In late September of 1984, I discovered a tiny lump in my right
breast and in early October, I embarked upon the long journey to
diagnosis, surgery, and follow-up treatment. This "Made for
Living" column was written for publication on October 4, 1984,
just a few days after I had received my diagnosis and decided
on the course of treatment with my surgeon. Looking back now,
I realize how totally blessed I am to be here, these nearly
thirty years later. Amazing...
How aptly Betty Rollins had titled her book of several years back, I
thought. First You Cry told of the personal experiences of that author
in dealing with breast cancer, with the subsequent surgery and treatment.
I remember reading it with strong feelings of empathy for the difficulties
Rollins experienced in dealing with her diagnosis. After all, I wondered
at the time, how can any of us say how we would react to such news?
And now I was learning first hand. As I drove the blue Datsun carefully
onto the southbound ramp of I-95, returning to Coral Springs from the
surgeon's office in Boca Raton, I found myself confronted with the
reality of my own diagnosis. The doctor had been totally surprised when
the pathology report indicated that the tiny lump I had found that month
in my right breast was indeed malignant. But somehow, I was not. That
possibility had been in the front of my mind from the very time I had
discovered that unwelcome stranger in my body, and though I eagerly
hoped that science would prove my feelings inaccurate, I found my own
sense of intuition, my own feel for my body, had been correct.
I recalled vividly that on the very day I had done my monthly self-
check and discovered the change in my breast. I had taken a few special
moments aside with my God, asking Him to be with me, placing myself
into the Divine loving arms. I was going to do my part by calling the
doctor to have the lump checked; I had done my part by diligently
examining myself each month without fail. Now the rest would be in
Though the waiting during the diagnostic period was difficult and my
own patience was sorely tried, I did not feel overly anxious. Much to
my surprise, panic did not surface and I walked through my days
certain that I was receiving fortitude and love in abundance, for the
peace and security were certainly not of my own doing.
And now the waiting was over. The course ahead had been established
in the surgeon's office that morning as he and I talked together about
my options, my choices. The early respect I had developed for him
grew mightily as I found him to be patient, compassionate, and
caring, in addition to being knowledgeable and open to my input,
since it is vitally important to me to be a participant in my own
treatment, not just a bystander. I need to be actively involved in what
happens to my body, not at all content to just be acted upon. And I
felt truly included as we talked: a partner, a colleague, able to make
choices about what would be done.
As I neared home, I remembered the scripture passage which had been
part of my daily worship that morning, Isaiah 43:2: When you go
through deep waters and great troubles, I will be with you. When
you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you
walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up-
the flames will not consume you. God had promised me that no
matter what would befall me, God would be there to help me through;
to provide strength when I am weak, to give comfort when I become
discouraged, to provide hope when I feel hopeless, to dry my tears
when they fall.
Several days have passed and I am readying myself for my hospital
admission and surgery. I am putting my house in order, both literally
and figuratively. And in the midst of it all, I am continually amazed
by the sense of peace which fills me, by the lack of fear I feel. Had
anyone asked me what I believed my reaction to having cancer
would be, this would certainly not be what I would have expected.
Any nurse of twenty-one years can tell you about the numerous
patients she has seen and known, of the variety of reactions of
anger and fear, and of the many defense mechanisms which come
into play in our human lives in response to crisis.
And perhaps this is mine, this peacefulness. But I prefer to think
of it as my God fulfilling his promises to me by holding me carefully
and tenderly in the mighty and loving arms, so that the rivers of
difficulty cannot drown me, the fires of oppression cannot consume
me. And I am bathed in the overwhelming outpouring of love from
family and friends, secure in the knowledge that I will be in the
prayers of many, many people this Friday.
First, I did cry...but in the words of the psalmist, Weeping may
tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. I pray that
it may continue to be so, no matter what the coming days bring.
And I pray that it may be so for you, my friend.