Without Fear, There Can Be No Courage

by Kevin on December 12, 2013

On Wednesday, I received a phone call that makes your heart skip a beat and your knees go weak. A man I dearly love, that has been there for me at my lowest, that I look up to and admire…he has cancer. When you’re a pastor, you’re supposed to know what to say in these situations, but we don’t. Oh sure, we could break into “High Christianese” and say what people expect us to say, but to be honest, my first words were, “Oh shit!”

I now know why the following article was written. It was written for me because I needed to see what courage was like…true courage.

She has asked that she remain anonymous, but her anonymity cannot hide her courage. And I know she speaks what millions have felt, whether that be because they had cancer, or like me, that have witnessed people go through it.

It all began December 31, 2012…..the end of one year…..a way of life and the start of a new challenge…..a challenge NONE of us knew about……..I write her story for all of you ……

December 31st

I had a scheduled doctor’s appointment regarding a cyst in my right breast. The doctor, however, felt I should go in for a ultrasound and mammogram. I had one scheduled for the 4th, but they felt I should go sooner…first sign of fear strikes inside but I keep it to myself. Mammogram appointment that afternoon — the test showed something abnormal that they wanted to investigate further.

January 7th

On this day I had cyst drained in right breast and had stereotactic biopsy on the left breast. After these procedures I was told to take it easy so that I could heal from the procedures.

January 9th

At exactly 4:40pm, the phone call that you never want to receive came. The ringing sets a certain amount of fear rolling in and of itself….Do I answer or don’t I? You don’t want to hear the answer, yet you do! The voice on the other end says “You have breast cancer, it’s called invasive ductal carcinoma” is enough to take you to your knees, if you let it. The shock is what keeps you standing, the disbelief is what makes you take a breath.

As you can well imagine, I went numb, I couldn’t believe it! I kept asking: “Are you sure? Is there anyway this is an error?” hoping for a better answer, none came. I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t even breathe, I was lost….completely and utterly lost. How could that be, I have no family history of cancer. I Don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I exercise and take care of myself.

I sat numb, in disbelief, my mind racing just wanting to here one word: “Mistake” just one little word “Mistake” a word I NEVER heard. My thoughts transitioned from worrying about myself to my famly…….How was I going to tell my mom and sister, it wasn’t even a year yet that mom had lost her husband to lung cancer and now this.

My thoughts drifted back to ‘it’ — What now? What is the process? I know of no one personally that has gone through this. Who can I talk to? Who can I cry with, WHO???

Little did I know that my experience with cancer was going to change my life and I would find a new normal.

January 11th – 25th

Appointments – MRIs, surgeons, reconstructive surgeons – more doctors than I have visited in my whole life, I was definitely loosing any sense of modesty that I had. And MRI on the 11th

Met with the Surgeon & Oncologist on the 15th: they told me that the results of the MRI showed cancer in the left breast and the right breast was inconclusive.

My sister looked at me, I looked at her, tears in her eyes, we knew, I made the decision right then and there to go ahead with the bi-lateral mastectomy. To me, there were no other options, no waiting; I was in a fight now! A fight for my health, my life.

I was very fortunate, I had a great surgeon and a great oncologist, I trusted them and basically I was along for the ride, taking in the information as they presented it and going along with what I was being told had to be done. I had to trust them….I had to. I started feeling overwhelmed by all the new knowledge I was gaining, a variety of emotions took control and all these doctors throwing information and facts at me. What was I to do? What was going on? I was being made to make major life decisions in an instant, literally.

I turned to the internet, researching and researching, Susan G. Komen website, Amercian Cancer Society website, who to talk to? WHO could I turn to, WHO could give me some support, some help, a hug??? WHO?

January 17th

The time came where everything would change, I would change. I met with my first reconstructive surgeon to decide if reconstruction was what I wanted. This man had no interest in me as a person, he didn’t care who I was, what my needs were, what my life was going to be like after the procedure. He just wanted to do this procedure because this is what they always do. I felt like a number and not a human. A person being ‘prodded’ thru an established system, an established procedure that had no room for personalization, emotion, or worst of all, fear! And oh the fear, oh the unrest……..

I left the appointment more confused and unsure then when I went in. For the first time since the dreaded phone call, I got mad!! I was MAD and ANGRY—WHY ME? I was mad and angry about the fact that I had cancer. I handled my anger very uncharacteristically……for the first time I think in my life…….…I went home …… I had a little pity party ………and THE MELTDOWN OF MY LIFE.

Alone in my office I let out all my frustration, my anger, my sadness, my weaknesses and all the fear I could let go of. I was so mad, so furious, all I could focus on were the unanswered questions: “Why me? Why is this happening to me?” For the first time in my life, I was angry with God! Yes GOD – how could he let this happen to me? Why would you do this to me? Oh the why’s were brutal!

It was also at that very moment that I took control of my life & my cancer experience, as angry as I was with this doctor, I realized that he empowered me to get involved with what was going on in my life. And God had given me the painful cyst in my right breast to alert me to the cancer hiding silently in my left breast—as the new perspective came to light, new strength evolved.

The first thing I did was make peace with God and made the conscious decision to take control of this experience, after all it was happening to me. The WHO became clear—it was ME! My emotions became much more controlled and I began making a battle plan, a strategy for survival if you will. My thinking was much clearer, my goals well defined, and just like surgery being my best option, survival was the only option! I relied on me, I talked to me, I learned who I was, I learned what I can handle, what I can do, and I marched forward.

January 25th

I had an appointment with my second reconstructive surgeon. I was in control of this appointment and I clearly communicated what was important to me, how I wanted to live my life, what I wasn’t willing to give up to have this procedure and more importantly what I wanted to do when I came out of this ordeal.

We discussed options and he gave me solid information on how each would ultimately affect my life. I made the decision to have the reconstructive surgery at the time of my bilateral mastectomy, if my condition would warrant it (if there was no cancer found in my lymph nodes). I wanted to do everything at once.

February 12th

Pre-op was scheduled (more needles)……oh the dreaded needles, more tests and the dreaded answers. I had my second appointment with the reconstructive doctor to answer any further questions I had and to confer my decision of reconstruction. Again, I stressed to him the importance of my life style and wanting to be able to continue to enjoy MY way of life. My horses, riding, barrel racing, caring for my animals, traveling, working…MY life. After gathering more information from the doctor on the reconstructive process, number of surgeries involved, recovery time and limitations on my lifestyle, my decision changed – DRASTICALLY!

I made the decision to not undergo reconstructive surgery at this time. One of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make, but it was right for me.

February 23rd

The medical decisions were made, now the personal – important ones. I had to move my horses to another barn to be cared for. I knew that it would be hard to leave them and my goal was to heal and get them back as quickly as possible. My first goal was set: I had to do this for my own peace of mind … I wanted to be able to ride at an equine clinic on June 8th and 9th and to participate in my first barrel race of the season on June 22nd and 23rd. Exactly four months from today I want to be back barrel racing…..four months!

A few small tears formed as I looked four months into the future for the very first time. As I drove away from the new barn I wondered for only a moment “What was my future going to look like” and realized I was going to be the artist….I was going to paint that picture …..

February 25th

The day of surgery; the day I would go under the knife and my physical appearance would forever change. Extremely nerve racking and stressful, yet at peace I knew that I wanted this disease out of me—to be gone.

My family would know the outcome before me, they waited patiently for 4 hours and finally found out that the surgery went well and there was no cancer in the lymph nodes! Praise God! No chemo, no radiation, just a pill everyday for the next five years…..I can certainly handle that.

February 26th

My one day of rest at the hospital, then it was off to mom’s for love and caring for the next 2 weeks. When I was able to take care of myself I went back home to continue the healing process. It was hard to go home and not see my horses in the field, to not have my feeding and riding schedule that I was so use to. But, I knew I still needed time to heal

March 14th

Follow up appointment and I finally got to hear positive news…..my test results were back….I was cancer free! They were able to get all the cancer out during the surgery. My emotions ran rapid……thrilled, relief, happy, excitement, I had made it. I had absolutely made it.

But the healing process takes time to complete and a few ups and downs are sure to happen. After 3 weeks asking when I could start riding again, my surgeon shook her head and said that I am behind the curve on my range of motion.

“What me? Well I can’t have that. What can I do?” Of course the answer was physical therapy. I began PT to regain the range of motion necessary to have my horses home and ride…until I had 100% of my range of motion back I couldn’t bring my horses home.

It took three physical therapy appointments to learn my stretches. And work I did…..I did them 4-5 times a day, a little much, but – I needed my horses home and this was the only thing stopping me from achieving that goal. THE ONLY THING! 8.5 weeks after my surgery I was finally able to bring my horses home.

May 4th – June 7th

On May 4th I was strong enough to saddle and go for a trail ride. I had to start out slow but it felt awesome to be back in the saddle again—only those who ride can truly understand the old saying that there is something about the back of a horse that heals the soul of a woman…….I know it and I so enjoyed that first day on. There is no level of peacefulness that can measure up to that day….NONE!

I attended the equine clinic and 16 weeks cancer free I attended my first barrel race.

It was when I walked up to the Mile Hi Office in Colorado Springs in June I realized just how far I had come, how much I had overcome, and I blessed I was on that particular day. I was lost in thought thinking of everything that had occurred over the last 6 months. How my life has changed. The numerous emotional and physical changes and the various stages of battling a disease like cancer. I was lost in thought when I heard someone say, “welcome back. It’s so good to see you! How have you been?”

At that VERY MOMENT I looked into the eyes of the person I wanted to tell my story for me. The WHO walked right in front of me, capture my attention, and gave me a huge hug…..unaware of what I had just gone thru, unaware of what THAT HUG on THAT DAY would mean to me. When she released me from her embrace I couldn’t hold back the tears…….she looked at me like a dear in headlights but I knew she was my WHO!

I agreed to share my story with all of you in an effort to THANK YOU – THANK YOU all for keeping the Barrel Race For Breast Cancer going. This is an event in our community that is so special, so meaningful, and for a cause that can strike any of us. It has been within our own family of Mile Hi multiple times. I’m only the most recent and I THANK YOU ALL!!

Carol took my story to Terri Lancaster the week after she learned of it and these two ladies have been nothing but special, nothing but awesome. They are my WHO’s!!

I’ve benefited from funds that YOU ALL have helped raise and I cannot thank you enough. It’s not even the monetary value of the kindness – it’s the gesture itself, the kindness that Mile Hi folks extend—it’s so unexplainable. I can absolutely assure you all that today, I look back over the past year and I have found myself. I have a new norm, a new me, a new life. One that has brought me closer to God & made me a stronger version of my old self—I have survived, I took control, I beat it!

I could end this with prayer request for my step-dad, but that that isn’t him. He would say, “I sure appreciate the prayer, but I’d appreciate it even more if you included everyone else going through this as well.”

He ended our conversation like this on Wednesday, “I’m entered up in this whether I want to be or not…now I’m just waiting on my draw. And you know Kevin, I’ll come out of that chute when my name is called…and the outcome? Well, that don’t matter. ‘Cause I’ve got my bible and my faith and they told me I’ve already won.”

Without fear, there can be no courage…

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  • Praying with you, and thank you for sharing this.

  • Sharon

    What a story, thanks for sharing! I could relate to everything she went through from the discovery through the surgery, all her thoughts and feelings. I thank God above that there was no masectomy involved with my ordeal, nor chemo, and for the excellent surgeon with the beside manner of a saint. Two years ago, two or three days before Christmas, I got the results. Praying for your step-dad!

  • Saying a prayer, brother. Cancers a booger, but in the long run…it don’t matter. When my wife had cancer we hung on to Philipians 4:4-7. Rejoice in the Lord always! Got us (mainly me) through some tough times. Humor helps a lot too.

  • Lori

    I am one week post op for breast cancer, lumpectomy and 5 lymph nodes removed at the end of last week. Nodes were negative and margins were good, but have to undergo radiation treatments for ~7weeks. I ran across your article while looking for info on barrel racing after this type of surgery. I’m so thankful I did!!! I’m 45 yrs old and have barrel raced for about 20 yrs and do no want to lose that. My horses are important to me and have been a part of life since I was 4 yrs old. Thank you for the article!!!! It gives me hope.

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