April is a big month for me. On April 26, 2012 I celebrated a HUGE victory. That is the day, at 2:15 pm, I was told, “You are cancer free!” After being diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer in November 2010, I began surgeries and treatments that ended in April 2012.
As this anniversary date approached, I had many things running through my head; random memories of the cancer center and that “one of a kind, not found anywhere else” smell; the taste of the peppermint candies I sucked on to keep the horrible taste of saline and chemo out of my mouth; the blanket I brought to keep warm during treatments and comfy pink slipper socks. I can still hear the sound of radiation equipment being dialed into place. It was such a lonely feeling being alone in the radiation room, as the technicians went behind layers of safety walls, and I lay there exposed, cold and numb, willing the machine noises to stop; hoping I wouldn’t burn.
Good memories also pop into my mind of my faithful husband going with me to my treatments while the meds flowed in; or when a friend kept me company during a long treatment. The distraction of good company meant so much to me, even though I knew it was hard for them and uncomfortable. There are the memories of my little 2nd grade boy telling me to hop on his bed, as he tucked me in with blankets and got out his books to read to me. Blessed. Loved. Precious. I treasured up in my heart when my 6th grade girl would tell me about her day and the ups and downs of middle school; feeling so blessed that she shared with me; praying so hard that I would have years and years ahead of me to just listen to her talk to me.
Through all of this, I learned I am physically strong, as my body fought with everything it had to beat this invader named breast cancer. It endured extreme treatments, nausea, steroids, exhaustion and hair loss, but never stopped fighting. God gave me the strength to make it one more day, through one more test, one more treatment. He did it. He is absolutely faithful. His eyes never left me and His tears mixed with my own as I would cry out of fear, rage and frustration; when I wondered if I was going to die.
I see my body through a different filter now. I am proud of my scars. They shout out that a battle was waged and won. I want to be strong and healthy, so I do what I love – hiking, biking, swimming and all things outdoors. I want to enjoy every single second of life I am given. If my son asks me to go get ice cream, I will. It’s a memory we are making and it makes me happy that he wants to share it with me. So I will eat ice cream and I will not worry over whether or not I will look ok in a swim suit because of it. I am alive and that is enough. Our days are numbered and I want to take advantage of each one with those I fiercely love.
I am mentally and spiritually stronger, as well. Despite days of deep sadness, fear of the unknown, rage and brain fog, I told myself I would get through this; that cancer would not win and that God would not give me more than I could handle. I knew God would be with me through every test, every treatment, every bit of good and bad news. I held on to that and He proved Himself faithful and merciful and compassionate. Yes, it was the hardest thing I have ever done. Yes, it put my body, mind and soul to the ultimate test, but I am an overcomer and I am victorious in Christ Jesus.
During other trials that have come along since this cancer diagnosis, I have looked back on all that Jesus brought me through. It gives me strength and courage to face the trials that I know are coming. Life is hard, unpredictable and unfair, but I have found that if you look closely, you will find nuggets of joy and hidden treasures of beauty in everything. It is there just waiting to be discovered, but you have to look for it, change your filter from a victim mentality and choose life; choose to find peace, hope and sweetness in whatever is swirling around you. I promise you it is there. I remind myself daily, sometimes minute by minute, that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It is only by His strength, love and healing that I am here to live another day and breathe another breath. It is His breath in my lungs and as long as I live, I will give Jesus the praise, honor and thanks due Him. He saved my life and changed my perspective. I am thankful. I have another day to live and my prayer is that I leave everyone better than I found them. Peace and love, readers.