She walked into the Prayer Room of Community Church, Orange, Texas, where we had agreed to meet. Her beauty could be described simply as “the look of Barbie.” She had a smile that lit up her face, soft curls in her neatly coiffed hairstyle, and her eyes glowed and twinkled as though she had something exciting to tell me.
Her name is Jenny Stark, an only child, 40 years of age, and married to Bill for ten years. Before I could bring out the list of questions I had prepared to ask her, she began telling her story. Thirty minutes later, she paused and sweetly asked: “Is there anything else you would like to know?”
Glancing quickly over my list of questions, to my amazement, she had covered them all, as I had sat quietly; totally mesmerized while she talked. The story was within her, and it had flowed out from within as natural as her beauty---with ease, class, and well informed of her situation
Jenny’s journey began in March, 2008, when she found a lump in her left breast. It didn’t alarm her because for the past 10 years, her doctor had monitored a cyst in her right breast. To Jenny, this was probably just another cyst. The new lump did have a slight redness to it, but Jenny reasoned that: “My bra is doing this to me; I need to get rid of this bra! Besides I have a doctor’s appointment in May. That will be soon enough to check out my left breast.”
May came, and her local doctor took one look at it, and ordered tests. Within a couple of days, Jenny called for the results. “Where are you? Is someone with you,” the doctor asked on the other end of the phone. And with that, he said: “I’m not going to beat around the bush—you do have breast cancer.”
To Jenny, everything he said from that point on was just “blab blab blab.” Finally she interrupted the doctor and said: “I have to go now.” Her “shock moment” was upon her, as she poured out her first wave of tears on her Mother’s shoulders.
Thankfully, Jenny had a close girlfriend who was a doctor who got the wheels spinning quickly and arranged for her to go to M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas. By the time she reached M.D. Anderson, the tears had stopped, and Jenny’s stamina for tackling “her cancer” head-on had kicked in. Jenny explained that she called it “her cancer” because everyone’s situation is unique, and totally different from someone else’s.
Final tests results revealed three malignant tumors in different locations in her left breast---3rd stage cancer. Suggested treatment: Once a week Chemo for one year, followed by a Mastectomy, 6 weeks of Radiation, and then her first Reconstruction surgery took place in July. Unfortunately, she developed an infection, which had to be dealt with at that time. Currently, Jenny is waiting to proceed with her final reconstructive surgery in 6 months.
Today the cancer is gone and Jenny emphasized that:
“I have no greater chance of getting cancer now than anyone else.”
Completing the story about “her cancer,” Jenny stated, “I want other women to know things I have learned should they ever have to walk down this road.” And with that, she began giving a list of suggestions with the same ease in which she had delivered her own story----gently, but precisely.
- Do not get on the internet when your doctor confirms that you have cancer. Everyone’s breast cancer is unique; what you find on the internet may not apply to you. Besides, it only creates anxiety to find information that might not even apply to your situation. Let your doctor explain to you the steps to be followed according to your specific situation. He will also keep you in the step that you are to be in at the present time.
- Do not compare your breast cancer with someone else who has had breast cancer. Their experience and their walk will be different from yours.
- Have a group of friends who surrounds you with prayer.
- Attitude is the most important thing. Wallowing in self pity only causes more problems. I don’t question “why me?” I prefer to say, “why not me? This is just a bump in the road of life. Besides, who knows who my story might help.”
- You will need a driver to take you for your treatments.
- Do not spend much time alone. This leaves the mind to wander and imagine.
- Continue with everyday life. If you are already working, keep on working, unless your doctor says otherwise.
- It is wise to have a “secondary insurance policy” that will pick up the extra expenses of what your “primary insurance” does not pay.
- Be cautious about the places you go while taking chemo; chemo lowers your body resistance. Jenny adds with a twinkle in her eyes, “you might have to give up browsing in Wal-Mart.”
- Consult with your doctor about foods that you should or should not eat.
- If complications do arise, trust your doctor. Chances are he has dealt with this situation before; what you may be experiencing could just be textbook.
As our meeting was drawing to a close, there was one question that I wanted to ask Jenny even though it had been apparent to me from the start of our meeting. “What part has your faith played throughout your journey?”
“My faith tells me that 'This is Just A Season'.”
And with that, we ended our meeting and we walked outside into the crisp fall air. Both of us noticed that the weather was cooler, and the trees were starting to change colors. Yes, a new season had begun for Mother Nature.
What a class act!!