This is a guest post by Tonya, who shares her struggle with battling breast cancer. She describes how God revealed Himself to her during her lowest points and how He used her circumstances to bring her into a closer relationship with Him. Throughout periods of suffering and uncertainty, she learned how to rely on His Word to let go of fear, control, and worry so that He could transform her into a woman of strength. Her story, From Struggle to Strength (How to Not Give Up), is a remarkable story of how God uses everything – good and bad – for His glory and for the good of those who choose to follow Him.
On December 10, 2012, after several scans biopsies and ultrasounds, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Initially, I was mentally strong, which surprised the doctors and radiologist, but then the reality of my circumstances set in. I experienced a variety of emotions – first fear, then anger and confusion. I had been working diligently for the Lord, so I didn’t understand why he would allow this to happen to me. I then switched into survivor mode, researching tons of information regarding breast cancer, chemotherapy, radiation, and anything else associated with this disease.
Leading up to receiving my diagnosis, I came across a prayer in one of my favorite devotionals, My Utmost for His Highest, that stuck with me. It referenced Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. During a time that I was going back and forth for tests, I felt as if God had planned this for me in the specific season that I was in.
He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Matthew 26:39 (NLT)
I began to pray that prayer and ask God to remove the possibility of having cancer from my life. When I woke up at 2 a.m. on December 10th, the song I’m Gonna Be Ready by Yolanda Adams was ringing in my head. I laid prostrate before the Lord on my kitchen floor and poured out my heart to Him. I prayed that God would give me the peace that surpasses all understanding and prepare me to fight if necessary. Immediately, I felt the peace of God wash over me like a cool breeze. Just as the angel from heaven strengthened Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and prepared Him for what was about to happen, I was immediately strengthened and prepared to hear what the doctors had to say. Later that day, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
My Source of Hope and Strength
Following the diagnosis I was scheduled for a major seven hour surgery. There were only a handful of people who knew and I thought it was best to keep it that way at the time. I went through a roller coaster of emotions before my 1st surgery on January 30th, but God continued to send angels to minister to me when I was at my lowest point. He revealed Himself to me through music, including You’re Still God by Y’anna Crawley and Our God by Chris Tomlin. Both songs reminded me that no matter what I was going through, He is STILL God and He is in full control because He is greater, stronger, and higher than any other. He was and continues to be my Healer and He is awesome in power! That is the God I serve!
Throughout it all, I knew God had a plan, but there were times that I could not see the forest through the trees. This forced me to rely on Him for strength, put my trust in Him, and to continually acknowledge Him.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
After the first surgery, I had to go back for a second one and then began radiation treatment. However, the radiation was delayed because they saw something on my liver on a CT scan. (It later turned out to be benign.) Fear crept in again, but I had several people remind me of what God’s Word says. He has not given me the spirit of fear. He is with me and is the source of my strength. He will pull me through this!
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
The more I meditated on those verses the better I was able to do just that – to let go of the fear, press on with believing God’s Word, and remember that NO weapon formed against me would EVER prosper!
How God Has Used My Circumstances for Good
As I continued my battle against the cancer, God began to show me and place other women in my life who were going through the same thing. While going through my situation, a number of women were placed in my path who were either recently diagnosed, going for a follow-up due to a suspicious mammogram, or just not willing to get checked because they were afraid. I felt led to ask the GW Mammovan come to Community of Hope Church and do mammograms for free. This was such a blessing for both the community and for our church as many women received their mammograms without having to travel a long distance to do so. As a result, two women from our church had follow-up mammograms and many were able to get the education and resources they needed to take control of their health.
God often uses circumstances in our life to draw us closer to Him. While I had an awesome support system, God used my struggle with breast cancer to show me how to lean on Him, both to fight my own battle as well as encourage other women to not give up! As a result, my faith in God’s ability to do far above all that I could ever ask or think grew by leaps and bounds. The song Nothing Between My Soul And My Savior reminds me that it doesn’t matter what the doctor says or what trials I am faced with – nothing will ever separate me from God’s love. Nothing!
With having this diagnosis, I met with several different doctors and specialists, including a breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, radiation oncologist, hematology oncologist, physical therapist, and nutritionist. Seeing the nutritionist was very helpful as I had some nutrition issues that I wanted to change but didn’t know how. She informed me of how a poor diet could affect a person’s overall health and how changing it would reduce my chance of recurrence. That’s all it took for me to start making changes to my nutrition and exercise habits. Since my diagnosis, I have lost 30 pounds by changing the way I view food and by making exercise a part of my routine. This is an example of how God has used this experience to help me make positive lifestyle changes.
Becoming a Woman of Strength
The key message that I want to share with other women who may be going through periods of trial in their life is to always trust God! There will be bumps and bruises, you may get burned and even scarred, but our scars serve as a reminder of what God can do. He pulled me out of this one and he will do it again! I walk in healing, am now 3 ½ years out from my diagnosis, and my recent scans and blood work have all come back with positive results. Although not officially in remission, God is healing me.
I also want to encourage women to allow God to use the trials in their life to mold and shape them into women of strength! In order for a diamond to become a diamond, there must be pressure. In order for you to build muscle, there must be resistance. Struggle is what builds strength!
There is a difference between a strong woman and being a woman of strength. A strong woman works out every day to keep her body in shape, but a woman of strength kneels in prayer to keep her soul in shape. A strong woman walks sure-footedly, but a woman of strength knows God will catch her when she falls. A strong woman has faith that she is strong enough for the journey, but a woman of strength has faith that in the journey she will become strong. We all have situations that we face on a regular basis that make us believe that we ought to be strong women, however God is calling us to be women of strength. Our strength is not in our independence, but in our dependence on the One who can do exceedingly and abundantly above what we could ever imagine!
The struggle is real, but there is strength in the struggle! Today, I charge you to not only to be women who are strong, but to also become women of strength! Keep your eyes fixed on the Lord, let His Word penetrate your heart, and allow Him to bring life and healing!
“My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words. Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body.” Proverbs 4:20-22
If you would like to reach out to Tonya, you can leave a comment below or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a story you would like to share, please email me with “Broken to Beautiful” in the subject line and I will follow up with you. Thank you.
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