I asked Kim Platt, my dear friend, colleague with One Collective, and fellow Pastor to our Workers, to be my guest today. I know her words will be an encouragement to your soul.
The 10th of August marks 3 years since my breast surgery. I’m still ‘coming to terms’ with it. I’ve been thinking a lot about having body parts removed—ectomy: hysterectomy, cholecystectomy, tonsillectomy, thyroidectomy. Maybe with the thyroid there is an indent where someone who knows can see that something is missing. But usually you can’t spot someone who has had their gall bladder out—their external shape is unchanged. You can’t spot that something’s gone and you can’t see the healing. And then there is the breast—not something on public display.
But why did I let them cut into my breast and alter the shape of my body? Altered but hidden, visible only to me, my husband and various doctors and technicians. Altered and now no longer matching its twin. I see it everyday. I examine it carefully every few days—has it changed at all? I add a small silicone ‘chicken filet’ to a pocket in my bra. The nerves still itch, but the scars are healed.
The answer to the why is cancer. The answer is submission to trained doctors. The answer is bowing to statistics that say surgery gives the best survival rates. The answer is better a chunk out of your breast than to lose the whole breast. The answer is a choice I made. And being able to make that choice was an answer to prayer.
I remember a woman asking me in the grocery store if I’d had a mastectomy. I said, ‘No’. But I wish I’d said, ‘That’s not really a question for a public place.’ But inside I was keeping my eyes fixed on hers, not wanting her to scan my body shape to see if she could tell what particular surgery I’d had. I’m pretty open with people, even those I hardly know, but I still want my shape to look pre-cancer. I love it when people say I look better than I did before the cancer. That somehow means the damage hasn’t been as bad as I think.
Just two days later was my birthday. Actually my 4th one since the diagnosis. A couple of weeks ago a friend ended an email with the phrase, ‘It’s good to have you in the land of the living.’ It really surprised me. Though I thought cancer (and the treatment) would kill me quick, I don’t find myself thinking everyday about still being alive. But birthdays are about life, even life in a body that’s been reshaped. And I’m happy to be here to celebrate another one. And I want to be happy about it, not just counting.
And the day in–between. You see because most days are in-between. Between processing what happened, ‘Did that really happen to me?’ And celebrating what is now possible—what I can go forward with. I’m going forward with my life, looking forward to more birthdays.
If I ignore what happened, try to shove it away in a box, like the wig under my dressing table, I deny the depth of the pain. I ignore the growth, turn away from the healed scars that are witnesses to trauma.
We live in-between the cross and the resurrection. I’m still trying to figure it out. My life with Jesus is so much richer when I remember the cross and his trauma on our behalf. And this life I’m living, looking forward to my own resurrection—new body, new home—I’m already reaping the rewards of Jesus’ resurrection.
So these three days—the anniversary of a surgery that literally reshaped my body, my 56th birthday, celebrating life, and the day in-between reminding me that we live between death and birth, trauma and healing, agony and hope. I’m really glad that this sequence for me put life after pain. My body is reshaped, it’s not the one I was born with and grew into. My life is also reshaped. You can’t always see it just by looking. I’m straining to live grateful in this life that’s been handed back to me. I’m processing so the scars represent healing and not bitterness.
I’m handing these days over to Jesus so that the in-between days aren’t me being stretched on the rack between living with a mangled breast and celebration days that aren’t very genuine because they ignore the pain of the journey. Jesus holds all these days and me. He says he is reshaping me—actually I was pretty mangled before the surgery—his vision of me is better than any I could wish for.
I don’t know what you’re living in–between. Are there markers, milestones that create the boundaries of your life? How do those boundaries impact the in-between days?
I keep coming back to these verses, maybe they seem extreme and dramatic. But if the extremes aren’t sorted then the in-betweens get messy.
For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. Philippians 1:20-24 NLT
So Jesus, take these 3 days—pain and celebration and whatever falls ‘in-between’—reshape me, for you see me like no one else. I’ll keep following you.
All my days are held in your hands.
Kim works in member care with One Collective, lives in Wales and loves to watch tennis. You can follow her cancer journey on CaringBridge or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her blog.