Preparation For The Present Valley

Caregiving for my husband can get emotionally heavy at times, but I feel my past experiences has helped to prepare me somewhat for this experinece. One of these recent past experiences was my fight against breast cancer.
Yesterday marked the first anniversary of my freedom from breast cancer treatment! In July of this year the Lord willing I will be a two year survivor of breast cancer, as survivorship is counted from the day one is diagnosed
About a year before I was diagnosed with breast cancer my husband was diagnosed with his serious neurological disease in 2006. I sometimes wonder if the grief I felt over his diagnosis may have contributed to my getting cancer. That we will never know for sure, I suspect.
In July of 2007 I noticed a swelling in my right breast and under my arm. I was able to book an appointment with my physician's assistant. She sent me for a mammogram and MRI the next day. A couple days later I received the devastating news that I did indeed have breast cancer and that the cancer had invaded my lymph nodes. The tumor in my breast was very large, and my dr. told me later that my lymph nodes were all gummed together A few days later I found myself at my oncologist's office, and after a full body scan at the hospital I began chemo. I began chemo by the end of July of 2007. I had 4 chemo treatments in 3 week cycles (meaning once every three weeks). Then I had mastectomy surgery and all my lymph nodes under my arm removed in October of 2007. That was followed by four more chemo treatments in 3 week cycles. After chemo treatments were completed I had a few weeks break after which I had 6 1/2 weeks of radiation daily. Radiation was completed in April of 2008. Side effects of chemo were fatigue, mild nausea sometimes, food tasting like cardboard, loss of all of my hair etc. Radiation caused some burning, but it was manageable especially compared to chemo. Since April of 2008 I just go back for checkups. So far everything has been looking good!
During the time of my cancer treatments I had a host of people praying for me-even people across the ocean! We also had people from our church bringing in meals twice a week for a long time. I further had church people bringing me to all my chemo treatments and most of my radiation treatments. The medical people at my cancer care center were wonderful. Cancer treatments would not be a time that I would want to go through again, but at the same time it was a time of blessing as well as hardship. It is hard to explain, but I became more free in my spirit and less concerned about other's opinions as a result to this cancer experience. I experienced the love of other people, and most of all I experienced the love of my Lord and Savior in a new and fresh way. I learned dependence on the Lord God during those many months, and I grew in my faith. The Lord's strength and His love to me demonstrated through others got me through those months.
On an emotional level the first few weeks and months after the completion of cancer treatment in some ways were more difficult than the time of treatments. When one is in the midst of treatments one is fighting the cancer. When one has completed treatments one has the sensation that one is no longer fighting. I was overjoyed that treatments were completed, but what if the cancer recurred? To a large degree those concerns were resolved in my mind by remembering that God is in control of my life. Yes, there is a chance of cancer recurrence. There is also the certainty that there will always be problems in this life, but I am further certain that my Lord and Savior will be with me all through my life. I know He will give me the strength to handle anything I need to face in the future. Even in hard times God has promised to be with me and bless me and someday take me to live with Him eternally.
I chose to not do breast reconstruction after my mastectomy surgery. It was a right decision for me, but there is a certain grief in the lost of a body part. I have a little sign on my bathroom sink that says, "You are a beautiful creation in Christ." This is a beautiful comfort to me. I also remember the excitement of my first hair cut several months after chemo was completed!
The further I get away from the cancer treatments the less I am emotionally connected to the memory of those treatments, but the memory of those days will never go away. It has changed whom I am forever mostly for the good.
I still grieve over my husband's neurological disease which has no cure and continues to only get worse. I still am miles away from having it altogether. Just perhaps, however, I will be able to face today and the days ahead with more of God's strength, because of my cancer experience.

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