My oncologist told me that he thought I was coping with my situation really well during my chemotherapy appointment on Monday. My faith, I thought. Diving deeper into my faith daily is what I have been doing. It has helped me cope. It has removed fear and helped me see that God is refining me and doing so many wonderful things in my life.
In September I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. I found the lump myself after having a clear 3D mammogram four months earlier. The call came from my doctor while I had a counseling client waiting for me in the waiting room. I have to admit I was probably a little distracted during that therapy session and did not get a chance to process the fact that I had cancer until I got home.
The cancer was so small that my surgeon was almost certain it would not have spread to my lymph nodes. Both my surgeon and my oncologist were surprised that it had not only spread to the lymph nodes, but one node contained a macro tumor. When my surgeon called with the pathology report she used the term macrometastasis to describe what was found in my sentinel lymph node. All I knew was that I did not like hearing the word macro together with the word metastasis. This news was more difficult to hear than the call informing me that I had breast cancer.
After that “little” finding, things moved quickly. Tests, tests, and more tests. Doctors appointments almost daily. “Finally, some good news,” my surgeon said as she told me that the scans of my bones and other organs were clear.
Since the cancer was in two axillary lymph nodes, but only two were removed and tested, we did not know if others were malignant. After consulting with my team of doctors, I decided to start aggressive chemotherapy. This has involved fatigue, hair loss, low white blood cell count and many other things, but I am moving right along with a positive attitude.
This was not our only challenge in 2017.
Three months before being diagnosed with cancer, my husband got into a surfing accident, slamming head first into a sandbar. He suffered a concussion, three broken bones in his hand, and two broken vertebrae in his neck. After getting a plate put in the front of his neck and rods placed in the back of his neck and spending one week in a level one trauma center for spinal cord injuries, my husband was able to come home with a brace on his neck.
Every doctor who saw him called his situation a miracle. We were told that the way he came down headfirst into that sandbar should have killed him or at least paralyzed him from the shoulders down. After seeing how the neck vertebrae were shattered, the doctors were absolutely shocked that he walked out of the water. Today (eight months later), he has a little difficulty swallowing and his neck is mildly stiff. That is it! He is doing really well.
Since my husband’s accident was followed so closely with my diagnosis, my life has been a whirlwind and I haven’t updated my blog in quite some time now. But I currently have so many exciting things to share, and I am hoping that I can better help others through my experiences.
I want to share a little bit about the things I am doing that keep me positive and joyful through these challenging times and share what I am learning about the lessons in adversity.
Here are some things I am currently doing…
- Protecting my mind from external negative influences. This means protecting myself from negative people and the news media that draws a crowd by inciting fear. When I have to be around negative people for short periods of time, I envision a shield around me that will not allow anything negative to penetrate.
- Protecting my mind from internal negativity. I stay extremely mindful of my thoughts. When I have a negative thought or a fear thought I immediately notice it and refuse it. After all, fear produces anxiety and I do not need extra anxiety while I am trying to heal.
- De-stressing my life. I am increasing my awareness of the things that really matter and refusing to sweat the small stuff.
- Eating healthy whole foods that give me energy and boost my mood. Limiting carbohydrates and sugar. Getting fuel from healthy fats.
- Refusing to be a victim. There are absolutely no “why me” thoughts. I am not a victim. I am blessed. God is refining me. I will be able to better help others. This is just part of my story. There are wonderful lessons to be learned. I am already living a healthier lifestyle. I am growing spiritually. And this leads to the next thing on my list- the most important thing on my list.
- Relying on faith and growing spiritually. I am growing a more intimate relationship with God. I read morning devotionals. I have joined a bible study and prayer group. I spend more time with people of great faith. I try to figure out at least one thing I am suppose to learn from each person I am with. I am trying to spend more time still (This is a difficult one for me.). When I am feeling okay I take longer walks outside and try to take in all of nature. I write things that resonate with me on index cards (things from scripture and from my devotional readings). I realize that fear is not from God and refuse it. I fight it with faith. I always look for the blessings in every situation.
Here is what adversity teaches us.. if we let it.
It teaches us to let go of vanity and ego and to be humble. (Believe me, losing my hair and watching my skin dry out as it goes from lovely grey to swollen red due to the steroids they give me has been very humbling.)
It teaches us to rely less on material things and more on spiritual forces.
It forces us to make needed changes in our lives that we may have put off for a long time.
It forces us to let go of control and give God the opportunity to demonstrate His power.
It causes us to look beyond this brief life and see the bigger picture.
It breaks up our old habits that have not been working for us.
It gives us the opportunity to slow down and focus on the things that really matter.
It provides opportunity and amazing growth.
Adversity hit my family in 2017. My husband continues to heal. As of today, I have completed 9 of my 16 chemotherapy treatments. Other treatments will follow. I do not fear. I am excited about the things God is doing in my life. Developing a stronger relationship with Him has been key.
Romans 5:3-4 tells us, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.”
Although my circumstances may not be joyful, what God is doing in my life is. As a therapist, educator, and author, I will be able to better help others. This is part of my story.
I would like to share something from Napoleon Hill that resonated with me…
“You are entitled to know that two entities occupy the body of each living person on earth. One of these entities is motivated by and responds to fear. The other is motivated and responds to faith. The faith entity knows no limitations, no fears, and recognizes no such word as impossible……..That fear motivated ‘old self’ is not dead, it has merely been dethroned. And will follow you around where ever you go, awaiting a favorable opportunity to step in and take charge of you again. It can gain control of you only through your thoughts. Remember this, and keep the doors to your mind tightly closed against all thoughts which seek to limit you in any manner whatsoever, and you will be safe.” –Napoleon Hill, Outwitting the Devil
If you know anyone who just might benefit from any of this, please share it. God doesn’t waste a hurt. There is purpose in all adversity.
Blog post written by Kristin Barton Cuthriell, psychotherapist, educator, and the author of The Snowball Effect: How to Build Positive Momentum in Your Life.
To connect with Kristin on Facebook: facebook.com/kristinbartoncuthriell
To connect with Kristin on Instagram: @kristinbartoncuthriell
Kristin’s book The Snowball Effect: How to Build Positive Momentum in Your Life will be available in audiobook format via Amazon, Audible, and iTunes in April.