The year 2015 was really tough for my family. To begin with, my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. His only sister was also diagnosed with her third bout of cancer and her daughter (my husband’s niece) at the age of 28, was also diagnosed with breast cancer. At that point I did not realise that the situation was about to get worse and I was about to start a journey of my own through the storm. Isaiah 43:2 says “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
In April of 2016 my husband of 33 years lost his battle to cancer. That September, during a regular mammogram, a lump was found in my right breast. The biopsy confirmed that it was indeed cancer. The waters just got deeper. I was scheduled for a lumpectomy at the end of October. But on the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend I fell causing a complex break in my right shoulder and I needed emergency surgery. How much more of this storm could I endure? I knew that I could not do it alone! I again prayed desperately for God’s intervention. I also had the blessing of having many of my faithful friends, which I call my church family, pray for me. Each one of their prayers brought me hope and strength.
Without prayer I would not have been able to survive the weeks to come. I had a lumpectomy two weeks after my shoulder surgery. I then endured 6 chemo sessions followed by 30 radiation sessions. The treatments were accompanied by many side effects. The storm was so fast paced that I did not have time to feel sorry for myself. The waters kept getting deeper. By July of 2017 I officially finished my cancer treatment. I had a visit with my oncologist who advised me that, due to my age, the probability of this cancer recurrence was high. Therefore, she recommended further treatment of a low dose chemo pill. I went home with a heavy heart and a prescription. I soon realised that the recommended treatment did not agree with me. I started getting a burn on the right side of my neck, my balance was off, my whole body ached and my joints were stiff. I was told that I would get used to the side effects in time, but was given the option of trying yet another treatment. I went home with a new prescription and my head full of doubts. Was this the right treatment for me? The treatment was to be for a period of 5 to 10 years. I started the new medication, and again, I was assaulted with a host of terrible side effects. How sick and debilitated would this make me in the long term? Will I be able to take care of myself? Being a widow, I was living alone, and I was running my late husband’s company. Would I be able to concentrate and do all that I was supposed to do while on this medication? Feeling very dejected and weary, I surrendered to God and put all these questions to prayer. I asked God and the Holy Spirit to give me a sign as to what to do. What would be right for me?
On September 17th Women of the Word (WOW) held a conference with prominent speakers of faith. These WOW conferences always gave me a spiritual uplift and even though I had no one to go with, I felt a push to go to regain my strength after my stormy journey. In hindsight, I now see that God took care of my every need. Before I even entered the banquet hall, I ran into a church friend. She explained that she had been given the ticket by her friend at the last minute. I was so happy for her company! We walked into the full banquet hall of over seven hundred participants and found a table with two empty seats. I should explain that at this point in my life I had stopped wearing my wig because it was uncomfortable. My hair had started to grow back but it was obvious that I had gone through chemo. Sitting directly across from me, a lady looked straight at me and commented with the words “Nice hair!” I was really taken aback. I did not want anyone to notice my hair as this style was not by choice! She then went on to say that she had the same haircut 13 years ago! Upon hearing this I looked up and I saw that she was walking around the table to come talk to me. And we spoke about our personal cancer journeys. She then shared her experience with the chemo pills that she had been taking for 10 years. How is it that in a room full of hundreds of women, I find myself at the same table with someone who had a similar experience but was 13 years ahead of me in her journey? As she was telling me her story, I realised that God was answering each and every one of my questions through her experience. He was speaking to me through her! The similarities were too much of a coincidence, or as my friend calls it, a “God incidence”. Each woman’s journey through cancer treatment is different but God had enlightened me that day on what was right for me. He was making sure that the waters did not overwhelm me.
So where was God during the storm? He was right there beside me all the time. As I look back, I cannot believe how I made it through the storm. During the most difficult times, I am sure that it was God who carried me. When I needed to discern decisions, He put the right persons in my life to help me. When I needed strength, He blessed me with a church family to pray for me. I have surrendered my life with great joy and thanksgiving to serve Him.
It is now four year later, and I feel good! I go for mammograms regularly. I am very aware that there may be more storms and deep waters ahead, but I know with confidence that God will always be with me to see me through them all!
I do not live an exciting or high energy life. But I am able to serve at mass, do some volunteer work, visit with family and friends and do a little travelling. As long as I can serve God and my fellow man, I am satisfied. Let God’s will be done. I know where He is during the storm and deep waters!