Did you know that approximately 11,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 40 every year? On January 6, 2010 I was counted in that number. Four days before my 26th birthday, my doctor entered the cold sterile room where my mom and I patiently waited for the results from a biopsy of my left breast. It didn’t even take my doctor thirty minutes to return with the results. Before she even opened her mouth, I had a gut feeling that she would say – You have cancer. And she did. Since those words were spoken to me, my life has never been the same.
The past year has been one filled with heartache, sickness, confusion, fatigue, and extreme emotions. And though people always reiterate how positive I’ve remained throughout this entire process, I’ve struggled many times to keep the negative thoughts and the pain from invading my life. I can’t believe I ever questioned God and asked Him why? Why would He allow this to happen to me? What did I do to deserve this? Why didn’t He intervene?
I’ve come to realize that this was an attack by the devil. God didn’t want this to happen to me. The devil tried to use cancer to turn my world upside down…to break me…to push me to lose my faith…to become unloving and cynical. What was meant to hurt me and what was meant to have me distrust Jesus made me a better person and made my love for Him even stronger. It may sound bizarre but I am grateful for this experience.
Since my diagnosis, my outlook on the world has changed. My thought process is so much different. The way I interact with others has evolved. The list of things I want to experience in life has grown. Now the importance of how I spend my time and who I spend my time with has become a major consideration. I feel and believe that I can and will do everything and anything that I set out to accomplish. Many people wait until much later in life, often after they’ve been consumed by a demanding career, exhausted from raising a family, beat-up by destructive behavior, to re-evaluate what’s important to them or to define who they are as a person.
Being diagnosed with such a life threatening illness at a young age has helped me to realize who I am, to give me the confidence needed to face my fears, to value life, to be proactive in regards to my health, to build a stronger relationship with God, to reevaluate friendships and relationships, and to show my appreciation to my parents and family for all of their love and support over the years.
Today I turned a year older. Not so long ago, birthdays were just another day for me. No reason to get excited. No hurt feelings if people didn’t send me birthday wishes. Just another day in the neighborhood. I must admit that I was looking forward to today. No, I didn’t have any super plans. In fact, where I live, we got several inches of snow last night. And in the South if we get two snow flurries we shut everything down! So, I’ve spent my birthday – or snow day – at home, on my couch, watching countless reruns of sitcoms, and taking impromptu naps. A perfect birthday. And every birthday that I’m blessed to see from this year forward will be perfect.
I’m thankful for today…I’m thankful for life…I’m thankful for the support and love of family and great friends…I’m thankful for Doctors Henry-Tillman, Hutchins, and Yuen for their care and their vigilance in seeing that cancer will never invade my body again…I’m thankful for the nurses and staff at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute for their warmth, optimism, and ability to make me feel comfortable on my worse days…lastly I’m thankful for a loving and merciful God. If He never does anything else for me again…He’s already done more than enough.
Peace and Love