This coming Saturday, Oct. 19, marks the 20th anniversary of my first mastectomy after being diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer.

A large, cancerous tumor had been growing in my left breast for years. Because of dense breast tissue, it went undetected, in spite of regular checkups, self-exams, and mammograms. Cancer cells had even migrated to my lymph nodes.

Romans 8:28 talks about “all things work together for good.” I’ve clung to that verse as I’ve written about cancer and some of the other trials I’ve dealt with over the years.

As a 20-year cancer survivor, I’d like to share portions of an article I wrote about my first radiation treatment:

Halfway between my eight chemotherapy treatments, I underwent radiation five days a week for several weeks. I called it my radiation vacation.

As I prepared for the treatment, I was apprehensive. I quickly discovered that uncertainty fed a lot of my fears. I had no idea how my body would react to radiation, and I imagined the worst.

As it turned out, the procedure wasn’t as terrible as I feared, and I encountered few side effects.

Earlier, a mold was made of my breast area to help pinpoint the regions to be radiated. A technician marked several places on my chest with tiny dots of permanent, blue ink to help direct the radiation beams. “I’m 54 years old and getting my first tattoos!” I exclaimed.

I prided myself on maintaining a upbeat outlook during my initial rounds of “chemo,” so I was surprised when I suddenly had a huge pity party, and I was the only guest.

As I settled onto the treatment table, the technician ‘adjusted’ the medical equipment before leaving. Glancing to my right, I could see people seated at a console behind a protective window to monitor the procedure.

“At least, they’re safe from the radiation,” I sarcastically thought.

I looked straight ahead, my mind spinning. I was having a bad day and wasn’t a ‘happy camper’ when I entered the hospital.

I had to lie motionless, on my back, on top of the hard table. As I focused on the fact that no one else was in that sterile room, tears began filling my eyes.

I felt totally abandoned. As a widow, there was no husband to hold my hand and walk me to the door of the treatment room. There were no family members waiting outside that door, and no medical workers standing at my side as the procedure continued. Poor, poor, me.

I looked up and, suddenly, there it was. On the ceiling directly above my prone body was a bright, red light emanating from an X-shaped opening. Upon closer inspection, I realized the opening was actually cross-shaped. A red cross hovered just above my outstretched body. That’s when tears of joy, not sorrow, trickled down my face.

I wasn’t alone on my breast cancer journey. As long as I leaned on The Great Physician and embraced His comforting presence and endless love, I never would be alone.

Leanne Lippincott-Wuerthele, a native of Milton, who has lived in Minnesota and Iowa, has been writing Sunny Side Up for about 40 years. A graduate of Milton Union High School and Milton College, she has written four books. She has two children, three stepchildren, and a blended family that includes 11 grandkids.

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