Every October, for Breast Cancer Awareness month, I share this photo. I suspect more for myself than for anyone else. It reminds me of how far I’ve come and how good our God is, but it also takes me back to the very moment that photo was taken.
I was six months into treatment for Stage 3, Triple Negative Breast Cancer and two days into a hospital stay with chemotherapy complications.
The redness on my face and around my eye was the outward pleas from my body to stop with this insidious poison, my chemo. Over the course of six glorious months, I received 13 rounds of chemotherapy and was scheduled to have three more, for a total of 16.
I couldn’t do it, not physically but mostly not mentally. I was done.
During a moment of what I can only assume was complete madness, I asked my oncologist give me one massive dose of chemo rather than three more. He warned me that this much chemo would put me in the hospital, but I insisted. In hindsight, NOT a smart decision and I have no idea why anyone was letting the mentally shot, physically depleted woman, me, make that call.
I reached a level of illness and pain unlike any other, and it brought me to the point of begging God to take me home. I wanted to die.
That photo was taken on the day I wanted to die.
I hated everything about myself. The chemo was wreaking havoc on my body but also on my brain. I couldn’t remember words or have a fluid, thoughtful conversation. My body was bloated, bald and my nails were all falling off. In my mind, I was disgusting.
I didn’t believe I could ever fully recover and I’d ever return to the “old me” again.
And I was right – I was never the “old me” again.
Cancer changed my life for the better. If you had told me that day it was a blessing, I would have slapped you..and then kicked you…hard because nothing about cancer felt like a blessing.
But time is a beautiful gift. It heals, and it gives you a big-picture clarity that you can’t feel when you’re in it.
But as the chemo fog cleared, I realized I got to experience an intense love from my husband, my family, and my friends that I’m in awe of even to this day. I learned that people are incredibly kind and selfless and I came to know the Lord in the most extraordinarily intimate way.
I got to experience all of this.
I got to fight to live.⠀
And through it, I even got to laugh a lot, and I learned that joy is a choice, even in the depths of pain.
If you are where I was in this photo, emotionally or physically, I’m so sorry for your pain. I want you to close your eyes and feel my arms wrap around you, feeling the tightness of my hug and my arms not letting you go (You know those people that hug a little too long, that’s me with you right now).
But I also want you to know this – there is more to you and your story. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
You are stronger than you think, braver than the most fearless warrior and you can bare more than you ever thought possible. But most of all, you are loved by God so intensely and so deeply that you’ll never be able to understand it or grasp its power. But it’s there, every moment of every day.
He will meet you in the valleys when you cry out to him, he will send joy in the smallest of moments, and he will never let you go.
Beautiful friend, you are so very loved. ⠀⠀
Right side image by annafilly.com