October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and in late May 2013… breast cancer hit one of our own… our Director of Administration and my best friend Jenny Miller. Please take a moment to read these words from Jenny today and share this post with the women in your lives. You don’t have to have cancer to relate to what she has to say. But at some point in your life, breast cancer will affect your life (either yourself or someone you love). Take the necessary steps now to protect yourself and the ones you love. Go get checked by scheduling a mammogram or physician’s exam and encourage those in your influence to do the same. And click here for a how-to self-exam. —Crystal
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I’ll never forget the day I was told the word cancer.
My friend and ministry partner Crystal Renaud was in town visiting for what was supposed to be a planning retreat and we were just heading to my doctor for what I thought was a blocked milk duct. I was about to stop breastfeeding my daughter and move on with the next phase of my life which was going to include heading back to school to get my counseling degree and working with Crystal to expand WHOLE Women Ministries as a whole. I was really excited about the opportunities that were coming up.
Crystal and I went to my OB/GYN who also was sure it was a blocked milk duct. I was told to put hot compresses on it and come back in two weeks for a checkup. But just before we left, he suggested we just head over to the hospital for a “quick ultrasound.” A very lengthy ultrasound led to a mammogram which led to Crystal and I being led into a very small room and I was asked the question, “Can I be honest with you?” Next the words….”we think you have breast cancer, in fact we’re almost sure of it.”
I felt the room go dark.
The weeks and months to come would be a blur. Testing, doctor visits, phrases like “it’s very aggressive,” “the tumor is large,” “chemotherapy,” “double mastectomy,” “radiation,” “removal of ovaries,” were things that were being thrown at me at rapid speeds. It was so emotionally overwhelming, but yet I didn’t even have time to process the emotion. Our family was in shock. My husband, who had been in the trucking industry since 1997, had to change jobs taking a pay cut so he could be home every evening to help me as I began this journey. My two boys (10 and 6) and my baby girl (20 months) had no idea what was happening to Mommy.
Right now, I am in the middle of chemotherapy treatment. I have one more round of chemo and then I will have a double mastectomy right before Thanksgiving. Then after the holidays I’ll be having radiation and then reconstruction surgery, and then finally either a hysterectomy or removal of my ovaries. And I’m only 34 years old. Since I carry the BRAC gene, treatment has to be aggressive and fast. And to top it all off, right after my start of chemo, my own mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and has since had a double mastectomy.
If you read all that and took a deep breath while thinking, “wow,” believe me, I still can’t believe it’s all real.
When I was asked to write a blog post for WHOLE because of breast cancer awareness month, I thought about what I could say other than just my breast cancer story. What did God want me to say?
I know that my story is still being written. Many of you know my personal story of how God has healed me from my past sexual addiction and now I use that story to help so many others who struggle. I really thought that was it. I thought I would just share that story and God would help me lead others into the path of recovery.
What I didn’t know was – my story wasn’t done, and He wasn’t done changing me.
When you stare your greatest fear (which in my case WAS cancer) in the face directly, you find out quickly about who you are inside. You quickly come to the realization how much you want to live, how much you love your family, how precious life is, how much more there is to do, how weak you really are, and how you really have no control. Because of my past, I was a very insecure person – always seeking others’ approval and acceptance. I had lost so much of my identity through my addiction, it took years of counseling/therapy/recovery groups to begin to learn who I was apart from that. I had to replace all the lies I believed about myself and my worth with the truth of God’s word and who He says I am. It’s been a long journey.
But now in the face of a cancer diagnosis, more is revealed about my heart. God had asked me to not just trust Him with my past (which included my hurts and my beliefs about myself), but now to place my very life into His hands. My future. And I thought giving my past to Him was hard! There was so much more at stake handing him my future: Would I have to completely lose everything about myself – the parts of my body that make me a woman? Would I never be able to have any more children? Would I live to see my 40th birthday? To see my baby girl walk down the aisle? To watch my boys become men? To hold my grandchildren? To sit beside my husband when we were old on the porch swing of the house we just moved into this past December?
Yes, this indeed was much harder.
I had to make a decision right after my diagnosis. I prayed and said, “God, if I do this you have to speak to me and give me something to hold onto.” I woke up the next morning and immediately words from Psalm 91 came to my mind and I had to run and look it up. I read it in the Message version and the words literally were leaping off the page at me. It was a promise. Something I could hold onto. At that moment, I made the decision. I was placing it ALL in God’s hands. No, my heart and emotions didn’t feel it yet, but I made the decision with my mind and I said it out loud. At that moment, it was like I took off a pair of glasses that I had seen the world in for 34 years and I put on a new pair. They were not rose-colored for sure, but it was a whole new way of viewing the world.
I now see opportunities every day to show love, I see through rude and manipulative people to the heart of their brokenness that makes them that way, I see the value of pausing and just looking up at the great big blue sky and realizing how small I am, I see that God can do more with me in the moments of silence and rest than He can when I moved through my day running 100mph. I see my Heavenly Father as someone who can be trusted, not like all the people who have lost my trust through my lifetime for whatever reason. When I look in the mirror the old me would see a bald, sick woman who has cancer. Now, I see a beautiful child of the King who is allowing her Father to shine through her life like a ruby – His light hitting her brokenness and illuminating the darkness around her. Everything is redefined.
You don’t have to be diagnosed with cancer to have this moment for yourself.
Whatever you’re dealing with that’s keeping you from being changed from the inside out, more than likely is keeping you that way because of fear. It’s in the process of surrender and the pain you may have to walk through is where the healing is. We get hung up in the past and all its mess, or we dream of what it would look like on the other side when it would all go away. But what about the middle? The actual process. What’s stopping you from surrendering? It’s until we step up to the fear – nose to nose, eye to eye and speak your decision out loud – that’s when change will come.
I’m not sitting here waiting for my cancer to be cured. See, cancer WAS the cure.
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Read more about Jenny’s journey on her blog HERE.