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Happy Breast Cancer Survivor Day to Me

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Survivor and Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker Suzanne Eller shares her powerful story of how coping with the disease pulled her closer to God.

Here's a powerful story of a breast cancer survivor and her faith in God.

My sweet friend, Suzie Eller, is a breast cancer survivor. I saw this post that she had written and asked her if I could share it with you. Here’s her guest blog:

Twenty-four years ago today I rested in a hospital room waiting for results of an MRI. I had already had surgery to remove a portion of my breast. I had already had my lymph nodes removed. A tube ran out of my side. My chest was wrapped in gauze. My children were young, whisked about by friends and family who tried to divert their attention from the fact that mommy was sick.

My husband was at my side. The doctors walked in. What had happened to the one doctor? Why did they increase in number every time the news was bad? This time a neurologist had been added.

“We found a shadow on the scan,” they said.

“What does that mean?” My husband asked. They were silent for a moment. Never good.

“If it’s cancer,” they said. “It means more surgery. If it’s successful, and after chemo and radiation, your wife would have a 10% chance of surviving five years. We’ll do a test tomorrow to confirm what we found today.”

Richard slid down the wall, crouching as he held his head in his hands.

One by one, the doctors left.

My in-laws stopped in. It was late, almost 10:30pm. Visiting hours were over, but they saw Richard’s car in the parking lot of the emergency entrance and wondered why, and who had the kids.

We told them the news, and my father-in-law sat on the edge of the bed, pulled me close and kissed me on my face. He didn’t know what to say, but I felt sheltered and loved by family.

They left. Richard and I sat close and wept.

I had just celebrated my 32nd birthday. My children were 8, 8 and 9. Old enough to know something scary was happening, not old enough to grasp how frightening. Richard and were about to celebrate our 12th anniversary that year.

As we prayed together, I felt my husband’s helplessness. His grief. The last few days had turned our world upside down. Who has cancer when they’re barely in their 30s?

I did.

I closed my eyes and started talking to my God, my Jesus. I was honest. I was hurting. And then I started singing softly. Not me, but something deep inside of me that trusted and knew God. For the next four hours I lay in the bed and I praised Him. Not asking for anything. Not expecting anything. Just grateful that I could turn to Him. Richard sat beside me, watching his wife sing and commune with God. He held my hand.

Get hope for Breast Cancer here

The next day was my mother-in-law’s birthday. She sat in the room with me.

“Happy birthday,” I said.

She blinked. “Oh, yeah. It is my birthday, isn’t it?”

She hadn’t eaten that day or the day before. She didn’t plan to eat the next day. She was praying, focused on her family and her faith.

They made me drink yukky stuff, lots of it. Funny moment in the midst of that. I gagged on the white thick liquid, so I hid the 2nd bottle. I figured, I weigh about 120 pounds. One bottle will do me.

As they were rolling me down the hall, I heard the clunk of cowboy boots (he wore them then). Richard was running down the hall holding the bottle. “She didn’t drink this,” he said. I was mad at him for the next hour while I sipped and gagged until it was gone.

In the MRI room, I was slowly sucked into the tootsie roll-shaped machine, and it hummed and hammered for the next two hours.

Back to the room.

10:00 a.m.

1:00 p.m.

5:00 p.m.

8:00 p.m.

My room was full. People came after church and hung out in the waiting room and in the halls. My mother-in-law sat in a chair. My pastor was close by. Richard was next to me. My children had come in and out, Melissa refusing to leave, crying even when promised that she could see a movie and eat candy if she would go with a friend. “I want my momma,” she said.

“Put her up here,” I said. Like a little monkey, she climbed up beside me and tucked under my good arm. She wrapped herself around me and was content.

A phone call. I talked.

Then my doctor came in. Alone. In his street clothes. “The MRI was clear,” he said. “The shadow is not there.”

My pastor leaped in the air. It was funny. My mother-in-law jumped from her chair, ran down the hall, telling anybody and everybody the news. That was funny, too.

My husband cried. He nearly fell to the floor in relief.

My children were happy, but weren’t sure why, but suddenly the room felt less like a hospital room, and more like a party.

That didn’t end the story. Chemo. Six months. Radiation. Six weeks. More intense radiation that burned my chest and went through to my back. Oops! More surgery. I went through menopause before my mom did because of all the surgery and treatment.

Chances went up. Way up. “You have 40% chance of survival,” they said. I was down to three doctors now.

And here we are today. September 18, 2015. Leslie, Ryan and Melissa are 32, 32, and 33.

How time flies. : ) And I have three more kids. Josh, Stephen, and Kristin, my beautiful sons-in-law and daughter-in-law.

And Richard? We celebrate 35 years of marriage in November.

As I look at this day, there are a lot of things that I learned from cancer. I learned to savor and enjoy the moment. I learned that the things that I thought were so important, really aren’t. That the people around me are and that being healthy and able to love, to laugh, to write, to be a friend, to live…is a gift.

Happy Survivor Day to me.

Suzanne Eller is a Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker and author and is Gaga to five beautiful grandbabies.

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