Most people that know me well, especially those who knew me before I was diagnosed with cancer, know that my view on faith and religion has changed significantly since I was diagnosed. I grew up as a non-practicing Christian. As a little kid, mom took me and my brother to church here and there, and we attended Sunday school sometimes but not consistently. When I was in fifth grade and was getting too social for my parents' liking and my brother was threatened with violence on the little league field my parents decided to enroll us in a private Catholic school. Since we aren't Catholic we were exempt from participating in religion class (though we had to sit there and read quietly) and certain activities, we still learned many of the foundations of Catholicism, including the many memorized prayers said in mass. Unfortunately, all the rules and judgment and guilt associated with Catholicism really turned me off and once out of Catholic school I rarely attended church.
I didn't have a good relationship with God, going as far back as when I was a little kid when some really crappy stuff happened to me at the hands of someone that claimed to love me. I couldn't understand how God, if He existed, could let such a horrible thing happen to me or any other child. So, not surprisingly, I became an agnostic young adult. I went back and forth, wanting and needing God to exist and to be on my side but seeing so much pain, struggle made it difficult to trust Him and so I withdrew and became more and more skeptical. I didn't stop praying completely, but I stopped believing it was helping so the prayers become fewer and fewer until finally I found myself one day watching Bill Maher's "Religulous" movie and actually agreeing with most of it just a few years ago when it came out. Wow.
Things began to change after I got married. Poor Bob, bless his heart, thought we were on the same page with this religion stuff. Anyway, we wanted to start a family and I was sure that our advanced age (him being over 50 and me being over 35 at the time) that we may find ourselves unable to do so. I decided to pray. Three weeks later I was pregnant. I figured it was a coincidence since I used a high-tech ovulation predictor to help time things. But at 16 weeks into the pregnancy I was rushed to surgery when it was discovered my cervix was "incompetent" and I nearly lost the baby. Again, I prayed and prayed and prayed, thinking it was a long shot but I didn't want to take the chance because I really wanted and loved this baby. And, even though it was still a long haul after that, including 19 weeks of strict bed rest and nightly prayers asking God to protect my baby from harm, our precious Cooper was born healthy (except for reflux). Hmmm...maybe it was the prayers. Maybe it was just that I followed doc's orders.
Eleven months later I was diagnosed with stage 3c triple negative breast cancer. Found it accidentally after having a highly emotional reaction to my friend and colleague's news that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer just a week before. I had been checked by my doctor every couple months through my pregnancy and every few months after Cooper was born and no suspicious lumps were ever found. You may recall that I went to get a mammogram after feeling a small bump that turned out to be nothing (on the non-cancer side) and that while there for the mammogram the cancer was detected on the other side. A total fluke? Or, was a higher power leading me to make this discovery? Or something else? I know that I sure was lucky to discover it when we did, giving me a more time here on earth to be a mother to my precious young son.
As I began treatment, something in me was quickly evolving. I was seeing life through a new lens - a lens of faith and determination. I started seeing miracles occurring in my life every.single.day. Little things and big things. I couldn't help but think that only God could be responsible for the grace I was experiencing. The more I noticed, the more I prayed. And while not every prayer is answered the way I may have hoped, I believe they have all been answered in some way. And, when I was compelled to find a church where I could explore and develop my new relationship with God, I was led to the most wonderful church in my area, NorthPark Community Church. There I have learned so much in such a short time. I became born again on January 24, 2010 when I was re-baptized, and my faith has been instrumental in my treatment, healing and recovery from stage 3 breast cancer.
I have an uber-long list of examples of the many miracles I've witnessed that have led me to this new place I am in with my faith in God, and someday I will document them and share details. But for now, I just wanted to share that faith really matters, even to this stubborn gal who previously lacked it. And, if you are skeptical or are just the type of person that needs more "evidence", then read and consider the following article about a study revealing the impact of faith and liver transplant survival. This is just one example of many that are out there.
I believe in the power of prayer. I've seen it work to heal and protect many, including me and my son.
Close family and friends know that my life today barely resembles my life before cancer, largely because of my renewed faith. I never thought I'd say it or believe it to be true but life as a believer is so much richer and fulfilling than before. I continue to learn and grow my relationship with Christ each day. It takes time, work, and most of all - it takes a leap of faith. It would have been wonderful to have gotten to this place without the aid of a cancer diagnosis, but I am grateful nonetheless to have finally gotten here. It's never too late. Praise God, it's never ever too late.
The first Bible verse handed to me to reflect upon after I was diagnosed the summer of '09 was Isaiah 41:13 "For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." It's become one of my absolute favorites and has helped me through this journey. My friend and neighbor, Cindy, gave it to me on an index card and it has been taped to a wall mirror near my bedside ever since. Thank you, Cindy! I know God placed Cindy in my life to help bring me back to Christ. I'm so grateful for that.