Some people struggle to believe in miracles. I’ve never really had that issue, but I think for much of my life, I thought miracles were for someone else. However, three years ago my miracle came in the form of a terrible car wreck.
As some friends and I were driving to a birthday celebration lunch, a lady pulled out in front of us. As airbags deployed, we landed like a parked car between a fire hydrant, a tree, and an electrical pole. The fact that we could all walk away was a miracle in itself. In shock, and with lots of bruising, I went on to the emergency room to be checked out as a precaution. They were looking for internal bleeding, fractures, or anything unusual. The scans picked up everything. They discovered I had a kidney stone and something else. After tests and biopsies for several weeks, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. They said it was against the chest wall and would likely never have been discovered on a mammogram. A totaled car, unplanned scans, a miracle. Yes, it was breast cancer, but the fact it was discovered under such odd circumstances … miraculous.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. You may see a lot of people wearing pink this month to promote awareness and fundraising for breast cancer. Maybe you are a breast cancer survivor, know someone who is or has been recently diagnosed. One of the best ways we can minister and help one another is by sharing our stories, reminding one another of His miracles and how He is working.
Every woman is different when it comes to breast cancer and needs to make choices and decisions that will be best for her diagnosis. I don’t have a family history of breast cancer, but I chose a bilateral mastectomy. During the past three years, I’ve learned so much about myself and others fighting breast cancer. The Lord opened doors for relationships that I might not have made otherwise. I’ve learned much about ministering to other women and caregivers in the midst of a breast cancer diagnosis.
I’m still learning, but here are a few things I’ve discovered in my journey with breast cancer:
- Breast cancer is very personal. Some women feel more comfortable sharing their stories. But for another woman, her breasts are a private part of her body and talking about the details is uncomfortable. Be sensitive to this as you minister to women with breast cancer. I know I had to become comfortable in my own skin again with a slightly different body.
- Whatever the diagnosis, treatment, or stage of breast cancer, it is hard. Physically and mentally. A mastectomy is hard. Drains, expanders, and reconstruction are hard. Chemo and/or radiation is hard. Lumpectomies and biopsies are hard. No one goes through breast cancer and says, “That was easy.” One of my struggles was not second-guessing my decision, especially on the physically painful and challenging days.
- The quiet is both a gift and a struggle. I had many quiet moments when no one was nearby or during a period when I could not physically keep up with others. You need the quiet to sleep, rest, and let your body heal. But sometimes too much quiet can be very lonely. A certain type of grief comes with breast cancer. You grieve for your health, your body, and how you will never be the same after going through such a traumatic health crisis. Some days this grief is closer to the heart while other days it may feel like you are over it.
- God is present. During recovery and in the years that have followed my diagnosis and surgeries, I’ve seen God’s power and presence in a whole new way. He has opened my eyes and heart to the hurting and those living with pain or an illness in a whole new way. God has also tenderly given me truth from His Word at just the right moments. When you are struggling with your physical appearance and you read, “Humans do not see what the LORD sees, for humans see what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7b, CSB), you sense God’s love for you in a new way.
- This is not punishment; God has entrusted you with something big. Because sin is in the world, there is suffering, pain, sorrow, and disappointment. It comes to us all. What if instead of thinking we are being punished, we thought about how God is entrusting us with this difficulty—to live it out and to point people to Him? When I looked at my diagnosis as an honor that God had entrusted to me, it changed everything about my actions and my attitude. It was not always easy, but I would repeat Job 10:12, “You gave me life and faithful love, and your care has guarded my life.”
- God understands when no one else does. I remember feeling so physically and mentally exhausted after returning to work. My family was doing all they could to help me physically at home, But after four weeks of drains, sleeping sitting up, and keeping my arms lowered, even having the stamina to drive a car to work was challenging. God knew my physical, mental, and emotional struggles when no one else did, and He continued to give me just what I needed for each day. My relationship with the Lord went deeper as I continued to depend on His wisdom, direction, and guidance for even the smallest decisions. Those decisions would have come so easily and naturally before my breast cancer by simply depending upon my own power. In the end my dependence upon God and staying in tune with His Spirit is one of the greatest gifts from the last three years.
- Support and community are essential. From the moment I was diagnosed with breast cancer I felt great support from family and friends. One of my sweetest memories was waking up in my hospital bed with my youngest daughter next to me holding my hand. I know I’m fortunate and not everyone has this type of support. Women with breast cancer need others to help carry the weight of the journey. Even the smallest gesture means so much—knowing that people are praying for you and cheering you on brings great hope and comfort.
What is your story of breast cancer? We’d love to hear. It can be as simple as: I am a breast cancer survivor; I am cancer free; I believe in miracles.
Michelle Hicks is the managing editor for Journey devotional magazine with Lifeway Women. Michelle served as a freelance writer, campus minister, and corporate chaplain before coming to Lifeway. She is a graduate of the University of North Texas and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Michelle has a deep hunger for God’s Word and wants others to discover the abundant life they can have with Jesus as their Lord and Savior.