Thriving with Breast Cancer
How cancer challenged a mom’s lifestyle but deepened her hope.
I wasn’t supposed to be a candidate for breast cancer.
I eat well, I exercise, and my family has no history of it. I’m also a yoga instructor and the area manager for a plant-based health and wellness company.
Yet, in January of 2020, my doctor called me and told me I had breast cancer. I was sitting on my bed and the news felt heavy and sad.
I wondered, how will this affect my life and my husband and our two kids?
I felt like I hopped on a roller coaster ride and became trapped and couldn’t get off.
The journey begins
Officially, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, stage three breast cancer. I had just turned 36 years old.
Honestly, I was not afraid, though my husband was fearing the worst for me.
Rather than dwelling on it, I wanted to do something about it.
In general, I am a pretty strong person. I’m decisive and I’m not a very fearful or worrisome.
Yet, this journey would challenge my strength.
My doctor recommended a treatment plan of chemotherapy and surgery, and so I started chemo in February.
At first, I tried to keep my normal schedule going with kids and work, but it definitely began to affect my energy.
Before my diagnosis, I had signed up for a 10-mile running race. Even with getting chemo every three weeks, I was determined do it, though opting for a 5K race. Surely, I can still run or walk three miles, I thought.
I picked up my race packet and prepared my gear. But as that race approached, I realized the truth: I just don’t have the strength to do this right now.
It hit me hard because I wanted to be the person who could push through. My ego definitely took a hit.
A fearful surgery
Meanwhile, my mastectomy crept up on me. And this part of my journey scared me, considering it would be my first surgery—ever.
Because of the pandemic, my husband and family couldn’t come to the hospital, meaning I would be alone during surgery and the overnight stay.
The surgery went well, but later when I tried to stand up, I passed out.
When I came to, eight sets of eyes stared at me, asking, “Are you ok?” The medical staff determined I had some internal bleeding and so they brought the doctor back to do another surgery.
The second surgery stopped the bleeding but facing it alone, I didn’t have space to feel the weight of all that that was happening to me.
The next day, my family gathered outside the hospital to support me. I could see them in the grass, waving at me and holding signs, which was encouraging.
I was glad to put the surgery behind me, but in quieter moments, I wrestled with tough questions, like, why did I get cancer? Why did my body do this?
How I found hope, strength and peace.
And while some answers still elude me, my faith gives me hope.
I know that God has a plan for me. And even though breast cancer surprised me, it didn’t surprise him.
Before cancer I was already strong. Strength showed itself in good ways and maybe stubborn areas in my life, too. But this experience gave me a deeper understanding of the hope and strength God provides.
Ultimately, my hope comes through having a relationship with him. And I quickly saw, that even when I came to the end of my own strength, I still had strength through him.
One verse in the Bible, Hebrews 10:23, provided great perspective: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”
It’s simple, but it is so powerful. No matter what happens, I can hold unswervingly to the hope that God will take care of me.
Living in hope
Last summer, I finished my treatment with several rounds of radiation during the summer. My doctors have not necessarily said I am in remission or have no evidence of disease yet.
When people ask me about the status of my health, here’s what I say: they killed it with chemo, they cut it out with surgery, and they zapped it with radiation.
I’m living my life as if cancer doesn’t exist. And until someone tells me otherwise, this is how I’m going to roll.
I’m also learning to slow down when my body tells me to. That’s actually been one positive about getting cancer during the pandemic: it forced me to slow down and let my body heal.
I’m learning to be ok with not always being strong, yet still trying to set goals.
For example, I am training to run a marathon, and I signed up for that same race next spring. Yet this time I’m taking it a step at a time to make sure my body is ready.
Before cancer, I might have put it off. But now, if there’s something I want to do, I’m not going to put it off. Because I don’t know how much time I’ve got.
None of us do really.
Living and thriving
Another desire I’m seizing now is to use my story to help others. I have been pretty open about my experience on social media and in person, to show how I am thriving with breast cancer.
If I can go through this and then have the opportunity to help one other person or guide somebody so that they don’t feel so lost or confused or alone in the whole process, then maybe all of this will be worth it.
And I know God has already used me for that.
It’s my story, but he is author and he has already written it. And so, I’m not going to let one ounce of fear or doubt get in the way of living the best life I can.
And so, I will continue to share my story with others and give God the glory. To me, that is thriving.
If you would like to learn more about thriving with cancer, read Every Day is a Gift.
For more help with finding strength outside of yourself, read God’s Help in Cancer.