Breast Cancer: Four Journeys

By: Sheila Teixeira, FW Contributor
The day my friend, Cynthia, died from
breast cancer, I leaned against the wall outside
her hospital room. I childishly imagined her
skipping down the hallway, Jesus
at her side. It was what Cynthia
believed would happen after he
cured her and showed his glory.

She made the choice not
to have treatment after her
mastectomy, even though she had
lymph nodes involved; she had a
strong faith in divine healing. I
found it difficult to understand
or accept her decision, especially
since she had three small children.
In the end, I was amazed at her
faith in God and respected her
for not allowing breast cancer to
destroy her faith.

Janet, another friend who also knew
Cynthia, was diagnosed in 1995 with Stage 2
breast cancer. She wished she had had Cynthia’s
faith in an external divine force while she went
through cancer treatment. She considers herself
more of a spiritual person than religious. During
her treatment, she didn’t pray, but she did have
faith that she would survive.

Frances, my older sister, was diagnosed
in 1996 with Stage 3 breast cancer and went
through cancer treatment. She also had faith in
herself and didn’t feel she had to go to church –
she prayed at home.

Karen, a young woman, who
was diagnosed at age 36 with
Stage 1 breast cancer, which has
metastized, says it’s important to
have faith in yourself. She feels
this is her life’s journey. If she
prays, it’s to have love in her life.

At the time of diagnosis both
Frances and Janet thought they
were going to die, but they also
knew they would do everything
to survive. They both had
young children and both chose
conventional cancer treatments.
Karen chose alternative treatment after her
double mastectomy. But when her cancer
returned a year later, she turned to conventional
treatment, and meditation –
a complementary treatment. She is now on
chemotherapy and doesn’t believe it is her
time to die.

Frances and Janet didn’t give much thought
to what caused their breast cancer. They didn’t
think it had anything to do with their lifestyle
nor did they think it was hereditary and neither
of them knew that there was cancer in past
generations of their family. They both ate
healthy, they both exercised. Janet was a fitness
instructor, and Frances exercised four times a
week. Recently, they both found out it is genetic.
Karen knew it was genetic. Her mother had died
at a young age from breast cancer and tested
positive for the BRAC 2 gene.

Both Frances and Janet worked while going
through treatment. It was important for them to
be normal. Janet and I taught an aqua-fit class
together, Janet teaching in the deep water and
I in the shallow end. There were times when
Janet would ask me to watch her class for a few
minutes, while she went to throw up then she
would return and continue teaching. Frances
felt as though she had two lives,
one life that continued as if she
didn’t have cancer. She worked
full time, participated in family
events, and was involved with her
daughters’ lives. In her other life,
she was ill and fighting to survive.
Her other life dealt with fear, and
the side affects of radiation and
chemotherapy.

Even though Frances and Janet
had a lot of support from their
doctors, friends, and family, they
felt alone. They drove themselves
to chemotherapy; Janet didn’t
want anyone to go with her. She
didn’t want to have to carry on a
conversation and if she wanted to
cry, she could. They feel, no matter
how much support you have around
you, you battle cancer alone and
most of the time you internalize it.

Neither of them has discussed
their breast cancer with their
children. Janet did speak to her
children but they were too young to
remember. Frances did not want to
interrupt her daughters’ lives. She
has never spoken to them about it.
Do they think about their breast cancer? Karen does not
think of her cancer as good or bad – it’s just
there. Frances and Janet say even though they
think about it less as the years pass, thoughts of
it returning never leave.

But, it hasn’t changed their lives. They
didn’t quit their jobs to do all the things they
want to do in life – that’s for retirement. They
didn’t become more religious. They continue
to work, exercise, and try to eat healthy. Janet
even credits cancer for her decision to leave
her husband. She realized, while going through
treatment that her marriage had ended years
before. She is not calmer, but when little things
annoy her, she thinks how lucky she is to see
her children graduate and become adults. She
also thinks of Cynthia

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