God says we must count it pure joy when we face trials of all kinds. What a challenge! In December of 2013, within the space of a few days, I went from being a busy mom and sales manager for JOY! Magazine, to facing a dreaded breast cancer diagnosis.
From the moment my ‘cancer’ journey began, the Lord spoke to me so clearly and I had no choice but to listen - He had captured my attention! I don’t know about you, but when my life skids out of control, I am all ears. Do I listen to the Lord, who I know loves me and has carried me through 48 years, or do I listen to the world and to the fears of my flesh?
Trusting in God and not my fears
At the time that I found the lump, and had to book the appointment with my GP, Jesus reminded me of a similar choice given to His disciples, when they were in the storm on the Sea of Galilee - fear or faith? I knew a huge storm was coming, even before the final diagnosis was delivered, but I knew that I had to choose faith - which was believing what I couldn’t see. Faith is seeing light with the eyes of your heart, when your natural eyes see darkness! It is knowing that this too will pass and that God will carry me.
Waiting on Jesus and His Word
As I lay awake during the early hours of the morning, unable to sleep, I would put on worship music and just wait on Him. Every day, He would give me a Scripture to hold onto, or whisper a word into my heart. The power of knowing the Word of God is indescribable when you confronted with a trial. My anchor in the storm was Isaiah 41:10-16, which says: “Fear not there is nothing to fear, do not look around you in terror...” How the enemy loves to make us to look around - and then the fear rushes in.
After the initial diagnosis, we drove straight to see our pastor, Steff, and our dear friend Cornel, an elder. They left a big prayer meeting to be with Dave and I; their prayers and words of encouragement made me feel so secure in God’s love and the elders’ love and protection was very comforting. The Word says in James 5:14: “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.” I believe there is much blessing in this act of obedience and being in submission to Godly leaders.
My first op, a double mastectomy
Within the next few weeks, I had to undergo a double mastectomy and reconstruction, because the cancer was invasive. I thank God for the most incredible surgeons whom He led me to; not once did I feel I needed a second opinion. During the three week wait for the operation, I had to undergo many tests and scans to see how far the cancer had spread. God used all these experiences to teach me to become totally dependent on His voice.
God is in control of my destiny
I had been given a date of the 14th November, which was the earliest my doctors could do the 8 hour operation. Suddenly, a week before this date, they postponed it. I remember being so angry; all I wanted was to get the cancer out. Why did I have to wait? It was while lying in a machine, undergoing a full bone scan for an hour, that God really convicted me of wanting things my own way.
I repented and it was on the evening of the 14th, that huge floods hit our area and the hospital, which I was to have been in, was under water and in chaos. All the patients were evacuated and ended up in hospitals all over the city. That night, I got on my knees before God, realising He knew all of this before and was in control of my destiny!
There were many instances like that, in which I was brought to my knees, thanking God for His greatness. Another miracle, was that “coincidentally” 6 months prior to my diagnosis, we had taken out a Gap-cover medical policy. This came into effect immediately and all the excesses were covered. God provided, without us even knowing what lay ahead!
Facing the reality of a second op
Just after my first op, further tests showed that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes; again I would need surgery. After much prayer, we decided to go on our Christmas holiday first. This was an amazing time of seeking God, whilst still in lots of pain and the darkness of the unknown. The Scripture, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil,” was so real to me. I had no idea how far the cancer had spread, and had to go back and face the Goliath of another op and chemo.
During this holiday, I had my best friend, Maryan, and her family nearby. We prayed, laughed, cried and searched the Scriptures. I remember my plastic surgeon, a man of God and an incredibly talented surgeon, Dr Jonathan Toogood, speaking prophetic words of life over me, as I left his rooms to go on holiday. He had spoken in faith over me, probably without knowing it. How those words sustained me and gave me hope!
After the second operation, and with no trace of cancer, I was faced with the second giant - chemotherapy! The oncologists said it would reduce the risk of the cancer returning by 10% - and that this is normal treatment for cancer. In the the world’s eyes, I had no other choice, but God just whispered that He was my only absolute and my only choice was to trust Him. I sought him for 2 weeks, wrestling with the decision.
I knew the treatment would radically affect my life for the next few years, and weaken my body’s ability to fight the cancer. I am a busy wife, mom of four children, have lots of responsibility at work and many people and friends. I knew I would not be able to fulfil all those roles, for a prolonged time. At the end of January in 2014, I made the controversial decision not to have chemotherapy.
I knew it would be a battle of the mind not to doubt my choice, but God promised to sustain me. He sealed my decision the following Sunday. During worship, I felt Jesus standing next to me, connecting me to a drip, filled with His Blood, and attaching it to my veins. The oncologist had told me the treatment was nicknamed, ‘the Red Devil’, but Jesus showed me His treatment was the “Life-giving, Real Thing!’
Conquering my Goliath
That reassurance freed me from fear and condemnation, when people seemed shocked that I had chosen not to have the chemotherapy. I realised not having chemo is the second giant that petrifies people. When I read in 1 Samuel 17, that Goliath came out daily and the whole of Israel were terrified, I realised the enemy does that with cancer and chemo, but, like David, we know our God who has defeated the enemy.
The word says David ran to the battle line and slayed the Philistine. Wow! This is how we should face battles...run in faith toward them, not cower in fear.
God reminded me early one morning that this enemy, cancer, is an uncircumcised Philistine coming at me - but I resist against it in the Name of the Lord Almighty. This day, the Lord would defeat the cancer on my behalf, not by the sword or armour that the world uses, but by the Word of God. The battle is the Lords, the victory ours.
Grateful for family and friends
Throughout this whole battle, God surrounded me with people of faith. He never lets us face battles alone. My husband Dave’s strength, love and unwavering faith, as he guided our family through this, continues to amaze me.
My children and family were very brave. My mom daily cared for all of us, quietly facing the reality that I was her second daughter to have breast cancer. I know she wrestled with God about this, but without showing me her pain and fear! She has been a pillar and example of faith in God all her life, and I honour her. I have learnt to be strong because of her. I pray I will pass this legacy onto my children.
I remember the people who drove far distances to visit me in hospital ,the calls, the kind messages and the 5 weeks of meals. I am also so blessed to have walked this road with Erin Georgiou, a woman of faith who captains the JOY! Magazine family. She encourages me daily and gave me space to get strong. I thank God for her, another pillar in my life, and for countless others.
Moving forward in faith!
During the early days, there were many tears, and I know it was particularly difficult for my teenage daughters, as we have close friends who lost their mom to breast cancer. We were very open with our children from the beginning, chatting and praying through fears. We encouraged them to run to God, as we couldn’t expect them to stand on our Faith.
God taught us all how to cope when fear came visiting. We needed to walk through the fear, embracing all the ‘what if’s’ – even the possibility of death. The most liberating thing is to know that God is still there at the end, no matter what. This takes away the terror of the unknown, when we face it.
I have walked through the past year - sometimes much more slowly - but with greater faith and more love for Jesus, than ever before. The gift of faith spoken about in 1 Corinthians 12 is a spiritual gift given to us to fight supernatural battles. When we exercise the gift of faith, we are an inspiration to fellow believers. It demonstrates confidence in God and being convinced that all obstacles to the Gospel and to God’s purposes will be overcome. It becomes evident in all we say and do.
We are not survivors, we are overcomers
Every October, people celebrate “breast cancer survivor” month. For some reason, I was so reluctant to do this last year (which preceded my one year, cancer-free anniversary). It was during a sermon at church about broken jars and the art of kintsukuroi, that I felt the prompting to publicly testify to the congregation that, although broken and scarred physically, I am not a survivor, I am an overcomer. We are conquerors and overcomers - there is a huge difference. As Christians, we should not think we just survive through our crises and hope we survive next time! We overcome and are much stronger, for having been broken.
I will testify of His goodness all the days of my life
Am I finished with this battle? No, I’m sure I’m not. Having a cancer diagnosis hanging over you is a constant fight. Just last week, I had pain in my ribs and went for a scan. Is God in control? Yes, He goes before me. When people ask me if I’m healed and if the cancer is gone, I always say Yes! I don’t know how I will die one day, or how long I will be here on earth - but while I’m here, I can sing, “It is well with my soul”! The fear of cancer and dying has already been faced. I love Psalm 55:18: “He ransoms me unharmed from the battle raged against me”. I can surely testify to that!
Jenny is available to share her testimony. Email firstname.lastname@example.org