It’s hard to believe that a year has gone by since the call that delivered the diagnosis. The call that changed everything. This time last year I was sitting in my office waiting to see just how “happy” my Thanksgiving would be. I was awaiting the results of my biopsy. It’s a phone call that I’ve played over and over in my head. Although I can’t recall everything that was said, I’ll never forget the doctor’s voice on the other end of the phone and the sigh that preceded the words, “I’m sorry it’s cancer.”
Instead of thinking about turkey and holiday sales, I was spending the Friday before Thanksgiving sitting in my office with the door closed trying to wrap my mind around the fact that at 28 I had breast cancer. I remember the deafening silence around me. I remember my hands shaking as I typed an email to let my co-workers know I had to leave because of “an emergency.” I remember fighting tears as I hurried out of the office and down the stairs, avoiding the elevator in hopes that I could make it to the car before the tears started streaming.
I remember all too well the way my mother cried when I called and delivered the news. There are times when I feel like this entire experience has been a blur and others when I feel like this has been the LONGEST year of my life.
I have gone through so much. I have grown so much. I have evolved. To evolve means more than to simply change. To evolve means to “develop gradually, especially from a simple to more complex form.” I am not the same young woman I was around this time last year. It has been during this process that I’ve truly come to understand the difference between happiness and joy. I haven’t always been happy throughout the process, but I’ve always had joy.
Happiness is based on happenings. A cancer diagnosis is obviously not something that would bring about happy times. I wasn’t happy about undergoing 6 rounds of chemo. I wasn’t happy when I couldn’t keep my food down and I had to stare in the mirror at a port bulging from under my skin.
I wasn’t happy about aching following my neulasta shot. It wasn’t a happy time for me when I literally peeled my hair from my scalp. I wasn’t happy when I had to undergo a double mastectomy. Happy is not the word that would best describe how I felt looking in the mirror after my reconstruction surgery.
While happiness is based on circumstances; joy comes from God. Joy is based on faith. Joy comes in spite of, unlike happiness that comes because of. The circumstances I’ve faced this year have not brought me much happiness, but I’ve held on to my joy. Joy founded on faith that God had everything under control.
Joy is multifaceted. Joy gives peace. Joy gives strength. Joy gives hope. Joy is rooted in faith. Joy comes from God. James 1:2-3 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” This scripture means so much more to me now than it did a year ago because I’ve lived it.
The biggest obstacle I’m currently facing is fatigue. I thought that once chemo was over I would immediately bounce back. Tasks that came easy prior to cancer, prior to chemo are a bit challenging now. I know with time I’ll be back at 100%. I’m grateful that the “hard” part is behind me and I’m looking forward to the next chapter in life.
I've always believed that we tend to be the most effective in areas where we have been the most affected. It's often our deepest pains that draw us closer to our purpose. Those words never really hit home until I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at the age of 28. I had watched both my mother and grandmother battle the disease, but never thought I would find myself in the same battle, especially not so young. I've learned through this journey that it's not what you go through, but how you go through it. I wanted to share my story in hopes that it will inspire someone to keep fighting, keep the faith and live on purpose.