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DivorceWise Newsletter
Issue 12 - 2001 by Kari West - Garden Glories Publications
Breast Cancer

Welcome Survivor!

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.

Personal 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 him.

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 was born.

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 fear remains.

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 fall in.

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!"

--Ecclesiastes 10:8-9 NLT

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 11:4-5 NLT

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

Copyright 2002 by Kari West