Marilyn's Story

Vulnerability, Endurance and Joy through Breast Cancer
Marilyn Reaves

I became a Christian shortly after my husband died in a car accident. At the time we had five children from the ages of 6 weeks old to 8 years old. I had to work through bitterness and anger with God. How could he take my husband and the father of my children? I am thankful for the people that God put in my life to teach me about his promises through his word and helped me begin to trust him again.

I decided I needed to go to school since my plans of being a stay-at-home mom had changed. During the time that I was going to school to become an occupational therapist, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, which was cured through surgical intervention.

After I graduated from Tennessee State University, God blessed me to marry the man of my dreams. He was a man who had never been married, but was willing to take on the responsibility of helping me to raise 5 children and teach them to love God first. The kids were aged 8 to 16 years when we got married and they did not make it easy for the man of my dreams! He consistently had to prove his love for me and them and show them he was in it for the long haul. I learned by watching him that God would always give me what I needed in challenging times.

After 12 years of being cancer free, I had a reoccurrence. One of the incredible things about this was that the cancer went misdiagnosed as scar tissue for two years and yet did not spread, but remained contained.

I was totally in a state of denial. I thought surely after 12 years I had won that battle. But God had much to teach me through this challenge. I was not prepared at all for a positive test result for cancer. Even from the very beginning God was teaching me to be secure enough to be vulnerable. I wanted to appear strong and show that I trusted God with my life. To me this meant no tears; take time to be alone and process the information I had been given. But God knew that was not what I needed.

A sister that goes to church with me at The Nashville Church worked with my doctor. She had just recently moved to Nashville and I did not know her very well. Soon after he left the room she came in and hugged me and prayed with me and we cried together. I did not want to be vulnerable. I did not want to share that moment, but again God knew what I needed. I am grateful for that sister because she helped me to get out of my comfort zone and begin to share my struggle.

I can tend to be someone who pulls into a shell when something tragic happens until I think I am okay. The problem is that I find myself going around the struggle instead of going through it. Sharing and allowing other people in my life helps me to go deeper than I would on my own. I am so grateful that God knows that about me even when I don’t. It is so hard for me to be vulnerable with people that I don’t know well, so God allows me to be in those situations, like this one, and it forces me to pray and depend on him for help.

When I found out about the cancer, I was able to get a point that I was okay with it because I have learned to trust God with my life, but it was not until recently that God has taught me to be grateful for it. At every point that I thought the journey with this disease was over, something came up to extend it. First was a two-hour surgery that turned into four; then it was determined that I needed chemotherapy; then radiation; then I had a bad reaction to the radiation and had third degree burns; I found out that I would have to take a drug for the next five years that is difficult and makes me feel like aliens have taken my body to a far away land.

It was very hard for me when I lost my hair. I went out and got wigs, scarves to match my shirts, hats; but they were all very uncomfortable and gave me terrible headaches. The first time that I tried to go out in public with my head uncovered, I sat in my car in the Wal-Mart parking lot for 20 minutes, trying the get the courage to go in. I thought, “What are people going to think; they are going to look at me funny; little kids are going to laugh at me.” I grabbed my hat in the end and went it. I had to search my heart to understand why this bothered me so. I saw that I was very concerned about how people, most of whom I did not know, would view me. I prayed for God to give me the courage that I needed and the next day I went back to the store without my hat, scarf, or wig and I did not cover my head again after that. (Kroger). But my hair grew back.

The thing that has challenged me to my core and an insecurity that I continue to fight is the loss of my breast. I was afraid that my husband would not think I was attractive any more. How could he? I look at the scar that now takes the place of my breast and I don’t think it’s pretty. After my surgery, I had several follow-up appointments and each time the surgeon would look at my scar and say, “I am so sorry.” I would walk away thinking, okay he is a man and he performed the surgery, how does my husband feel?

I felt so discouraged when the doctor said I would not be able to have reconstruction for a year or preferably two years. I am so grateful for my husband. He consistently tells me I am beautiful and encourages me not only with words but with his actions. But I still must rely on God to change my focus. Through prayer I am reminded that even without my breast, my name is written on God’s hand; even without my breast I am the apple of God’s eye; even without my breast, God is faithful when I am not; even without my breast God allowed his son to die on a cross for me. My body is not what makes me God’s daughter, it is my heart.

All through these things I begged God to have enough peace that I could be joyful, to have endurance, and learn the lessons that he was teaching me. I learned to seek approval from God instead of man. Through all of the changes going on with my body, God stripped away everything that I took confidence in. I saw how God continued to take care of me. I saw the love that people had for me, I saw my children grow in their ability to trust God, and I learned that God’s approval is enough for me. Every tragic thing that I have gone through has brought me closer to God. So today I share this with you, grateful for hardships, and cancer free.

“I waited patiently for the lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” (Psalm 40, 1-3)

Join Secure in Heart
Want to receive new articles and updates about the Secure in Heart ministry?
Click Here

Pass it on! 
  alcoholic parents, battling breast cancer, beauty of woman’s heart, becoming a Christian, being defensive, being loved by otherssecure in God, being vulnerable with others, carefree heart, Christian security, church study topics, comparing yourself to others, dealing with an eating disorder, deeper walk with God, dealing with losses, does prayer change God’s mind, doubting your salvation, embracing being single, emotional struggles of single women, emotions with my husband, Eve in the garden, faith during infertility, feeling invisible, forming a women's book group, God's love language, grieving process, hope during hardship, returning to God, handling stress, husband's struggle with pornography, identity in Christ, impurity Scriptures, verses on insecurity, losing a loved one, loving people, male insecurity, married to a sex addict, not liking my appearance, overcoming insecurity in Christ, perfectionism, Paula Wilkens, perseverance of Godovercoming shame of impurity, purity resources, response to NIU tragedy, Satan's attacks on women, Satan's whispers, secure in Christsecurity as a single woman, seeing little miracles, reaching out to your neighborhood, softening a hard heart, trusting God, God's goodness, understanding my worth, sexual addiction, unfulfilled desires, God's patience, wanting attention from men, welcoming Jesus, finding God in hard times, why women feel insecure, will I be alone, women's bible study, women's book club

© 2008 Secure in Heart. All rights reserved. Website Design by Visual i Design