This is me, Amy and my sister Joy. We recently got together camping in the Ozarks after Amy moved back to California. It was a wonderful time of being together. 4 years ago my friend Amy started a fight and won the battle through the grace of God – that battle – breast cancer! Today I remember- I repost. It is a good thing to write the things we go through, painful as they are, down. Life happens and time distances from pain and struggle, the memory fades. But God’s faithfulness endures forever. Today I REMEMBER HIS FAITHFULNESS.
– Oct 8, 2015
When your friend has breast cancer…what do you do?
You stand alongside! …or should I say you WALK!
This year we walked with AMY at the 21st Annual Especially for You Race Against Breast Cancer Walk. She is there in the center bottom with the pink scarf and gloves on.
This is what Friendships of Love is about….
Supporting with love
LIVING TOGETHER….doing LIFE TOGETHER.
I have been writing her story through my eyes as a way to process what was going on. It is from the perspective of someone who is watching another go through cancer and with her permission I want to share that with you all here. Not to toot my horn or say oh look at what I did, but as a testimony of what & how God takes situations that look like destruction and can bring something good through it.
ALONGSIDE BREAST CANCER
There is a Lump
Amy called to say that she was having a biopsy. I thought to myself “Oh, ok they will check it out, it will be nothing and all will be well!“ When I got this news my mind went into an automatic protect mode. I blocked out all the possible bad stuff. I didn’t know anything after all. She hadn’t gotten any results.There wasn’t anything definite, even though I knew her history. Her mother died from breast cancer when she was in her teens. I couldn’t even image what that was like for her. I could imagine that just having a lump was enough to scare the hell out of her. So what do you say when you don’t know? I said “don’t freak out, you don’t know anything yet?” I was hoping and praying that she would not have the diagnosis that her mother did. I knew that was one of her biggest fears. So we waited….
I got a call from my sister. I was on the treadmill at the gym, doing my routine thing. Joy said “She called me, its cancer.” She said “you have to call her, she going to your house, are you home.” I wasn’t! My sister lives 4 hours away. The urgency in her voice was telling me that she needed me to be her arms for Amy. I headed to my house. In the car I prayed “Lord I don’t know what to say, I have no words, Help me!
Amy was already there when I called. I said “I’m coming! I’m almost there! She was crying and understandably upset. I pulled up. I can still see the look on her face. She was shocked, stunned, afraid, lost and angry all at once. I opened my arms and she fell into me. We just stood there for a minute. I thought to myself what do you say when you don’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to say. I don’t know how this feels. I never have been here before. I just knew in that moment I wasn’t going anywhere. I was walking this thing through with her. So I said “I’m so sorry! I don’t have any words.” This really was a strange thing for me. I am a blogger. I write. Words are what I do. Words had always been my friend but that day they failed me. How is it that I didn’t have any? Really I didn’t have any and it was through this honesty that I found was absolutely what she needed. I was able to be as vulnerable as she was. We went in the house and sat down at my dining table. All I remember her saying is “THIS SUCKS!” And she cried. My mind was racing for words and they slowly began to flow. I remember saying “you will get through this!” “Don’t count yourself out!” It isn’t easy to hold on to hope when you don’t know the answers. I could just imagine if it were me how I would be feeling. I tried to stepped into her shoes. Feeling the thoughts she may have been feeling like – am I going to die, what’s going to happen, who’s going to help me, what about my daughter? I could feel the fear clouding over her.
When your friend gets a diagnosis like that you feel helpless in a way. Prayer becomes your friend. You find yourself checking your own breast for lumps in the middle of the night. The fear creeps in on your thoughts. You think of all of the what-ifs and you wonder what will happen. None of us know what the days hold. We get dealt the hand in life we get. We can’t change that. However we can do something called: Cultivate Hope! That is what I set out to do for Amy.
Week after diagnosis
The week after diagnosis was a whirl wind for Amy. Appointments lined the week. The initial consultation appointment is where they gave her a general run down of what is going to happen, really this is the appointment that is to break you in for the shock of information overload. She got a book about her cancer. It was an inch thick with many chapters to read as she goes along. They gave her a general overview of what would be happening from that point through going to chemo. Your mind can only handle so much information. The appointment was so broad that you left feeling like you could at least breath, I think it made it a little easier when going through the more detailed appointments because you were able to chew a little bit now and had something to link to later.
She also met with a genetic consultant the same day. The worry with Amy was that she had a genetic disposition to cancer. This genetics consultant made a family tree, sadly there where many in her family that had died of cancer just not all of the same kind. They took blood and we waited for the results. The fear was the she was a carrier of a genetically passed cancer. The statistics were that if the test was positive her daughter would have a 50% shot of not getting this. That was a weight that Amy was struggling to carry. The next day she would visit the oncologist and the surgeon. By the end of that day she was pretty well worn out. She was trying to be strong to hold herself together. One thing we (my sister and I) did was allow her to cry. We cried with her, but we didn’t let her stay in that place. We also made her laugh. I took up sending her a daily email. I wanted to make sure that while she was at work she had something to think on. I sent bible verses, quotes of encouragement, funny pictures, fun things she could do with her daughter. I would surf the net and whatever popped out that said in my heart “AMY” I would send it to her.
One of her tests returned from the oncologist that said she was positive for something called HER-2 which meant that her cancer would not respond to hormone repressing drugs. It also brought on fear about the genetics test. A high percentage of people that have HER-2 also have the genetics test results as positive. The waiting really was one of the worst parts. The not knowing is enough to tear a person apart inside.
I was sitting at lunch with another friend and my grandma when I got the text. It said “NEGATIVE!” I could have cried in that moment. Amy would keep her ovaries and her daughter was clear of genetically passed cancer. It was such a moment of relief. I was so thankful.
Amy decided that the best choice for her was a double mastectomy. She met with her surgeon and he agreed with her that, that would be a good choice for her. Amy’s mom died of breast cancer. She was in remission when the cancer returned. Amy didn’t want to leave the option of cancer returning to her breasts. Not having a double mastectomy meant that she would have a daily worry that her cancer could come back. Amy opted to leave that worry with her breasts in the operating room.
Amy’s choice tested my resilience. My insides hurt for her having to make this terrible and yet lifesaving choice. Her bravery and strength was simply amazing. From this side of it, to give your own selfish opinion is not what is needed. I wanted her to have a lumpectomy. I understood her choice intellectually. It was emotionally, I fear and I would see Amy struggle with thoughts of “Am I less of a women without these parts.” I struggled within myself with worry about how she would feel. I couldn’t hold that weight of worry. And I refused to. I had to remember that I have a God. A God I could cast my cares upon and focus on the fact that He had called me to love and serve her. How do I know? I know because she is in my life. My heart was compelled to uphold her through Him. I knew that He would hold me and in turn would hold her through me. Watching her make the daily choice to not let the fear and worry consume her was strengthen to me.
Amy’s step mom asked me a few days before surgery if I would help Amy with sponge baths since she wouldn’t be here. I agreed. My mind swirled with seeing her scars, seeing her beautiful lifesaving scars. I thought about washing her feet and her hair. Just the thought of serving her that way was deeply spiritual for me. I imagined humming songs of praise as I washed the feet of my friend. Perhaps how Christ may have washed His disciples feet. My heart was ready for this task.
The night before her surgery I went over to her house and talk about the details of the next couple of days. We talked about where her daughter would be, and last minute things that needed to be done. I wanted to know what she wanted so that I could help make that happen.
The Choice to walk
Amy was already signed up to do the Race against Breast Cancer a month before her diagnosis. I thought “how uncanny that is!” She didn’t know that the Race she wanted to be a supporter to would become a part of her support also. My sister and I were talking on the phone about doing this walk and setting up a team. I called Amy to see if she would like to do a team. She said “Absolutely!“ I marveled at her courage. So I got online only to find out that the team deadline was two days past. I am not easily swayed or one to give up. So, I emailed the director. I told her that our friend was diagnosed the previous Wednesday and that she wanted to do a team. I asked if that was possible. She wrote back enthusiastically willing to help us. The schools had not sent in their paper work yet. We had until Tuesday. It was Friday and it was also a three day weekend. I walked into the Especially for You Race against Cancer office with 28 team mates paperwork. Team Houtz was born.
I sent her good morning uplift, it was a photo that said “Be calm & trust Jesus.” We were all up at the hospital at 9 am. I didn’t really know what to do. I knew I wanted to be there but I didn’t want to impose. I don’t know why I felt that way. I know that my presence to her is friendship not inconvenience. After thinking about it some, it is simply fear that would keep me away, so I chose love and went to the hospital. I am glad that I did. I met Amy’s dad Gary. He was going to be here to help Amy for a couple of weeks after the surgery. I let him know that he could call me anytime if they needed anything. He appreciated that. They took Amy in to the prep room. I went in first. I told I would pray and that it would all be ok. I would see her when she woke up.
The doctors came out and said that the surgery went well. They took three lymph nodes for testing but said they looked good and that they were very optimistic. We went to her room after she was settled and she looked good. The next day I went to the hospital around 5 in the afternoon on Friday. They were getting ready to release her to go home. I told her I would meet her at her house. It was time for a hair wash.
She was slow moving but doing very well when she arrived at home. She was interesting in having her hair washed. I got to wash and brush her hair. She thanked me and I told her I would be back the next day. I left her house thinking about the women who washed Jesus’s feet with her tears. I thought about how He said “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” and I was determined to do that for my friend. I thought about how my sister washed my Sister in Law’s hair after her brain surgery. In my mind, I was so thankful to do for Amy what another did for my Sister in Law.
I came over the next day knowing I would help her get into the tub with a few inches of water and help her wash up and I also washed her feet. I wondered if it would be weird but it was such a spiritual moment for me. We laughed and talked about how we will never forget this moment. Our silly sides came out and we joked, making the moment easy to be in. I was so thankful to be in that bathroom. So glad to just be a friend. To be hands and feet.
A moment with Amy’s Dad
After the bath, Amy was in her room. I walked in the kitchen and Gary said “ I really want to thank you for all you are doing?” He was choking back his emotions and said “ being so far away during this time has been really difficult….I don’t know what I would do….if…..my daughter” I said “ I know…its hard. You have been here before.” He looked at me and said “ yes…her mother.” I said “ it is understandable…its going to be ok and you know what when you aren’t here, I will be!” And with that he gave me a big hug and said “ thank you!” I wanted to easy his thoughts and emotions. I let him know what I would have wanted someone to let me know if I lived so far away through something like this. I reassured him that there would be people helping her through this. I would be here helping her through this. As a parent you want to do everything you can and when you can’t, well I can imagine it feels a bit helpless.
A week before the walk Amy attended Church with us. She had come a few times before. I was glad to see her there. After church I was driving her home and she said “ You know what? I really like that fact that the Pastor came over and talked to me after I raised my hand.” I said “ What? You did that?? You asked the Lord to be your Savior?” She said “ Yep, I did that!”
I was so HAPPY!!! and even happier for HER…what a journey and testimony she will have through this!!
On October 2nd we walked with Amy. We stood together with her. I made bracelets to thank those who put their hands to work for her during her time of need.I want these people to know that what they did was a wonderful gift to my friend. That their deeds do not go unnoticed by others. That there hearts where lined up with the heart of God who sends His Angels to take care of us.
The day of the walk was beautiful and cold but our hearts were warm with love for our friend. Our purple shirts each had identical logos on them with a statement that rings true.
WHEN WE DO LIFE TOGETHER – HOPE HAPPENS !!
Fight with your friends!!
That is what you do when you are friends….
you fight the down side of life with the upside of friendship and love.
Amy she starts chemo on Oct.12th.
She will be baptized the following Sunday.
Through this all …
God has shown His hand of Goodness
and His message of HOPE.
Oct. 7, 2011