The End of the Story?

March 7th, 2012
A few months before diagnosis
A few months after treatment

The old saying that “A picture tells a thousand words” doesn’t really come close. The woman you see in the before photo really no longer exists. The woman you see in the after photo doesn’t exist yet – it’s a work in progress.

Cancer is the disease that caused this physical change, but in battling the disease you begin to realize that you may have sicknesses that don’t manifest physically that are suddenly dumped on the ground in front of you to sort through. It’s kind of like a sweater with a loose thread. Cancer is that loose thread. As you begin to pull on it and try to cut it out, knot it up, or repair it, it quickly unravels, and before you even realize it, you’ve totally destroyed the thing you were hoping to fix.

I’ve read there is some relationship between getting sick physically and being sick spiritually. The physical ailment that shows up is usually an indicator that things are out of balance in your system. I don’t speculate that every person that gets cancer has anything else wrong with them besides cancer – those are the lucky ones. I truly wish cancer was the worst thing about the experience I have been through in the last year. But when you think about it, you can usually point to something out of balance that might be the culprit.

Take lung cancer (and there are cases of lung cancer that are NOT smoking related)….but smoking CAN and DOES cause lung cancer. Smoking is an addiction. Any addiction is an appetite that can’t be fulfilled. An appetite only gets bigger until you starve it. And until you starve it, your life is out of balance because your appetites drive you to discontentment. You can never get enough. A little bird named Andy Stanley dropped that bit of unexpected wisdom on me, and a truer word was never spoken.

Many research studies show that 40-50% of all cancers are caused by a lack of balance in our lives whether it be an addiction to alcohol, tobacco, unhealthy foods, or lack of attention to our health in general. Breast cancer causes can be genetic but only 10% of the cases that occur are genetically caused. I was shocked to learn that in this journey. That means that 90% of us who get diagnosed don’t have a genetic predisposition (at least one that has been identified through science today), and it is almost impossible to believe it is “chance”.

There is something about our lifestyles, whether or be reliance on birth control, drinking alcohol, eating certain foods, even healthy ones like soy, beef, black tea,  or even taking folic acid supplements – the ones you are told to take before you get pregnant! All of these things are risk factors that encourage hormone production. Two-thirds of breast cancers are ER/PR positive (fed by hormones). And there are a plethora of other excesses that can also turn on the cancer cells that are in our bodies. It is a sign that something isn’t right, and we are blessed to get that wake up call before we kill ourselves in other ways. And we are lucky if we get that wake up call before the disease progresses to a point that it can’t be stopped.

During the last 10 months I have learned many things about myself that I don’t like. I’ve learned about brokenness. I’ve learned about personality weaknesses. I’ve learned about the difference between living to be happy or being happy to live. I’ve learned that the bad choices we make on a daily basis cause ripples far into our lives and can negatively affect the people we love. I’ve learned that I have a lot of work left to do to become whole again – and the only way to get there is to focus on the spiritual side of myself, the whole heath of myself, and not just the exterior physical part that everyone else gets to see.

I’m not a born again christian, not even a born once christian…i’m not even a christian, yet. But I am taking a walk on the wild side.

I started going to Athens Church on January 8. I want to thank my surgeon, Cody Gunn, who sent me a link to one of Andy Stanley’s sermons, right around Christmas. It was the beginning of an idea that a big piece of the world has been missing from my life. I want to thank my friends Paul and Suzanne Chambers who started the ball rolling when they invited me to Christmas Eve service at their church in Watkinsville. Then I reached out to a neighbor I should have connected with much sooner, Pam Adams, who actually guided me around Athens Church that very first Sunday and I get to see her smiling face every weekend now.

I haven’t missed a single Sunday since then. As a matter of fact, I had my second mastectomy on Tuesday, January 31 and made it to church on the following Sunday, drains and all. I look forward to Sundays every week. Athens Church is non-denominational. They don’t care if you believe in God, Allah, or Luke Skywalker. They just want you to believe in yourself and in self improvement. I think I need a little of that, and if a little of God seeps into me, i’m ok with that too.

This story isn’t over yet, but the cancer part of it is. Thank you to all the friends who were there for me during the worst of it, and who are there for me now. Even if I didn’t reach out to you during the last year, or you me, I knew you were still there waiting in the wings for better times to come. Better times are right around the corner.

  1. Cindy Fetch says:

    Powerful, Stephanie. Thank you.

  2. Suzanne Chambers says:

    Thanks for sharing your story! You are an incredible woman (and a fabulous writer!) It is a privilege to be part of what God is doing in your life. And, you know I still pray for you to become one of us “born agains” :)
    much love,

  3. Mom says:

    What, my daughter, a nah sayer, that is me as well. But I do hope that my relationship with you did not form your opinion of the not so spiritual side of life. I say you can believe in yourself and still fulfill all the spiritual desires others have for you. Love you to the ends of the earth.