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Issue 12 - ©2001 by Kari West - Garden
Topic: Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the topic of this newsletter.
It is every woman's greatest health-related fear. We are all
at risk. Unfortunately, the stress of divorce can add to that
risk, since stress alters our immune system. While there is
no known way to prevent breast cancer, researchers continue
to investigate the roles of stress, heredity, environment,
lifestyle, and diet. Early detection and the support of family
and friends dramatically increase our chance of survival.
If you have just been diagnosed, realize you are not alone--and
that there is hope.
Do you realize that:
- At age 30, women have a 1 in 2,525 chance
of developing the disease. At age 40, a 1 in 217 chance.
By age 50, the rate jumps significantly to 1 in 50. In other
words, three-quarters of all breast cancers occur in women
over 50. However, women who have never had children or had
their first child after 30 seem to be at somewhat higher
risk. (From: "Breast Cancer:
What You Should Know," by Caroline Scarborough, 10-4-93,
San Francisco Chronicle, E-9)
- Tumors in pre-menopausal women under
age 50 often grow at a much faster rate than in post-menopausal
women. (From: "Opinion split on need for mammograms," by The
Medical Adviser, 2-5-94, The Daily Review)
- Only five percent of breast-cancer cases
are heredity, meaning at least two first-degree relatives--mother,
sister, or daughter--had breast cancer. If you remove 95
percent of the breast tissue, it doesn't mean that you're
eliminating 95 percent of the risk. A recent study shows
that pesticide-levels are higher in the fat tissue of women
who have breast cancer than in the tissue of those who do
not. By the time you feel the lump, most breast cancer has
been present for eight to 10 years. (From:
An interview of prominent breast surgeon, Dr. Susan Love;
in "Straight talk on breast cancer" by Jeanne McDowell,
8-30-93, First Magazine, 46-47)
If you were diagnosed with breast cancer,
what would you do? Give up in despair? Or do everything possible
to survive? Sharon, a woman just like you, shares
her moving story of not only a stressful mid-life divorce
but of surviving breast cancer.
Reflection ... by Sharon in British Columbia, Canada
I never thought this would happen to me!
How many times has this been said by women the world over?
And yet it did happen--divorce, that is.
I was married to my childhood sweetheart
for 34 years. We raised four children and became grandparents
eight times over. I thought I knew this man about as well
as anyone, but I was about to find out just how well I didn't
know him and the dark secrets that seemed to come into our
house and mingle around the people living there. It was
well into our relationship before I began to hear things like,
"He has a girlfriend in every town, wherever he goes away
for sports and company business." Well, I never paid too much
attention. So, life went on. Friends used to tell me I should
leave him. My reply was, "How could you say that when you
don't even know him or what goes on in our house?"
You see, my husband was an alcoholic and
went for treatment in 1996. A short time later, out of the
blue, he told me to get out. I was shocked! I could not comprehend
what he was saying to me. It did not make sense. Just when
we got to the place where all our children had left home and
we could begin enjoying this time of our life, he was telling
me to get out. Excuse me?
Well, I left not only the home but also
the town. I knew I had to try and make a new life for myself.
The first six months was the worst period of time I had ever
spent in my life. So much pain, agony, and stress. Day and
night trying to find a way to go on. Trying to make some sense
of what was happening. Feeling mentally assaulted and attacked
from all sides. Pleading with my husband to change his mind.
Counting on his promise that in six months we would get together
and figure out where we would go. Then, reeling when I found
out that he was seeing someone else.
Eventually, I came to realize that there
had been so many women in our marriage that I really didn't
know where I fit anymore. Was I first? Or second?
During all this time I started spending
a lot of time talking with the Lord. Talking and crying. And
talking some more. I realized that I had put my trust in a
man and he had let me down. Now it was time to trust in the
Lord. I learned very quickly that as long as I left my
life in the Lord's hands that I could get through the day;
but as soon as I started to think about what was
and what could be, I felt the pain
of it all over again. When I finally got to the place
where I could actually say that I forgave my husband, only
then did a peace settle in my heart along with a sense that
it was going to be okay; that I could grow on my own without
In time, after I felt myself healed from
the pain of my marriage, I started praying for the Lord
to send a Christian man into my life. I never dreamed
it would someone my family and I had known for years. One
summer, while visiting my sister, I met Allan in church. We
exchanged e-mail addresses. We went our separate ways, unaware
that our relationship would develop beyond friendship. After
corresponding for 10 months, I found myself asking the Lord
if this was the man He was sending into my life. Our interests
were the same. Allan loves the Lord with a passion and he
is not pretentious. I was also strong enough to know that
if our relationship didn't work out that I was capable of
being on my own. We felt comfortable together. Finally, I
could be who I was.
Of course, God's timing is so right and
so perfect. You see, shortly thereafter I found out I had
breast cancer and that I would need someone to look after
me while I went through the medical treatments.
Breast cancer is a word that I never
associated with myself, even though my mother had a mastectomy
when she was only 48, putting me at high risk. In the beginning
I couldn't face the word "cancer." I was so scared. A week
after the biopsy, surgery was scheduled. My cancer had
spread into the lymph nodes under the arm. I was quite sick
from the chemotherapy and radiation. But I knew Allan was
there for me. I also knew I could count on the prayers of
my family and friends and my church. Amazingly, every time
I picked up a magazine the poem Footprints was there.
It was as if the Lord was telling me that He would be there
for me and I wouldn't have to go through this alone.
Humor also helped me cope. I remember
looking in the mirror and realizing that I didn't have any
eyebrows. I started to chuckle, telling myself, No way
are you going to draw eyebrows on your face at your age! And
when the chemo turned my fingernails purple, I thought, At
least I don't have to put on nail polish now!
The last day of chemotherapy, the Lord
blessed me with the birth of my grandson, Jacob. The name
Jacob in Hebrew means "He will take by the heel." Ironically,
my grandson was born with one clubfoot, which has now been
fixed. I felt so close to this little one and realized that
the Lord was telling me that I would live to see my grandson
grow to be a man and that he would be the one who would turn
all my kids to the Lord. I had so much peace the day Jacob
In closing, I would like to say to those
of you going through a dark time in your life, that I know
from personal experience that there is light and healing at
the end. As I begin another chapter of my life and make plans
for a fall wedding, I can finally say that I really know what
a loving, Godly relationship between a man and woman is all
about. I feel loved like I never have before.
Help for today ... by Kari
In this unpredictable world of ours, where
not everyone keeps a promise and the risk of breast cancer
is high, our fears instinctively rise to the surface. We mull
them over in our minds as we go about our daily routine. They
underlie our concerns for our children and our thoughts of
future relationships. At times, our fears even keep us from
imagining that we will ever gather anything beautiful into
our lives again, like bouquets of tulips, or see another spring.
They can also prevent us from fully living the moment in front
of us. How we long for our lives to be risk free.
To be cancer-free, we are told by experts
to follow a non-caffeine diet, limit estrogen intake, eat
broccoli, use olive oil, cook with honey, don't drink alcohol,
get mammograms, and stay physically active. Yet while we go
about doing the best we can to eat right and stay fit, the
We tremble when we read an article telling
us that more women have died of breast cancer than all the
deaths in the Vietnam War. It strikes terror in our heart
when we hear a newscaster say that more women have died from
breast cancer so far than all the people who have died of
AIDS. Silently, we wonder when, and if,
it will happen to us.
It is so difficult to accept that life doesn't
come with guarantees. We balk at the thought that loss is
the risk we take for living and loving. We go on a rampage,
fussing and fuming at all the twists and turns in our life--or
at least I do. Yet somehow I keep coming back to the sage
advice of King Solomon. The older I get and the more losses
I experience, the better I understand what he was trying to
tell us in the book of Ecclesiastes. The New Living Translation
puts it this way:
"When you dig a well, you may
When you demolish an old wall,
you could be bitten by a snake.
When you work in a quarry,
stones might fall and crush you!
When you chop wood, there is
danger with each stroke of your ax!
Such are the risks of life!"
Even today I encountered this wisdom as
I surveyed my flower bed.
The I- hate-to-be-disappointed-I'm-entitled-to-a-perfect-world
side of me was shocked to see the soil overturned and my spring
bulbs upchucked. While I was busy with my daily and nightly
routine, a raccoon had wrecked havoc in my garden! I had not
counted on getting on my hands and knees again to dig those
bulbs back into the ground. You and I never counted on being
divorced either. And Sharon never counted on breast cancer.
But as Sharon says so well, we must leave
our life in the Lord's hands to get through these unpredictable
days. Life is too precious to waste mulling over our fears.
There are things to do and people to bless. Even in the midst
of our darkest moments, babies are being born and weddings
are being planned. And tulips are waiting to sprout.
A promise you can trust
If you wait for perfect conditions,
you will never get anything done. God's ways are as hard to
discern as the pathways of the wind, and as mysterious as
a tiny baby being formed in a mother's womb. Be sure to stay
busy and plant a variety of crops for you never know which
will grow--perhaps they all will. --Ecclesiastes
In the meantime
Please let me hear from you. I answer
every letter and e-mail. Be encouraged to share what helped
you through your divorce so others know they are not alone
and that they too can and will survive. E-mail by Clicking Here or write Kari West, Garden Glories Publications, P.
O. Box 11692, Pleasanton, CA 94588