Briar's journey with breast cancer: 'I can't! I haven't even got any hair!'
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and we want to listen as the women of The Salvation Army tell their breast cancer stories.
If you are a woman who has experienced breast cancer and would like to tell us about your journey, please feel free to share your story here (anonymously if you prefer).
Briar was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. Read as she shares with us a testimony of prayer, community and God's gentle challenge to step out in faith as a way of helping her recovery.
Following my mastectomy, I returned home with two drains in and found that the anaesthetic had left me feeling 'foggy'.
I also discovered that the pain medication I was given made my head swim and resulted in awful nausea. I did not drive for a number of weeks following my surgery. I felt weak and had very little strength in my left arm. I lacked the confidence to even try driving.
A different way of being
Although I wanted to return to normal as quickly as possible, I did need some help managing daily household tasks and caring for my family. When I began radiotherapy, I had to make daily trips to the hospital every weekday for 5 weeks. This was quite draining, and so help with meals and care of my youngest children while I was at hospital appointments was hugely appreciated. Members of my extended family were encouraging and positive, which made a big difference to my mental and emotional wellbeing.
I was surrounded by love and prayers and it was this that got me through the tough days. Prayer (my personal prayers and the prayers of others) had a big impact on my ability to cope and on my recovery. Keeping routines and activities as normal as possible was key.
Staying connected in community
I began a new job at the end of my chemotherapy, and although this was at times challenging, it helped to keep me positive and future-focused. In the week following my surgery, my sister-in-law shared two tips with me: ‘Live in the moment’ and ‘Don't tell yourself stories’. These ideas stayed with me and helped me to stay away from negative thoughts. I put my trust in God and drew comfort from his promises, and Isaiah 40:31 was a special verse at this time. Being part of a close and supportive church family was important. Keeping fully involved in the life of the Corps helped to keep life feel normal, even though upon diagnosis it felt as if my life had been completely turned upside down.
'But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.' - Isaiah 40:31
Just as I completed my radiotherapy, I was asked to take our church youth group to Easter Camp. I can remember initially thinking ‘Why are you asking me? I can't! I haven't even got any hair!’. I then considered the fact that God was asking me to step out for Him - how could I not go to Easter camp when I was asking so much from him in terms of my health and healing? And so I went - living my life as normal - living my life for Jesus. All of these things helped me to cope and helped to keep me strong.
Listening and living slow
I'm being challenged through this time to slow. I'm usually quite a busy person moving from one thing to the next but with my treatment, my body just doesn't keep up with that pace or if I try to keep with that pace I end up feeling worse. This experience is forcing me to slow, to take more moments to stop and rest, and more and more it's showing me the importance of ensuring I don't lose that when this experience is over.
I will never be able to thank my family enough for all that they did for me during my breast cancer journey. Another of my sisters-in-law dedicated the song 'He will carry you' to me during a family gathering, early on in my cancer treatment. Some of the words are as follows:
'There is no problem too big God cannot solve it
There is no mountain too tall God cannot move it
There is no storm too dark God cannot calm it
There is no sorrow too deep He cannot soothe it
Oh if He carried the weight of the world upon His shoulders
I know my brother that He will carry you
Oh, if He carried the weight of the world upon His shoulders
I know my sister that He will carry you.'
I give all thanks and praise to God for carrying me during my cancer journey.
Breast cancer awareness as a faith community
- What practical ways of caring has Briar's journey showed you were needed while experiencing breast cancer?
- Has your Corps or faith-setting come alongside women experiencing breast cancer?
- How might you provide space for women who have experienced breast cancer to share their stories in your faith community?
Find more resources to aid your journey in spreading awareness of breast cancer and hope for women experiencing it here: https://www.breastcancerfoundation.org.nz/