Blessings Beyond Belief

Blessings Beyond Belief

From Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor's Soul

Blessings Beyond Belief

It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.

Walt Disney

My eyes well up with tears as I watch my eight-month-old daughter, Adrianna, smile from ear to ear as she sees our reflection in the bathroom mirror. Her arms reach out to the other baby in the mirror. I still can’t believe I’m holding my own daughter—I feel so blessed to have experienced the miracle of creating a new little life. She is a product of the love between my husband, Jim, and me, our miracle baby, because we weren’t sure I could conceive after battling breast cancer.

Being diagnosed at age twenty-five after finding a lump in the shower was a total shock; we had only been married two years and were settling into a comfortable life, but suddenly we were researching surgery and treatment options. The biggest blow came when we discovered that chemotherapy could force a woman into menopause. I wasn’t prepared for that. Breast cancer could take away my breast, but I would not let it take away my ability to have children! An oncologist told me I should not be concerned with that and instead should focus on curing my cancer. It hurt me tremendously that she didn’t see how important it was to us to have a child.

Devastated, we threw ourselves into researching every option available, from postponing chemotherapy to freezing fertilized embryos. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much research done on the treatment of younger women and the effects on their ability to have children. After much analysis and prayer, we decided to leave my health in the Lord’s hands and go ahead with the TRAM flap surgery and six months of chemotherapy. We knew if the Lord wanted us to have children, he would provide the way— whether by natural means or adoption.

After the conclusion of my treatment, my husband and I waited several years to try to conceive, as we wanted to at least reach the five-year mark without a recurrence. Making the decision to go ahead and have children was difficult. We knew I would always be at a higher risk for the return of cancer, which in real terms meant that I might not be around to raise my children. Again, we trusted that the Lord had a plan for our family and knew we could not live in fear. After seven years, he blessed us with a precious, vibrant baby girl!

I’m so thankful for the early detection methods that were available. Because I found my lump early and didn’t put off investigating it, my prognosis was great. It can be a frightening experience to get a mammogram, but as so many women can attest to, it saves lives! I not only saved my own life by following through with treatment, but as a result, I was able to give life as well. I want to encourage younger women in particular who are diagnosed with this disease to face breast cancer head on! There is so much that can be done now, and you have a lot of living left to do. Fight hard and you will come out of the experience stronger and more alive than ever!

Breast cancer has changed my life in so many unimaginable ways. None of us choose to join the “boobie pity-party club,” as I like to call it. Throughout the journey of surgeries and treatment, it is only reasonable to wonder: Why me? Why now? Can there possibly be a purpose in all of this?

As a newly diagnosed person, all you can do is focus on what needs to be done to heal your body. It wasn’t until months later that I really looked at why this disease chose me. Now as an eight-year survivor, I can honestly say I feel breast cancer was a blessing. Yes, a blessing. After getting past the “why me’s,” I realized this health crisis in my life allowed me to take a step back, evaluate my life, and look for the meaning and truth in this experience. This struggle strengthened my faith that God had a purpose in this for my life. It is in these valleys of life that we are tested, forced to grow and are bestowed with wisdom beyond our years. I know I have traveled the cancer journey so that I may be a source of encouragement and strength to other women.

I hope to empower both newly diagnosed women and survivors of many years with some of my “Cancer Reflections.” Here is what I have learned:

Live life in the now. Don’t always be looking ahead and miss what is happening today! Live each day as if it were your last. Death is a reality for all of us, but how you choose to live each day is up to you.

You are responsible for your own joy! Identify what makes you joyful and then seek it regularly! Life is too short to waste on things that won’t last. There will always be things to complain about, but isn’t it better to be optimistic and hopeful?

Live courageously, no matter what the circumstances. Don’t let breast cancer define who you are; instead, let it affect how you embrace life. Allow God to stretch you out of your comfort zone. If you can survive breast cancer, you can take on anything!

Make God real to others, and love them without ceasing. Let others see God in you in how you speak, act, think and react to life’s situations. Sometimes all we can give to another hurting person is our unconditional love.

Master your fear, or at least tame it! We all struggle with the fear of recurrence. Don’t let this steal your joy. Instead, starve those fears with faith, trust and prayer.

Practice self-love. Self-love doesn’t mean being selfish; it means taking care of you! Take care of your body and your emotions. Find your balance. We all need quiet time to reflect and re-energize. Don’t feel guilty about not taking on yet another commitment or project. If you are a whole, healthy person, you can cope better and be an inspiration to others.

Become involved in educating about breast cancer and finding a cure! Participate in an event that raises money for breast-cancer treatment, screening or research. Call five of your best friends each month and encourage them to do their monthly breast self-exam. Join a support group to help other women through their cancer journey. I want to be an active part—however small it may be—of finding the cure! On my seventy-fifth birthday, I will celebrate fifty-years of conquering breast cancer. My grandchildren will have to be told what breast cancer was like, back in the days before there was a cure!

A fellow breast cancer friend always says, “Breast cancer only happens to the strongest of women.”

Denise Blunk

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