Family, friends and faith saved my life
By Marilyn McDonald
Being diagnosed with breast cancer was a journey I never expected to walk through. I had considered myself young and healthy and then to hear the words “we have your test results back and it is a malignant tumor”. I was overwhelmed. Although the journey was challenging at moments, thankfully I have found a place of peace, solace, and joy through my worship and faith in God.
Finding out that I had breast cancer at 41 was a devastating and emotional experience that is difficult to explain. I was on an emotional roller coaster from fear, shame, anger, hostility, isolation, and back to peace and joy. I am forever grateful that I found that place of comfort in God who gave me peace and joy.
Breast cancer threw me off guard but it never was a surprise to God. I quickly realized that He had equipped me with strength to fight physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Having two normal mammograms since the recommended age of 40, I felt that doing monthly self breast examinations was an option. I was graced to find my lump early but I believe it could have been caught sooner if I was performing my monthly self breast examinations.
March of 2013 I had a normal mammogram and by December 2013 I felt a lump the size of a plum. I didn’t discover this lump with the self breast examination. The lump was discovered while sitting around the dinner table enjoying family time. I leaned on the table and the way my hand touched my breast I could feel a lump. Hmmm…. a lump. Not thinking it was real serious but I knew it was something I needed to follow up with.
I followed up with my physician Dr. Susan Reynolds and I am forever grateful that her immediate response was aggressive and proactive. I discovered that I had a fast growing cancer that had become invasive. The oncologist tested me for three different receptors of breast cancer to see which chemotherapy regimen to treat me, and I tested negative for all three receptors.
While triple negative cancer was not a death sentence, it made treatment more difficult. Well the fight had begun. I counseled with my physicians to find out the best treatment for me. With prayers and family support I was committed to getting better. I had made a decision and purposed in my mind that I was not going to look like what I was going through.
Every time I went to any of my doctor visits and chemotherapy sessions I was going to look my best. I put on my high heel shoes, I wore my best wig, and I dressed to impress. I can remember so vividly one day going to get my blood drawn and this lady looked at me and said “You’re mighty dressed up getting your lab work.” I responded with a big smile and politely said thank you. Even though I may have been bald underneath my wig, I was bold and confident with every step in this journey.
Was I ever afraid? Yes. Was I ever doubtful? Yes. Did I ever feel uncertain? Yes. Did I have family support? Yes. Did I have friends? Yes. Did I see a brighter day? Yes. Did I feel I could overcome this? Yes. So my yes for support, family, friends, and faith outweighed my fears and doubts. My struggle was real, but God was realer. My faith was tested, but God was faithful. I cried some tears, but God comforted me.
It is amazing how the word cancer can consume your thoughts, but I kept my eyes on God. I saw Him bigger than cancer and I can say that I am over a year cancer free. I receive each day as a blessing and I live life to the fullest. Being diagnosed with breast cancer allowed me to realize that life is too short not to enjoy it to the fullest. Will there be more challenging moments in my life? I know there will, but I will not let those moments define who I am or respond negatively to it. So to encourage any woman who may be dealing with breast cancer, it is a fight but your faith will determine your outcome.