“You have cancer.” I heard the words, but was in shock. My mind was racing. Tears trickled down my cheeks. Numb, devastated emotionally, totally caught off guard. Me? Cancer? I could not think clearly. My heart was pounding. This can’t be happening; I have so much to do! I don’t have time for this interruption in my life!
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Diagnosed in 2014, I remain cancer free. Because a grieving process is normal when diagnosed, I share my story in the hope it helps someone else. I had intended to cancel my mammogram. I didn’t have time for this exam in my very hectic schedule. But my husband told me to take care of myself for once. Dutifully, and thankfully, I listened to him.
I could not have my husband with me when I got the results of my biopsy. He was home with his own health issues: severe constant dizziness, along with extensive muscle and joint pain. Being blind, he can’t drive me to and from appointments. He can’t be with me in emotional support at my appointments, nor at my surgeries. He can’t be there to put his strong arm of support around me, until I get home and share my heart. And he’s been so loving and supportive, helping to calm my anxious fears.
Because, I am afraid. I don’t know what lies ahead. How will I take care of my husband and everything else if I’m incapacitated? I don’t want to deal with what I’m being forced to handle. I want to be a little girl again without any cares or troubles. But that’s not reality. Reality means I will seek answers.
As a medical/radiology transcriptionist, I researched my diagnosis. I read literature from my surgeon’s office and nurse navigator, devoured the words which reputable medical centers or cancer associations posted online to discuss the disease and the best treatment options available. Objectively, I understood what they were talking about. I knew what the words meant. But deep down inside, I didn’t want to know. I wanted to push it all away. It’s too personal.
Yet, I have decisions to make. I’m more comfortable being on the typing end of the diagnostic language, feeling sorry for “my” patients. No one else can go through, or feel, exactly what you do. Each one of us is as unique as our reactions and grieving process.
I talked with my husband’s aunt who faced her own cancer diagnosis several years ago. She made decisions about her diagnosis with God at her side. I liked her attitude. She is a true woman of faith, an inspiration to me as she looks to our Lord for his guidance every step of the way.
Gradually, after making panicked decisions, then rethinking and picking each option apart, I came to a decision I could live with. A decision my family and closest friends supported me in, being showered with serious and hilarious cards from my childhood friend who was (unbeknownst to me) facing her own health crisis, friends who drove me to appointments, stayed with me during and after surgery, brought meals, and cleaned the house. I can never thank them enough.
And I’m okay, reassured to know my cancer was caught at an early stage. For there are others I’ve known with a cancer diagnosis and prognosis worse than mine, and my heart goes out to every cancer patient and their families for all they are dealing with.
While contemplating, this favorite verse of my daughter, Jennifer, who passed away in 2003, came to mind. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) I also found reassurance “…know[ing] that in all things God works for the good of those who love him...” (Romans 8:28)
Even as I faced my diagnosis head on, not knowing what to do or if I’m making the right decisions, God was answering my heart’s prayers. As I read Romans 15:13, these comforting words entered my soul with more meaning than ever before, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Along this journey, I even found laughter in the book Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Cancer Book, 101 Stories of Courage, Support and Love [pp.156-158]. It was the kind of hearty laughter that brought tears to my eyes, a rolling-on-the-floor kind of laughter! It may have been stifled for a while, but laughter was still within me. Soon, smiles once again reflected the joy and hope down deep in my heart!
So, I was at peace. I found comfort knowing God knew this obstacle on my journey before I came to be. He knew I would struggle, would draw me to His side, and provide loving, caring family and friends to support me. As I’ve grappled with life changes, I know the Lord has had to carry me at times, but He has also led me through the maze as I slowly learned to accept and deal with what He allows to come my way. And hope is renewed as He leads me forward, just as He will for each of you diagnosed with cancer. God bless you.
Linda A. Roorda
When dark is the way and fear gathers ‘round
When the road seems long with twists and turns
The unexpected now comes into view
Quite unprepared, my course it alters.
The vista ahead fraught with fear and stress.
How can this be? Can’t happen to me!
How do I deal with changes to come?
My plate is too full. I can’t handle more!
Why, Lord? I ask. I don’t understand!
As I plunge into the depths of despair.
I’m at a loss. Why this obstacle?
Why me? But then… Why should it not be?
Some days I’m numb. Some days I just cry.
With a loss of hope, and a heavy heart
Many life changes I don’t want to face
A grief ensues, a mourning what was.
As sadness descends and stress consumes
I want to cry. I want to scream out.
I haven’t the time. I just cannot deal.
Difficult questions now haunt all my thoughts.
When darkness of night seems far too long
And no answers come to pleading prayers
Hold me tight Lord, in Your arms of peace
That without fear a new day I may face.
So I withdraw to an inner retreat
My haven safe away from the pain
A place where I rest to gather my fears
Handing them over, releasing my frets.
For there on the side just waiting for me
With arms open wide He hears my deep sighs
The cries of my heart, the fears locked inside
Taking my burdens and guiding my steps.
Who but you, Lord? Who else but you?
Who cares enough to count every tear?
Who feels the pain, the fear and anguish
That steals the joy from within my heart?
Hope like a beacon peeks brightly through tears
With a peace that calms my troubled seas,
Always at my side with a whisper soft
Drawing me near and holding me close.
Though I’ve felt lost while clinging to faith
You’re always here embracing with love
Returning my joy to face each new dawn
Giving me hope in the peace of Your Light.