On Monday, March 20th, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’ve spent the past week researching, crying, learning new names for words I previously had never heard, going to multiple doctors appointments, and countless conversations with all my doctors (there are so many now!) to figure out what treatment will look like for me for the next 5-10 years.
I sent out an email on March 16th to friends and family asking to pray because something was found on my MRI scan the day before…
I’m sharing my story for many reasons. To raise awareness, to give my busy, sleepless mind something to do… an outlet I guess. This blog may have 100s of posts or it may only have a few, I don’t know yet. It may be all about cancer or about other things that I love to do, I don’t know that either. Over the next few days (or maybe longer), I am going to post my crazy journey of finding out that I, 31 year old Carly, have breast cancer. Unbelievable.
Here’s the initial email I sent out on the 16th… more cancer info at the very end with a few prayer requests.
Bear with me, its going to be a long one. Don’t miss the details. I’ll remind you of that again later, but don’t miss the details.
3 years ago I left work while it had started snowing with the potential for dangerous ice conditions. A 30-45 minute commute turned into a 12 hour commute and I didn’t even make it home. I still think about that day sometimes and its often said that these type of memories stick with you so vividly because while its not necessarily terrifying, its scary and you have to put on your big girl panties and deal with it. I still remember almost every detail of those 12 hours, what I was listening to on the radio, the decisions I had to make, who I talked to, etc. I am telling this story because what I still reflect back on and remember the most about those 12 hours was God’s provision. Stay with me I’m getting to a point, I promise. Every decision I made that night, from taking a dangerous shortcut exit off 400 because I needed to find a restroom, gas, and a cell phone charger, to choosing the right gas station that was unusable minutes after I left it, to randomly talking to a friend in the same situation only minutes ahead of me on the road who I was able to find her, safely park our cars, and walk to her house because getting to mine was impossible. I look back on this situation that I remember SO vividly and see how God orchestrated those decisions I made, because each one was the best decision in getting through the night safely and with help. I was never once anxious, only God y’all.
OK, so fast forward to September 21, 2016… I only know the date because I posted an Instagram picture of it 😉 I was writing Sunday school curriculum for a church up here that I do occasional contract work for and came across this verse in the story of Jesus healing the Blind Man. John 9:2-3 And the disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, (DON’T MISS THIS) It was not this man that sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him…” That was from the ESV version of the Bible… now look at it from the Message translation… “Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?” Jesus said “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. Theres no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.” And lastly, from my kids bible that I refer to often when writing these Sunday school stories… John 9:3 – (Jesus is talking) “It isn’t because this man sinned,” said Jesus. “It isn’t because his parents sinned. THIS HAPPENED SO THAT GOD’S WORK COULD BE SHOWN IN HIS LIFE.” Obviously, I added the caps. Read that one more time. Think about that perspective.
Now fast forward to yesterday afternoon, March 15th.
The Lord has been pressing on me for quite a long time that He has plans for my life, BIG plans. BUT, I have repressed every thought of what His calling will look like in my life. I’m too busy, we just moved to a new town, I have a TODDLER. I’ve been studying the book of Esther with my small group and during nap time yesterday I was preparing for our group on Wednesday night, the questions I would ask, what we would discuss, etc. and the Lord very clearly made known to me that now is my time. He’s not concerned with how busy I am, where I am, what church I’m going to, whatever… He’s ready to use me and I need to prepare myself. So… during a nap time that just seemed way too short yesterday, I surrendered my plans to the Lord and said OK Lord I surrender MY plans and I will trust in your faithfulness. I was really looking forward to small group because this is so closely similar to Esther and her story, no I’m not a queen, but she was called for such a time as this… well I think this is my time y’all. I’m leaning into Jesus and just going with it.
Now, rewind to yesterday morning at 6:30am driving to Atlanta in rush hour listening to one of my new favorite podcasts, The Real Life Mom Show, go listen now – it really has nothing to do with being a mom, but it is so good! They just recently did 3 podcasts on Fear and boy did I need to hear them yesterday morning. Sobbing while driving, I did get some notes out of these podcasts that I didn’t want to miss:
Keep pressing into Jesus. He is always after my heart.
His grace is sufficient for me.
His power is made perfect in my weakness.
There is POWER in the name of Jesus, when all else fails all I have to do is call on His name and there is truly power in His name.
So go give those podcasts a listen, you won’t be disappointed.
Needless to say, rush hour traffic wasn’t so bad and went by so fast! I arrived at Piedmont where I have been going for the past 8-9 years, every 6 months, to meet with a breast specialist because of my mom’s history of breast cancer. She was 32 when she first found out she had breast cancer. Yesterday morning I had my first MRI, previously I have had only ultrasounds and mammograms. My doctor wanted me to get a baseline MRI just to see any possible detections of early onset cancer because I worry and Steven and I wanted to start trying for another baby, so she said this would be a good idea. I also have a sweet friend who offered her husband’s advice if I ever needed it as a surgeon who was willing to answer any questions and he suggested that it would be good to go through with the MRI. I am so thankful for his input. I had it yesterday morning and whoa MRIs, while not painful, are terrifying! I wouldn’t call myself claustrophobic, but they will surely will make you feel that way. Thankfully, I survived the 30-ish minutes of it 😉
Fast forward back to yesterday afternoon… MRI is done, nap time is over, my heart is heavy with this calling that I have surrendered to from the Lord and waiting to hear from my doctor, which I figured wouldn’t happen until the next day. Steven was at a work meeting and I packed up John and went to the gym. Dropped John off at the childcare room at the gym and my phone rings. I never keep my phone on where you can hear it, the gym music was so loud, I’m so surprised I even heard it. It was my doctor.
Now here’s where I need you. BECAUSE all that I have told you already in this email are small details to the big picture. Do you see how God has been preparing me, for such a time as this? He is. He is in the details. You didn’t miss them did you? Did you see where he was when I was stuck in the snow? Guiding me to make the perfect decisions to stay safe. Did you see Him speaking to me through CHILDREN’S curriculum? Through the book of Esther and how she had to take up her position? Yesterday through the podcasts on FEAR? Come on y’all, this is JESUS. This is what HE does if you stop and look to see His goodness, He is there. HE WILL make Himself known and we have to be obedient to that, even in the mundane, the everyday, the too-short nap times.
He is a good, good Father.
Now I have prepared you, well enough I hope, to hear this very hard news. Remember, because I 100% whole-heartedly believe this, that when Jesus spoke and John recorded it in John 9:3 “It isn’t because this man sinned,” said Jesus. “It isn’t because his parents sinned. THIS HAPPENED SO THAT GOD’S WORK COULD BE SHOWN IN HIS LIFE.”
I am believing this about my life right now… these course of events have happened and will continue to play out, even this email, NOT because I am a sinner, we all are and we can’t help it, but because God is going to CONTINUE to show His work in my life and guess what, you are here to witness it. My prayer is that you lean into Him, pray to Him, and pray for me. None of us are too far away from God, ever. Not you, not me, if you think you are I promise friend, He is calling you HOME right now. Talk to me about it. I am already praying for you because the Lord is calling me to step out, to be bold, to tell you about Him, how much I love him and how I will not lose hope in Him, I will not blame him…. Will I be sad and angry and confused at times yes. The next at least 6 months hold so much uncertainty with big decisions and lots of tears. Yesterday, at the gym in the loudness of the music, I found out that there are two non-mass like enhancements on my right breast. Sheesh. This is where is sucks y’all, but I prepared you for this… go back and read it all again.
I don’t know what this means yet. I do know that action is going to be taken now. That I have a biopsy, maybe 2 in the next 2 weeks, but hopefully sooner. First, an ultrasound guided biopsy because they’re less invasive and easier. However, I had an ultrasound 3 weeks ago and nothing was seen. Praise God for us making the decision to max out my deductible and get the MRI and for friends and their medical knowledge. Because one is only 3mm, it may not be able to be seen. The other is 1.5 cm (15mm). If the ultrasound one doesn’t work, I will have an MRI guided biopsy. Don’t google it, I accidentally did and now I’m terrified about the process, but thats OK. I will survive it just fine. When I am weak, He is strong right?
I love all of you so very much, You are all so very important to me. I will talk about hard things and my heart and all this craziness eventually. Not now. Just pray, pray hard, have you not ever prayed before? Well friends, its time. Remember when I said there is power in the name of Jesus. All you have to do is call out His name. He already knows. Also, Matthew 18:20 says “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among him,” He is here, y’all.
This is just Part 1. I have a few more stories before I catch you up on what has happened up until now.
The short story- I have Stage 1A Breast Cancer – invasive ductal carcinoma in situ – one of the more common types of Breast cancer and it has not spread to my lymph nodes- Praise God!! My estrogen and progesterone receptors are positive but my Her2 is negative, meaning that most likely I will not have to have chemo. I will be having double mastectomy surgery on April 25th and between now and then I hope to catch you up on my life in the past 3 weeks or so. In the meantime will you pray?
For my doctors, for my family dealing with this?
For me undergoing major surgery and reconstruction?
For the cancer not to spread?
For chemo to not even have to be considered once my surgery is over?
MOST IMPORTANTLY, for those who may read this who do not know Jesus?
I am praying that you experience how wide and long and high and deep is Christ’s love is for you. (Eph . 3:18- paraphrased) That I may glorify Him and be his hands and feet in EVERYTHING I DO… in pain and suffering and also in joy and happy times! And the He will do immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine!! (v. 20, paraphrased) That’s how good my God is, I truly believe it, and I hope you see it too.
Love you all!