Nothing prepares you to hear the words “you have cancer.” I remember the call like it was yesterday. It was Monday, October 30that 5:30 pm. I was home from work about to change out of my work clothes when my phone rang. I answered the phone and there was an unfamiliar voice on the other end. She asked to speak with me. She introduced herself and said that she has the results from my biopsy… “You have ductal carcinoma….” Her words faded into background sound as my mind raced a million miles.
I reflected back to the mammogram that I had the Friday before. It was a routine mammogram. Like the ten others that I had since I turned 40. This year was different. From one year to the next, I went from receiving a normal result to abnormal. I had to have more tests. I had a sonogram then a biopsy. Something was wrong, abnormal. I was at the doctor alone. I felt alone in a room of women. Did they know what I was going through? Could they look at me and tell? Were they going through the same thing? How did this happen to me? What changed from one year to the other? What does this mean? What do I do next? Am I going to die? How am I going to tell my children? All of these questions bombarded my mind in a split second.
As the woman’s voice became clearer, I had questions. I didn’t know cancer terminology, so ductal carcinoma was foreign to me. Her tone felt matter-of-factly, like she needed to get to her next call. I felt lost and confused. I was stunned. Yet I had questions and I needed answers. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I didn’t feel like I had cancer. I felt normal. I didn’t know what to do next. But the one thing I knew for sure was I needed God. I looked up and simply said, “God Help Me!” I knew that God had to be my first option and not my last result. I knew that God was a healer because I watched a miracle when He healed my grandmother from a near death experience. So I knew He could heal me too. “God help me!” I said it over and over and over again while the song Blessed Assurance echoed in my mind.
Next, I called my sorority sister who is a doctor to ask my questions. She listened. She was compassionate and caring. She provided me with information, clarity and support. She answered my questions and gave me recommendations and direction. Oh, what a blessing!! Now, I had to tell my husband. I could hear him talking on the phone downstairs, so I waited. I sat in silence surrounded by my thoughts. When he came upstairs and I gave him the news. He said, “We have to go to Grandmother’s house and PRAY right now.” There is POWER in PRAYER! So we jumped in the car headed to grandmother’s house. On the way, I called my parents and siblings to let them know. Those were really tough conversations full of questions that I couldn’t answer.
By the time we reached grandmother’s house, my dad was there waiting. He looked me in the eyes and said “You are going to be okay. Jesus is on the boat.” My dad was referring to the bible passage where Jesus and his disciples were traveling across the lake and a storm arose. The disciples were afraid and Jesus calmed the storm. My dad’s point was if Jesus is on your boat, you don’t have to worry. He is with you. We prayed with my grandmother and I knew everything was going to be alright.
While doing research, I read that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. One in Eight. I thought about the women in my life. To my knowledge, none of them had breast cancer. I made the decision to share my diagnoses. After my family, I shared the news with my closest friends. My “Sister Circle” sent me a card with a quote that said, “You’ve been assigned this mountain to show others that it can be moved.” Wow!! That quote became my mantra. If one in eight women will get breast cancer in their lifetime, I will accept the assignment to fight this battle and be an example that this mountain, this obstacle, this challenge, this diagnosis can be moved/removed. If one in eight women will experience breast cancer in their life, I will carry this burden for the women that I love in my life. I will show others that it CAN be moved in Jesus Name! So as I began to share my diagnosis, I learned that several of my sorority sisters had, in fact, experienced breast cancer. I didn’t realize how close this disease had been to me. How could it be that the one in eight was so close yet I didn’t know it. I learned that people handle their diagnosis differently, in their own way. And that is okay.
As I went through my healing journey and experienced an abundance of love and support, I was inspired to give back and help other potential “one in eight” women. On the one-year anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis, I started Sadie Strong, a non-profit charitable support organization for women that promotes the early detection of breast cancer and inspires healthy lifestyles. Early detection is key to survival. If the statistics are correct and one in eight women will get breast cancer in their lives, until we have a cure, Sadie Strong will continue our quest to promote early detection, annual mammograms, monthly self-breast check and all-around healthy lifestyles.
What I know for sure is, in life, we all will go through storms, obstacles and challenges. The question becomes how will you go through your storm? Will you use your storm to be a blessing to someone else? Or will you drown in your storm? While it may seem like you are alone on your journey or in your storm, if Jesus is on your boat, He can calm the storm and help you get to the other side. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Share your story. Give your testimony. You never know when your “One in Eight” experience can help someone through theirs.