left, the equally beautiful Infusion Unit nurse, Fini; top right, my oncologist with the most cheerful smile, Dr. Mendoza; bottom right, my Easter Bunny accomplice, my daughter Jasmine)