Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Pretty In Pink

Before breast cancer my favorite color was shades of blue. I still like my blues, but I have fallen in love with pink! This month being breast cancer awareness month, I have enjoyed seeing shades of pink everywhere. At times it is almost surreal for me when I walk into a store and see a breast cancer awareness display and realize I am counted among the sisterhood of women battling the disease.

Last weekend I went to a luncheon a fellow warrior and friend held at her home for breast cancer warriors, supporters, family members and friends. My daughters, sisters, and mother went with me. It was an amazing time! I was the only one in attendance that is currently in treatment. It was so encouraging to talk to and see all of the beautiful women LIVING beyond where I am right now. As encouraging as it was it was also a bit overwhelming for me. When I got home that evening I found myself wondering what’s next?

As I lay in bed that night I wondered what my life will look like on the other side of breast cancer. On the other side of this I still have an entire life to rebuild. I’m not who I was before I had a stroke in 2011. I’m definitely not who I was before I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January. I have yet to discover what it is I am skilled at now that my right brain is more dominant than my left. I am still adjusting to being a mom to three adult daughters and not three little girls. And although after being divorced for six years I have finally mastered sleeping in my entire bed, I still haven’t mastered being single. All of these thoughts swirling in my mind brought me to tears.

Just as He always does Jesus mopped up my tears by saying, “I have given you a tremendous gift. I have redeemed the time you thought you lost. This is the clean slate day you have longed for. Your brand new beginning. Do not look at what is no more as something that has been lost or taken from you. See it for what it is. You are not meant to remain stationary. You have transitioned beyond what was to what is and shall continue on to what will be. I have a good plan for you. One that exceeds your greatest expectations. You need only trust Me. I know you don’t always understand or necessarily like my methods, but you can always trust My motives.” With that, I was at peace.

I started radiation on October 2nd. My kickoff to radiation was making it to my date with Bruno Mars on September 30th! The morning of the concert I had no words for how I felt. It had been eight long months, a week after I was diagnosed, since I purchased the tickets. I remember telling Jesus I had to be here and well on September 30th, because I had a date with Bruno Mars that I HAD to keep! He promised I would be. For eight months when I got upset I listened to my Bruno Mars Playlist and danced in my bedroom. During chemo I took the nausea medicine and forced myself to eat rather I was hungry or not, because I didn’t want to lose too much weight. I wanted to look healthy for my date. Every day that I could I went walking, my mom and I did Aqua Zumba twice a week. I wanted to be strong enough to dance all night on my date. After my final chemo on September 7th I felt so sick I was in bed for 10 days, but Jesus kept His promise. I was here and well enough to make it to my date. Not only did I make it, but I danced all night! For everyone else it was just a concert. For me, it was so much more. It was a night I will never forget!

As of today I have completed 13 of the 35 radiation treatments I have to do. I’m still adjusting to having to go every day, Monday through Friday. The treatments are quick and painless, but draining and my breast has become super sensitive and sore. For today, I’m holding on to Jesus as tightly as I can trusting that He really does have a plan for me, looking forward to the adventure!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

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Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Hidden In Plain Sight

I am blessed to be surrounded by a family of loving, supportive, intelligent, accomplished, beautiful women (the guys are great too!). Last weekend, a handful of them gathered together at my baby sister’s house for a brunch to celebrate my completion of my last round of chemo. The picture above is my favorite of the ones we took that day. Their love, laughs, hugs, and encouragement gave me the jump start I needed as I begin my next leg of this journey, radiation.

My last chemo really took a toll on me. So, I haven’t been able to do much and most days have been spent in the bed for the past few weeks. But, today, after a month long hiatus, I was able to return to my favorite place to go for a walk, a big, beautiful lake near my home. Over the summer most days I was able to push myself out of bed and get there to walk. Twice around is about three miles.

No matter how bad I felt, inside I knew if I could just get to the lake, those two trips around would be worth it. For me, the lake is where Jesus and I have some of our best, most intimate moments together. It’s our “meet up” spot. Lol. At the lake, there is no cancer or cancer treatments, no sick body, just Jesus and me, walking, talking, singing, dancing, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying…us just doing us. So, today I was so excited when I finally felt well enough to return.

When I arrived at the lake everything was just as it was when I left it last. Every tree that lines the path to the lake was still in its proper place, only now the leaves have changed colors and are falling. The lake itself is still just as beautiful, peaceful, and pristine. I saw the usual array of beautiful birds, butterflies, and the occasional turtle as I walked along my customary route listening to my “Jesus and me” Playlist.

As I walked, admiring the sheer beauty all around me, I began to feel heavy inside. I suddenly realized I had truly forgotten what a gift living on this side of life really is. I hurt inside that there were days over the summer that I almost envied my fellow warriors who got to go Home, while I had to stay here and fight. I recalled how completely finished I was on the morning of my 8th chemo. I begged Jesus to please explain to me why He was keeping me here. It felt like a punishment, not a gift. That morning, it wasn’t just cancer and it’s treatment I was done with. I was done with having been molested, having my heart broken over and over again, suffering a stroke and still trying to rebuild my life from that and a divorce…. I was done with what life on this side of heaven had to offer. It required too much fighting, too much crying, too much pain and I was FINISHED!

Seeing the beautiful landscape all around me, I thought about my beautiful family and how the ladies gave up their Saturday to spend it loving on me and all of the ways Jesus has sent love and encouragement to me on my lowest days. Not just during this cancer journey, but throughout my entire life. He has always shown up for me. He has always been faithful and true to His word. Though I know I am human, and most people probably wouldn’t judge or criticize me too harshly for how I felt the morning of my 8th chemo, today when I thought about it I hurt because I felt like I cheapened what Jesus did for me when He gave up His life on the cross.

He died so that when things like cancer and all of the other crazy, painful stuff entered my life, I would know it has no power over me because He already defeated it on my behalf. So, for me to say I no longer want the life He died for me to have, in my mind, is the ultimate slap in the face! All I could muster up to say from the deepest part of me is, “I am so sorry, Jesus. Please forgive me.” To which He lovingly replied, “My heart toward you remains the same. I love you. I will never leave or forsake you. You are Mine and I am Yours. I am Your Healer. I am Your Deliverer. I am Your Strength. I am Your Peace. I have abundant life and even life more abundantly for you beyond this affliction. I know you are battle weary. All I have ever asked of you is that you rest in Me that I may show you the beauty I have hidden for you in plain sight.”

In those moments I reaffirmed in my own heart that my life with Jesus is worth fighting for. In May, I watched a sermon Pastor Steven Furtick preached called, “The Drop Zone.” In it he said, “If it were not hard it would not be worth fighting for. If it were not hard it would not be worth surviving for.” Each day I am given on this side of life is another opportunity to point somebody in the direction of Jesus, to be His hands and His feet, to be an extension of His love. That is both a gift and a privilege. I pray I never forget that again.

On Tuesday I went to my second appointment with the radiation oncologist. This appointment was to do a CT scan and the markings so they can formulate my plan for treatment. As I sat on the CT scan table waiting for the doctor to come in I suddenly got upset inside. It was as if I was being told for the very first time that I had breast cancer and I almost burst into tears. I suddenly really understood all of these months, since January, I have actually been fighting breast cancer. When I thought of that moment today I thought, ‘I’m not just fighting. I already won!’

I am learning that who I am in Christ, the risen Jesus, the Holy Spirit IN me, is way stronger than this tent I am housed in. That same power that woke Jesus up from His death state is the same power that moves this worn, achy, crappy feeling, sick body everyday. So, for today, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord (Psalm 118:17 NKJV).” I am just so very thankful for the beauty and the gift of today!

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: The Me I See

Last Thursday, September 7, 2017, I rang the bell and completed my ninth and final round of chemotherapy. At the beginning of all of this I was bombarded with so much information that somehow I mistakenly thought I was told I had to do 12 rounds of chemo. On August 17th, the morning of my 8th chemo, I reached my end. I woke up early that morning and prayed like I do most mornings. But that morning was very different. As I prayed, I cried and told Jesus I was finished. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t depressed. I was FINISHED. My children are grown. I had done the best I could to be a light for Him and an extension of His love in every way I could. I wanted my work here to be finished. I pleaded with Him and told Him that I just could not do four more rounds of chemo. His only response to me that morning was, “You can’t, but I can.” Immediately, with an attitude, I stopped crying, pulled myself together and got dressed. His response let me know He still had work for me to do here and although I felt as if I was finished, He wasn’t.

When I arrived at the oncologist that day, my doctor asked how I was feeling. I told him how much harder it had become to recover from the treatments. He said with a smile, “Well just three more weeks and we’re done!” I looked at him puzzled. He clarified his statement by telling me my next chemo would be my last. He said he didn’t know who told me I had to do 12 or how I got confused, but I only had to do nine. You could not wipe the smile off my face! I left chemo that day feeling like I had caught my second wind. I better understood Jesus’ response to my breakdown that morning and I knew for sure with Him I could do it one more time.

My last chemo I took cupcakes and doughnuts to celebrate. Both of my sisters went with me. I wasn’t prepared for the sense of sadness I felt. The staff and rotating group of fellow warriors had become family to me. The thought of not seeing them on Thursdays every three weeks made my heart ache. I received and gave lots of hugs. I told them I’m not going to let them forget me. I’m already thinking of what I will do for them for Christmas. I left that day glad that it was over, but still wondering in my own heart and mind if I really had it in me to continue on through the rest of this journey. Inside, I still felt like I had nothing left and was finished.

The usual after chemo side effects hit me like a ton of bricks. I stayed in bed all day Friday and would have done the same on Saturday except I had committed to going to a cookout with my sister, Leslie. I wrestled with rather I would go or not all day until finally I decided I would push myself and go. I didn’t know why, but I just felt a press in my heart to go. It didn’t start until 3:30. So, I stayed in bed until the final hour and started getting dressed around 2:30.

When Leslie and I arrived at the cookout the beautiful woman who was that host greeted us with hugs. Leslie introduced me as “the one who writes the blog.” The woman then hugged me again with a big, warm hug and shouts, “You are the bomb.com!” She went on to say how my videos on Facebook have been such an encouragement to her and that my voice is very soothing. Later in the day, she shared her own testimony of her battle with a life-threatening disease. I was truly encouraged and inspired by her journey. She is the definition of a warrior!

Today, as I am writing this blog post, it is day seven after my last chemo. Other than going to that cookout, I have been in the bed feeling sicker than I have throughout all of the treatments. As I lay in bed today I thought about all of the words I have heard spoken to or about me. Words like, “strong,” “encouragement,” “blessing,” “fighter,” “beautiful.” I’ve heard statements like, “You don’t look like you have cancer!,” “No one would ever know you were sick if you didn’t tell them!”, and my now all-time favorite, “You are the bomb.com!” As I thought about that today I thought, ‘I would love to meet the person they see.’

The reality is that is not the me I see. Most days I am just barely hanging on. In 2011 when I had a stroke and could read words, but couldn’t understand them I would sit in my closet every day for hours and read Psalm 27, because it was the only thing I understood. Every day Jesus would say to me, “I in you, you in Me; forever and ever. Amen. Don’t worry. I got you on the left. (He said that because the stroke happened on the left side of my brain).” I understood that despite having the most loving, supportive family on this side of heaven, at the end of the day it was just Him and me. And that remains the same.

I used to pray that one day I would look so much like Jesus that I wouldn’t know where He ended and I began. A cute prayer in theory, but in reality I need to ALWAYS know and clearly see where I end and Jesus begins. One of the many things I love about the writings of the Apostle Paul, in the New Testament, is he clearly defined what was him and what was not, always giving all glory and honor to God for His miraculous works. In I Timothy 1:15, he even spoke of himself as being the “chief” of sinners. The line of demarcation was clear. Though I know I am a generally nice person and don’t give up easily, all of those wonderful words that have passed through my ears I have sent directly to Jesus.

In this “selfie”, “followers,” and “likes” generation where so much effort is placed on showing everyone your “best” self and gaining praise for it, I need for it to always be crystal clear in my own mind that the very best of me is Jesus in me. He’s the part of me that is a blessing and encouragement to others. He’s the strength and fight inside of me that keeps me going from day to day. Absent Him, I am certain many of the words I’ve heard over these past months would be quite different. Looking from the inside out, the me I see at this moment is very small, tired, weak, and fragile. But, I know I am safe in the arms of the One who is greater and is everything I am not.

For today, I am comforted knowing were it not for Jesus, “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13 NKJV).” Next stop on our breast cancer journey seven weeks of radiation, five days a week…

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: My Body, God’s Temple

It has been awhile since I sat down and wrote a blog post, May 26th, after my fourth chemo, to be exact. I have since completed two more chemo treatments and am now beyond the halfway mark of the end of chemotherapy! All has continued to go well, except that my heart rate and blood pressure have been elevated, which my oncologist expressed concern about. If it continues, he said we will have to take a look at my treatment and possibly make some adjustments.

I’ve finally gotten into a rhythm where chemo is concerned. I don’t get worked up or upset about it anymore and no longer have to “prep” myself for it mentally and emotionally a few days before. I don’t know that I will ever fully be used to and comfortable with having the needle put into my chest when it begins. But, each time its done I know I’m one step closer to the finish line. Breast cancer has become such a major part of my daily life that all of the aches, pains, ups, downs, physical, mental, and emotional nuances that come with it are a part of my new normal. So much so that when my body prohibits be from doing something I want to do or I get really cranky because I am exhausted from doing something small I get frustrated and upset, because I often forget that I am still in a battle. 

Last week I made it back to doing one of my favorite things, walking at the lake near my house. I absolutely love it there. I walk there for as long as I can in the mornings listening to my “Jesus and me” Playlist. It is my time of praise and worship. There are two songs by Mercy Me that really ministered to my heart. The first one is called, “Greater.” The song says, “There’ll be days I lose the battle Grace says that it doesn’t matter. ‘Cause the cross already won the war. He’s Greater, He’s Greater. I am learning to run freely. Understanding just how He sees me. And it makes me love Him more and more. He’s Greater, He’s Greater.”

As I walked, listening to those words, the lyrics jumped off of the music and into my heart. It was as if I suddenly realized for the first time, with great clarity, I am in a battle. Daily I battle to force my aching body out of bed and do some kind of exercise. I battle to press pass how nauseated I feel and choose the right foods to eat, while praying they stay down and I do not vomit. I battle the intense feeling of loneliness, while surrounded by the people who love me most. I battle trying to understand where I fit in this crazy world I live in. I battle trying to remember that God really is working all things together for my good and His glory. As I listened to “Greater” that day, the revelation that no matter how intense the battle and how many days I feel as if I am losing, Jesus already won the war on my behalf settled so deep in my heart that I felt renewed. 

That day I started thinking about my body. At my oncologists suggestion, I’ve been trying to do some kind of exercise daily. Mostly I just go walking at the lake, but I also incorporate some very light strength training. I’m beginning to see my body changing. The back of my arms don’t flap as much when I wave or lift my arms. My lower body isn’t as jiggly as it once was. And on my good days I feel my muscles growing stronger. As I’ve been trying to be consistent with exercising, I have used I Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV), “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies,” as my motivational scripture. 

The same body that has had more surgeries that I can count right now, a stroke, has suffered tremendous mental and emotional trauma, and is currently being pumped with poison every three weeks to war against breast cancer, is the actual House, the Temple in which God’s Spirit, Holy Spirit, lives. Throughout many of my traumas I have often said, ‘Well no body has nailed me to a cross yet so this pain is nothing compared to what Jesus suffered for me.’ But, I am beginning to see that all of those indescribably painful experiences really are tangible, relatable, glimpses of the pain Jesus suffered on the cross. Every lash of the whip that tore through His flesh and each nail that pierced His body was laced with my sin, my abuse, my stroke, my cancer, my pain… He bore ALL of it on His body in my place. Romans 8:16-17 (NLT) says, “For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” So as a joint heir with Jesus, I must also join Him in a measure of His suffering. But, Romans 8:18 (NIV) promises, “…our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

The chorus of Mercy Me’s song “Flawless” says, “No matter the bumps, No matter the bruises, No matter the scars, Still the truth is The cross has made, The cross has made you flawless. No matter the hurt, Or how deep the wound is, No matter the pain, Still the truth is The cross has made, The cross has made you flawless.” As I listened to that as I walked at the lake on another day last week, it was a much needed reminder that no matter how many times I miss the mark, despite all my failures, heartbreak, rejection, every perfectly placed imperfection, and the sickness and disease that has attacked this body, because of Jesus I AM FLAWLESS! 

In John 2:19 Jesus said, “…Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” He was speaking of His body, His crucification, and His resurrection. Galatians 2:20 (NIV) says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” My body is is not my own. It is God’s temple. It is prime real estate! Jesus paid the ultimate price so that He, through His Holy Spriirt, could live on the inside of me.

Ephesians 2:6 (NIV) says, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Since I am crucified with Christ and reside in Heavenly realms with Him, I know when my “three days” of this cancer journey are over He is going to raise this body to abundant life, health, and strength like I have never known before. For today, I am standing firm on the promises of God’s word, while I keep pressing on toward my expected end of this breast cancer journey.

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Who Do You Say I Am?

Recently, out of the blue, Jesus asked me, “So, who do you say I am?” Startled by the question all kinds of words flooded my mind…Lord, Savior, Friend, Healer, Provider…Before I could try to put together a coherent, definitive answer, He said, “I will make it easy for you. Just say I AM. Any and every thing You need Me to be I AM.” I found myself pondering that thought the rest of the day.

I didn’t know why His response struck me the way that it did. I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior when I was 5 years old. I distinctly remember making a conscious decision at that young age that I wanted Jesus to live inside my heart. I can’t say that I honestly understood what salvation truly meant at the time. I just knew I loved Jesus and wanted Him to be with me always. And most of all I wanted to see Him in heaven. Thinking about it now, in light of all that has occurred in the last six years of my life, in some ways I think I got stuck on who I learned He was in the Bible days, and who I know He will be when I get to heaven, but never fully allowed Him to be who He is in my now.

The other day I was telling one of my daughters that before I had cancer if I had to describe myself the word “controlling” would never have entered my mind. My personality is such that I can pretty much get along with anyone, go with the flow, and roll with the punches. I respect other people’s right to not agree with my opinion or perspective. I don’t argue or try to change anyone. People are who they are, until they desire to change. Even with my daughters, now that they are adults and it is no longer my responsibility to guide their decisions, I listen to their dilemmas and respond only if my opinion is solicited. Unless God tells me to say something specific to someone, I pray about what I see, and mind my own business. 

When Jesus asked who do I say He is, not was or will be, but who He IS right now I saw a conflict between who I say He is and who I allow Him to be. His question shined a light on how controlling I am when it comes to my own life. When I had the stroke I still felt like I had some measure of control over my own life. I worked as hard as I could in physical therapy and felt very accomplished when I was able to walk without a cane. Occupational therapy was often frustrating, but the first time I was able to cook breakfast for myself I knew every moment of frustration was worth it. Speech and language therapy almost always had me in tears. Julie, my speech therapist, taught me all kinds of “tricks” so I could adapt to my brain’s new way of processing information. My million dollar moment was when I went to the grocery store by myself and did not get overly frustrated trying to follow my list or cry at the cash register when I had to deal with numbers to pay.

Cancer is a whole different animal. Everything about it makes me feel completely helpless and out of control. There is nothing I can do, except trust Jesus to be everything I say He is and more. I will start chemotherapy next week and the thought of it still unnerves me inside. I have to go into it knowing that Jesus really is my Peace, my Healer, my Comforter, my Great Physician and He can be all of those things without my help. The idea that there is nothing for me to do except allow Jesus to be who He is, is a foreign concept for me. When it comes to my own life, being still and knowing He is God makes me feel so uncomfortable.

So, for today, I am thankful for the opportunity to learn how to let go and let God be God. I can only imagine the great freedom I will feel on the other side of breast cancer. I expect to be so comfortable with allowing Jesus to be the I AM of my entire life, ever circumstance, and every concern that I will be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride of my resurrected life in perfect peace and unspeakable joy! 

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: And Beauty is Her Name…

Let me first say if you haven’t noticed already I love music. I do not pigeonhole myself by choosing to only listen to one particular genre or by making the ridiculous decision to listen to music according to the race or ethnicity of the artist singing or playing it. Instead, I choose what I listen to based upon what I can actually stand to listen to. Some “secular” songs are just a bunch of venomous, vulgar words strategically sung or rhythmically spoken over top of music or a beat. To me, that is not music anyway. It’s just a bunch of noise (strictly, my personal opinion. I totally respect yours if you disagree). In the same vein, some “Gospel” songs aren’t really Gospel as much as they are inspirational (again, just my opinion), which doesn’t bother me at all. It’s still music. 

I also love to sing. I am the headliner of my shower and the star of the one-woman shows I perform daily in my bedroom. On our way to or from one of my many doctor appointments, as I was singing the song playing on the radio, my mom said “You have a beautiful voice (of course, she’s not the least bit biased because I am her daughter. Not only that, what mother do you know would say to her daughter that has breast cancer, ‘Oh by the way, you do know you can’t sing, right?’ LOL). 

Anyone reading this who is around my age (46) and happens to have been a member of First Baptist Church of Glenarden (in Maryland) when it was located in the original building on Brightseat Road, down the street from Landover Mall, will appreciate the story my mom then told me about when I was a “Sunbeam.” For those of you who do not know what I am talking about, the Sunbeams is the name of the children’s choir at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden. When I and my sister, Leslie, were Sunbeams (over 40 years ago – WOW!), we wore these bright yellow choir robes, which made perfect sense. We were Sunbeams after all (the new Sunbeams get to wear cute color coordinated outfits. So, are they really Sunbeams like we were? Lol). My mom said the choir director let me be in the choir with my sister when I was three years old and she was six. I don’t know what the age threshold was, but it was older than three. So, unless other such concessions were made over the last 43 years, I may have been the youngest Sunbeam ever! What an honor. My mom said I sang the songs, but spent most of the time asleep on the choir director’s lap once our time to “shine” was finished. 

I said all of that to say, after the stroke I lost a lot of who I once was. But, God in His graciousness, mercy, and unfailing love for me not only left me with my love for music. But, enhanced it. Prior to the stroke, I didn’t wake up humming or singing what I call my “Heaven Songs”, which are melodies or full songs that are somehow downloaded in my brain overnight. I didn’t have my daily headliner gig in my shower. And my one-woman shows did not exist. I am convinced if I could really sing and had any musical gifting at all, I would be dangerous. Maybe I’ll add learning how to play an instrument to my “things I WILL do” list.

One morning last week, after I got out of the shower, I stood naked (is that TMI? In the world we live in now, I don’t think there is such a thing anymore, but if it is I’m sorry) in front of my bedroom mirror and tried to imagine what my body would look like without breasts. My bra size is 38 D (again, forgive me if that is TMI). I stood there for several moments trying to visualize myself without my 38 D’s prominently posted in their normal position (which at 46, having had three children, is much more south than I would like them to be, but such is life). Standing there I recalled how I felt when I had to have a hysterectomy 13 years ago. I already had three children, but still felt like I was less of a woman somehow. My doctor assured me it was not unusual to feel that way after a hysterectomy, but couldn’t be further from the truth (Leslie, yes, I am resisting the temptation to tell the story Aunt Mary shared with you because I know for SURE that is TMI! You can thank me later). 

The medical advancements that are now available for women with breast cancer are wonderful. If you have to have or choose a mastectomy or bilateral mastectomy (removal of both breasts) you have options as to how you would like that area of your body to look afterward. But, even with all of the options available, I’m sure it does not erase the emotional and mental effects of having a part of your body removed that at one time you may have used to feed your baby, or what may have been one of the parts of your body your husband/boyfriend/man/significant other or even you, for that matter, liked most. As I pulled myself away from the mirror my heart began to ache for all of the women who have had or will have to stand in the mirror and no longer see the breasts they once had in their normal position. As I started to get dressed, the chorus of the song “Beauty,” by Dru Hill began to play in my mind. The words are, “Walks by me everyday, her and love are the same. The woman that’s stolen my heart. And beauty is her name.” So, I put on my headphones and listened to the song.

When the song ended Jesus softly repeated something He said to me a few years ago, “Of all the flowers in creation none can compare to the most precious and delicate of them all, a woman. She is the softness, the delicacy of humanity. Her gentle, quiet spirit, should she choose to put it on, captures My heart. Though some have reduced her to body parts, only seeing the parts of her that ignite their lusts, I look upon her as with the eyes of a Master Artisan admiring His most treasured work of art. I see the beauty in every perfectly placed imperfection and declare each one beauty-full. I see the beauty of the heart within, which too often escapes the naked eye. Each time you look in the mirror remember: ‘Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.’ Then look again and see through My eyes.” 

1 Peter 3:3-4 (NKJV) says, “Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”

So, ladies…big boobs, small boobs, no boobs, big hips, small hips, big butt, small butt, size 0 or the largest size available, and every size in between…no matter where you fall on the spectrum you are ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL, just because you are a woman created with the “incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is vey precious in the sight of God.” Rather or not you choose to walk in, and be who you were created to be is purely your choice. For today, I hope we ALL choose to be beautiful! 

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: The Beginning…

On November 15, 2016 I had my normal annual mammogram that I have had every year since I turned 40. After my mammogram in 2013 I remember how my heart dropped when I got a call saying I needed to come back for an ultrasound of my right breast, because they thought they saw something. The “something” they saw turned out to be a small cyst, absolutely nothing to worry about. So, when I received a similar phone call after my mammogram in November about something they needed to look at further in my left breast I was so unconcerned that it was almost two weeks before I called to schedule the appointment for the ultrasound and mammogram compression views of the area of concern.

On December 22, 2016 I returned for the additional testing. They first did the mammogram compression views of my left breast, which by the way is much more uncomfortable than the regular one they do. Then off to the familiar ultrasound room. I assumed the position with my left breast exposed and my left arm above my head as the technician did her thing. I watched as she measured something she saw on the screen. When she finished she said, “Stay in the same position. I’ll be right back.” She returned with a male doctor who told me I have a mass in my left breast that would require a biopsy. Baffled, I asked, ‘So, this is something different than the cyst that was seen in my right breast 3 years ago?’ He quickly responded, “This is something completely different.” Then proceeded to explain what the needle biopsy would be like. I told him I had a needle biopsy done on my thyroid before and knew the process. He said that the one they would perform on my breast would be much less painful than the one I had on my thyroid. He said other than a needle stick to numb the area I shouldn’t feel anything. Next, they allowed me to get dressed and took me to the “quiet room” so a very nice woman named Vanessa could softly tell me not to worry and that 90% of the time it turns out to be nothing. I’m thinking, ‘Well Vanessa, it may not be cancer, but it is obviously SOMETHING or I wouldn’t be sitting here in the quiet room with you making sure I understand what the doctor told me.” The biopsy was then scheduled for January 9, 2017.

In the midst of all of this I was recovering from a concussion I sustained in a car accident on December 4, 2016, the day after my 46th birthday. So, to say I was less than pleasant would be a tremendous understatement. Still, I had a wonderful Christmas with my beautiful family and began preparing for the New Year with great expectation! On December 29, 2016 I had a dream/vision of a doctor in a hospital talking to some people. I didn’t see myself or my family in the dream. He said, “Everything went well. She is doing just fine. We found the cancer on the left. It is always on the left.” The dream or whatever it was didn’t scare me as much as it made me curious. I wondered if God was preparing me for the results after the biopsy. The only thought that kept cycling through my mind was “This affliction is not unto death…(John 11:4)” and “You shall live and not die and declare the works of the Lord (Psalm 118:17).” The next day, December 30, 2016, I woke up on “auto pilot” singing praise songs, dancing around my room mindlessly, yet meticulously, gathering all of my personal, banking, and insurance information. I put everything in order in a way that would make all of my information easily accessible to my daughters. I didn’t give any thought to what I was doing or why. I just did it.

Monday, January 9, 2017, biopsy day, finally arrived and I was not nervous or anxious at all. I was at peace. I got dressed, put on make-up, took a selfie and sent it to my family. I even joked that I had to make sure I looked my best just in case the doctor or someone involved with the procedure was a hot, single, Christian man. I told them he would’ve already seen my boobs, which may qualify as a first date. No such luck. Ladies, never let a man tell you what will or won’t hurt your lady parts. The assault on my left breast that they called a needle biopsy was much more painful than the one I had on my thyroid. When it was over they said my doctor should have the results within 72 hours.

On Tuesday, January 10th, the very next day, I get a call from my doctor’s nurse who told me my doctor would like me to come into the office so he could talk to me that day. She asked if I could be there by 11:30. I said I could and would make sure I cried before I got there, since the result of the biopsy was obviously cancer. My doctor explained that I have invasive ductal carcinoma, which is the most common type of breast cancer women get. He told me who my new “team members” would be; a breast surgeon and an oncologist. He told me the next step would be “staging,” which would require more diagnostic testing and ultimately surgery to remove the tumor.

On January 12th I had my first appointment with the breast surgeon who basically reiterated what my doctor told me. She ordered an MRI of both breasts and a PET Scan of my whole body to rule out any other areas of concern. I had both of those tests done yesterday, January 17th. I woke up yesterday morning in tears and unnerved by the whole process. The day before and on that morning I kept hearing in my spirit, “There is more to be seen.” For the first time I felt as if I was afraid. I am so thankful that God has given me women of God that I can text, email, or call with my emotional meltdowns. I sent out the distress signal and they responded. As I was crying my eyes out, Jesus whispered in my ear, “You are NOT afraid. You are nervous, which is a normal human response when you experience something new and uncomfortable. Fear is a SPIRIT, which I have not given you (see 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV) and therefore has no place in you. When you finish crying, get dressed so we won’t be late for our appointment.” Him saying “our” appointment gave me great peace, because I knew He was with me. So I pulled myself together and got dressed.

The PET Scan technician, Hassan, explained he would be injecting some kind of radioactive stuff into my veins, then I would sit in another room for an hour while it worked its way through my body, I guess. I joked with Hassan while he was doing the injection that I was going to light up like a Christmas Tree when I left. He laughed. People have always said I have a beautiful, bright smile. I told him I expected my smile to really light up the room today! He smiled and escorted me to a room that had a nice recliner in it, dimmed the lights and said he would be back in an hour. I reclined, put my headphones on, and listened to my worship playlist. I got to spend a whole hour of just Jesus and me before the next set of unnerving handling of my body. How awesome is that!

After the PET Scan was finished I was seated in a hall waiting area until they were ready for the MRI. There I was joined by Kevin, who was also dressed in one of the highly fashionable blue gowns I was wearing. We chatted a bit as we both tried our best to keep our lady and male parts adequately covered so nothing came popping out that would’ve made us both very uncomfortable. During our conversation he said/asked, “You are a Christian?” I said, ‘Yes’, but didn’t get a chance to ask him what gave it away, because they called me in for the MRI.

The MRI wasn’t too bad, but was uncomfortable because my left breast is still sore from the assault it endured during the biopsy. The MRI assistant, Rosa, was an absolute sweetheart and the technician, Connie, was very pleasant. I got to listen to music in headphones throughout the process. I chose jazz. Connie selected Kenny G’s “I’m in the Mood for Love” CD, which she assured me was among his best. I enjoyed it so much that I downloaded it from Apple Music as soon as I got home.

The whole process for both tests took about 2 1/2 hours. My mom, the awesome Missionary & Reverend to whom no one is a stranger, took me to the appointment. So, I was not surprised at all when I entered the waiting room and she introduced me to an older gentleman named, Mr. Renee, who promptly gave me a hug, told me to give it all to God, and I have a wonderful mother, which I already knew. But, I was glad Mr. Renee was able to experience her special brand of sunshine that I am able to enjoy on the regular. As we were leaving I again saw Kevin, now fully clothed, and we all walked together to the parking lot. He also got to experience my mom’s special kind of joy. With a big bright smile  (not as bright as my now radioactive one – LOL) he gave me a hug as we headed in opposite directions to our cars.

I would love to say I am blogging my cancer journey for some noble reason, but the truth is I am doing it, because on January 13th Jesus asked me to. I have written about some very personal, traumatic things that have happened in my life, but I always did so looking back at it, not while going through it. I said, ‘Lord, this is so personal and raw for me right now. Do I really have to share it in such a public way?’ He responded: “What you deem personal is the very thing I will use to bring healing, comfort, and My very Presence to those who read what you share. Not everyone is sick with disease. Many are sick in heart, sick in spirit, or among the walking dead who do not know Me. You are honest, real, and transparent. You do not hide behind Christian platitudes or memorized scriptures. You SHOW who I Am just by being who you are and allowing Me to be Myself through you.” So here I sit blogging my journey…

For today…somehow making Hassan smile and laugh on a day I was super nervous and giving Kevin a hug he seemed to need made me feel like in some small way they got to see Jesus through me. Because it was definitely His smile, His jokes, and His arms yesterday!