Chapter 1 Excerpt
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 17:22 NIV
Words cannot describe the mind-numbing fear and confusion I felt being diagnosed with breast cancer at age thirty-six. At the time, I was already emotionally drained from worrying about the end of my marriage, my kids, my finances, and going back to work.
I still had my faith, but as the year dragged on, my situation became more and more precarious. My health insurance was through my soon to be ex-husband’s company. I was frazzled, discouraged and prayed tearfully for Christ to help me find the peace and joy Scripture promises. And what did I hear?
What connections could there be between my struggles and some crazy comedy about aliens with heads shaped like cones. How could that be God’s answer to my coping with cancer? I kept getting an image of me sitting in a treatment room wearing a conehead. I continued to ask God what looking and acting like a fool could possibly accomplish.
It took me awhile to accept this as The Almighty’s solution. For obvious reasons, I thought I’d misinterpreted the message. Discernment can be very difficult in prayer. I prayed again and again. One word kept coming to mind. “Conehead.” I thought the chemotherapy drugs were causing serious side effects. Yet, still, “Conehead” came into my mind. Day after day, the same stupid answer.
Finally, I gave the Old Boy the benefit of the doubt and purchased a conehead and some crazy wigs and wore them to my cancer treatments. The goofy outfits helped refocus my thoughts. The more positive and upbeat I remained, the more positive and upbeat those around me were. It was strange, perhaps not as strange as my attire, but the transformation was truly miraculous. Instead of being depressed, the other patients and I were laughing together. Others may have laughed at me instead of with me, but I don’t get hung up on syntax. Fun is fun and joy is joy. When you’re sick or depressed, it doesn’t matter where it comes from, humor can heal.
Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on jewelry, or beautiful clothes, or hair arrangement. Be beautiful inside, in your hearts.
1 Peter 3:3-4a LAB
With the fun and frolic over, I returned for my operation. Mom drove into town, and this time it was necessary. We arrived at the hospital early. In the surgery area, I changed into an “exquisite” gown. My designer creation was made of lightweight cotton with a delicate blue and white print. It hit fashionably above the knee and had a revealing slit up the back with two ties for a cool and refreshing feel. The nurse also provided me with jewelry, a white bracelet engraved with my name. To complete the outfit, I was given a matching white blanket to use as a shawl to cover my backside when I strolled along the hospital promenade.
Once properly attired, a tech escorted down the hall for another date with Dr. Squeeze ‘Em Up. Because my cancer cells were microscopic and scattered, it would be impossible for the surgeon to see the culprits. Dr. Squeeze ‘Em Up’s special brand of torture was to mark the area for removal. First the cancerous area — i.e., my boob — was again placed in the high-tech mammogram machine. The table tilted, and the two plates were pressed tightly together. As if this contortion wasn’t uncomfortable enough, Dr. Squeeze ‘Em Up forced (I assure you, my body didn’t take it willingly) a thin metal wire into my breast and guided it around the cancerous cells. “Ouch!” doesn’t begin to describe it.
He left some extra wire hanging out of my breast attached to a plastic doohickey. Obviously once in place, it’s extremely important the wire and doohickey don’t move. Stabilization required an expensive, specially designed device. The nurse carefully extracted a white Styrofoam coffee cup from a stack on the counter. She placed it over the doohickey and taped the cup to my breast. I was redressed for my stroll back to the surgery area.
As the belle of the ball, I was escorted through the halls sporting the extra attachment underneath my lovely designer outfit. Trust me, a hospital gown does not camouflage a cup taped to your breast. At this pivotal point, I decided I needed a personal motto and quickly adopted one. I clung to it throughout my treatments and would encourage you to memorize it. Repeat it any time you are in a cup-sticking-from-your-breast type situation. I mumbled my motto, “Dignity, always maintain dignity,” as I held my head high and marched forward donning the doctor’s latest addition to my fashion ensemble.