by Guest Blogger: Tracey Treat
I thought I did everything right. I exercise, eat healthy, and do my very best to live a stress-free life. I’m on top of my health screenings, including a mammogram every year. So, I repeatedly ask myself, how at 51 years old do I have breast cancer? I often ponder, HOW and WHY did this happen to me? I think about the meaning of those two very small, yet powerful words. I also wonder who may have the answers to these questions… HOW did my mammogram miss thirteen tumors just sixty days before I felt the lump, and WHY was I one of the lucky ones to find the lump, when so many do not?
In addition to being diagnosed with breast cancer in February of 2020, our world was on the brink of being forever changed. Not only was I going to start the fight of my life, almost every single person on earth was somehow going to be affected by Covid-19, the deadliest virus to ever make its way across the globe and sadly, into every household. Covid-19 does not discriminate. For a selfish moment, I found myself thinking at least I am not alone. Again, those two small words crept into my mind… HOW did this virus take hold of our world and WHY is this happening now?
I received my diagnosis…so now what? Secretly, I worry every day about the upheaval my family will have to endure to keep me safe. The virus complicates every medical visit as the uncertainty surrounding my bi-lateral mastectomy, breast reconstruction and eight rounds of chemo, is heightened. Coupled with the fact that my expanders are “here to stay” until after my treatment, and I will have to patiently wait six months with what feels like two bricks in my chest. Additionally, I worry I could catch Covid-19 during chemo, or that someone in my family may catch it while I am home with compromised immunity. We are quarantined like everyone else during this pandemic and happy to abide by the rules to keep everyone safe. However, I am now part of the “at risk” population if I become infected. Imagine the kind of pressure that puts on your family. My kids are 19 and 15. If they were to go anywhere and unknowingly contract the virus, they could give it to me. My husband has us on true “lock down” and would wrap us in bubble wrap if he could, just to keep us safe. (NO joke!)
Circling back to the beginning… I ask why am I going through all of this during a worldwide pandemic, and how will I persevere?” Searching for answers, I thought I needed to find God. I decided to ask my cousin Philip, who is a pastor at Providence Church in West Chester. He told me that I didn’t need to “find” God, but that God had already “found” me. I thought to myself, what kind of answer is that? It was certainly not the answer I was looking for. God found me? Did he find me to break my spirit? Test my limits? Was he giving me a fast track to heaven? Or, as I secretly asked myself, quite possibly a ticket to you know where? So, I asked him again why God gave me cancer. Philip explained that God did not give me cancer, that the world around me did. He said our world is broken and that is out of our control. He said, “in fact God loves you more than you know and He is better than you think.” I was still not “getting it” and told him so. He said, “He has not abandoned you.” I told Philip that I did feel abandoned, but as soon as I heard myself saying the words out loud, I realized just how ridiculous they sounded. I felt abandoned, yet I had no real relationship with God prior to my diagnosis. So, in reality, who abandoned who? I needed to dig deep to figure this one out.
There is not enough time in the world to find the answers to these questions. All I know for certain is for me, right now, I have two ways to look at this cancer. I am going to beat it, or it will beat me. I am not a quitter, I do not give up, and I always aim to see the good. So for me, in this cancer battle (during a global pandemic), I plan to kick cancer’s ass this year. I won’t ever know how I got cancer. It is probably genetics or environmental. As for the why, that is becoming abundantly clear to me with each passing day. My spirit will not be broken, my family has never been tighter, my tribe never brighter, and my resolve never stronger! My spirituality may need some work…but then again, Rome was not built in a day!