FACING CANCER - June 28, 2006
About 12 years ago, I enrolled in
a clinical trial study on Breast Cancer. Eight of my close
family had breast cancer before me. I wanted to do everything
possible to see this chain broken.
I have always had
regular mammograms and check ups, so it was a surprise last
October when I was called back for a deeper mammogram. This led
to a biopsy, which proved that I did have a low grade, non
invasive cancer. This was followed by a lumpectomy, then another
procedure to widen the margin, and then eight weeks of
My first thought
was, I can’t do this, I don’t have time, I can’t be gone from
home that long. Then I came to my senses! With God’s help, I can
do anything. During the whole eight months from October until
now, I was in His hands, even though sometimes I did not know
I became acutely aware of this
one Sunday in February when the scripture read in church was
Joshua 1:9. It said in very plain language:
Be strong and courageous
Do not be terrified
Do not be discouraged
For the Lord will be with you
wherever you go.
I was excited, “This is it, I can
handle being in Morgantown for seven weeks!”
But that was not the end. That
night I walked into church just as our pastor was reading the
scripture, “Jesus went out to the mountain to pray.” I had been
hearing about the new state of the art Cancer Center at Elkins,
so it seemed God meant for those words to really hit me.
WVU made the arrangements and I
stayed at Canaan Valley and drove myself to Elkins each day. The
35-minute drives were a pleasure, because each day the scene
changed as winter turned to spring in the mountains.
The Center was very capable. Its
radiation oncologist had trained at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
in Houston, Tex. The staff was very compassionate and friendly.
We traded garden information each day during the treatment,
which only took eight minutes.
There were frustrations and
problems, but if I was patient, there was always an answer. The
first week of treatments was a real trial! I received a call
each day as I was almost to the hospital that the equipment was
not working. My first thought was, “Is God telling me that this
is the wrong place, after all?”
But I could tell by the facial
expressions of the receptionist, doctor and technologists that
they were frustrated, worried and did not want to face me.
It was Holy Week and I was
meeting long time friends, Betty and Voras Haynes, for lunch and
church services each day. Voras told me the pharmacist was Steve
Crawford, also from Grantsville, and the hospital administrator
was Mark Doak, a friend who worked with the board of Calhoun
General Hospital during the nineties. He happened to be living
in the Valley while his home was being remodeled and offered to
help with transportation.
Most days I drove myself to
Elkins. On Wednesdays, friends took turns going with me. We
explored the town, ate at local places, and were regulars at the
Friends now ask me many
questions. The main points here are: No, I did not lose my hair.
It only affects the area which is affected. You have tattoos on
your breast and these are to pinpoint the radiation to exactly
the right spot. I was usually tired on Mondays, but this was
probably because of the weekend’s longer travel. I would also
take 15-minute power naps during the day. Daily walks around the
park usually followed the daily treatments. I was never
nauseous. The only recognizable side effect was a light burn,
almost like a sunburn. Whatever side effects might occur, there
would be a treatment for it.
I have four thoughts to leave
with you .
1. Look and listen for God’s
answers to problems.
2. Have your checkups. This
includes self checks and scheduled mammograms. My mammogram is
usually scheduled around my birthday.
3. Expect and receive
communication from your health care providers. Insist on answers
to your questions. You have the right to receive your reports as
4. Remember that new treatments
are developed ever day! New clinically tested treatments have
been released even in the past month. This is not just breast
cancer, it includes other types too. It is in newspapers,
magazines, and on recognized web sites.
5. Don’t go into solitary
lifestyle. Friends are willing to help. When they ask, let them
know how to help. Each Wednesday, a friend would go with me. I
didn’t need them, but it was pleasant to anticipate a special
When the last treatment was over,
it was a bittersweet feeling. I was glad that I could go home at
last, but also sad to miss daily contact with my friends and
their spiritual support.
My nephew sent me this message
after hearing of this feeling. It reminds me of a song by Steven
Curtis Chapman. It is about the Lord taking us up on a mountain
and mountaintop experiences. It helps keep the good times and
bad in perspective.
You bring me up here on this
For me to rest and learn and
I see the truth up on the
And I carry it to the world far
So as I go down to the valley
Knowing that you will go with me
This is my prayer, Lord,
Help me to remember what you’ve
shown to me . . .
Up on the mountain.