Today's blog post comes to in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month from Christy Stickney, breast cancer survivor and loving mom. Thank you, Christy, for sharing your story.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age forty-two. It was one month before I was to get married to a remarkable man—a man who lost his wife to the very same disease. His two children had lived through watching their mom die. I have three kids of my own. We were supposed to be on a beach getting married with the five kids. I told him to walk away. I told him nobody should live through this twice. But he wouldn’t even consider it. So instead of a beach wedding, we had countless doctor appointments and got married in our church after a meeting with my oncologist.
My husband gave me my ring in the hospital parking lot. Within two weeks of my diagnosis, I got married, moved, and had a double mastectomy. My focus was to get that cancer out of me and get these five kids ready to start the school year. It was not time for wallowing. I was in fight mode and I knew I had to fight like I had never fought before. I was a mom and I had a lot of mothering left to do. I knew that no matter how much time I had left, no matter what my prognosis was, nothing would rob me of time with my kids. I am not a martyr. I simply love being a mom.
Our family was being robbed of so much, but I was determined to get through my surgeries and have another wedding on the beach with just the seven of us. My husband deserved that and so did the kids. No matter what, I would make that happen. My doctors fought me and finally relented. We made it to Maui that December. I was still in the midst of recovery, but was able to make the journey. It was an incredible experience for all of us. All seven of us understood the victory of that moment. It did not even have to be talked about.
I read so many books during my battle with cancer. One of the books that resonated the most with me was, There‘s No Place Like Hope by Vickie Girard. I love when she talks about receiving your cancer diagnosis. She says, “Diagnosis is like going to sleep in your own bed and waking up in a foreign country where you don’t know the language or the customs and you have no maps telling you how to get home.” That is so true and what strikes me is how countless people find the courage and strength to finally get home. We are mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, and friends. So many people count on us. However, we are warriors in our battle. We don’t give up. We continue to nurture those we love.
Her book also talks about how cancer causes us to think about life. “It causes us to listen to the inside of us more than we may be used to. Neither of these is a bad thing.” I see this as one of the most valuable things I took away from my cancer battle. I paid attention more. I worked on getting rid of the clutter in my life. I took stock in what I value. You are forced to spend your time wisely as you do not have the energy to do everything.
As I faced the chemotherapy part of my journey, I was scared. My kids were scared. My husband knew too well what was ahead for me. His daughter asked, “Why when everything starts going good does something bad happen?” I had to keep fighting. My oncologist gave me the news of needing chemo on the phone. I was at my son’s birthday party, it was a Sunday. I knew we would get through it. I looked for inspiration. I was still having so much difficulty from my reconstructive surgery. I love this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt in Compendium’s Hope book: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Never once during my cancer battle did I even consider giving up. In looking back on my journey, I realize there were so many things I did that I would have never thought I could do. I was laser focused on doing whatever was needed to beat this monster. I did not ask “why me,” instead I thought “why not me?” Receiving this diagnosis felt like being stabbed in the chest. I had two choices: lie there and wait for someone to take the sword out and save me, or pull the sword out myself, stand up, and fight. And fight I did.
I came out of this battle a changed person. A better person. A better mom. I cherish the simple things that I used to take for granted. This fall was the first fall in a while that I felt more like myself. I cherished the countless back to school shopping dates with the kids. I love watching my son play basketball. I missed many of his games. I got to go on a field trip with my daughter’s fifth-grade class this past week. I got to see my oldest child drive. That was a big one for me. It was the best, and I soaked up every minute of it. I am grateful this disease gave me clarity at such a young age. As Vickie Girard said, “This entire nation is populated by cancer survivors-everyday people who have beaten this disease. Let their success fuel your success!”