Stage I Intermediate Grade Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma of the Breast
By Lonna Williams
My childhood wasn’t easy. My father, a hopeless alcoholic who had been in and out of hospitals, shot himself to death in front of me and my mother when I was almost five years old. My mother, blaming herself for his death, soon became an alcoholic herself. She dragged my younger brother and me around the continental United States. I lived in more states than most people visit. I attended more schools than I can list.
Then, at age fourteen, I went to a Bible study at a friends’ house. There I heard the simple Good News that Christ came to this earth to die and rise again for people like me. I asked Him to forgive my sins (yes, I had some) and come into my heart and life. He did. I found a local Baptist church, joined the choir and youth group, went off to a Christian college . . . then (at eighteen) moved to California to get married.
I had two children. My mother died when I was twenty-four. My brother disappeared a few months later. My marriage failed, I encountered child custody problems, got my Master’s degree in English, taught college English, wrote several unpublished novels and some published poems, married a fellow writer/English teacher, had two more children, published a novel, and then found a lump in my breast. I was nursing my youngest child. He was only five months old. I was thirty-eight.
“God,” I prayed, taking a breath in my eventful and somewhat traumatic life, “You couldn’t possibly give me cancer.”
Neither my husband nor I had full-time teaching jobs with proper medical benefits, security, or adequate income. I had to keep working and dealing with babysitters and juggling classes and kids . . . I couldn’t take time out to get a life-threatening illness.
My husband Edd held my hands and prayed with me (tears in his voice) while we waited for the biopsy results,
“Please don’t let it be cancer.”
After our prayer, I walked into the children’s room which was lit only by a blue nightlight and watched baby Jonathan and three-year-old Jessica sleep (my oldest, teenagers now, were with their father and stepmother in Washington). “God,” I pleaded, “Don’t shove my life in my face. Don’t make me think about leaving them.”
God answered my prayer, but in a different way than I expected. Jesus never promised that we wouldn’t suffer on this earth–He himself endured pain for our sakes and then rose in new life. He proved that beauty can come at the end of suffering.
The lump turned out to be non-hodgkins lymphoma, intermediate grade. Before I knew it, I had a CAT-scan and a bone marrow biopsy (these tests determined that I was in Stage 1 of the disease–good news). Then I entered The Chemo Room. For four months, while I continued teaching four classes at two Southern California colleges and taking care of my household and children, I got chemotherapy treatments–bright-colored liquids from I.V. bags that took two hours a session to enter my veins. The chemicals themselves were labled “Danger–Carcinogens.” The nurses who mixed them wore masks, thick gloves, and blue surgical smocks.
Edd helped with the housework and kids. He went with me to The Chemo Room and sat in the green recliner next to mine, beneath the tall steel poles which held I.V. bags. Friends from church brought casseroles and babysat the children.
Besides the nausea that followed each treatment and the inevitable hair loss, I actually felt pretty good through the chemo, much better than while sick with the cancer (even when I was pregnant with Jonathan, I had felt achy, feverish, and exhausted most of the time).
Now, nearly three years since I finished chemotherapy, I still feel well. My husband has a full-time, tenure-tract teaching position at a local college. I’ve “retired” from teaching to stay home with our little ones. Recently, I finally finished my book “Walk through the Chemo Room” (with photos) and hope to see it published soon. Jonathan is 3 1/2 years old. Jessica, 6 1/2, works well in first grade. My two oldest children, Kristen and Ryan, visit us when they can. I write and work on my Homepage and Internet links when the kids are busy. I attend a breast cancer support group and sometimes speak to groups about my cancer experience. God has richly blessed me and my family.
I know the cancer may return. None of us is guaranteed a long lifespan. Sometimes I’m afraid I’ll find another lump and have to face chemo–or early death–again. Then I remember some words the Apostle Paul wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
Visit my web page for more of my Book, Walk through the Chemo Room and photos. Also you can email me at [email protected].
This CancerGuide Page By Lonna Williams. © Lonna Williams
Last Updated: April 21, 1999