“I have Cancer. I’m a Survivor.”
Many of us can say those words, but there are many who cannot. Hearing a Cancer diagnosis is a very scary thing. Nothing I’ve done makes me a survivor. I fully believe that it’s faith, the prayers and support of many, and the Grace of God that have gotten me through the past year. There are many that have contributed to my treatment and recovery. So many things gave me strength, beginning with my faith in Christ.
Psalm 27 1The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?
I “went public” with friends and family very soon after my Breast Cancer diagnosis, because I believe in the power of prayer. What I didn’t anticipate was the outpouring of support, often in material ways. I enjoyed Facebook messages, phone calls, visits, cards, and letters of support. We certainly appreciated the dinners, even when I could only eat a few bites. My stack of books to be read seemed to grow on a weekly basis. One friend crocheted a lovely pink butterfly doily to show her concern. I admit that it was hard to accept so many gifts, but one sweet friend reminded me that each gift was a tangible expression of love and support. It was something my friends could do at a time when they felt as helpless as I did. Each call, each card and each gift gave me strength.
Carrie, a past B&B guest and another survivor, sent me a devotional book called, Jesus Calling. JoAnn, my local florist friend has since given me a follow up book by the same author. So many days the devotions I read seemed tailor-made to meet my needs. Meditating on scripture and devotionals gave me strength to meet the challenges of the day. I also kept a journal, upon the advice of some of my other friends. As I read over it today, it’s filled with brief descriptions of feelings and experiences, and entries are often humorous in some way. I drew strength from laughter.
I had a surgeon I trusted and many others that provided competent care throughout my treatment journey. Chemo wiped me out. It took my physical strength. Resulting Neuropathy made standing and walking a near impossibility. My fingers were impacted, as well. My first thought going into treatment was, “Well… I’ll have a lot of time to read and do needlepoint and all the things I love to do in my spare time,” but that was not to be since Chemo also took my mental strength. It made it hard to concentrate. For quite awhile, I didn’t enjoy reading, or stitching, watching Hallmark movies, or any of the things I thought I would. Chemo treatment was a frustrating and challenging time physically, mentally and spiritually. It sapped my strength, but I held on. Psalm 121: 1I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? 2My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
My family was heavily impacted by my experience with breast cancer. Both Glenn and Valerie demonstrated amazing God-given strength through it all. Although Val was just 12, we felt that we should be straightforward with her from the beginning. She knew that I would lose my hair. She knew that I would lose my strength, but she believed that I would not lose my life. Glenn was with me for every chemo treatment, and he’s done more for me than any man should ever have to do for his wife. Valerie stood in as innkeeper during the summer when the chemo effects were at their worst. I believe the Lord used others to lend me strength when I felt like I had none. Isaiah 40:29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
I will never, ever, forget the infusion nurses at Simmons Cancer Center. I cannot imagine the strength it takes to do their work and to do it with such compassion. They knew when my “I’m fine” really meant, “I’m too wiped out to even tell you how bad I feel,” and they knew what questions to ask me and what treatments to request from the doctor to help me. I’m not one to feel depressed, and Olivia was the only therapist I had, or needed. She’s a therapy dog that, along with her trainer Sue, visits patients during chemo. Holding Miss Olivia was a great stress reliever. (That’s Olivia with me in the picture at the top of the page.) I felt frustrated at times, but I never lost hope. After chemo, I saw Jill five days a week for radiation and she was a shining light who worked with me in scheduling to keep radiation from becoming the ruler of my day.
It took a while, but after treatment for pneumonia I could tell that I was finally regaining my physical strength. Little by little, the Neuropathy has subsided for the most part, but I’m still taking medicine. I really can no long blame memory glitches on “Chemo Brain” and I’m doing well keeping up with my work, both at DCFS and with the B&B. My last radiation treatment was November 4th and that night Valerie and 10 of my good friends celebrated with me at Lonzerotti’s Italia, our favorite local restaurant. When I didn’t have strength, Valerie and some of these women stood in the gap. (Glenn was invited, but chose to encourage an all-girls gathering.)
Trying times? Absolutely. Do I want to go through it again? No, thank you. However, even the most trying times are opportunities for lessons to learn. One thing I’ve learned is that I have many sources of strength, but ultimately my strength comes from the Lord. Psalm 121 7The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; 8the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.