One of Judy’s favorite bible verses is Ephesians 6:11 “Put on the whole armor of God.” She said this was her way of thinking that God would protect her from the devil “cancer”.
Nevertheless, Judy said that she always felt she would receive that diagnosis. She had been diagnosed with fiber cystic disease when she was 25 years old, a diagnosis that made breast cancer more likely and more difficult to detect.
The extent of what Judy had to go through medically is almost unbelievable. She elected to do things in steps and phases. She shared with me that she asked her doctor what her prognosis was, and that he told her she had a 50/50 chance. Judy decided immediately which side of those odds she was on: “I’ve decided ‘I’m going to win this.’”
Having walked through cancer with a loved one, I am always interested in how people initially contend with the news of their diagnosis. I asked Judy how she felt when she first received the news she had cancer.
“I didn’t cry at first, I think I was in shock and got sick to my stomach.” Judy said she remembers making that call to her sister Jo to tell her the news. The words Jo spoke to her sister stayed in Judy’s head throughout her battle.
“She told me that cancer is not a death sentence,” Judy said. She confided that she began to cry on her car ride home that day in an effort to get it all out before she had to break the news to her daughter, who was seven at the time and her mom and dad.
Judy shared with me a memory of sitting at her first chemotherapy treatment and getting teary-eyed, because she didn’t know how it was going to make her feel. The fear of the unknown is a fear that can be haunting in any life-changing situation, particularly with cancer. Thankfully, she responded very well, and she returned to work part-time and did not miss a single day during her six-week radiation treatment.The warrior in Judy was coming out.
As with many cancer patients, Judy talked about the sadness she felt when she started losing her hair and knew it was time to get her head shaved. She spoke candidly about the experience, “I didn’t care what I looked like, it was just the fact that everybody would know I was sick. I didn’t look sick with my hair, but I did without it.” I felt that Judy did not identify herself as a victim of cancer, and she did not wish for anyone else to either.
The determination in Judy’s voice when I spoke to her inspired me so much. She would say things like “I made myself get up, get dressed, and do something everyday and it is easier to sit in a corner and feel sorry for yourself, then to stand up and fight.” She went onto say “I wasn’t afraid to die, but I had a will to beat this, because I had adopted my niece who had already lost one mother. I didn’t want her to lose another.”
I loved the testimony Judy shared, and how she spoke with conviction when she spoke of Scripture. “The Bible says in Jeremiah to ask your elders to anoint you with oil for healing.” Judy went to her deacons with this, and as they came one night to speak prayers of healing over her, she said she could feel the weight lifted from her shoulders. God responded.
This past Thanksgiving was four years cancer-free for Judy, who is now 50 years old. Through her faith, determination, and the many prayers from her family and friends, Judy has survived. I think one of the most incredible things that I heard Judy say was “I believe that I am in a win-win situation, live or die, I cannot lose.” That is a faith that runs deep in heart and soul, knowing your eternity is set. I am reminded of that verse in Philippians, chapter one, which reminds us that “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
I ended our conversation with asking Judy “How has having cancer changed you?”
She replied “The younger we are, we see life like we can live forever. Cancer reminds you there are no guarantees. God only promises us the moments we are breathing.”