Rays of Resilience

Even Though She Had A 50% Chance Of Surviving 5 Years, This “Ordinary Woman” Still Had Hope

Rays of Resilience: 31 Stories in 31 Days. So many people around the world have been affected by breast cancer, yet no two breast cancer journeys are the same. This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re celebrating a new survivor every day. Their resilience is an inspiration to us all.

My name is Laura.

I believe in hope. I’m a former educator, author, and nurturer of strength. Hope is the part of my story I didn’t expect to drive the future of my life, but it’s the part of me that now inspires and encourages others.

You see, I was the beach-goer, mountain seeker, God-fearing woman who unexpectedly was forced to face my fears head on. My life quickly went from being a carefree, soon-to-be empty-nester who had the world at her fingertips to a 47-year-old woman diagnosed with breast cancer. I was caught completely off guard.

When you receive a diagnosis of cancer, your life changes forever.

I was vigilant about my yearly mammograms. There was no history of breast cancer in my family, so it was a battle I hadn’t planned to fight. Yet, the war had been going on for quite a while behind the scenes. By the time I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, the cancer was Stage 3a and Grade III — a very aggressive form.

It all began with my normal, morning shower. I couldn’t find my loofah, so I rubbed some shower gel into my palms and moved my hands underneath my right arm. I unexpectedly felt a lump. My mind didn’t fully grasp that this was the first sign of a long and hard journey ahead. I simply thought… that’s odd… and compared it to the left side. Something was definitely different between the two sides. There wasn’t time to dwell, so I quickly got dressed, went to work, and scheduled a doctor’s appointment for the first week in December. During the mammogram, a lump was detected in my right breast along with two suspicious masses in my right under arm. I had to catch my breath from the shock.

Still, I can see myself crouched in the corner of that room as a biopsy was recommended and scheduled. In the meantime, I got ready for Christmas and for my eldest daughter’s graduation from nursing school.

Waiting for the biopsy results was grueling.

Me with my grandchildren who were all born after my diagnosis.

Only my husband and one of my dear friends knew what was happening. I needed the support but was hesitant to let too many people in on the news when I hadn’t yet been told my fate. The day after Christmas, I received a call from my doctor’s nurse. She said that my doctor was out of town, but she would have the doctor on call contact me later that day. The call came that afternoon, and I was told the life changing news that I had cancer! Of course, I was full of questions like: How bad is it? What stage is it? What now? He told me not to worry and went on to say that many of his patients were 10, 20, and even 30 year breast cancer survivors. An appointment was scheduled with a surgical oncologist for the following Monday, but all I could think about was how I would tell my husband, children, mother, other family members, and friends.

After I had hung up the phone, tears streamed down my face. I sat in the front room and stared blankly out the window. I prayed. I am a believer… a Christian… a person of strong faith. That is what got me through the diagnosis and is what led me to share my story with others.

A song popped into my head that we used to sing in church when I was a little girl.
Peace, peace, wonderful peace coming down from the Father above.
Sweep over my spirit forever I pray in fathomless billows of love.

Items I kept on my desk at work.

Telling my family was one of the most difficult parts of my cancer diagnosis. I was the mom who had once picked her daughter up off the floor when sadness gripped her heart after a breakup. My tribe counted on me as the organizer of the home, the glue that held them together, the navigator of obstacles, fixer of boo boos, and wiper of tears. Now I was the one needing their care and support. Telling my husband was hard, but he reassured me everything would be alright. My youngest daughter just sat there and looked at me when she heard the news while my eldest said, “So you are going to die?”

I replied, “I don’t plan to die. God will heal me.” And I believed it.

I was given a 56% chance to live for five years. But that’s when hope entered the picture and became more powerful than my diagnosis. The belief and the will to live took over the cancer that tried to fight it’s way into my body. Inner healing began to take place each time I passionately told my story, and I became stronger each time I could offer strength to others.

Though the hardest thing I ever experienced, cancer didn’t win or keep me from living. Instead, my broken and battered body carried me to both of my daughters’ weddings, the graduation of my youngest daughter from college, and to the crib side of all four of my grandchildren. My arms that were once wrapped around myself in the corner of the doctor’s office now rock my grandchildren, plant gardens, and hold the hands of my friends who are still battling their cancer. Eight years as a breast cancer survivor, I am thankful for every minute I’m given.

Me with my friends who walked the Susan G. Komen 3 Day. Laura’s Ladies and Starner’s AP’s are two teams who walked that day.

I understand what it feels like to wait ten days for a biopsy report and receive devastating news. I understand that you may not want to leave the house, but if you are ready to fight, consider me your cheerleader. I’m in your corner.

Still, I have tears run down my cheek every now and then when I think about my story, but I am so blessed to share my journey with those who need hope and encouragement.

When I was caught in the middle of my war against cancer, I found peace from hearing stories of victory. However, rarely were these stories written by an average, working mother like me. I may not be able to hold your hand or wipe your tears, but let me give you a story of an ordinary woman’s faith, hope, and resilience in the face of darkness.

Maybe you’ve just received devastating news of a family member diagnosed with cancer, or maybe you’re the woman looking in the mirror with the bald head, a body of scars, and a tired spirit. But I’m here to tell you that you can have HOPE.

Let me walk with you on your journey and encourage you to fight your battle because, though battered and bruised, you can rise!

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