Have you ever received a gift you didn’t want to open? Not all gifts are wrapped with that big, red bow we girls love so much. Some gifts are wrapped with fear, pain, anxiety, and anger, and are delivered as if the mailman has been playing basketball with them.
This was the kind of gift delivered to me on June 16th, 2003. I knew that God would provide me with the “how to” directions. But a “gift” of breast cancer at 36? I had two small kids, a house to tend, a husband, a job and an active church life. This gift couldn’t be meant for me— but no matter how hard I begged, God would not take an exchange or return. I know now that he wanted to bless me.
It’s been 10 years now since I opened this “gift.” Those days were and are taped together in sickness, weakness, pain and fear. The illnesses I live with include extreme bone pain, tremors, fibromyalgia , arthritis and others. But I vowed not to let the cancer or the results of chemotherapy define me. I discovered that my gift also included love, humility, strength … and a deeper walk with God.
I thought I had a close relationship with him—but when I was told I may die, every breath, spiritually and physically, depended upon him. This closeness was something I never knew could exist, and I finally began to understand what the gift was for.
I told God that if it was his will for me to live, I wanted to have a breast cancer ministry. I wanted to give back to women the hope, strength and perseverance that so many gave me along the way.
My cancer lit my passion to start Braz Cauz. During so many of my hospitalizations and doctor appointments (daily, for 2 years) I had conversations with the wonderful nurses and lady staff members that took care of me. I was astonished by how many of them had never had a mammogram due to fear of the unknown or their finances. Speaking with friends, neighbors and the women in our community, I heard the same stories over and over.
I have always has a gift for art. In 2009, I came up with a fun and artistic way to educate women by having them decorate bras and turn them into pieces of artwork to be auctioned off in local galleries. One day I had lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen in a few years that worked for the local hospital. She loved the idea.
Their hospital had a breast cancer lunch every October, and needed something new and exciting in the mix. We formed a partnership foundation for women in our community to provide free or low-cost mammograms.
But my journey wasn’t over. Braz Cauz had gotten our 501C3 when I tested positive for the BRACAII gene. This diagnosis requires a double mastectomy and hysterectomy to get estrogen out of the body. I spent a lot of time on my knees. How could God allow this when I had already lost so much?
Things don’t always go the way they do in the movies. Impossibly, I’ve had a double and two single mastectomies. What else could happen?
I soon found out. During my 2nd mastectomy (I am now on my third), I found out my mom was dying from breast cancer and had 8 days left to live.
I push forward now for my mother personally and for Braz Cauz because she so believed in it.
I am still living, day by day, in the good my unwelcome, blessed gift is bringing. And I’m no longer looking for a red bow on my present. My gift has a pink bow, and I’ll be wearing one for the rest of my life to encourage those who have had the same package placed at their door. I hope you’ll do the same.
Here are some things I want you to remember. First, breast cancer has a face, and mine is one of many. I want to be an example of what is possible when we face trials in our lives. I truly believe we can each rise up to meet each challenge with God’s help.
Secondly, please get involved and make a difference. Braz Cauz’s desire is to make the public aware of breast cancer, to memorialize those lost to the disease, and to honor the survivors. Wear your pink bow with me to do that, and click below to learn more on the Facebook page or web site.
Romans 15:13: May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.