Brave. (adj.) Ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.
This word is also a noun and a verb. Pretty much wherever you need it to, brave will show up. The idea of brave has buzzed around in my mind for a while now. I see so many people living brave lives. We’re all called to a bravery of sorts. Dealing with what daily life hands us. Fighting shame and frustration from our past. And some of us do that very well.
Today, however, I want to share the stories of two beautiful women. Who both battle breast cancer. I hate cancer. They do too. Would you take a few moments out of your busy day to celebrate these women with me? Yes, we all live brave lives. But sometimes the brave that is expected of us is, well, greater than what we have to offer. These women cling to Jesus.
They are brave as they battle for their lives. They never wanted to have to be this brave. But they are.
Meet Krista. I first met her in the fall of 1993. My first college roommate. Although she moved around some as a child, she had most recently come from Maryland. And she had a slight accent. I knew right away college life with Krista was sure to be an adventure.
Krista and I had so many differences. Facing so much new, I quietly observed things before jumping into the waters while Krista climbed up the ladder and went plunging off the high dive the first week. She, um, ironed her jeans. She played soccer competitively. She dated a male cheerleader.
Different. So different.
Our common ground was a love for Jesus. Also, Krista had this way about her. She always accepted me for who I was. I didn’t have to be just like her. As different as we were, I loved my semester with her and I still carry lessons she taught me.
Facebook reconnected us many years later. I enjoyed the updates on where life had taken my friend. Still different from me, she had become a competitive weight lifter. For fun.
In April of this year, Krista shared some devastating news on Facebook. She’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. She started a CaringBridge page and gives us regular updates as she bravely fights this disease. Again, not because she wants to, but because what choice does she have?
With her permission, here are a few exerts from the latest post on her page:
“‘I guess my biggest issue right now is that I hurt. I ache. How long can I expect that to continue? When will the body aches stop? How do I manage the pain long term? I don’t want to be taking pain medicine forever...’ I rattled off to my oncologist during my appointment yesterday.
‘Have you slowed down your activity level? Are you exercising?,’ he responded rhetorically.
Deflated I replied, ‘I haven’t really exercised since this all started. It’s been like seven months since I lifted weights. I mean, I walk, but that’s not the same.’
Absently he countered, ‘The aches will likely get better once you resume your normal activity level.’
Sitting on the end of the examination table, I froze. Time stopped. I replayed his words in my head and concentrated on what they meant to me. So, [pause with deep inhale], you’re telling me [pause] that you are okay with me going to the gym tomorrow and lifting?‘ I held my breath and stared at him waiting for his reply.
My body was frozen on the table but my mind was racing fast. Could it be possible that I have crossed a finish line? Seven months of doctors and hospitals and surgeries and medicines and pain and missing work and missing kids’ activities and generally being laid-up. Seven months, and now, is it true that I have made it to the other side? That I can have my life back?”
Meet Kelly. I first met Kelly at church. She attended our Wednesday morning Bible study for a while. I liked her right away. Kelly has five children. Brave. Already.
She’s real and shares her love of Jesus with everyone she meets. One thing Kelly has taught me is to always choose truth. She places a high value on integrity.
Just before going into surgery last Thursday, Kelly shared this post on Facebook:
“Hey everyone, Just wanted to share some news about a journey our family has recently found ourselves on. I hesitated to post on Facebook until we could share with as many family and friends as we could in person, but now feel led to ask for your prayers and support. I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and am having surgery today.
No family history or real risk factors. For any of you who know me personally, I would not be able walk this path without my faith, family, and friends.
Also, as a nurse, I have felt led to ask everyone who crosses my path if they are doing regular self exams and also up to date on a mammogram if appropriate. Please feel free to private message me if you are committing to regular self exams or have scheduled an overdue screening, that would help me to feel that God is using my situation for a greater good and purpose. I love the saying ‘Don't worry about tomorrow, God is already there.’”
As I always do before sharing a part of someone’s story on here, I checked with these women for permission. They graciously said yes. No, more than that, they enthusiastically agreed.
“I feel honored you thought of me. I was thinking while I showered about your message and how God has worked in an awesome way through my cancer journey. God has used my journal to reach out to a number of other women fighting a similar battle. It's been really cool. I think that's why I'm excited about your post, because it will reach out to even more.”
“Yes, post away. If my story can help someone, that would be an honor and blessing to me. I have had over 20 women mention they have scheduled their exams... One was almost 50 and had never done a mammogram due to fear. It is blessing me to feel like the Lord is using this journey for a greater purpose.
After we got very good reports at the hospital last Monday, this was the sky my husband and I saw when we left the building.”
For me, brave is the new beautiful. I read updates on the journeys of these women and I cry. Looking at their pictures, I can trace how God has changed them for the better. In new ways, their story has Him all over it. I don’t want to live their story. No one does. But I hope we can learn about bravery from them. Thanks, ladies for showing us how.