As I sit down to write this blog, it has been a little over 3 months since my wife, Cathy, was diagnosed with breast cancer. What a three months it has been! We’ve had countless appointments with doctors, surgeons, oncologists, and genetics counselors. Cathy had a double mastectomy on January 14th, and it took her a good month to recover. Immediately afterwards, Cathy came down with a bad cold which limited her activity for another week. Just when she was starting to feel like herself again, Cathy started her first of four rounds of chemo treatments this week, which are projected to last another 3 months.
A number of people have asked how we, as a family, are doing through all of this. Let me begin by saying that it has been hard. It has been very hard. I don’t wish cancer on anyone. Cancer has robbed Cathy of otherwise good health. It has consumed most of our time and attention. It has been physically and emotionally draining on all of us.
At the same time, we have much for which to be thankful. Cathy’s prognosis is good. The doctors have said that she has an early stage of cancer that is believed to be treatable rather than fatal. The surgery to remove the two tumors in her left breast was successful, and there were clear margins, indicating that the cancer has not spread to the breast tissue or blood vessels. Even though cancer was found in the lymph nodes, only one of 18 lymph nodes extracted contained cancer cells. In addition to these positive medical reports, we have received overwhelming support from our family, friends, and church. Every time I walk into the kitchen and see the flowers on the counter, the cards in the windowsill, and the food in the refrigerator and cupboards, I am reminded that we are not traveling this journey alone.
Most people in our lives know that Cathy and I are Christians, and neither of us have shied away from telling anyone who asks that, in the midst of this trial, our faith and trust is in Jesus Christ. I’m sure there are a few skeptics out there who think, “Jesus is just a psychological crutch for the weak, unintelligent, and scared.” However, Jesus is not a crutch for us. He is our hope and our joy. This was true before Cathy had cancer. It is true now that Cathy has cancer. It will remain true for us whatever the future may bring. Jesus is our hope and joy, regardless of our circumstances. Nothing can change who we are in Christ or what He has secured for us by His death and resurrection.
One question that often has come to my mind during this trial is, “What difference does knowing Christ make in our fight against cancer?” To put it another way, “Does having a personal relationship with Jesus make any difference in the way one experiences and/or responds to cancer?” We believe the answer is, “Yes!”
Cathy and I have a peace about the cancer in her life. While there are fleeting moments of fear and worry, overall our mindset is one of peace. From a human perspective, there really is no explanation for this peace. We believe it is a gift from God. Jesus said to His followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27). We can attest that Jesus’ promise is true. Furthermore, while we are weak, Jesus is our source of strength. When Paul asked God to remove a thorn in his flesh, Jesus spoke to him and said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). We truly are learning what it means to rely on God’s grace at work in our lives one day at a time, and we are finding His grace to be sufficient.
According to the American Cancer Society, 291,000 women in the U.S. were diagnosed with some form of breast cancer in 2015. Cathy was one of those women. I can’t imagine going through something as terrible as cancer without having Jesus in our life. I’m glad that we don’t have to. By the way we choose to respond to cancer, both Cathy and I desire to show those who are watching us closely that we serve a Great and Mighty God, who is worthy of all our praise!