Anything but beautiful…
By: Krista Schnee
Ten years after beating breast cancer, the doctor said I was cancer free. The worrying finally stopped. That is, until last summer.
The lesions quickly spread across my breast, bringing redness and pain. The initial biopsy revealed that I had stage 3 inflammatory breast cancer. It wasn’t even a recurrence of the first cancer. This was a totally new cancer. The surgeon said, in disbelief, “This just doesn’t happen.” I would hear that a lot over the next several months as I began treatment.
A genetic test discovered that I had the rare PTEN mutation, which made me susceptible to developing a number of different cancers. The revelation that I had this particular mutation suddenly made everything so much more complicated. I realized that I most likely would have yet another cancer. Being declared NED a second time became much less likely.
Each day I went through the motions and put on a brave front, but as cancer took more away from my life, I became angry and scared. Depression often set in during those weeks when I was not receiving treatment, when I had the energy to imagine what might lie ahead.
During one of those dark weeks, I happened to see a post on Facebook about Compassion That Compels. After reading about CTC and its mission, I decided to submit my information and request a Compassion Bag. I was so depressed then that I didn’t expect to receive anything.
Kristianne Stewart sent an email asking me to confirm my address. I was surprised to receive a response and a glimmer of hope began. Even more, the title of the email called me “BEAUTIFUL Krista”, something that would be written on the box that brought my Compassion Bag by mail.
Not only was I bald and sick, but I also faced multiple radical surgeries. I felt anything but beautiful. Here was someone trying to reach out to me in that darkness. This reminded me that I had not been forgotten.
I could tell that Compassion That Compels was different. Kristianne, the people who volunteer and all of the kind people who donate money for the bags truly care about the women who are struggling with a cancer diagnosis. Kristianne’s kind words and the lovely bag full of goodies reminded me that people cared.
Much more than my first go-around with cancer, this recent diagnosis has been both a physical and spiritual battle for me. Death has drawn nearer. Being told that I was susceptible to cancer simply made me feel doomed from the beginning. I felt that perhaps I was a mistake, more of a mutant than a person with a rare mutation.
The Jesus Calling devotional, and pretty much everything included in my Compassion Bag, gently reminded me that my Savior, Jesus, didn’t forget me and that I wasn’t a mistake. With the pain and the effects of treatment, some days the devotional is all I can read. This is more than a book. A constant presence helps me get through each day.
Now I am almost done with radiation treatment but still face another big surgery and possibly ten years of medications. My life has been changed dramatically by this cancer and will be altered with each new surgery and prescription. No matter how radical the treatment, however, I understand that the chance of recurrence for this particular type of cancer is high.
I have been angry about these changes in my life as well as scared about my odds, but I am slowly learning to let go of my expectations. I take things day by day, trying to enjoy the blessings that God brings. Even being able to go for a walk with my husband—in the past, a simple and often quickly forgotten excursion—can be a precious joy.
Cancer has drastically changed my body and my perspective. I am known and loved, which was something that only Compassion That Compels could remind me of. I am grateful for their loving presence in the community of women living with cancer.
2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
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