I’m thrilled to be writing a guest post for Michele’s blog! When I first saw her blog, I wished that she had been online back in 2009, because she would have been so helpful to me in my cancer recovery.
A Little About Me…
I received my breast cancer diagnosis on August 24, 2009 — the 15th anniversary of my sister Sandra’s death from uterine cancer. I was 51 years old at the time, single with no children. I did have a mortgage and two cats, however. I think it was both the mortgage and my fur babies that gave me the impetus to push forward to get this condition taken care of. With my sister and parents passed on by this time, and no family in town, I knew I had to keep working.
I simply prayed, “Okay, God, you know the plan here. What is my next step?”
That Still, Small Voice
I am still thankful I had cancer, because it taught me a whole lot and also changed my life for the better. Most of my “betterment” came through finally noticing, and listening to, that still, small voice. It was so obvious to me, I wondered how I hadn’t noticed it before. Perhaps it had been there but I overlooked it. I was a long-time Christian who apparently didn’t think she needed anyone’s help or advice. Wrong! I will give you a few examples in this post to help you understand what I mean.
This was the date of my bilateral mastectomy. Instead of a lumpectomy that my gynecological oncology surgeon recommended, I had insisted on having both breasts completely removed. My usually meek self did not have a chance to say anything before the new, bolder me stated my wishes, leaving no doubt as to what I wanted. I could hardly believe the fact that I had been bold like that, yet I didn’t change my mind. It turns out, there was a good reason.
In my hospital room the evening after my surgery, my surgeon visited me. She told me that my cancer was graded as a “1”, which was good. However, she had examined the “clean” breast during surgery, and it already had breast cancer markers. Not so good. If I had gone through with just a lumpectomy on one breast, the markers on the other breast would have grown into a cancer. Then I would have had to go through two sets of chemo and two surgeries. Proof positive Example 1 that God speaks with a still, small voice.
I began my chemotherapy one month later. My friend (I’ll call him Paul) took me to my first chemo appointment, and a few other times a girlfriend of mine took me to treatments. The rest of the time, I could drive myself to appointments. I enjoyed the peace and solitude of my chemo treatments, so I was happy to just be able to take a nap throughout the whole process.
After my side effects of chemo appearing, like losing my voice and peeling skin on my palms, I forgot that I had put this whole cancer thing into God’s hands. I cried out to my oncologist and said “I just can’t do this anymore.” He replied, “But Debbie, you are doing so well!” So yes – God brought me through and I was able to work full-time (most of the time). Thank you, God, for getting me out of a precarious situation and for your constant love that surrounded me every minute.
I was invited to the lady next door’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. At that particular time, I had an appetite so did quite well. Later, when I lost my hair and was bald, I appeared in public that way, and the lady next door was horrified. She insisted on loaning me her red wig.
Wigs and Prosthetics
I wore the wig for just two hours and found it way too scratchy. God bless the women who can wear wigs. I just couldn’t. I also found out that I could only wear cotton scarves or caps, but did so only sparingly.
A couple weeks later, I attended a women’s conference at church without the wig. An elderly lady told me in the women’s bathroom that morning, “I don’t know why you don’t wear a wig. The State HAS TO give you a wig, you know,” and so forth. On and on she went. She didn’t listen to my way of thinking about it. Finally I said something like, “I’m just fine without one” and walked out of the bathroom, the lady’s mouth hanging open.
Two weeks after that I was at another conference at church. An older woman stopped me as I was going past her table and was totally opposite of the lady mentioned above. She said, “thank you for not wearing a wig. I will be starting chemo treatments soon, and you’ve given me the courage to go without a wig when I lose my hair.”
Incidentally, I also chose not to wear prosthetics. (It’s good I wasn’t told, “The State has to get you some!”)
I don’t recall talking to God about wigs and prosthetics, but I believe that sometimes his voice comes through decisions you make with confidence. I knew without a doubt that wigs and prosthetics weren’t for me.
I was always a person who “needed” to follow traditions for holidays, even though I was single during cancer recovery. One of my friends lugged all the Christmas tree decorations up from downstairs for me; fortunately I already had an artificial tree, but she had to bring that up from downstairs as well.
It was hard for me not to decorate the Christmas tree at all – I let my friend do it instead, and I’m so thankful she did that for me. But to tell you the truth, it really didn’t make or break my Christmas like I thought it would.
Last year Paul and I (I married my friend Paul in 2012) decided not to put up the tree at all, and all our Christmas dinnerware and mugs had been given away a year before that. The world didn’t blow up, and I found out that I didn’t have to have a decorated house to celebrate Christmas. The ceiling did not cave in! Who would’ve thought? This year, however, I am planning to put up the tree real soon!
These little lessons I learned have covered regular, everyday events as well. (If something feels right and it’s not against the law, then do it. Otherwise, it’s okay to differ from others’ expectations or your own.) I am much more free to live my own life when it’s not constantly under my microscope and when I don’t need others’ approval! We can’t be, and don’t even have to strive to be, perfect! Hurray! (I mention a few more tips in my book.)
In closing, I’d like to say that God loves you with such a great, everlasting love, that nothing you do (or don’t do) will lessen his love for you. The other people in your life? Well, they will learn that having a somewhat different Christmas than usual is alright, because after all, they still have you with them to celebrate! And that’s the main reason for gathering, right? To celebrate.
About the author: Debb Stanton (author name Debbie Loesel Stanton) is an 9 year breast cancer survivor who loves to share her story. She encourages people every day, whether it’s in their cancer journey or living their life or seeing their value. It is Debb’s prayer that her words can help others.
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/aut