I met Ann Marie in my first year of Bible College, back in 1999. I was the new girl, transplanted from farm to city; totally out of my element and wanting so desperately to find friends. Ann Marie was one of those smiling faces that welcomed me in, even though I was 10 years younger. A few of us would often sit in the back row of class, giggling about the guys we liked or wondering how in the world we were going to memorize SEVEN Bible verses that week!
Ann Marie and I have gone to the same church for those 15 years, and while we haven’t been ‘sit-down-for-coffee-every-week’ kind of friends, she always has a warm word to say and been curious about my life. Through months of chemo, with the prayers and support of friends and family, Ann Marie has finished her final round of chemo, and awaits an operation in January.
Cancer has touched us all in some way – family or friends, or personally. What I love about Ann Marie’s journey is that it is so evident that in our trials, Jesus is so near her. He delights in revealing His love and presence in those times in a way that is hard to understand outside of a trial. God’s grace is magnified, and we’re enabled to walk, one day at a time.
So world, meet my friend Ann Marie…
*No one anticipates getting the news, you have cancer, but as a believer in Jesus, you know He saw it coming. How did the Lord prepare you for this fight?
I first found the lump in December 2013 while taking a shower. It concerned me, but not really. On January 22, 2014 I saw my family doctor and she said that everything was fine. As a 42-year-old woman who never had a mammogram before, I didn’t think to request one, or request any further testing. My Doctor said everything was fine, so I took her by her word. Sometimes I would think of it, and feel the lump, but thought it must just be a cyst.
In the beginning of April, I felt the lump again and noticed a difference; the lump had gotten bigger and I could hold it with my fingers. I decided to book an appointment, and couldn’t get in until April 25.
One night, I was lying in bed by myself, and kept feeling the lump. I can’t remember what was going through my mind. For some reason, I started to feel underneath my left armpit. I don’t know why I did that, but I did. Without a shadow of a doubt, it was God’s hand on me. Sure enough, I felt a distinct hard lump, like a marble. I went to the walk in clinic the next day.
On Monday, April 14 the Doctor I saw examined me and right away requested a mammogram and an ultra sound. I started to cry. I could hear the urgency in his voice. He told me that if I don’t get a phone call to book the mammogram or ultra sound within two weeks, to call him. I drove home, got inside my house, and cried and prayed. I asked God that I would not have to wait two weeks to get in. I couldn’t stop crying.
Within 5 minutes of me praying, my phone rang. It was the clinic! The lady asked me if I had a flexible schedule or not. I told her that I would come at anytime they could get me in. She said, “Okay I’ll call you right back.” Another 5 minutes later, she called and asked if I could come in the next day!
Tuesday April 15. Andrew took me to my appointment. I felt nervous and not very talkative. I had my mammogram done and then went in for my ultrasound. The lady started, and near the end, she went and got a Doctor to come in. I knew that wasn’t a good sign. They took me to a separate room, and went and got Andrew. They saw something “suspicious” in the ultra sound, and I had to go back to the Doctor and get a requisition for a biopsy. Everything was happening so fast. He gave me the paperwork for the biopsy, and told me again, it may take a few weeks to get in. When we got in the truck, I noticed I missed a phone call from the clinic. I called, and they got me in for two days later!
I knew God’s hand was on me. When I told my story to Rhonda (a friend who is a doctor), she was amazed how quickly everything was progressing. She told me that she had to fight to get her patients in, and they had a minimum wait of three weeks.
I think deep down, I knew, once I had the mammogram and ultra sound. I wouldn’t say anything out loud of course, being a full-blooded Indian woman, (half Cree, half Iroquois) I felt a warrior spirit come upon me, and knew that I would FIGHT the devil. (2 Timothy 1:7 “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of a self discipline.”)
I knew I had to walk in God’s truth, grace and love to get through this. I also knew that walking in thankfulness, raises my spirit to a whole new level. I am always thankful from the littlest things, to the big things, and declare it out! God has given me peace right from the start. I felt it and knew Who was in control.
Every time I walk into the cancer clinic, I choose to walk in with a thankful heart. I try my best to smile, talk to people, (patients & the nurses) and be ready to have a conversation with someone, or pray for someone. My desire and prayer, is that I reflect Christ to those that don’t have Jesus in their life……yet.
This passage in Philippians 4:4-9 really helped and so did Ephesians 6.
“Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again. Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything – but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.
*What was it like the day you found out the news from the doctor and what was your initial reaction?
Thursday April 24 at 2:45pm I received the phone call from Rhonda. (She isn’t my Doctor, but I talked to her about my situation, and asked if she could keep an eye out for my results and let me know. I had my appointment booked with my family Doctor on April 25. I knew I would rather hear from a friend if I could.)
She told me quickly, “Ann-Marie, it is breast cancer.” I remember asking if she was sure. I then said, “I can’t believe it.” I know she told me about the next few steps that would take place, but I don’t remember what she said. I thanked her for letting me know and hung up. I called Andrew and told him.
A couple of co-workers in the office knew what was going on. One lady came into my office, and closed the door. I just looked at her, and said, “It is cancer.” Stage 3 breast cancer.
I hugged her and cried.
As it turned out, I had made plans with Daniel to take him to the skateboard park afterschool. I stopped crying, and asked God to give me strength to face my boy. My friend brought her son and Daniel to the park and I met them there. Once the boys were busy skating, I told Lynette, it was cancer. I told her not to look at me, because I would cry, and I didn’t want Daniel to see. I asked her if she could take Daniel home for supper, so that Andrew and I could have some alone time to talk.
When I got home, Andrew arrived within minutes. He walked in the door, looked at me and said, “Oh my baby.” We held each other and cried. I was so scared, and all I could think about was my husband and son. I felt numb; just thinking the word cancer was incomprehensible to me. That night, when we were laying in bed, we held hands, and declared that during this trial, we would choose to glorify God through it all, and we prayed for salvations. We wanted my journey/trial to reflect Christ, so that others may see Him.
I have to say that from the moment I heard the diagnosis, to this present day, I have not been angry with God. I never questioned Him and or asked ‘why me?’
*How have you come to live differently because of your fight against cancer?
I say I love you more to my family and friends. I smile more. I don’t stop doing life. I try my best to keep doing what I’ve always done. (Except working right now) Take care of my family, go to church, drive my son to school when I can, cook yummy meals for my husband, spend time with my parents and sister, Find out what’s going on in my friends lives. It’s not all about me. Life keeps going and I just try my best to be a part of it.
*What do you understand about Gods grace and love differently than you ever could’ve without this trial?
As Christians, we know that Jesus died on the cross for us, and that we have eternal life. I’ve always understood that, and accepted it. Now, I REALLY get that love and understand it in a deeper sense. I can’t explain it. When I read scripture, God’s love is magnified to me. I’m not afraid to die, because I know I will go to heaven. I also know, the time isn’t yet. I have a family that I love, and I pray that I will see my son’s grandchildren. There is a peace in me that I can’t really put into words. I feel it, and its complete love!
There was a short period during the summer, where I started to feel ashamed. Ashamed that I am fighting breast cancer, that I was bald, I couldn’t do things like I used to without being exhausted, and not looking like a woman. For those that knew me before, knew what kind of hair I had. I used to get so many compliments about my curls and colour. I realized, I made those compliments, believe that was my beauty. The shame that tried to come on me, and the feeling of being robbed of my beauty was hard on me.
God spoke to me through his word, and reminded me that He took my shame, and my beauty is my spirit, not my outward appearance. I love God, and that, is beauty in itself. The devil comes to destroy, and I chose to build myself up in worship, prayer and ‘God’s word. Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord. In heaven, on earth, and under the earth.
*What has meant the most to you about how people have supported you and how can we pray for you right now?
I don’t like to ask for help. Through all of this, I have learned to ask for help! Whether it was for meals, driving Daniel to school, run errands for me or take me to appointments. I was overwhelmed with phone calls, texts, cards in the mail from friends, showing me their love and support. I even received gifts! My family and I sure felt the love. The people at my office sure supported me and showed me their love. Our church family has been amazing!
Even Daniel’s school, have given us so much support. I went to prayer and praise at Destiny one day. The children prayed for me, which was amazing. Those little hands reaching out to me, agreeing for healing and wholeness. Afterwards, one girl from grade 9 came to me and said that when they were praying, she saw me, and saw the word cancer. She saw a hand with an eraser, erasing cancer, and the words, My child (in red) were written over me. Isn’t that amazing?
I also have to say that there is a group of women in my life, near and far, that held me up in prayer from the very beginning. Before I was actually diagnosed with breast cancer. Whenever I faced a physical issue, fear, tests, treatments, sadness, these women circled me with their mighty prayers and love. It has been amazing.
I won’t lie, there were some days after chemo, I did not pray, listen to worship music or read my bible. I was either too tired and in pain, and didn’t have the energy or desire. Somehow, I managed through those times. When I went to church the following weekends, people would come up to me and say I’ve been praying for you Ann-Marie. I know they had been, because I honestly felt those prayers and love. When we pray for others, we can’t underestimate our words, because when we come together in prayer, even unknowingly, God hears and delivers 🙂 .
Now, the next step in my journey is surgery in January. For prayer requests, I ask that people agree with me that they get all the cancer OUT of me, and that my lymph nodes that they take out come back clear; meaning no cancer. I am nervous for surgery, I’ve never been under anesthetic before! I will be having a lumpectomy on my left breast, and they will go in under my left armpit for the lymph nodes. I pray that I recover well and fast.
I am asking everyone who reads this to pray for complete healing for Ann Marie and that she has the best Christmas ever with her family! Thank you Ann Marie for sharing your story, and for inspiring us all to live more thankful in our every day lives!
UPDATE JANUARY 21, 2015: Ann Marie has been declared free of cancer from her doctor this week! Praise. Thank you for all who prayed!!