Cancer. A word no one wants to hear said to them. It stops your world. Your mind starts spinning at all the things. You think, How can this be? Why me?
My family has heard this word more than we would like. Last May, we lost my Mom to breast cancer. She was seventy-five years old and had battled a series of health issues, but she couldn’t win the battle with her third diagnosis of breast cancer. She had a mastectomy the previous year, but it came back with a vengeance on the other side. She fought to stay alive until she couldn’t fight anymore.
My sister and I were grieving the loss of my mother, not knowing what faced us just months down the road. We tried to carry on as much as normal would let us. But that word just wasn’t leaving us alone.
In October, my sister Angela, who had already been diagnosed with cancer thirteen years earlier, went for her regular mammogram. It wasn’t good news. They had found cancer again. Thankfully, it was in the beginning stages, and they had caught it early.
I, on the other hand, lived in denial! I thought this would never happen to me. I am healthy, I try to eat well, for the most part. (Except birthday cake! I love birthday cake.) I am a hippie; I don’t like chemicals; I can’t stand taking medicine; I even make my own toothpaste for goodness sake. I cannot get cancer! I do all the right things I told myself.
Apparently, you can do all the right things, but your genes usually seem to win! My sister called me one day after an appointment with her surgeon and said, “All of my doctors are worried about you.” “Me … why me?” I said as a little pang of fear jumped in my chest. “You need to go and get checked,” she said. I rolled my eyes on the other end of the phone, thinking, I don’t want to deal with any of this. But that little pang of fear started to eat into my thoughts, and for the first time in a couple of years, I thought it was time to go get another mammogram.
I had my mammogram the week before my sister was having a double mastectomy. I asked the tech questions, and she said I was going to be fine—that there was no need to worry. So I didn’t worry. I focused on my sister and her surgery and prayed that the Lord would carry her through this.
An hour before my sister’s surgery, I received a call from the nurse saying that they would like a second mammogram to take another look. What? Today of all days to get this call! I tried my best to focus on Angela and what they were taking from her, but it all circled back to This can’t be happening. Not to me.
Being in the ultimate denial, I was just going to keep this to myself. I would deal with it when I had to. I wasn’t going to tell my family because did we really need to worry about this with someone else?
Secrets in my family do not hide well. It was the first question my sister had for me the first time I saw her after her surgery. I had to deal with this. This was bigger than just a little denial: it is what just took our mother from us!
I had my second mammogram and was told I was fine but that I needed to come back in six months to have another look. OK! I’m good. No need to worry. I was right! This wasn’t going to be me. But that pang of fear returned later that night, and I knew that something wasn’t right.
Two days later my sister received her pathology report that revealed more than expected. She had a second mass that was 5 cm in her other breast that never showed up on any mammogram or ultrasound. It was even a surprise to the surgeon. We were all shocked at the news, but it also prompted me to act on what I had going on. I immediately made an appointment with Angela’s surgeon to get a second opinion. She wanted to start over with her own scans—but not before mentioning that she did see something on mine just like my sister’s.
I had four more mammograms, two biopsies, ultrasounds, and an MRI over the next two months. My surgeon fought to find it. And we finally did. A 5 cm mass that never showed up except with the MRI. It was a roller coaster of emotions, but all along deep down in that pang of fear, I knew. I knew I had cancer. It was me.
I didn’t really get a choice in options. I was simply told I needed a double mastectomy and that afterward, we would see if there were any other treatments that needed to take place.
Why me? Why my family? My mother, my sister and I all within eight months.
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trails. So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” —1 Peter 1:6-7 (ESV)
Why me? Because Jesus chose me. He chose me for such a time as this, to endure this trial to sharpen my faith, to deepen my relationship with Him, to rely on Him for everything.
Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (ESV). He provided for my physical needs with an amazing surgeon to find the cancer. He gave strength and mercy and compassion to my precious husband to care for me and do everything, because I couldn’t. He provided for my emotional needs with a community of family and friends that could pray for me when I couldn’t pray for myself. He sent friends to clean, cook, and do our laundry and clean out pantries and closets because they knew it would make things easier. But more importantly, he provided for my spiritual needs. I have never experienced the peace of the Lord more than the hours before my surgery. I knew I was in His almighty hands and that I was going to be OK, no matter the outcome.
Philippians 4:7 says, “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (ESV).
He chose me so that my story might spark that pang in you to go get your mammogram! To encourage you that trials will come, trials bigger than you want, but our loving Savior will hold you and carry you through it. He will supply what you need and the things you didn’t know you needed.
Sisters, listen to the Lord’s pangs in your hearts, if you feel that something isn’t right—Fight! Fight to find it! Take care of your bodies even though they may fail you. The Lord knows the number of our days, but we can have a part in the quality of our days.
Praise the Lord that neither my sister or I had to have any other treatments! We couldn’t be more thankful. The Lord is so good. Almost a year has passed since it all began, and we are still learning how to live with something that will always be our thorn in the flesh. But we have each other! For that I am more than thankful.
GO get your mammogram. (And then have a piece of cake for me!)
Kristen Wright Lowe was born and raised in Gastonia, North Carolina. She loves to travel the world and take adventures with the love of her life, Aussie photographer David Lowe. The two met more than twenty-two years ago as she worked and traveled for Operation Christmas Child with Samaritan’s Purse. She is from the U.S.A, and David is from Australia. They met in Peru for the ministry’s shoebox distribution trip where he was a contracted photographer—and the rest is history! The two recently built (literally built it themselves) a “glass house” in Boone, North Carolina. When she is not working for American Airlines in Charlotte, Kristen manages rentals for the Glass House. She is the proud aunt to Joshua and Kristina and mother to the brilliant border collie, Boomer. Kristen is resourceful and creative, making her own home goods like laundry detergent and toothpaste, decorating, and helping others with creative travel planning. She and David attend Parkwood Baptist Church in Gastonia where she has gone since she was a little girl with her family.