My Breast Cancer Story

this story updated to present day below

In April of 2003, I felt a lump in my breast, and that started my journey on a very scary road. It is a well-traveled road, filled with women who have gone through this experience and have taken the time to help others on their journey. Now it is my time to be a guide and an encourager. I won’t go into the details of my cancer or my treatment here. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have, but I wanted to highlight some of the important parts of this journey for me.

1. “In all of your circumstances, look for God’s Blessings.”

There were some dark days following my diagnosis. I had to come to terms with “in whom would I put my trust” and “in whom would I place my hope.” I hoped that the medical treatments would work and I trusted my medical team to make good decisions on my behalf. But there were no guarantees. Ultimately, my trust and my hope had to be in God, my Father, my Creator. Coming to this realization brought a poem to mind. The first line of that poem is “In all of your circumstances, look for God’s blessings.”(Read entire poem here.) That was the choice that I made, to look for God’s blessings no matter my circumstances. God’s blessings are always there for us to see, if we choose to see them.

2. “Not accepting help is either a form of denial or pride — I suffered from both.”

I had many, many kind people help me and my family in one way or another. At times, I was flat on my back after surgery or after chemotherapy and I didn’t really have a choice but to accept that help. Other times, it was harder for me. Surely I can do that, I would think. And maybe I could have, but maybe I would pay for it later by being too tired to do something else. I realized at one point that by not admitting that I needed help, I was in denial about what was happening to my body. And I was also refusing help because of pride. Neither is a good thing when you are recovering from cancer treatment. It takes a toll on your body that you don’t even fully realize until you feel better again. So, should you ever have to go through cancer treatment, accept the help offered and know that one day you will be able to help someone else because you know how important it is to her recovery.

3. “Keep busy.”

I debated about whether or not to try to keep my business going during this time. I have an online business dressing teddy bears in theme clothing. I did shut down briefly after my surgery, as I needed two weeks to recover. After I started feeling better, my husband advised me to resume business, pacing myself so that I did not overdo it. He thought that I needed something else to think about other than my cancer and the treatment. I think staying busy doing something you enjoy is important. (I could have stayed busy cleaning house, but that was not something I would have looked forward to!) It is important to keep planning ahead, keep doing things that you enjoy. I relied heavily on a Bible verse that has been my favorite for many, many years, “For I know the plans that I have for you,“ declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” —Jeremiah 29:11 Having things to look forward to can ward off depression and self-absorption, both of which are easy to succumb to when you do not feel well.

4. “Please, do your monthly self exams!”

If I learned one thing about breast cancer from all of this, I learned how important it is to do your monthly breast exams. That is how I found my lump, and there was no doubt in my mind that the “golf ball” that I was feeling did not belong there. I was not scheduled for my annual mammogram for another three months. I don’t like to think what my chances might have been had I waited those three months. The annual mammogram is important too, but, in my case, the mammogram that I had following the discovery of the lump showed nothing. NOTHING! And my tumor was rather large. I don’t understand why the mammogram results were what they were, I just know that there was something there and it needed to be removed. I am thankful that, despite the results of the mammogram, the medical personnel were proactive and immediately recommended seeing a surgeon. The rest is history.

I want to sum up my personal experience with cancer with this Bible verse, another of my favorites for many years:  “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” —Romans 15:13

Thank you for reading my story. I hope it has been of help to you. Please feel free to pass my story on to anyone who could benefit from reading it.

UPDATE: It is now 2009 and it has been 6 years since my diagnosis, 5 years since the end of chemo and radiation treatment. I have spent the last 5 years taking an estrogen blocker of one kind or another as the final part of my treatment. I am no longer taking any medication and am considered cancer free, with little chance of recurrence, because of all of the treatment that I had. I feel good and live the normal busy life as a mother of 3 teenagers.  I am indeed a survivor and enjoying life by God's Grace.

RECENT UPDATE:  In April of 2013, it will have been 10 years since I found the lump in my breast.  My oldest children are no longer teenagers, and the oldest one is a senior in college.  My youngest teenager is a senior in high school.  I am blessed to still be around to experience the challenging and exciting years in the lives of my children.

MORE RECENT UPDATE: In late May of 2013, I noticed a very small lump in my remaining breast.  It seemed so small to the medical professionals that they were surprised that it was indeed cancer again.   The good news with this cancer diagnosis was that I found it early and it was not in my lymph nodes.  The not so good news was that I agreed to have genetic testing done and I was found to have the BRCA gene.  So, 6 months of chemo, followed by a total mastectomy, followed a year later by a hysterectomy because of the BRCA gene as ovarian cancer is the second most likely cancer to occur when you have this lovely gene.  Skin cancer is the third most likely.  Since I can't have my skin removed like I did my breasts and ovaries, I have a complete check once a year.  Other than visiting with my oncologist once a year, probably for the rest of my life, and blood tests that show indicators for certain cancers, plus the skin examination, I'm good to go.  I say that in a joking manner, but I really am good to go.  I'm one of the fortunate survivors and thankful to be so.  My sister had ovarian cancer and passed away in 2016, I wish she had been a fortunate survivor with me.

Debbie Garrett, Survivor by God's Grace