“I am Certain,” the doctor's diagnosis crashed into my consciousness. “You have stage two breast cancer.”
Shocked, I questioned, How could this be? Six months earlier I’d discovered a lump on the left side of my chest. After a mammogram I received a letter from the doctor stating that the lump was “probably benign [not suggesting malignancy]. Follow-up mammogram in six months.”
“Nothing to worry about, just a fat lump,” my primary care physician consoled. I was relieved.
Six month later an ultrasound said the lump had grown. Then my biopsy result stated, “Moderately differentiated invasive ductal carcinoma.”
Confused, I recounted my lifestyle checklist:
- A vegan vegetarian for more than 20 years
- Total abstinence from refined sugar
- Eating lots of fruits and vegetables
- No family history of cancer
- Regular exercise and adequate rest
- Ideal body weight
I felt betrayed. All the health principles I had tried so hard to follow had let me down. How could I be an example of healthful living when I was a cancer victim? Was this my reward for a healthy lifestyle?
Seeking answers, my husband and I turned to prayer.
Two mornings after the diagnosis, I had the most unusual experience during my prayer time. Instead of crying to God in desperation, as was my intention, I realized suddenly that praise and thanksgiving was flowing from my lips. It was an exciting moment. When I got up from my knees, I felt the most beautiful peace and joy.
On the morning of surgery I awoke with peace. Although it was uncertain what the result of the surgery would be, I felt that it did not matter. I had God’s peace, and I knew that whatever happened, I was in His hands. When the surgery went well, I was overjoyed! After the lumpectomy I was pain-free and needed no pain medication.
But that wasn’t the end. Five days later the surgeon called. The good news? Cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes. But the pathology report showed more cancer cells. This meant it was necessary to have another surgery, possibly a mastectomy.
Discouraged and confused, we turned to God again. Fifteen days after the first surgery, I had a second surgery. The surgeon cut deeper and wider. Again, I felt relief when I realized it was another lumpectomy, and, similar to the first surgery experience, I had no pain and needed no pain medication.
Then we got more bad news: the cancer board recommended a prescription for eight sessions of chemotherapy and 35 sessions of radiation.
The first four doses of chemotherapy were difficult but uneventful. My body reacted so violently to the fifth dose that all chemotherapy had to be discontinued. The medication caused third degree burns on the inside of my hands and feet. I lost all my hair and finger nails.
In March 2013, one year after my last radiation treatment, I was declared cancer-free.
On this cancer journey I learned many things:
- God is in control if we choose Him.
- When I did not know how to pray, the Holy Spirit gave me praise.
- Praise is a prerequisite for healing.
- Praise is a gift from Him.
- Praise is the channel through which peace is received.
- God delivers what He promises.
- His gift of peace is a sure promise.
A friend encouraged us to live in the Psalms. During this time Psalm 91 became my source of comfort, hope, and strength. Verse 6 encourages, “Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness” (NLT).
Some might ask, is a healthy lifestyle even worth it? Absolutely, yes! We live in a disease-infested world. Healthy choices do not guarantee a disease-free life, but living healthily is of vital importance in helping us maintain quality of life.
Others ask, why did I go with the conventional treatment? As a friend observed, “Jean, you have already maxed out healthy living!” Healthy living did not prevent cancer, so how could it possibly cure it? God is the author of medical science. He could have healed me without conventional intervention, but He chose to use the human channel to bring about healing.
Many people all over the world prayed for me, some I’ve never met. When I felt too ill to pray, I knew others were praying. Their prayers, cards, phone calls, e-mails, gifts, and visits made me feel loved.
This experience was difficult yet sacred in that I had a personal encounter with the depth of God’s care. Before I got sick, I focused on what I could do to prevent disease. My cancer journey taught me that even though what I was doing was “right,” it’s more important to focus on daily surrendering to God regardless of what I am experiencing. In 1 Peter 5:7 we are encouraged to “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you” (NLT). God not only extends the invitation but also shows how easy and uncomplicated it is to trust Him.
Life now has new meaning. Living each day to the fullest, enjoying every blessing, looking for positives, valuing my family, resting minute-by-minute in His love—these make every day full and dedicated to God’s glory.