“It’s cancer!” I was numb and speechless as I heard those words shouted through sobbing, painful, hyperventilating, breaths on the other end of the phone. It was my sister’s voice and my 26-year-old niece, her daughter, Brenee, had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. I couldn’t think straight. Lord! What is going on? I had to hold myself together because I was at work. What was that verse of scripture I told myself I would repeat whenever I received news like this? Oh, yes, “I will not be afraid of bad news; my heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord” Psalm 112:7. I had to claim that because my heart was pounding as I sat holding the phone to my ear, staring at something, anything, on my desk to keep from bursting into tears.
Although it seems like just yesterday, that was 11 years ago. And since the beginning, I have watched Brenee travel all the hills and valleys associated with a cancer diagnosis, determined to be a conqueror, no matter what. She has even written a book!
So, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I asked her to share some of her journey with you. Please share this post because I know it will inspire you and someone you love. Blessings!
WHERE THE FAITH FITS IN:
Excerpt from Couture…ish: Diamond Year Edition
by Brenee Antoinette Hendrix
I am sure you have wondered or are wondering where the faith fits into all this. For me, my faith means everything. Since style is based so heavily on who you are, Faith is a key component for me.
Faith is a factor of life that helps us overcome the hurts of the past, deal with the issues of the present and keep hope in the success of the future. Faith is what keeps you going, pushing you to keep trying, to keep pressing on. Even though you may not see the light at the end of the tunnel, you have faith that it is indeed there. Uncovering, dealing with, and healing issues is a huge part of defining and cultivating your style. As women, a lot of us have been chained, in bondage to an unhealthy expectation of feminine perfection. Hoping to be like, look like, be shaped like...or maybe comparison has never been an issue; maybe you have never felt like there was ever a comparison. Perhaps you never felt like good enough, thin enough, or pretty enough. Maybe you used to feel great about yourself but find yourself struggling to do that now.
In order to eradicate these untruths, you must identify them and work through them, and believe me honey, faith is going to need to be front and center.
At age 26, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. I had to undergo almost a dozen surgeries and to date, I still have at least one more year worth of surgery to go. I had a mastectomy (removal of both breasts) and a tram flap (relocation of stomach muscle to breast area to act as breast tissue) just to name the 2 most painful. I endured a terrible bout with both intravenous and pill chemotherapy, which left me bald and in the hospital under quarantine.
Over 200 stitches, all over my body, bald and boobless...believe me when I say, Faith had better be a part of your journey because sometimes your faith may be the only thing you have left.
I felt that breast cancer had so unexpectedly and disrespectfully taken from me the visible signs of being a woman. People often said, "your breasts don't make you a woman" and "it's just hair it will grow back!" They meant well and were ignorant to how hurtful those statements were. They were hoping to be of comfort and were instead slowly and steadily pushing me deeper and deeper into depression. Duh! It's just hair but HOLD THE PHONE HOMIE!! That's MY hair!! And this wasn't just a bad haircut! This was bald!! B.A.L.D!!! Like baby's bottom bald!! This was cancer bald! Bald as a bowling ball!!
I get it, I have no breasts, but I can have a baby, I have a vagina and uterus, I am STILL a woman, but those 2 statements were so insensitive, so belittling of my trauma.
5 months after my diagnosis I founded a 501c3 nonprofit organization which provided support for women, educational workshops, and classes, and I even taught myself how to make wigs!! I mean, I went all in!!!
Speaking engagements every weekend, special events during the week, visiting hospitals and bedsides providing support, and ignoring the fact that I myself needed support. I needed a freaking hug!! I held so tightly to the vision of helping others that I made no room for faith for myself. I gave myself no room for crying, no slack, no grace, no time to process.
Faith is an amazing source of healing. Even though faith is based on believing in the unseen future, there is a peace that it gives you. The hair, the boobs, the makeup, the clothes, shoes, the relationships...even the job.... these are all accessories in life, some more important than others but you are a powerful life force, and it is the faith that takes you from feeling like “no man will want me looking like this” to “any man would be blessed to have me."
Faith helps you to keep in perspective the sorrows, the disappointments, heartbreaks, disease and illness, these things are here to cultivate you to who you are called to be, they are molding you like iron in the fire to create a sharp and indestructible work of art. Faith teaches you that the source of joy you seek doesn't come from outside sources, it comes from the faith and belief within that you deserve, will and currently have joy.
You can get your copy of COUTURE...ish at www.maisondeantoinette.com