Hearing God’s Voice Through Breast Cancer

Have you ever felt like life is going well and then, suddenly, something awful and unexpected happens?

The reality of the situation knocks you for a loop.

A vise-grip of fear begins to take hold of your thoughts.

Where do you turn for help?

What follows is an amazing story of faith from a woman who graciously allowed me to share her testimony. I hope her story touches you as it did me.

Rita’s Story

life-with-family

For all accounts and purposes, 2016 had been a great year so far. After an enjoyable career teaching young students for 29 years, Rita was looking forward to retirement.

She and her husband decided to move back home to Memphis to be near family. Rita couldn’t wait to create some new memories.

A devoted husband, grown kids nearby, eight grandchildren and many longtime friends would keep her social calendar full.

Newfound freedom also meant that she could pursue her dreams. Painting and art are her passion. She could start her own business and sell her artwork.

There were occasional challenges, but life was going well.

And then the unthinkable happened.

Blindsided

A routine mammogram in late March resulted in a surprising order from her doctor that she needed a diagnostic scan the following month.

For someone who is rarely sick and never had surgery, Rita felt blindsided. Doctors recommended a core biopsy.

Was the core biopsy as awful as it sounds?

That was scary because they stick a needle in your breast to remove fluid. It was surprisingly painless. They found a papilloma, which could be pre-cancerous, so it needed to come out, and I needed surgery—my first ever. The papilloma itself was negative, but when I returned for the post-op visit, I was told that the surrounding tissue contained cancer cells. They scheduled a second re-excision to take out more tissue. At this follow-up appointment, I was told that they were unable to get “clear margins”, so I could either have a third re-excision or a mastectomy. Whoa. I had gone from grade 1, stage 0, to the possibility of a mastectomy.

Looking for Answers

Five different specialists advised Rita that, with her multi-focal cancer, a mastectomy was the right thing to do. A third re-excision would probably not result in clear margins, and most likely, a mastectomy was going to happen.

The choice was clear: one operation instead of two.

Breast Cancer diagnosis

When you first heard those words, “breast cancer”, what thoughts ran through your mind?

I thought the little lump was benign. I guess I was numb when I heard the words “breast cancer.” The actual words they used were “Ductal Carcinoma in Situ”. I remember replaying those words in my head, and then thinking, “Oh my gosh, they’re saying I have cancer!”

It hit me like a brick wall. I didn’t know how to respond. I just sat there in shock. The nurse practitioner gave me all sorts of information, went over my lab report, even drew some pictures. I didn’t ask questions. I just sat there, in the office, not speaking. Their recommendation was another re-excision to take out some of the surrounding tissue. So that meant another surgery, and it was scheduled.

Trusting God Through The Storm

Were you ever mad at God?

I wasn’t ever angry at God because I’ve never thought that God sends bad things to us. I did question things in my mind. “Why me?” was a recurring theme. I just couldn’t understand how it could happen to me. Did I do something to deserve it? Was I going to die?

I did get very tired of appointments, procedures, gearing up for surgeries, writing out my lists of questions, etc. It seemed like a downward spiral, and all the results kept getting worse, and more serious. I didn’t want any of it, and I certainly wasn’t in a good place mentally or spiritually. One of the doctors, a radiology oncologist, said: “Thank God for your papilloma.”

I didn’t understand why I should be thankful about any of this, but she explained that my cancer had not shown up on the mammograms, and if they had not gone in and removed the papilloma, the cancer would have been in there for probably another year at least. It could have grown, metastasized, and I probably wouldn’t have known it till my next regular mammogram, if it even showed up then.

Breaking the News To Those You Love

broken-heart

I sort of avoided other people for awhile. Where in a conversation do you insert the news, “Oh, by the way, I have breast cancer”? It was almost embarrassing, and I didn’t want to deal with it.

—Rita

How did you cope with the devastating news?

I leaned on my family. My husband of 44 years and my grown kids were amazing. They seemed to know instinctively if I needed to talk about it, or take a break from it, or go somewhere, or hang out and laugh with the grandkids, or just sit and cry. Here in town, I have one daughter who is a doctor, and a son and daughter who are nurses. I peppered them with questions, and they took me to appointments and helped me figure things out medically. They are super busy parents with tight schedules, but they were always, always available for me. Eventually, word got out to non-family, and I became less reticent to tell others.

Recognizing God’s Gifts

my-family-is-a-gift-from-god

book-of-psalms

Was it hard to pray during this time?

I found it very hard to focus when I tried to pray. That was hard. I knew I wanted to pray and needed to pray, but my mind was all over the place when I wasn’t busy doing something active. I could barely sit quietly. My younger sister recommended reading the psalms, and my older sister gave me a book of psalms that had belonged to my grandmother. So, in a way, I think I was gently nudged toward the psalms when personal prayer eluded me. I also reached out via social media and was floored by the response from people. People are so good! I asked for prayers one day on Facebook and was overwhelmed by the huge number of people who promised to pray. I even posted a comment that there were so many people praying God was probably saying, “Okay, okay, I’ve got this!”

The Beauty of God’s Grace

During this long five months, did you experience God’s grace?

I have experienced God’s grace and blessings in so many ways. I believe that medical people who choose to work in the field of oncology are just special people. I can’t even count the number of times a doctor or nurse took my hand, hugged me, looked me in the eye and said, “We’re going to take care of you. We will be here to help you. You’re going to get through this.”

I had to go to a pre-surgery appointment before my mastectomy. I was, of course, crying, and this nurse, said, “I know this is so hard. Would you be offended if I prayed with you?” I shook my head no. She took my hands and said such beautiful words, asking for God’s favor, asking for God to be with my surgeon and nurses. Then she gave me a book, “Power Prayers for Women,” and an adult coloring book with positive thoughts and prayers on each page.

Surgery Day

The morning of her mastectomy, Rita says she felt like a “train wreck”. Hers was the first surgery of the day. That meant an anxious drive to the hospital at 5:30 a.m. followed by surgery two hours later.

During Pre-op, Rita couldn’t hold back the tears.

“I was crying, praying desperately, trying to answer all the nurse’s questions sanely, talking to the different doctors—just in a panic. A nurse tried to stick the vein in my hand, and it “blew”. Another site near the wrist was better, but they couldn’t get enough blood for lab work, so they stuck me in the other arm.”

Touching support from friends

Grace Always Shows Up at Just the Right Time

My husband Doug was there, holding whatever hand they weren’t sticking at the time. He had my cell phone. It rang, and he handed me the phone, saying, “It’s for you.” Hmm. Talk about timing. It was my dear friend Rachael, who is a missionary in Uganda.

We said a few words, and then she asked if she could pray for me. As she prayed, I suddenly felt washed in peace and calmness. The next thing I knew, there was a beautiful nurse standing over me, telling me it was all over.

—Rita

Rising Above Deep Waters

Hearing God's voice through breast cancer

Besides prayer, Rita sought out comforting verses from the Bible. One verse in particular that sustained her through her breast cancer journey is from the book of Isaiah.

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.

 

Isaiah 43:2, from the NLT.

That is such a comforting verse!

The Bible tells us many times not to fear, but no one ever said it would be easy.

When difficulties come into our lives, that’s not the time to give up.

Never Giving Up

Rita is a fighter. A sucker punch from breast cancer was not going to hold her down.

Family, friends and a caring medical team went beyond the call to walk with her through the storm.

Isaiah 43:2 later became the inspiration for a beautiful painting she created for her surgeon.

God never abandons us

What is next for you, treatment-wise?

I had my post-op appointment after my mammogram and lymph node biopsy over a week ago. The nurse practitioner came into the room with a big smile and said the sweetest words, “Good News! You are cancer-free!” I burst into tears, and we hugged and hugged. I have more healing to do, but in the future will start a medication to suppress the hormones, since my cancer was hormone receptive. No radiation, no chemo, diagnostic mammograms from now on, since I’ve had breast cancer.

Paying It Forward

This journey was life-changing for you. What are your plans?

I think I was taking way too much for granted. We had moved back home after I retired from thirty years of teaching. I finally had the time to paint as much as I wanted, and spend time with family. My paintings were selling well, and that was super exciting! I was involved with doing occasional good works, like helping with “Room at the Inn” to feed and house the homeless. I still felt like I needed to be more involved, but had not actually put myself out there too much. My life has changed because of this. I have plans to be more involved in helping those in need, pray more, encourage others more. There are so many ways to be a blessing to others.

When God Takes Over

Blessing others

For other newly-diagnosed patients, what encouragement would you give them?

Allow yourself to have feelings of sadness, to cry, to be scared. It’s okay not to be strong sometimes. That’s when God takes over. Don’t wait as long as I did to ask others for their prayers.

This diagnosis can be all-consuming. You need breaks from it all. Go to a movie, make something or paint, take a walk, laugh at your grandkids. You will know when you just need to think about something besides CANCER. Be sure to allow yourself to do that.

Humor is a big help. Yes, in our family, we can even joke about cancer. I remember going to an appointment, and saying, “If anyone comes after me with a pink ribbon, I’m going to scream.”

In all seriousness, I think asking for prayers is key because people are so willing and ready to help in that way. Knowing good people were and are praying for me was extremely comforting. Reading and finding out your options is important because even the specialists want you to be a part of your plan. That was hard. I wanted to say to them,”Tell me what to do, I don’t know what we should do, what kind of surgery should I have . . . etc.” I was blessed to have medical people in my family who did help me make the tough decisions.

God's gift of grace

Thank You, Rita!

A powerful witness

Many thanks to Rita for sharing her story, a powerful witness to her remarkable faith and courage.

We don’t always know the reasons for the “deep waters” in our lives, but God promises to be with us through them all. Please don’t miss the evidence of His grace in your life.

God bless

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Favorite Bible Verse

Do You Have a Favorite Bible Verse?

Everything in the Bible is important, but sometimes there’s a verse or two that you keep referring back to. I know that’s the way it is for me.

favorite Bible verseIt may be a verse that gives you strength or comfort during a difficult time in your life. Or, it may be a verse that reflects your gratitude towards God for His many blessings.

If you’ve read my blog before, then you know I’ve posted some of the favorite Bible verses from friends of mine from all over the country. It has been my joy to be able to share these verses with you because they come straight from the heart of fellow Christians.

In this deeply dark world we’re living in now, we can use all the encouragement we can get, right?

I was reading a new book I bought yesterday and came across a Bible verse in it that has become a new source of encouragement for me.

First, the book. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend Pastor Chip Ingram’s, “The Invisible War.” It’s a book about the spiritual attacks we face as Christians and it helps guide us how to put on the armor of God. We know we’re supposed to wear the armor, but do we really know how to use it?

I’ve personally had several spiritual attacks lately. They’ve been distressing, but we know that in life, satan hates all of us. His intent is to discourage and destroy all that is of God. He will use whatever he can to distract Christians from bringing glory to God. It could come from a low blow from a friend, a public put-down at work, or even nasty comments from someone you love. These spiritual attacks seemingly pop up, almost out of nowhere. This excellent book is a great resource for when those attacks come.

The verse that really stood out for me was from 2 Kings. It’s a loving reminder that we are not alone in the battle. God does not allow us to go into a spiritual battle unarmed.

The verse is:

2 Kings 6:15-17 —

*15 Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Briefly, the prophet Elisha and his servant were facing a seemingly impossible situation. They were surrounded by the marauding army of King Aram. Their situation seemed dire, but Elisha did not lose faith. He assured his frightened servant that there was nothing to be afraid of.

invisible army of angelsThe Lord heard Elisha’s prayers and the servant was at once able to see, really see, the invisible army of angels who were there by their side the whole time.

I love this! “…those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

Boom, there it is!

I don’t know about you, but those verses really comfort me. We face a lot of tough times in our lives. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming, that we forget that God allows trials in our lives to perfect our faith.

The Invisible War

There is most definitely an invisible war going on right now between Heaven and satan. Our assurance? We have an army of God’s angels fighting on our behalf.

Ultimately, the victory is ours. We know who wins! We have that encouraging and blessed assurance through Jesus Christ.

The God who created this beautiful creation, also created you and me…to be victors through our steadfast belief in Him.

beautiful creationHeavenly Father, we rejoice in the knowledge that you’ve shared your Word with us in Scripture and that we have the ultimate victory through You. We continue to pray for your protection over us and for strength and courage in the challenging times ahead. Thank you for being You and for loving us so completely.

In Jesus name, amen.

Dear child of God, try not to be discouraged. You have millions of brothers and sisters in Christ across the globe who are fighting alongside you. Delight in God. He loves you so much!

fellow Christ followers*Bible reference: New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

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Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Some of my fondest high school memories are from my years on the track team. I joined the team in my Sophomore year and qualified as a sprinter for the 2:20 and the 8:80 relay.keep your eye on the prize

Track was a big part of my life back then. I loved the sport and we had a great bunch of girls on the team.

The best part of it for me was winning a ribbon or a trophy that I could take home to show my Dad. He never hesitated to say he was proud of me.

Our team worked hard, practicing after school and spending our Saturdays running in meets at other high schools. Our goal was to get to State and compete against runners from all over Florida. Lucky me! I qualified.

I ended up placing sixth in the 2:20 at the State finals!!

The cool thing: I got to run against a soon-to-be Olympian, Chandra Cheeseborough. A quick note about Chandra, she smoked me pretty quickly and all I saw was her dirt fly as she sprinted past me! I still remember that. 🙂

Life in the Fast Lane

Those high school years have come and gone. Have things really changed for us now that we’re all grown up? We keep running and running towards something. In this upside-down world, do we know what or who we’re running towards?

Keep your eyes on ChristThere are so many distractions that can take our eyes off Christ. A job, a mortgage, frustrating people in our lives, health issues – all of it can overwhelm us at times. There are so many concerns in our lives and in our world, and yet, Jesus is there. He is unchanging. He is always ready to welcome us back when we realize that we’ve lost our focus on Him.

Don’t forget to keep your eye on the prize. There’s joy eternal up ahead and one path to get there – through Jesus Christ. In the midst of life’s distractions, if we put our trust in Him, we have the promise of complete happiness and eternal life.

A Christian Perspective From Minnesota

We asked a good friend of ours about which Bible verse is especially meaningful to him. Kevin H. from Minnesota chose Hebrews 12:1-2a.

*Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Kevin explains why this verse speaks to his heart:the race marked out for me

“Hebrews 12:1-2, a favorite part of Scripture for me, uses the idea of a race or a journey to help focus me on what really matters – Jesus’ great love and sacrifice for me. I can find my personal identity in so many distressingly inadequate things, people, or activities. This verse always reminds me that my identity is held and centered on Jesus Christ. It’s just not about me.

This life or race that is marked out for me has me journeying through a fair share of dark times – but also the good. As a runner, races are that way as well. Yet, I find deep joy in the richness of this life. Knowing God loves and cares for me, that pressure is off. I can absorb the goodness of my life’s time – both in the good times and in the harder times. What a joy to know I can fix my eyes on Jesus. He deeply loves and holds me close.”

I couldn’t have said it better. Many thanks to Kevin for his share.

God bless you all and keep your eyes on the prize!

*Bible reference: New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Christ Who Strengthens Me

All Praise And Honor To Christ Who Strengthens Me

Christ who strengthens meWhen I’m feeling sad, I know I have a Savior who never leaves my side and knows what I’m going through.

I grateful for the knowledge that, when I pray to God, He’s listening. There’s no “I’ll get back to her later” from my Lord and King.

He loves me AND you THAT much.

(Hold your arms open wide. Christian, He loves you even more than that!)

How great is our God.

Light Bulb Moment, No Replacement Needed

light bulb momentGod will see you and me through every challenge that life throws at us.

That truth alone is so encouraging and I hope it is for you as well.

It took many years before I was finally able to break free from old traditions. Once I realized that I didn’t need any other intercessor but Jesus Christ, the light bulb went off and I felt so much peace.

I am eternally in His grip.

He alone holds my (and your) eternal future in His hands.

No one else.

When Life Overwhelms

life hands you a curve ballAs a loving Father, God can bring us comfort in our despair and much needed strength when we’re feeling down.

We must trust Him, no matter what.

He can give us the courage to endure when we’re handed a curve ball.

 

A Christian Perspective From Wisconsin

A good friend of ours from Wisconsin, Tom G., shared one of his favorite Bible verses. It’s Philippians 4:13 –

*I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Here’s what Tom had to say about why he chose this verse:

“We have had some family trials that have left us feeling a little discouraged as parents. We should get our eyes off of the situation before us and put them on our Lord, Savior, Counselor, and Comforter.”

It’s a powerhouse verse, alright.

We can get so overwhelmed by the circumstances of our troubles that we forget to just be still with God.

I admit it. Being still is not one of my strong points.

But, I’m working on it.

It could be a life-long process, but He knows where I’m at and His patience with all of us sinners is nothing short of Grace.

God Bless!

###

*Bible reference: New American Standard Bible (NASB), Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

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Trust In The Lord Even When You Hurt

Trust in the Lord Even When You Hurt

It can be hard to trust in the Lord when you feel like your life is falling apart.

trust in the Lord even when it hurtsBad things happen.

  • A car plows into your vehicle and sends you to the hospital.
  • Your spouse says he or she has had an affair.
  • A friend is given a cancer diagnosis.
  • Your teenager is addicted to drugs.

These are huge wake-up calls and this small list doesn’t even cover what some of your friends and family may be going through.

It hurts a lot sometimes.

In my own family, there’s divorce, the loss of a child, the loss of a job, health concerns, and atheism.

Difficult questions come to mind when you wake up and get some bad news.

Where are you, God?

Don’t You care about me?

What did I do to deserve this?

When Did Life Get So Out of Control?

The hard fact is, no one ever promised us an easy life without cares and concerns. In the book of James 1:2-4, Scripture tells us that we’ll experience various trials.

Notice that the word “trials” is in its plural form.

And yet, we are still told to trust Him.

There was no exception to that command.

The Bible doesn’t say, “Trust in the Lord, except when __________(fill in the blanks with your particular circumstance.)

Is unshakeable trust in God an easy thing to have?

We’d like to think so, but not always. We’re not perfect. We have the very human, knee jerk, “fix it now” mentality and can rush headlong into finding a quick solution, all the while forgetting to pray and ask God for His strength and guidance to see us through.

God Loves usAlways Remember, He Loves Us

The wonderful truth is that God loves you. Nothing or no one can take that away from you. You are His child.

He knows your past, present, and future. For His reasons alone, He allows certain things to take place in our lives.

God may appear to be silent at times, but you and me have to trust Him and that means in good times and in bad. If we pray or even talk to Him quietly in our thoughts, He will listen.

A Christian Perspective From Georgia

I asked a good friend of mine about her favorite Bible verse. Kim M. from Georgia chose Proverbs 3:5-6.

*Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make straight your paths.

missing puzzle piecesHere’s what Kim had to say about why this verse means so much to her:

“Our understanding and logic is not the same as God’s. We work hard to put things in a way that seems logical to us, only to find that there is always that piece or something that is missing. With God, He can see the whole picture so there are no missing pieces. If we place God in charge instead of us trying to be in charge, all of the pieces will fall into place, in accordance to His will and His timing. Trust God completely.”

That is so true.

Learning to Cope

How can you learn endurance to get through the hard times? There are a lot of options.

  • Pray. God is listening.
  • You can read and memorize Scripture, especially the verses that encourage you the most.
  • You can listen to some great Christian music. I have links to some great contemporary artists on this website.
  • You can attend a Men or Women’s Bible study. Once there, you can meet some of the most amazing people who have struggles of their own. The friendships often become lifelong.
  • You can help someone less fortunate than yourself. As sad as you may feel about some of your own trials, there’s always someone who is worse off than you. That will help with your perspective.
  • Lastly, you can get together with some of your Christian friends. You can lift each other up with support and love. Some day, all Christians will be in Heaven together where there is no more suffering and sadness.

That will be a very happy day.

Do you feel this article may be helpful to someone?

Please feel free to share it with them.

*Bible reference: English Standard Version. The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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