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Tuesday, July 25th 2006

4:35 PM

I wanted to share with you what wrote for my sister to read at the Breast Cancer Body Image Workshop for the Arts for the C.U.R.E group she has gotten involved with since my experience and some of her friends have had breast cancer.

Let me start by saying that everyone’s story is their story and as a believer, hopefully it is a story of who HE is in them.

I have learned to never compare stories, we share, but don’t compare. Because honestly someone has had it worse and someone has had it better, that is life. We share our stories to give hope, encouragement, support...never ever to diminish what one or the other is going thru. What we are going thru IS NOT "piddily stuff"...it is big, it is serious and it is scary...BUT if we REALLY stop and think about it...we CAN’T be brave UNLESS we're scared, and everything any of us have stepped thru in our lives has required us to be brave...this is just one of them, right...?

My journey began in 1981 when I found my first breast tumor and continued thru last year when they found the last 3 bringing my 25 yr total to 12. In between the 9 lumpectomies and removing a triangle piece of muscle & tissue under my right arm because of a “suspicious” thickening, I endured severe endometriosis & polycystic ovary disease resulting in the removal of 14 grapefruit sized ovarian cysts, over the course of 5 surgeries (2 of which occurred within 5 months of one another) that ended by introducing me to menopause via a complete hysterectomy, at the ripe old age of 28.

So is it any surprise that when the surgeon told me that there were 3 tumors, instead of just the 1 originally thought was there, I pretty much broke down? Not really. Then he examined me. And while on the examining table, he says, “did you know THAT was there?”...well yes, but in the midst of everything, I forgot to mention it. I had walked around for probably a year and a half, taking the hands of my mother and my bestest girlfriends, saying “here feel this, is this normal?” So there it was, a thick mass in my upper chest wall…so now what?

All I know at this point is I can’t do this anymore, I can’t endure the fear anymore, the waiting anymore, the “is it cancer this time?” anymore. Every time a tumor showed up, my risk for breast cancer increased. I told my surgeon that I knew that some had it worse than me and that I had it worse than others and his response was to remind me that my risk for breast cancer was high and that he’d rather do a mastectomy on me than another lumpectomy. Well, now there is a thought…

So I decided to be proactive and have a double mastectomy and a Latissimus Dorsi flap reconstruction. I didn’t have a biopsy because I wanted to avoid more procedures and figured either we would be saying whew it was cancer and we got it or whew it wasn’t cancer and we beat it...My final diagnosis is breast disease, no breast cancer.

So why am I writing this? Because I do know the fear of that looming diagnosis, time after time after time. It was very scary, intense and trying every single time. When they found the last 3 tumors, something inside me broke, I had gone from lumpectomy to lumpectomy and then getting on with my life, which in many ways is healthy, but I never dealt with the risk factor, but these 3 made me stop dead on the tracks of my life and everything halted. Do I wait until cancer darkens the door of my life to justify doing something or do I not give it a chance?

What is the definition of a survivor? It isn’t merely someone who beats back a death sentence, by surviving some percentage of odds against them? Or can it merely be, at the base core of the soul, someone who chooses to live? Now God not withstanding, and so it is understood, I absolutely believe God has my life & times in the palm of His hand and is able thru ANY circumstance, to chose to call me home to Himself, but short of that, He allows us to make many life choices because of the gift of choice He gave us and one of them is the survival choice. A soul will fight all odds to survive, we have seen & heard MANY stories testifying to such and others where no matter how strong the will to live is, death comes anyway…this is the power of God. He is the creator of life and He decides our life & times, even if we do not believe in Him. So because I believe this, do I disengage from making choices to live? NO WAY! I exercised my gift of choice and I made the choice to live.

Can I tell you that the road afterwards has been all joy, the answer is no. It has been a strange journey, to say the very least. For one, I have found my femininity again, by being a fake boobed, no nippled woman…who woulda ever thunk that one up? Certainly not me! And even though I am eternally grateful for having had the chance to be pro-active, there has been the “who am I, what right do I have to share or speak, and the you cheated” thoughts and feelings that have and still are, even as I write this, clobbering my heart & mind, to the point of tears. There is a part of me that wants to stand up and say, “you bet ya I cheated; I cheated breast cancer out of the opportunity to cross my life path”! I want to stand up and scream I am a survivor! But the survivor’s guilt I struggle with hasn’t let me – yet. It is a strange phenomenon of issues for me to work thru; I don’t know anyone yet who has walked my path, so I can’t go ask, “Is this normal”? Maybe it is, maybe not, but it is part of my journey right now.

I know whom I have believed and I press toward the mark and will fight the good fight, saying here I am, always stunned to amazement that He will use one such as I...the story of my life...at least this part, to be able to comfort those with which, I have been comforted of God. Writing this is part of that battle, as is talking to women within my realm of influence fights the good fight. And as I am continually reminded of what my lovely Sissy told me one day, that what God wants to use me for and what is offered thru me, is not merely contained within the realm of this experience. I want to reach women out there who have been in my shoes and let them know, they aren’t alone. I want to touch and comfort those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer with whatever He has equipped me to comfort them with, I want us ALL to know Him through it, as we should know Him through everything on this journey thru life.

The point is, that what we each go thru is REAL and we FEEL it and sometimes REEL from it...I have not been thru the door of cancer, been right up to it, but not thru it...So, please don’t ever invalidate what you are going thru, on any level, by comparing it to or against what someone else is or has gone thru...all that will do is pit you against what you are going thru and what you would normally, naturally feel and need to feel, to rely on Him thru it all. Our outlook on whatever we go thru makes such a difference in how we go thru what lays before us. No matter how hard anything is, we WILL get thru it, just take one day at a time and remember that all of our days are written and God owns the book. Breathe, pray, trust, ask questions, make the best decisions for you that you can with the information that you gather and trust, trust, trust that the Living God of the universe sees you and KNOWS your every heart cry and seeks to answer it, with Himself. God gave me Psalm 18 condensed one time and it goes something like this: "He hears your cry, EVEN unto His ear, and He BOWS down heaven to deliver you, cuz He delights in you." This isn’t a promise that the worse won’t happen, but that no matter what happens, God goes before us and we can trust that.

I have come to realize that as I am able to share my testimony, that the moment of sharing does not indicate, in any stretch of the imagination, the length, breadth & depth of time it took to live it, die to it, & recover from it...nor does it indicate how much it cost to obtain its jewels, its nuggets of truth or its principles of wisdom...in its sharing, it sets up the listener to believe that all this occurred in a moment of time, when truly, it has taken my whole lifetime to write thus far...and because life is life, I *know* there is more to come.

So my dear new friends, I encourage you to stand, as hard as I KNOW that can be, so that you can get on with what is before you…with all the passion, strength, hope, and faith…for there IS a future...so together lets raise our swords of victory, adjust our badges of courage and press in to fight the good fight...for the battle is the Lords!

And because I am the woman God made me, I would be in error if I did not add one final thing, IF you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, please come & talk to my sister or if you are reading this, you can ask me, and we will tell you how you can come to saving knowledge of Christ.

Thank you for your time and your hearts, I pray that the Lord lead & comfort each of you in all that is before you.

13 Thoughts.

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