Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness Guest Blogger

For the past couple of years I've invited a guest blogger to talk about her breast cancer experience as a way to promote breast cancer awareness to our readers. Here are the links to 2010, 2009 and 2008. Being aware is just the first step. Self-examination and mammograms are others.

Today's guest blogger is the sister of a church friend, and after I posted on Facebook for a volunteer, Joe volunteered his sister. Isn't that just like an older brother? ~grin~ But she graciously agreed and now I'll turn the the floor over to her.

September and October are a time of reflection for me. While my friends are wearing pink and talking about breast cancer walks, I quietly remember my mother. A quiet spirit, calm and gentle. Determined. People tell me I look like her. I don't really remember. It’s been so long since we lost her. Diagnosed at 22 with breast cancer, her life was turned upside down. She beat the odds that time and was able to raise my older brother and me. My entire life was spent in her remission. I was only 13 when the cancer came back with a vengeance, and she died a year later. I tell myself that cancer treatments have come a long way since 1984. I tell myself that doctors know so much more now. I tell myself that women (and men) are better about listening to their bodies and taking preventative steps to protect themselves.

I have always been extra careful with my health, and have done everything "right". For years I have paid out of pocket for mammograms when insurance wouldn't pay the bill because of my young age. Last year I celebrated the BIG 4-0 and believed that 40 really was Fabulous. My mother died when she was 36, and I am grateful for the extra years. Extra time to hold my children and love my husband.

Insurance finally paid for my mammogram. It was a day of celebration for me to finally have a free squeeze. I didn’t mind the test so much, but having to pay for it always insulted me. Haven't I paid enough already in my life to cancer? I knew something was wrong when the technician grew quiet and took extra images. She lied and said the image had messed up, but I could see it in her eyes. I tried to joke and laugh because I know it’s never easy to look a young mother in the face, knowing the challenge that was most likely ahead. A week later I saw that image with my surgeon and immediately knew it was inflammatory invasive breast cancer. There was no lump. No warning. No signs. The most aggressive breast cancer there is was growing and spreading quickly through my body. We found my cancer early because I was diligent about my health care and educated on my choices. I was never really scared. Not because I am super woman, but because I know God walked before me in every tough decision. 2 Chronicles 20:17 "The battle is not for you to fight. Take your position and stand still and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf."

It's been one of the toughest and also sweetest years of my life. My husband and I made some bold choices and are still struggling with the aftermath from surgeries, infections, and chemotherapy. I will never be the same, but I will give thanks in all things. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 "Be joyous always. Pray continually. And give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God for your life in Christ Jesus."

I have no regrets and I am still in the battle.

My whole life I have called myself a cancer survivor because my mom died from cancer, and I survived! It made me tough and my faith has made me fearless. I know I can face any challenge with God's help. Now as a cancer patient, my doctor isn't quite ready to call me a survivor, but I'm almost there. Until that day comes, I will wear my pink, grow my hair and encourage others to seek preventative care. A mammogram saved my life! Have you been squeezed lately? Have your friends? Are you spiritually prepared to face LIFE? Are you prepared to give an answer to the questions others ask?

Colossians 2:2 "I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God's great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else.”

And we've been shown the mystery! I'm telling you this because I don't want anyone leading you off on some wild-goose chase, after other so-called mysteries, or "the Secret."

I thank God for the rough road. It has made me who I am today and I know with God's help, cancer isn't an ugly word. Cancer is just another bump in the road and I plan on enjoying the rest of the ride. I won't survive. I will THRIVE! Every day in October, I have challenged myself to post a list of thankfulness on my Facebook page. Looking for the good things that have blessed me during my battle with cancer. Thankful for all the obvious things, but also thankful for the nurses in radiology who blew out 8 different veins in my arm. They cried with me. It reminded me that Jesus faced much worse all alone, because of my sin. If he could suffer so much for me, then I could handle needles and tests. It's been a really long year, confident and at rest.

So in October, what are YOU grateful for? How have you encouraged others in breast health and preventative care? How are you celebrating life this month?

Jeri Parker Mercier is happily married to her knight in shining armor and together they are raising their three boys, ages 14 and 10-year-old twins. "Cancer doesn't care that I used to teach preschool or sing in churches," she says. "Cancer doesn't care that I graduated from Samford University with honors. Cancer only cares to seek and destroy. All that really matters in this life is Jesus and family. And my dog, Sam, is my best cancer buddy. He sat with me all winter long while the rest of the world kept spinning around me."


Smarty Pants said...

It is so scary how quickly cancer can change everything. I spent a week not knowing if I have a thyroid tumor or not and it certainly makes you think. It turned out to be non-cancerous, but sitting in the doctor's office waiting to find out was the longest 10 minutes of my life.

Playground Monitor said...

I had a suspicious mammogram a few years ago and had to go back in for an ultrasound. Turned out to be nothing, but I lost some sleep until I found out.

Playground Monitor said...

Oh, and I like to think doing this awareness blog every October helps in some little way to raise awareness in my circle of friends.

Cheryl C. said...

Brave, brave woman! I am so in awe of you and your infinite courage. My mother was diagnosed ten years ago with two types of breast cancer, the invasive type and another type which amazingly had encapsulated the invasive cancer, preventing it from spreading. I am happy to say that she is still alive and doing well today. The one thing that I would say is that when she discovered the lump, her original doctor told her that they would watch it for six months and then determine what to do. She talked to me and my hubby (a doctor) who both urged her to go to a different doctor. Two days later she was having a biopsy and two days after that she had a mastectomy. It saved her life. So, if you have questions, ask them. You know your body better than anyone else.

My husband's mother died of breast cancer when he was six years old. He doesn't remember a lot about her. It is a terrible disease and we all need to be aware of it.

I too had a scare with a mammogram a few years ago. It was sheer hell to sit and wait for the doctor to call. It was nothing but that still didn't take away the fear that I still have every time that tech sees the fibroid on the mammogram.

Thank you for your wonderful story! It is inspiring! God be with you!

Instigator said...

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Jeri. Right now I'm holding my order for a baseline mammogram. I've put it off becuase my life has been hectic and my doctor only suggested it after I asked. My insurance will cover it though and I need to stop waiting and get it done. Thanks for the kick in the rear I needed to put this higher on my priority list.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.


Angel said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us! My grandmother died of breast cancer. Luckily none of the aunts have it, but we all hold our breath. My sister and I are reaching an age where we have to get our first mammograms done.

Don't want to go, but I hear it isn't as bad as it sounds. :)

RedPeril said...

Thanks SO much for that account--for the entire perspective check, really. There's little more inspiring than a woman who's made her peace and buckled down to fight for every inch of her life.

~Angela Blount

PM's Mother said...

Jeri, you are so brave and very articulate. I am awed by your courage.