May of 2007, 18 family members and I were celebrating mothers day. My nephew, who was 14 years old at the time, was also 5 years out from having lung cancer. I gathered him up in my arms and told my family that if he could beat lung cancer, then I could beat breast cancer. Needless to say, everyone was shocked. However, everyone gathered around my husband, my two girls and myself and prayed and cried over us. It is one of the most precious memories I have.
In the first two years after my diagnosis, I lost two breasts and gained two breasts; I lost hair and then it grew back, some of it coming back in places I really didn’t want, and I am still having enough hot flashes to make Old Faithful look like an iceberg! On June 6 of this year, I will have been cancer free for ten years. I look at cancer as a gift. It taught me not to sweat the small stuff and to see each day as new and exciting. I have learned the difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is dependent upon circumstances. Joy is knowing that no matter what happens, I can always trust God to be right by my side, giving me the grace for every circumstance that comes my way.
Cancer is also a gift, because, as an oncology nurse, I know what my patients are going through – the endless fatigue, nausea, bone pain. In the past ten years, I have treated, loved, laughed and cried with other cancer survivors. My patients become like family. We have celebrated survivorship. We have mourned when we knew that cancer was going to take their life. In the past ten years I have wept for my patients who have died too early and I have asked God “Why did you choose for me to survive?” And He told me, “Jennie, number one, I’m not finished with you yet, and number two, Psalm 116:15 says ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.'” You see, my Heavenly Daddy longs to see and to hug His children. He created us, and He misses us.
Surviving cancer starts as soon as we are diagnosed and continues for as long as we live. At first, whenever we get a new ache or pain, get dizzy, get a new freckle or even if a finger looks different from the other, our first thoughts are “Is it back?”, or “Has it spread?” Sometimes our doctors think the same thing, and we get scanned, probed, stuck and loose our modesty all over again. For some of us, everything is cool and we are still cancer free. But for others, the cancer is back and the battle starts all over again. But Romans 8:8 says “We are MORE than conquerors through Him, Jesus, who loves us.” While we may not win the battle with cancer, with Jesus we win eternal life. You see, this life is like a vapor. For me, I have NO greater joy than to know I will be spending eternity with Jesus, the One who gave His life for me.