“Let your faith be bigger than your fear” is a saying that’s derived from Hebrews Chapter 13, Verse 6. It is also the scriptural message that became my inspiration after being diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2011. Just a year before I turned 60, I noticed a small lump in my right breast. I kept thinking it would magically disappear. However, after a week of mentally wrestling with myconcerns, I scheduled a mammogram. Following that mammogram, a sonogram wasimmediately done. I was told that the suspicious mass was solid, dark, spiky and “looked like breast cancer.” A follow-up biopsy was recommended. I was alone at thetime . . . speechless and thinking, “Not me, not in my almost-perfect life.”
I was happily married, had kids and grandkids, and was enjoying life to the fullest! At the time, I was pursuing one of my passions – stock car racing. My two grandsons called me “Racecar Grandma.” How cool is that? I didn’t actually race cars, but I helped manage the racetracks. I worked from home during the week, and then I’d hit the road for the racetrack on weekends. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my priorities had slowly shifted away from my family . . . and God.Most of my weekends involved being at the racetrack for many hours, and I had to misslots of family functions. And, I was just too tired for church on Sunday mornings. I was doing what I loved, and I thought that my life was complete. But everything came to a screeching halt the day I got the dreaded phone call from mygynecologist. My cancer diagnosis shattered the very core of my being. After crying tomyself for about 30 minutes, I knew that I would soon be in a fight for my life. And then I began to pray, praying harder than I’d ever done in my entire life. I quickly realizedthat the things that I had taken for granted had suddenly become the most importantthings in my life. God and family became center stage, and I knew then that I needed them more than ever.
I saw my surgeon that same day and scheduled my surgery for a mastectomy on my right breast five days later.Then my oncologist told me that I would be getting a year of chemo treatments becauseof my HER2 positive tumor. Going through chemo was, by far, one of the hardest timesof my life. I was bald, battling constant diarrhea and very tired all the time from severe anemia, along with neuropathy in my right arm from the removal of ten lymph nodes. And, worst of all, I realized that I was no longer whole, missing my entire right breast. It wasn’t all bad though. Today’s drugs really helped control the nausea and vomiting from chemo. My total lack of appetite and frequent diarrhea helped me lose a lot ofweight – but that’s certainly not a diet that I’d recommend to anyone! On the positive side, I enjoyed wearing “bling caps,” which helped make my hair loss a bit more bearable and fun at the same time. Best of all, I didn’t have to shave my legs andunderarms for months! Near the end of my chemo treatments, I was finally able to get a blood transfusion that really helped with my anemia and fatigue.
Through it all, I realized that I was truly blessed because I had been given anopportunity to survive my disease with some effective treatments. I had also grabbed God’s hand and renewed my belief in him, returning to church. On weekends when I worked at the racetrack in Kyle, I had arranged with a hotel in Buda for a late checkout on Sunday morning, giving me time to sleep late and still go to church. About halfway through my chemo treatments, I decided to take a short leave of absencefrom the racetrack. I was able to put my focus back on my family again. I had begun tosee God’s plan for me and understand why God had given me such a tough healthchallenge. Yes, He had certainly gotten my attention, and He was guiding me every stepof the way to get my life back on track again!Metropolitan Methodist Hospital downtown, the site for my mastectomy, was also inGod’s plan for me. Metro had formed a new Breast Center during the same month ofmy diagnosis. I still brag about being its first patient! I got a lot of support from theNurse Navigator, who really helped me understand my cancer and coached me throughthe trials of my cancer.Following my chemo, I scheduled removal of my other breast and DIEP Flap reconstruction surgery on both breasts in April 2013, followed by two more proceduresover the next year.
Finally, my long, tough journey seemed to be getting better. I felt complete again, andmy life was slowly becoming normal again after 2-1/2 years of procedures, surgeries,and treatments. However, I had a nagging fear about the possibility of a recurrence. Could I ever go through all of it again? In May 2014, I went on an ACTS retreat with my church, and that’s when Iadopted my “faith over fear” perspective. I learned that God is in control. Sometimes it’s hard to see it that way, and I pray that I will continue to fulfill His plan in my life’s journey.During that same year, I had a strong calling and made a big decision to pay forward all the support that I had gotten through my breast cancer journey. I felt the need to usemy experiences and talents to help other survivors.So, in February 2014, I became a Blue Bird volunteer in the Metropolitan Methodist BreastCenter, and I feel I’ve been given an amazing opportunity to learn more about mydisease, while helping others to understand it also.I formed a support group, Metro’s Pink Warriors, that is still active today. I’ve alsohelped over 500 breast cancer patients over the past 9-1/2 years. Whenever I can, Italk with the survivors about the importance of faith in their journey. I’m also on theBreast Program Leadership Team at the hospital, and I attend a bi-weekly conferencethat continually helps me to expand my knowledge about my disease.I’m happy to say that several of my patients have become dear friends. Little do theyknow how fulfilling it is for me to help them go through the challenges of their breastcancer! We often cry together, laugh together and even pray together. I feel trulyblessed to have answered God’s call to serve, and I know that I’ve been given anincredible opportunity to help my fellow survivors and make a difference in their lives.And I always keep the start of the hospital’s Mission Statement in mind, “Serving humanity to Honor God.”Going forward, I hope to remain focused on my faith, my family and friends, and my internal drive to make a difference in other people’s lives through my work at the hospital.And yes, I feel my life is almost perfect, yet again. My husband and I will celebrate our50th anniversary in March, and I’m now closer than ever to my kids, grandkids, and therest of my family. I’m also very active in my church and have formed some verymeaningful friendships there . . . love you, Leslie.
My stock car racing days are behind me, but like every experience I’ve had, they are part of who I am today. Sometimes I think of cancer in terms of racing. Amongst all the races I’ve been involved with, cancer was the biggest race of my life . . . an Enduro race, if you will – full of chaos and unpredictable obstacles. A test of teamwork and endurance.All in all, my breast cancer journey has brought so many good things into my life. Best of all, it has taught me the importance of making time for both God and family in my life. I go through each day saying to myself, “Let your faith be bigger than your fear” . . . and I share that message wherever and whenever I can.Thanks for listening to my story.