Cancer impacts individuals, families, friends

Lia Hillman, Features Editor

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, it’s hard to imagine the feeling of the statistics becoming real.

Hannah Christian and her mom, a breast cancer survivor. Courtesy Photo

According to the U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics report, one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer.

“If having cancer is the worst thing to happen in my life, my life has been easy,” Brenda Christian said.

Brenda is a breast cancer survivor.

She was first diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma in Situ in December 2006.

“My first breast cancer was found on a routine mammogram screening,” she said.

“The cancer was caught very early, and it was treated with surgery and radiation.

Then in May 2014, Brenda was diagnosed with another form of breast cancer called Invasive Lobular Carcinoma.

“I was not a candidate for radiation since I had already had radiation the first time,” she said.

“So my treatment included bilateral mastectomy and chemotherapy.”

During treatment, Brenda said she had encouragement from medical staff.

Her nurses had also had breast cancer treatments themselves.

“It was great having them as nurses because they knew exactly what I was experiencing,” she said.

She also said she had the same surgical team twice in 2014.

“Each time, the first thing the surgical nurse said to me was ‘I have been praying for you this morning’,” Brenda said.

“Nothing could have made me feel more confident about surgery than those words.”

Brenda said her main concern was to make sure she still maintained a healthy lifestyle.

She also didn’t want the cancer to interfere with her family’s activities and lives.

“I think a cancer diagnosis is harder on the family of the patient than on the patient themselves,” she said.

“My family was so supportive, positive and upbeat even though they were more worried about me than I was.

Brenda’s daughter, Hannah, is currently a senior at Oklahoma Baptist University.

“My relationship with my mom is the best,” Hannah said.

“She’s my rock. She’s literally been there for me in every trial of my life and continually shows me Christ’s love and mercy.”

Hannah said that many aspects of life can be hard, especially when a loved one has breast cancer.

“It’s okay to not be okay,” she said.

“But I can promise you that one day the suffering and pain will end.”

Hannah said to have faith that God will heal suffering.

“It may not end how we want it, but Revelation 21:4 says He is going to wipe away every tear,” she said.

Brenda also found support from other patients and cancer survivors.

A friend of hers also going though treatment contacted her about starting a support group.

“So four days after my first chemo, three of us met at a small coffee shop on main street in Elk City and formed PALS,” Brenda said.

PALS, which stands for Providing Agape Love and Support, was formed as a cancer support group and card ministry for anyone affected by cancer, including patients, survivors, care givers and nurses.

“The five original founders of PALS were all breast cancer survivors,” Brenda said.

“This group of Christian ladies helped me more than words can say.”

Brenda said the bond she shares with those women is like a sisterhood.

“They made sure my chemo journey was much more bearable,” she said.

“God’s timing was perfect in providing that support for me.”

Cancer awareness is important to Brenda.

“My PALS group has a Relay for Life team to help with cancer awareness and research,” she said.

“I also participate in some 5K runs and walks to promote breast cancer awareness.”

Hannah is also passionate about breast cancer awareness.

“I wear pink as often as I can,” Hannah said.

“I have a breast cancer awareness ribbon tattoo on my wrist that provokes many conversations.”

Hannah, who is a nursing major, has many conversations with people about being aware of breast cancer.

“I talk to patients all the time about health screening,” she said.

“I have a passion for helping people.”

Brenda also offers her own advice to those impacted with breast cancer.

“Find a group of believers to pray with you and support you through this journey,” she said.

“I would also suggest to pray for the doctors and nurses.”

Brenda said having cancer has had some impact on her outlook on life.

“I suppose maybe cancer has made me more aware to appreciate – appreciate all people, things, beauty and actions,” she said.

“I hope it has helped me be a more kind and compassionate person.”

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