Several years ago, I hit a big roadblock. Not the wooden, sawhorse kind, a much bigger one. Although hitting one of those on the road would have left quite a dent, I would have gladly taken it that Friday.
I had gone in for a routine mammogram. The exam had actually been just another thing to get done on my list of other “important” matters – dry cleaners, groceries, mammogram, haircut. I even told my neighbor, “I just don’t think I have the time to go right now.” She invited my little boys over to play and told me, “Just go.” So I did.
That next week my doctor called and asked, “Are you sitting down?”
I can tell you at that moment, if you aren’t – you do!
“Ok.” I said. Then she informed me, “The test came back positive.”
I said, “Positive as in – hey, that’s positive?”
But she said, “Unfortunately, Bethany, you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. And it’s really serious because you have eleven tumors.”
It still chokes me up to think about that moment in time. We were having a blast on a family vacation with my parents and brother in Oregon when we got the news. The phone call with such heavy news rang in my ears in sharp contrast to the delight of our vacation, but I was tremendously glad we were all there together. My family’s presence and outpouring of love gave me such comfort during those rough days and the many, many days ahead. We decided to wait to tell the boys until after the vacation, they were only 3 and 5 at the time.
Just to keep things interesting, before we headed home, I fell down a flight of stairs and tore my rotator cuff. Clearly not the best week of my life!
We returned home and began meeting with a long list of doctors, surgeons, and specialists. I will never forget how scary it was talking about all of the “maybes” with the oncologist, and waiting for the PET scan results wondering if my body was riddled with cancer or not.
Learning that my cancer was at stage three was not good news. I never thought I’d be happy to hear the words “chemotherapy” and “double mastectomy” but I was so thankful we were going to do something to get rid of it.
Breast cancer certainly put my torn rotator cuff and the pain into perspective quickly, but my shoulder injury couldn’t be ignored. We had to operate on it first and delay the double mastectomy until I had complete mobility in my arms. We made the decision to begin the chemotherapy after my shoulder surgery and then operate once the chemo treatments were done 6 months later.
A fun memory before I started my chemotherapy treatments was our family’s night out for a school fundraiser. I really enjoyed that evening with Scott and the boys, getting all dressed up, and styling my hair I knew I’d soon lose.
I wasn’t prepared for how badly my head would hurt when my hair starting coming out. It felt like someone was jabbing my head with a knife! Scott and the kids decided I shouldn’t be the only one to go without hair so they all shaved their melons to match mine. That’s a special memory I never want to forget!
At the time I even jotted down 5 reasons why losing my hair was a good thing:
1. I can throw on a hat and be on my way.
2. No haircuts.
3. No expensive shampoos.
4. No leg shaving.
5. Lots of compliments on how great I looked without hair. (People are so kind.)
However, cancer was the hardest of journeys with one of the lowest points of my life. Chemotherapy does some really powerful work, but it physically takes away your good with your bad. And it took me down. Way down.
But chemo didn’t take my fiercely faithful helpmate and husband, Scott, our loving boys and family, or my faith in my Creator. Scott was the most unbelievable, tremendous support to me. He was right by my side, every baby step of the way and added much-needed humor and so much love to every day. He is such a gift from God.
To our surprise chemo and cancer added one really great thing to our life – a searing sense of urgency. No one truly knows how long he or she has here on this earth. And when you face the reality of that, it changes your perspective quickly!
Apparently Scott was serious when he had pledged to be with me through sickness and health! My cancer reminded us of those vows in a powerful way and rekindled in us the sense that we could help couples tackle that other wedding vow “for richer or poorer.”
Scott and I spent our countless hospital stays, chemo treatments, and flat-on-back days talking about the message we wanted to share with couples — you don’t have to fight about money. Sure, we all approach money differently, but we want everyone to know those differences can be a source of strength and balance for our relationship when we communicate and work together.
We’re willing to bet you have a message you know is important.
May we encourage you to “make it happen”- today! Please don’t wait for cancer to start sharing your message with your family, your spouse, your co-workers, or the world. Believe me, you’ll have a lot more energy now than if you wait until your body is sick.
We’d be so thrilled if our journey could prompt you to take that next step with your message or talents. We’d love to hear all about it and how you shared it with others. Put us on the list of people who need to know! [email protected].
In the video below, Bethany and Scott Palmer talk about their experience as Bethany fought breast cancer. On the Border runs the Fiesta for the Cure campaign to end breast cancer and asks everyone “what they will do” to help end breast cancer?