There will never be anything about a birthday that is ordinary after a diagnosis of breast cancer. Each and every birthday will be a milestone documenting the years that God gives me.
Although I have never taken good health for granted, it is now more important to me than ever.
I pray that I use the gift of days or years as they are given wisely. May I honor God in every phase of my life.
My journey through this dark valley has been filled with many reminders that I am not alone, ever. From the first I was not afraid. God gave me peace.
Many thanks go to the team in the mammography unit for their skillful diagnosis of a tumor when it was very small. I would not have felt it for years in the spot that it was growing. I went from there to my personal physician who sent me back for a recheck. At the point that I was making this appointment I experienced something that I had never experienced before. I heard a voice behind me say, "You are going to be alright."
I took that as my sign that although I would have to go through many procedures there was hope on the other end. If you have to have some form of cancer, I guess breast cancer is as good as any since there has been so much research done. They have a pretty good success rate as long as it is detected early.
The whole experience has been nothing short of amazing. Since the doctor assured me that time away would not hurt my condition, I traveled in peace. Everything has fallen in place. Usually I go to Chautauqua the last week, but not this year. My week there was before treatment started this summer. When my fiftieth high school reunion rolled around I was able to go because my treatment had not yet begun. Trips from the fair for treatment were at times that did not interfere with events that I wanted to see. I finished radiation just before my birthday.
I have never felt so completely under the care of the Lord. I have not attempted to hide what was happening to me; I just needed more information before I said anything. When you get into the health care system you go from test to test and doctor visit to doctor visit waiting for information. In my case, I went from surgery to surgery waiting for a sign that all would be well.
Finally, that sign arrived in a clean diagnosis following lymph node surgery. The young student, a daughter of a former colleague, who was shadowing the surgeon, thanked me for providing the opportunity to see two unique procedures. She followed me through needle location of the tumor and the lymph node surgery.
Once I had all of the particulars I shared my news with my relatives, friends, and my church family.
Now as I mark another birthday I do so prayerfully thanking my maker for giving me more days to do his work. I share my story with you, my readers, in the hopes that it will help at least one person. Routine mammograms are extremely important. My tiny tumor was not visible last year, but it was this year. That is enough reason for me to advocate annual mammograms.
Throughout my treatment I only needed radiation and a pill for the next five years friends and family have been not only attentive, but supportive. This time I have been on the receiving end of cards and phone calls. All of those things are very important. They let me know that I was in someone's thoughts and prayers. That meant a lot to me.
The Bible does not promise that if you believe in the saving grace of Jesus that you will have a life without trouble. What it does say is that when you walk through the valley you will never be alone. I took Jesus with me to every procedure and every treatment. I recalled favorite songs and Bible verses. I remembered Bible stories where the power of the Lord was the focus. I prayed for others as I endured the trials before me.
Now, I move forward. Life will never be the same. Each day is a gift that I treasure and hope to make the most of.
Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
John 16:33 (NIV)
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org