Dear Faithful Praying Family & Friends,
Looking back on last weekend, I realize that I’ve lived a life [so far] that has been amazingly free of physical pain. Of course, my two childbirths were painful [but of a short duration] and the positive outcomes swept away the memory of the pain of each labor!
Last weekend, I was overcome with pain and I was decidedly non-heroic. Let us have no illusions here, for I must create a faithful record of my journey. Some people consider me heroic due to my decision to have a bi-lateral mastectomy with no reconstruction. The decision was mentally agonizing for both Stephen & me but the post-operative pain was relatively mild and controllable. The incision, which extends across my chest, rendered the surgical area numb. Evidently, the surgery severs tiny nerves that may reconnect over time — or not at all. My mood was elevated after surgery: it was OVER and the lymph nodes were CLEAR. Together, we all gave thanks and prayed that I would be spared further treatment. If I appeared brave and strong [and even cheerful] it was because I held onto the hope that I was completely CURED and I thought I was through. With both breasts removed, this seemed highly probable, right?
I was shocked, as you were, when two oncologists told me that I must have chemo. They said that maybe I was cured but could not say for sure! Did the cancer spread through my bloodstream? Will I have a recurrence of Breast Cancer? Is chemo really necessary? By what percentage will it decrease my risk of recurrence? Will I survive it, as poisons course throughout my body, wreaking havoc with every system? What will I gain with chemo? What will I lose? There are no clear answers!
After “running with footmen” [the surgery] came “competiting with horses” [the chemo] and on Day 6, I landed in ER. I thought to myself, This is REAL suffering and I am not heroic. That weekend brought me down low: physically and mentally. I have only six more days before I must submit to the next round. Am I brave and strong? No, I am filled with dread, foreboding, and fear.
Where do you go when you are fearful? I go to the Psalms. The ancient Hebrews had a Psalter, a body of liturgical poetry, the hymnal of ancient Israel. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer includes the Psalter and gives each of the 150 Psalms a brief title, in Latin, derived from the first phrase of each Psalm. Psalm 46, for example, is Deus Noster Refugium: God is our refuge and strength. Verse 3 says, “Though its waters rage and foam, and though the mountains tremble at its tumult . . . “
These are some deep, turbulent waters I am in. Yet God is our hope and strength, a very present help in trouble.