By Susan F
At the age of 53, during a regular yearly exam, my doctor found a small lump in my breast. “Do not worry,” he said. “It’s probably just thickening of your tissue.” I immediately stopped worrying. I was young. I felt fine. There was no history of cancer in my immediate family. I exercised regularly and was not overweight; it was just some thick tissue.
I have never been more wrong! Within just a few days I found myself in surgery having a biopsy followed by lumpectomy and the removal of several lymph nodes. Unfortunately, no clear margins were found—my breast was removed and chemotherapy followed.
Nothing could have prepared me for this. Following surgery, I felt inadequate as a woman and very helpless. I could not even lift my arm to shower or wash my long hair, much less clean, cook or care for my family. The treatments only added to that feeling. Within a couple of weeks I lost all my hair. Nothing adequately describes how I felt when I looked in the mirror.
As I prayed for strength during this time, the Lord answered my prayers through the service of others. Because this service was so valuable, I know now how to help others in a predicament similar to mine. My family was so important to me during this time. Every day they called, brought in meals and even cleaned the toilets. My husband brought flowers and did household chores. He assured me that my surgery had not changed his feelings.
Family service and sharing household chores is important, but there are wonderful ways people can serve and help someone who is ill or incapacitated. A hat and scarf party is a great idea. Friends can bring a scarf or a hat that can be worn when beautiful hair has disappeared. In my case, wearing a hat or a pretty scarf really boosted my morale and made me feel pretty when I had no hair. The idea was brilliant.
Colleagues can show their support with cards and even with flowers. I had to leave my position as a teacher, but my students “heart attacked” my yard with notes and heart-shaped confetti. Neighbors and friends can take in meals when needed. Friends cleaning house and working in the yard can also be a great service. Seeing a previously pristine garden reduced to weeds and wilted flowers doesn’t do anything to reduce the stress when someone is sick!
Perhaps the most important service, however, can come from the closest caregiver, in my situation, my husband. He went with me to every chemo treatment and stayed right by my side each time I got sick from the drugs. He monitored calls and visits. My husband made sure that the visits were short and that I did not get too tired. He encouraged people to call ahead and make sure I was feeling good enough to be up when they arrived. He advised many to call rather than to come by and personally visit. I knew people cared but I did not have to jeopardize my immune system more than necessary.
These are just some of the many ways people helped and sustained me during my bout with breast cancer. I survived a challenging time through the tender mercies of the Lord. I realized that the Lord was aware of me and my family. My prayers for strength and comfort were answered through kind acts of service given to me. I discovered that it is difficult to be the one who needs help, but it is just as important to let others serve. Love is the key. I had the privilege of being the one in need for a time. I was the recipient of much love and service—all of which helped me remain hopeful and optimistic during a time when the challenges could have been overwhelming. My prayers for strength were answered through the service of friends and family. I will be forever grateful for those who showed so much love and concern during a time of trial in my life; I will be able to better serve those in need because of this experience.