By Harvest resident Nicole Jasien
This year is finally coming to an end. It’s been a hard and unpredictable year. No one could have imagined everything we would have to go through in 2020–from a global pandemic to the economy collapsing causing many to become unemployed. We’ve been navigating an entirely new world, and it has not been easy.
Personally, 2020 has felt like my 2012. In May of 2012, I was a 28-year-old wife with two daughters, eight and six, and a four year old son. I was working as a loan officer and was enjoying building my career. My life was in the best place it had ever been.
Then out of nowhere, much like this pandemic, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was aggressive and advanced. I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me. I didn’t know that it was even possible for someone my age to get breast cancer. Everything was a blur that year as I was rushed in for a double mastectomy, followed by a very harsh chemotherapy regimen and radiation treatment.
As I went into 2013, I was hoping that I was cured and that I could put cancer behind me, but in my soul I knew something was not right. By September, I was having severe pain in my bones. In November, it was confirmed that not only was the cancer back, but it has spread and become stage IV, which is considered terminal. I sat in my doctor’s office and was told I had 18-24 months to live. It was completely devastating and just like that I was thrust into a world of constant uncertainty.
The last 8.5 years have been full of unpredictable twists and turns for me. When you are a terminal cancer patient, the only constant is that you will continue some form of cancer treatment for the rest of your life. Every three months, I get scans and treatment is then based on whatever those scans reveal. While some people stay in remission for years, others never respond to treatment and die quickly.
At first, this uncertainty was very difficult to comprehend. I hate not knowing and unfortunately that is the theme of cancer. What is reality one day is not reality the next day.
I started 2020 with one tiny tumor in my spine, after being in remission for almost two years on a treatment that I easily tolerated. In the middle of the year, cancer showed up in my lungs and began to spread rapidly. I almost died from an infection after being put on a much harsher treatment to help stop the spread. My body, thankfully, is responding to the harsh treatment and I am ending 2020 with less cancer in my lungs.
The main thing that has helped me deal with the anxiety of living with the unknown is my faith in God. In the beginning of my cancer journey I used to ask God, “Why are you doing this to me?” Then I started to spend time in the Bible and in prayer and realized that God was not doing this to me. I realized that He was a good father who loved me.
As a mother, I would never cause this kind of pain to my own child and neither would God. I found that if I started asking different questions that He could show me how He could take something as evil as cancer and make it into something beautiful. I shifted my focus from myself to others and instead of asking “Why me?” I started asking, “What are you teaching me right now and how can I use that to bless others?”
Cancer went from being the worst thing that ever happened to me to being the thing that has helped shape me into the person I was always destined to be. So every morning until God calls me home, I wake up with faith that I have a purpose on this earth to share my story and bring hope to those who are struggling. I’ve learned to not sweat the small things and know that in every circumstance there is something to be grateful for.
Another thing that has really helped me is having a community, outside of my amazing family, around me that rallies around in time of need. I found this community at my church, on social media, and in my amazing neighborhood of Harvest. They have done everything from shopping for groceries to providing dinner while I’ve been down from chemotherapy or radiation. They have given my kids rides to activities and taken them to do things to give me time to rest.
As we go into 2021, we are all a little battle worn and hoping for a better year. Let me encourage you. No matter what 2021 brings you this year, you are here for a purpose and there is always something to be grateful for. If you don’t have one yet, find your community and love them recklessly and more importantly let them love and care for you.
Remember, the difficulties we have faced this year are shaping us into who we are meant to be. Find the purpose in your pain and help those around you.