My life has been so blessed and facing cancer as a four-time survivor has been the biggest blessing in my life! Few other diagnoses strike fear into our hearts as thoroughly as a cancer diagnosis, especially one that has a low survival rate. I was first diagnosed with t-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2000 and given a five percent hope of survival. I was then diagnosed twice with breast cancer and have had a bilateral mastectomy.
The most devastating and fearful diagnosis, though, occurred this past February when I was told that I had pancreatic cancer. Within several weeks, I was undergoing a Whipple procedure which I survived with flying colors. My prognosis is excellent and I did not require either chemotherapy or radiation. With each diagnosis of cancer, I have felt myself immediately placing all of the fear into God’s precious hands.
If I could give any message to someone struggling with the devastating diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, it would be a message of hope. There is always hope and that is what defines us as human beings…the capacity for hope. My personal strongest hope, though, always comes with my faith in God. I believe God has blessed me with each step along the way from the great skill of the first radiologist who read my CT and picked up on so many very subtle indicators of pancreatic cancer. These were immediately recognized and dealt with by the gastroenterologist at the hospital, who quickly referred me to a most gifted surgeon, who I have no doubt literally saved my life! I was guided to an exemplary hospital with excellent nursing staff, which is vital in the outcome of a Whipple procedure.
I am not saying that a Whipple procedure is anything less than an enormous, life-altering surgery…it is weeks of extremely challenging recovery, sometimes wondering if survival is possible, or even desirable. It tested me from every aspect except one: my faith in God never wavered. We grow as human beings only through struggles and pain. Through these difficult experiences, we grow evermore in faith, patience, trust, empathy and sympathy for others, and true humility. As humans we are very prideful creatures and humility is the hardest grace to achieve. As a truly helpless patient after the surgery, my level of humility was deepened beyond anything I could have imagined and, for this, I will always be grateful. It has made me a better, more graceful, person so how could I have any regrets?
When faced with life’s struggles, the only thing we have control over is our attitude and perspective. Certainly, we have the responsibility to make decisions based on research, common sense, or whatever else we are blessed with, but I believe it is really in God’s hands.
If I can ever offer support to someone struggling with a diagnosis of cancer, it will further bless my life and give me purpose.