It has been almost two weeks since my bilateral mastectomy, and I’m surprised to admit this even to myself, but I feel blessed. Don’t get me wrong, my muscles ache as though there’s a vice grip around my chest, severed nerves periodically fire back to life with searing hot pain, and the drains absolutely disgust me. My underside of my right arm is covered with slowly fading bruises from the multiple failed attempts to start an IV the morning of my surgery.
But there is hope. There is hope that the worst is behind me.
The breast surgeon informed me three days ago that the margins around the tumor were clear and that the sentinel (closest) lymph node was clear of cancer. The oncologist let me know the next day that because my cancer was considered non-aggressive, low-risk, and hormone receptive, I do not need chemotherapy. Instead, I will be on endocrine therapy in the form of Tamoxifen.
I have had much time for reflection since my surgery as I sit here in my recliner both day and night. This is what I’ve learned so far:
- I am loved and cared about.
- It’s OK to say “screw it” to a lot of stuff…a lot of stuff really isn’t that important.
- It’s OK to ask for and receive help.
- Having cancer means doctor’s appointments…a lot of them.
- It’s important not to overdo it.
- It’s important not to under-do it.
- Life is too short to put one’s happiness on the back burner.
- I have to stop telling myself, “Maybe when you retire, you can…” because I may not be around that long.
- I need to say “No!” more.
- God will always keep me guessing.
What I have come to realize most of all is that I’ve tried to control too much and have worked too hard. I have been racing around chasing my own tail, trying to please others, second guessing myself, and misplacing my priorities. I have allowed myself to be used up and taken advantage of. I felt like God was happy with this, that He was using me for His good, (and some part of me thought that I was maybe being punished), but now it is clear to me that I am on the wrong path. If I were on God’s path, life wouldn’t be this hard. I would have time to devote to reading the Word, meditation, and deeper prayer, and I would rejoice in my vocation. I would also feel joy and peace, things that have been severely lacking in my life the last couple of years. Instead of feeling hope, joy, or peace, I have been feeling beaten down, barren, and lifeless. I have not been bearing good fruit.
This will change. God is in control, and I will have faith in him, for “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)
At this difficult time in my life, I know that God is calling me to rest and to hope.
Photo found at https://www.flickr.com/people/dafongman/ using Google Advanced Image Search for pictures in the public domain.