Breast Cancer Awareness month is October. Before 2014, I bought bagels and shopped special weekends in October so some of the proceeds would go to the women dealing with the disease. I thought I was doing my part. Now it hits much deeper and harder, as one of my special friends was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer on Memorial Day of 2014.
Jenny Parker lights up a room. Her smile, zest for life and compassion are contagious. She is courageous and strong. Never did she need those qualities more than when she discovered what would turn her world upside down at age 39. She answered it with a double mastectomy and several rounds of chemotherapy. She, along with her husband, family and two zillion friends fought a horrific battle.
When she was told she had cancer her first thought was, “I’m going to die.” The thought of cancer was “suffocating and consuming”. She struggled with it and began pouring her heart out to God in a very personal way. I remember her saying, “I talked to God in a way no daughter should.”
She began praying for understanding and peace knowing full well it could only come from Him. He answered her the next day as she sat in her pew at church. On the big screen was the verse from Judges 6 and the story of Gideon, “Peace, fear not, you will not die.” She smiled knowing in her heart she had received her answer and a promise. She chose to believe God that she would live. She chose to fight every day. Jenny said, “It is God who goes before us into battle and fights the hard ones for us. He goes before me, walks beside me and is my rear guard 100%” (Isaiah 52:12).
Jenny has always been very open with her diagnosis and how she has dealt with it. Many times, if we haven’t faced the disease, we don’t know how to act or respond to people we love who are dealing with cancer. Jenny says people with cancer don’t mind discussing it because it is part of who they are. They live with it everyday. She wanted people to acknowledge that she had it. You could ask how she was doing, inquire about her treatment plan, and ask her about her medical team. Chocolate cake never hurt anything, either. Jenny wanted her friends to share their joys and frustrations just like they did before. She was on the same path of life, it just had an added hill.
We are put in positions where we have to make the choice whether or not we will believe God. We have to decide if we will trust His sovereignty and embrace His promises. I clearly remember Jenny saying, “I am going to be a survivor. I am going to fight. This is not the end. It is part of my journey.”
As Jenny looks back on the past two years, she says in her own very sweet and beautiful words, “My greatest lesson I’ve learned from my experience with breast cancer is that it does not discriminate. It can choose to invade your body at any age, at any time, and at any moment. I strongly urge women to report any changes and to check themselves regularly. I used to laugh at the breast self check. I am lucky that my husband found my lump and that I did not delay in getting it checked out. When you have cancer in it’s early stages, often times the symptoms are subtle, and you don’t really feel sick.
I have experienced some of the most amazing women and friends who are fighting this disease with me. You’re not ever really “cured” from cancer- it always lurks- the possibility of a recurrence is a strong, harsh scary reality that we have to live with daily. But, the beauty is in the relationships that we’ve formed with one another. This disease forces you to stare death in its face, size it up, and refuse to go down without a fight. And, it’s a strangely beautiful thing- because we have each other to lift each other up. When one of us is weak, the other is strong. The pink sisterhood of fighting in the trenches together reminds me of when Moses held his hands to the heavens. When he was too tired his friends came behind him and held his arms up.
God has richly blessed me through this experience. I now know for sure how much He loves me and how much He uses HIS people to do HIS work. When you realize you are a vessel of that capacity- it is humbling and precious. HE is ever present and ever near- especially in our darkest moments.
And, if we are lucky- we are given the bright lights of others who are going through the same thing to encourage and lift us out of our darkness. Some make it- others don’t. These women – my fellow fighters- I treasure their rich presence in my life and hold them close. I thank God for them daily. It is a glimpse of the enormity of HIS love for me.”
Jenny’s attitude is inspiring. Her hope is invincible because it is in God.