As a motivational speaker, my story definitely changed this year. I went in for my routine mammogram and of course, had no symptoms of cancer. I even made an Instagram post with my physician’s assistant on how important it was to get your annual mammogram. But my world changed a few days later.
You never think you will get that call with someone on the other end saying, “You have malignant breast cancer.” I received that call on February 4 of this year. I remember hanging up the phone and being completely numb. My brain did not want to process that information, even though it was trying very hard to. Then immediately I became crippled with fear. Little did I know how that call would completely change my life.
The first visit with the surgeon was overwhelming. The cancer was hidden in four inches of calcification; there was never any lump or bump. She said I would start chemotherapy right away, lose my hair, have a left breast mastectomy after those three months of chemo, and then chemo for the rest of the year. After my husband and I got into the car, I sobbed uncontrollably. We decided we did not want to go out and eat as previously planned, as I had lost my appetite and just wanted to go home.
My whole perspective on life changed. As Craig drove us home, I remember looking up at the clouds and thinking how beautiful they were. I even started to see shapes. I hadn’t looked for shapes in the clouds since I was a kid. I started to think how life was such a gift, and we take it for granted.
When we got home, we needed to call our son and daughter, who lived out of state. Before the weekend was over, my daughter was home and the next weekend, my son came home. Tears were shed.
I had a full summer booked with speaking engagements and magician performances. I had been looking forward to doing a keynote in Orlando, Florida, and visiting my sister, but cancelled it. I was supposed to attend a conference in Destin, Florida, for Christian businesswomen, but cancelled it as well.
I’ve spent years as a motivational speaker teaching on the power and benefits of laughter. I knew that T-cells were beneficial for fighting cancer. I knew I had to laugh, but I couldn’t. During my devotion and quiet time in the mornings, I decided to set a timer for one minute and make myself laugh. It was tough, but I made myself do it.
I dreaded the visit to the oncologist; from there I was to have a wig fitting for the hair that would soon be gone. When Dr. Bradley Hiatt came in, the first thing he did was pull down his mask to show me what he looked like as a person. I immediately thought that I was in good hands, as he knew how to treat people on a personable level. Then what came next shocked me and my husband. He told us that the medical team met again and concluded that I would not need chemo prior to surgery! We were so overjoyed! He said we would have the conversation again after my surgery. The next thing I did was cancel the wig fitting! What a great feeling!
Before I go any further, I will say that this diagnosis definitely has brought me closer to God. I’ve always been a believer, but I learned that this was the time to trust Him for real. He has carried me through this whole journey and I want to give Him all the glory for what He has done.
During the first month after the diagnosis, I received a call from America’s Funniest Videos that I was a top contestant for a video that I had submitted back in January. What a great gift from God, as it was a huge distraction from upcoming surgery. As you can read from a previous blog, I tell about the process of being filmed and winning third place, which was a nice $2,000!
About a week after the TV broadcast, May 10, came surgery. The left breast and three nodules were removed. Reconstruction began that day as well. Yes, the first couple of weeks I felt like I had been in a boxing match, but I gained strength and healing as time went on. It’s been six weeks today since my surgery, and I’m doing very well. I’m out walking, shopping, and moving! But the best news is that I don’t need chemotherapy or radiation! There was no cancer in the nodules, and after genetic testing, it wasn’t even hereditary. Again, I give God praise and thanksgiving for that. He has also done so many other miracles, but that’s for another time and probably a new book.
I was overwhelmed with the calls, texts, gifts, emails, meals, prayers, and encouragement from so many people. It definitely brings healing to your soul when people reach out. I’ve learned how important it is to do that in the future for others.
I definitely have a new outlook on life. I appreciate it so much more and have learned how to be more resilient in life. Life is definitely a gift!