“We trust God” is easy to say until it is tested. As she started her 16th year of teaching, Cindie* faced the toughest struggle of her life.
Would she trust God?
At her yearly mammogram in January of 2015, the radiologist spotted a suspicious area on her left breast. Her biopsy results came back benign, which relieved Cindie’s fears.
* Her real name, used with permission.
In July, she discovered a lump in her left breast. Her first thought was, “It can’t be anything. I just had a mammogram five months ago.”
Her gynecologist felt the one-inch lump Cindie discovered, but he thought it might be hormonal or menopausal. Not wanting to take any risks, he sent Cindie to have an ultrasound and a core biopsy.
When her gynecologist called her to share the news she had breast cancer, Cindie remembers not being able to breathe. The gynecologist said, “You need to see a breast surgeon as soon as possible.”
Cindie broke down in tears when she shared the news with her husband, Todd. “I’m going to die. People with cancer die. I immediately thought about all the things I would miss with my children,” Cindie remembers. He held her and comforted her.
A late Monday afternoon phone call to a breast surgeon would surely be returned on Tuesday morning, but much to her surprise, they returned her call within minutes. A Tuesday appointment was available.
Cindie’s first question to the doctor at her appointment was, “Am I going to die?”
The doctor quickly replied, “No one wants cancer. But if you have to have cancer, breast cancer is the one you want to have because of the awareness and the considerable research.”
After her exam, the nurse said, “Tell your children you are going to be fine.” Then she gave Cindie a piece of advice that reset her thinking: “If you don’t believe you’re going to be fine, you’ll project that thought to them.”
She and Todd sat down with their children, Emma and James, and said, “Your mom is going to be OK, but she has breast cancer.” After they had a moment to process the information, Cindie confidently said, “We’ve walked this earth as a family saying we trust God, and now we decide if we do.”
Cindie’s family clung to the words of Psalm 9:10:
When Cindie met with the breast surgeon, she learned the tumor had to be removed. Another set of labs and a biopsy of the lymph nodes under her left arm were done to determine what type of cancer she had and exactly where it was located.
In August of 2015, a definitive diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer was given.
Hearing the specific name of her cancer was very difficult and surreal. “I sat in the medical oncologist room crying. As I looked around the waiting room, I realized everyone there has cancer. I wondered where I fit in the range of healthy to sick,” she remembers.
When the nurse told her chemotherapy would be needed, Cindie remembers making a decision to fight. “I felt I had a mission. If this was the way it had to be, I decided I COULD do it and I WOULD do it. Even though I didn’t want to be bald, I knew I could be bald. I had so much support and people loving on me. I knew I could fight.”
At her first chemo appointment in August, Cindie was nervous because she didn’t know if it would hurt or burn. She experienced some pain and nausea after the first treatment.
Between the first and second chemo treatments, Cindie met with a wig specialist. She said, “You can just let your hair fall out or you can shave it.”
Cindie opted to shave her head as she wanted to be in control. With her sister, best friend, and daughter by her side, Cindie had her hair shaved. “It was very emotional to lose my hair.”
“People told me I needed to name my wig. I couldn’t think of anything nice to call her, because I was so angry. But I grew to be thankful for her.”
Cindie is a positive person, and she knew in order to fight this battle well, she needed to keep a positive mindset. She soaked in the encouraging calls, texts, and visits from family and friends who believed she would be healed.
“I read Max Lucado’s book You’ll Get Through This and a daily devotional from Jesus Today. I knew I would have to fight against mental and spiritual attacks. I did that by journaling, which allowed me to combat untruth with truth. Part of that was the worry I felt about what would happen to Todd and our children if I should die. I finally surrendered and felt at peace that God would truly care for them.”
Author’s note: My purpose for this overcomer web site is to give encouragement, inspiration, and meaningful advice from those who’ve overcome life’s tough challenges. When Cindie told me how many times she read and reread overcomer stories when she first was told her diagnosis and during the months of chemo, surgeries, and radiation, I was overwhelmed with joy.
“The stories, especially Jule’s story, encouraged me to stay positive and fight,” she shared.
At each chemo appointment, Cindie met with her oncologist who told her the tumor was getting smaller and smaller. She had begun planning her double mastectomy surgery since her treatment was going so well.
Until she hit a bump in the road in October of 2015 when she got pneumonia. A week and a half stay in the hospital delayed a chemo treatment, which put her behind schedule for her surgery. “I hit a bad low, because I couldn’t get a blood transfusion due to the fever I couldn’t break.”
Cindie’s co-workers organized a group to walk at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event. Even though she wasn’t able to attend, knowing her family and friends were walking for a cure filled her with hope.
Her last chemo treatment was in December. At her ultrasound appointment two weeks later, her oncologist shared this news: “I couldn’t find any tumors, so the chemo did it’s job. But we can’t assume it’s completely gone until surgery.”
In January of 2016, Cindie had the double mastectomy surgery. “You’ve had the best possible outcome. We did not find any cancer in your breast tissue or your lymph nodes,” the breast surgeon told her.
Her six weeks of recovery went very well. Cindie honestly thought all that was left to do in her breast cancer journey was the reconstruction surgery.
Unfortunately, her oncologist recommended she consult with a radiation oncologist before scheduling the reconstruction surgery. Initially, Cindie was confused as she was told having a mastectomy would mean no need for radiation.
The radiation oncologist reminded her treatment for cancer was really playing a game of odds, and when she looked back she would want to know she did everything she could to get the best outcome. Cindie agreed and endured 28 rounds of radiation.
In July of 2016, Cindie had her implant surgery. Finally, her fight against breast cancer was over. However, Cindie shared this insight: “The hardest part of cancer starts when it is over. I still think about it every day, but I’m not actively doing anything about it anymore.”
Any time we go through difficult times, it’s important to reflect on the lessons we’ve learned. Cindie was eager to share what she’s learned in the hopes it encourages and inspires someone who is currently going through a difficult time.
“I realized I had never fully trusted God. We decided to trust God, and it grew our faith. I learned I never had control of my life. I had to make a daily decision to let God be in control. When my family and I did that, we all experienced His peace.”
“I learned cancer is much harder on those who love you than on you. Todd demonstrated the depth of his love for me every single day. My journey definitely strengthened our marriage.”
“As Christians, we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. So many people cared for me. I had to humble myself and accept their help, because I didn’t want to rob them of their ministry. Since then, I have been more aware of the needs of others and how I can help,” Cindie shares.