Three in Two..and What I Can Do
Three friends. Two years. Three diagnoses: Breast cancer.
I’ve known Donna since high school. She lived in my neighborhood, and we were on the high school drill team together. She was one of the first of my friends to get her own car, and she would drive me home after practice. Her younger sister, Angie, was my “little sis,” and we all went to the same church. Donna married Ryan in 2001, and they welcomed their precious baby girl, Emma Kay, in 2003. Two and a half years later, while playing with Emma Kay, Donna noticed a lump in her breast.
Last week, with a long-awaited full head of hair, Donna walked in the Race for the Cure as a Survivor.
Michelle and I were also high school friends. We nursed each other’s broken hearts over the stupid boys we each fell for, and we learned to drive in the same Driver’s Ed class with Mr. Gooch from Farmersville. Our silliness knew no bounds. She was with me on the night that we took my mother’s Volvo to the movie theater – or at least that was where we wanted to go. We were in the middle of singing along to New Kids on the Block at the top of our lungs with the sunroof open when the tire went flat. Not knowing what to do and certainly having no clue how to even begin changing a tire, we decided to drive back home….very slowly. We were almost there when my next-door neighbor pulled us over, told us to wait there, and went to get my dad, who was fuming by the time he arrived and made me watch him change the tire (like that did a lot of good!). I don’t think we ever made it to the movie that night.
Michelle is meeting with a surgeon this week to discuss her options. She is amazingly positive, but concerned for her daughters, Audra and McKayla, and she doesn’t want to tell them anything until she has to.
I met Melody in college. We were on the same youth ministry team together at the Baylor BSU, travelling to churches on the weekends to lead Disciple Now retreats and Fifth Quarter fellowships. We acted in goofy skits together and played silly games and sang silly songs. Somewhere along the way, Melody and I shared a hilarious joke about grasshoppers – the chocolate/mint cookies, not the insects. Oddly enough, we can’t remember the joke now, but it had us in stitches at the time.
After enduring a full year of chemotherapy, Melody had her third reconstructive surgery last week.
I’m not quite sure what to make of this. I can’t wrap my brain around it. Breast cancer is supposed to be a disease for old women, not young ones with babies and husbands and those who have their entire lives ahead of them, and it’s certainly not a disease for women who are my good friends. I feel so helpless.
This week, I joined the Army of Women . It’s the least I can do. I can’t just sit around and wait for the next email informing me of another friend who received devastating, life-altering news. I need to do something. Their goal is to recruit 1 million women to join scientists in medical research to find the cause of breast cancer, which then will hopefully bring us closer to a cure. (Check out their excellent FAQ page for more specifics.)
Yet I am reminded that “in this life, you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) Not maybe. Not perhaps. Not if. You will. There will be death, there will be job loss, there will be disease. There will be heartbreak, there will be gut-wrenching sorrow, there will be betrayal. Babies we joyfully anticipate will be miscarried. Parents we adore will no longer recognize our faces. Friends we trust will disappoint us. Husbands we cherish will someday die.
Friends with whom we shared hilarious laughter and inside jokes and unforgettable moments will get breast cancer.
There will be trouble.
We can allow this truth to weigh us down and render us useless, paralyzed with fear, deprived of joy. Or we can continue reading:
“But take heart, for I (Jesus) have overcome the world!”
The Old Testament echoes this same principle: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:2). Again, not if, but when. But did you catch the promise? I will be with you.
God promises us – hundreds of times throughout His word – that He is with us. He will not abandon us. He will strengthen us. He will fight for us. We are not alone. We can have great courage and live without fear, because although life incessantly hurts us, God is still God. He is good. He loves us. He takes care of us. He works all things together for His ultimate, perfect purpose for those who love Him. We can trust Him.
Go back and read the story of Joseph in Genesis 37. Study the persecution of the disciples. Read the book of Job. God was still God to all of these ancient men of faith, and He remains the same God to you and me. Read about them, let His word transform your heart, then teach your children. Teach them to face their giants with courage because the God of the universe is with them and loves them. Teach them that life will not always be easy and fun and fair, but God is still just. Teach them that even when they can’t see God working, He is orchestrating all things to work for good.
We will pass through the waters and walk through the fires. Our bodies will disease and our hearts will break. His Name is Emmanuel, and He will be with us.
For more on Donna and Michelle, go to www.caringbridge.com. Donna’s page name is prayfordonna, and Michelle’s page is michellehenderson.