COURAGE EARNED – A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Story

She regretted giving me the gift so late. “I’ve had this bracelet for months, and I’m so sorry that I’m just getting it to you now.”

I had been on Rebecca’s prayer list for the past eight months. She wasn’t the only friend praying for me ever since the breast cancer diagnosis hit me from out of nowhere. No, I made a point of never saying “I have breast cancer”. It was always “I was diagnosed with breast cancer”. I didn’t want to call it mine. I didn’t “have it”, and I certainly didn’t want it to “have me”.

The shining silver bracelet that Rebecca gave me had a pink stone and a charm shaped like the awareness ribbon. The word “courage” repeatedly engraved across a heart was what caused me to tell her that the gift was not late at all. It was right on time. I had earned this. IMG_1527

Before breast cancer I would have never described myself as courageous. I had that adjective reserved for the adventurous, the daring risk-takers, those gutsy girls who live for the moment and don’t care what people think. That wasn’t quiet, safe, routine-entrenched me.

However the cancer journey gave me a new definition of courage. Kara Tippits (The Hardest Peace) says it so well, “It takes courage, humiliating courage, to step aside from your own sovereignty and imagined control and begin looking for the gift that comes unmerited. Yes, I’m talking about grace.”

The red letters of 2 Corinthians 12:9 gave clarity to my brokenness. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” That’s the grace I wanted and needed so desperately—sufficient grace.

The diagnosis, the doctor appointments, the surgery, the chemo and radiation took me to incredible places of weakness and humble brokenness. At the beginning, I had no idea how I was going to do all of this. But taking one day at a time, each step of the way there was grace enough to go on. A loving husband and son, encouraging friends, nutritional support and prayer lifted me along the course plotted by the helpful staff of doctors and nurses. And looking at that bracelet, I finally felt courageous. IMG_1313 “Courage is not something that you already have that makes you brave when the tough times start. Courage is what you earn when you’ve been through the tough times and you discover they aren’t so tough after all.” (Malcolm Gladwell, David & Goliath)

Now I see the other courageous ones, the women with exceptionally short hair, those wearing the pink ribbon t-shirts, running in the “Race for the Cure”, who don’t want to see their friends or family members or anyone else have to go through the fire of cancer. October is the month to make others aware of what we know every day–until there’s a cure, we’ll be in the grandstands cheering for your sufficient grace.  – Karen K

IMG_0719Karen K. was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in July 2013. After a single mastectomy, 6 months of chemo, and 33 radiation treatments, she has regained her stamina and is getting her life back to a new normal.
Karen spent many hours knitting during and after her chemo treatments and says that knitting gave her a sense of renewal. “I made so many pairs of fingerless gloves! While everything inside of me was breaking down from the chemo, I got renewed hope as I interlocked those yarns to make these beautiful personalized gifts. I thought–how much more my creator God will knit me back together more beautiful than ever!” 

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