Predictability is my friend. My husband frequently calls me a "rule follower." Spur of the moment is not my idea of fun. I have never welcomed change ... until I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
On Sept. 5, 2014, reality as I knew it was hijacked. Plans evaporated. Schedules fell away. All in a matter of a few hours. A diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma was incomprehensible. I had no known history of breast cancer in my family. By all accounts, you would have thought (I did) that I was a reasonably healthy 36-year-old. Wrong. I had been invaded and assaulted. I felt powerless. My body betrayed me. Shock, confusion, anger and sadness drew near as I digested the fact that cancer grew inside of me.
Questions raced through my mind. Nothing was still. Nothing was clear. I wanted to wake up from this dream. Why did I get cancer? Will I be able to handle chemotherapy? Who will help Patrick and Margaret Montgomery? What if treatment is not successful? Will I be able to work at all? Scans, needles, medication, fatigue and frustration became routine. Nights were long. Tears were many. Grief will not be bound.
The treatment plan was chemotherapy followed by surgery. Surgery confirmed that I would also need radiation. Each phase ignited fear within me. The weekend I lost my hair, I felt stripped of part of my identity. Transformation was on the horizon but it took me months to recognize this truth. Doctors and nurses eased my anxiety by their accessibility and dedication to my healing. Along my journey the kindness of so many people enveloped me and carried me forward when I could not do so on my own.
Slowly, as the days passed, I understood my pain to be a threshold into a new world -- a new me. In this world, I experience a greater sense of beauty and connection among all living things. Interestingly, I am willing to embrace change. My heart is open. Suffering led me to the sanctuary of my soul. Now, rather than seeing cancer as an enemy, I see it as a teacher. I have learned that presence in each moment is life-giving, that breathing calms fear and that silence is my companion. This experience has given me peace. Joy and peace.
My journey continues. I have difficult days. Uncertainty is inevitable. More scans will come. Even so, hope is found as my energy returns. I am thankful that my precious husband and daughter love me and accept me anew each day. Cancer is horrible. However, surviving cancer has given me an opportunity to choose gratitude, to slow down and observe this mysterious life that God so graciously shows us moment by moment.