Breast Cancer Awareness

Barbara Keeler

“We need to take some additional films.” Those are words which can change your life forever. Most people only think of the unpleasant changes to your life, but there are many positive changes as well and I believe that whether or not we look for the positive changes is a choice we can make. I also believe that what we focus on has a huge impact on how we feel during and after cancer treatments. Thankfully, breast cancer is no longer the death sentence it once was. The cure rates are insanely high and the treatments have improved so much that “normal” life can go on, even during the course of therapy. I just kept telling myself, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad…and it really wasn’t.

After 50 years of trying to be everything for everyone, it was a huge adjustment when it was all of a sudden all about me. It was time for everyone to focus on me and do things for me and take care of me and worry about me. Yikes. I’m not sure I was ready for all that attention. Could I really ask someone to do something for me? I had always felt like the Energizer Bunny and just kept going until everything was finished. Apparently God was now telling me “Rest. Relax. Take care of yourself and I will take care of you. Everything really doesn’t need to be finished today.” My oncologist noticed immediately that I was a Type A personality. She told my husband they could change that. Doubtful I thought, but not my biggest issue at the time. And why would I want to change that anyway? Now I realize she was just trying to tell my husband there may be an unexpected bonus for going through this journey. Apparently Type A is unpleasant for the people around you. Who knew?

I believe all experiences in life have the purpose of teaching us stuff…often about ourselves. I guess it takes some of us longer to learn so God gave me the “Gold Package” which included surgery, chemo and radiation. About eight months total. I tried to focus on each treatment individually as I went through it and not try to comprehend the whole ordeal at once. I tried to focus on the positives rather than the negatives of every change in my life. Was it really so bad that I didn’t have hair? I could shower and be dressed and out the door in about 20 minutes…. sort of like being a guy. No shampoo, conditioner, shaving or blow drying. Just a 5 minute shower, makeup, wig a.k.a always perfect hair, clothes and good to go. Was it really so bad that my appetite wasn’t what it once was? Cookies and Cream Frozen Yogurt now counted as a meal. Yay! And who could have a problem with the Kitchen Fairy who magically cleaned up everything when I didn’t. I thought for a while it was my husband and kids but they still live here and the magic seems to have come to an end so maybe it really wasn’t them. After almost 30 years of marriage I learned that my husband makes an awesome grilled cheese sandwich, information I may have otherwise never possessed. And in a world that seems to have gone crazy, it was often overwhelming to know how many people were praying for me and sending me their support on a daily basis. I didn’t even know I knew that many people and here they all were offering their prayers and their meals and help with anything we needed. Remind me again why this is a bad thing?

But most importantly, I learned that everyday is truly a gift from God. I learned that being a “Type A Minus Personality” is more than adequate and whether we want to believe it or not, we are not in control and it’s really not about us. It’s about God and what He can do through us. It’s about the lives that are touched by our experiences. It’s about trusting Him to take care of us. It’s about appreciating the little things and the many blessings we overlook everyday. It’s about the people in our lives and not the things.

I’m now 3 years out from my diagnosis and almost 2 ½ years from the end of my treatments. I’m thankful that all my tests since then have been favorable and I will never get tired of hearing the doctors tell me I’m perfect even if my family generally rolls their collective eyes at that analysis. I will never again take my health for granted nor will I put off the things I want to do with my life. There are no guarantees of tomorrow and I’m thankful to have had this experience to help me appreciate today. People often say “Today is a gift from God.” What they often don’t say is “Remember to thank Him”.