Charity Diagnosed at 36

"Take it all in stride and be sure to show not only others grace, but also yourself."

On Friday, March 28 2014, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36, which we later learned was stage 2. On Wednesday, April 30 2014, I had a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. On Wednesday, May 28 2014, I began chemotherapy. I had 15 rounds of chemo and continued with Herceptin for one year. I'm now on Tamoxifen for the next 5 years.

I was in the best physical shape of my life prior to diagnosis. I exercised 5 days a week and ate healthy. I had no family history of breast cancer. One night I was scratching an itch on my left breast and felt a hard lump. I went to my doctor who said it was probably a cyst but scheduled me for a baseline mammogram and ultrasound to be sure. The mammogram was fine, but in the ultrasound, they saw the tumor and were pretty certain it was cancer, so they performed a biopsy. My community and church rallied around us during the most difficult time in our lives. I have two teenagers as well who dealt with my diagnosis in their own way. My faith in God and physical exercise were the greatest gift during this time.

I prayed daily (sometimes hourly) for the strength I needed to get out of bed every day, to recover from multiple surgeries, to cope with the pain from the tissue expander fills, and to return to the cancer clinic for each round of chemo. On the good days, I tried to just soak up the fact that I felt good and would go to a low-impact exercise class. Since this was so much a part of my routine before cancer, it was the only thing I continued to do that made me feel normal and help me forget how sick I was. I had new friends who pulled in close who could handle the ugly, but I also had old friends who just couldn't handle it. While this was difficult, I had to show them grace and accept them as they were. God puts different people in your life when you need them. I had to trust that he knew what was best for me.

I've been finished with chemo now for a year and while I'm feeling better and better, I'm not who I used to be. I've changed in good and bad ways. My tolerance for people and their nonsense is at an all-time low, however, my heart really hurts and my compassion has grown for people who hurt or are going through a difficult season. Take it all in stride and be sure to show not only others grace, but also yourself.

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