I’m inspired by a godly woman from our church, Delores. A year or so before my illness, she ultimately healed from stage 4 brain cancer. She was a vivacious lady around 60 years old living life to the full. She and her husband ran the local annual rodeo and a western store.
One Saturday evening, she laid down because she had a headache. The next thing you know, she was having a full-blown seizure. Soon afterward, we learned it was cancer. I have never seen someone have such a positive attitude. It was the most beautiful thing to see. She spoke life to the entire church during her journey to heaven. She would always tell us, “I’m just along for the ride.”
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I thought it would be a great time to interview my beautiful niece, Nihlia Griffin who has a rare form of breast cancer. Be encouraged by her journey of ten-plus years.
1. Share the short story of your chronic pain journey. What is your diagnosis? Share some about the journey to this diagnosis.
I was diagnosed in April of 2007 with invasive ductal carcinoma. I had a mammogram in February everything was normal. Woke up in April with a knot on my right breast the size of a golf ball. I have always done my breast checks. I called my doctor and from that day my life forever changed.
2. Throughout this time, how was your faith walk impacted? Did you lose faith? Get Stronger?
I have always had a strong faith. I learned to depend on God more than I ever have in my life. Cancer made me see life and death in a totally different way. My life slowed down, and I felt everyone’s life carried on as usual. I trust God more than I ever have in my life.
3. Was there a specific event that became a turning point in your faith during this journey?
My turning point was after I woke up from having my breast removed. I knew my outward appearance would never be the same again. Losing my hair after my first round of chemo was nothing. But feeling my chest flat and seeing all the drain tubes coming out of my body. It took my breath.
You must take sponge baths until all the drain tubes are removed. I remember the day the nurse removed all the bandages I did not want to look. When I got home that afternoon I undressed and looked in the mirror nothing was there my check was sunk in and I had all these stitches. I sat in the tub and cried my eyes out. I felt like I was not a woman anymore it has taken me years to overcome losing my breast.
After many reconstruction surgeries, My body kept rejecting the implants. I had to make a choice in August 2018. Do I want to live and enjoy life with my family? Or is having breasts so important that I am willing to risk my life to have implants.
4. What scripture has become a comfort for you in this journey? Why?
Psalm 42:1 As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.
I have always loved this verse. If you watch an animal drink when they are thirsty. They try to drink the water so fast to get as much as they can. Same with us we should absorb everything about GOD. Soak it in. Hold His Word close to your heart.
5. How do you find comfort on especially painful days?
Comfort comes from within and the faith I have in my Lord.
I have a great support system my family is awesome just knowing I have them is comfort.
6. Are you involved in any ministries or community service to reach out to others with chronic pain? Share about this.
I talk to a lot of women when they are diagnosed. Since I’ve been there done that, I am able to connect with them and encourage them through the long process.
7. Offer some words of encouragement to those who may be searching for comfort in their own chronic pain journey.
I am a very happy person. I did my best to not allow cancer to steal my joy. If I found myself feeling down I would get up and do something like walking outside take a deep breath. I was out of work for a long time from 2007-2011.
Life is not about possessions
I learned a lot during that time. Life is not about possessions or having the biggest house, fancy car, or a lot of money. I learned to be satisfied where God had me. I kept telling myself there is a reason God is allowing this in my life. I saw how problems in life had beat me down.
Even though I had cancer I feel like God used that time to put me back together and help me find myself again. When I was diagnosed with Cancer, I was coming out of a very abusive relationship. We do not understand why this is happening and why me Lord. But I have learned God is in control, not me. God always comes through for me. He has never let me down. I learned to trust in God more than I ever have in my life.
Nihlia works as a customer service Rep at Global Partnership for Telehealth (GPT) is a nonprofit organization with a worldwide footprint that is based in Waycross, Georgia. GPT offers telehealth technology solutions and web-based platforms that bring much-needed healthcare resources to urban and rural communities with a focus on underserved areas. We work with school systems, hospitals, clinics, and health systems to connect people with health services.
Before cancer, she was a master cosmetologist. She has recently received the following certifications From Hometown Health University: Patient Access Specialist, Managed Care Professional Finance Counselor, and Certified Hospitality Specialist. She has also acquired several technical certifications and an associate degree in Bible Theology.
My first mammogram was one of the worst days of my life. To make matters worse, it was my anniversary. It was so traumatic for me that I spent the whole next year dreading the next mammogram. I did everything I could do to skip having mammograms. This is NOT a good idea. I didn’t know it at the time but I have fibromyalgia – a sensitivity syndrome that makes everything more painful than it should be. But I have learned that I have options, so now I share these with you.
Mammogram: An X-ray of the breast that is taken with a device that compresses and flattens the breast. A mammogram can help a health professional decide whether a lump in the breast is a gland, a harmless cyst, or a tumor. A mammogram can cause pressure, discomfort, and some soreness that lasts for a little while after the procedure.
That’s the medical description. Here’s my description…. they place your breast between two plates. The plates come together and squeeze your breast to take a picture of the tissue. I’m not sure this was the cause, but I am short and I think that the machine was not only squeezing my breast but also pulling it upward. It doesn’t take that long but, for me, it was way too long.
Genius™ 3D Mammography
A 3D mammogram (breast tomosynthesis) is an imaging test that combines multiple breast X-rays to create a three-dimensional picture of the breast.
A 3D mammogram is used to look for breast cancer in people who have no signs or symptoms. It can also be used to investigate the cause of breast problems, such as a breast mass, pain, and nipple discharge.
When used for breast cancer screening, 3D mammogram machines create 3D images and standard 2D mammogram images. Studies show that combining 3D mammograms with standard mammograms reduces the need for additional imaging and slightly increases the number of cancers detected during screening. But more study is needed to understand whether 3D mammograms may reduce the risk of dying of breast cancer more than a standard mammogram alone.
I have heard of these but didn’t realize that it may be a more comfortable way to get your imaging completed. Looks like something to look into. It takes a bit longer to get the image, so this would be something to consider for those of use with pain issues. How long can you deal with the pain?
Thermography is a test that uses an infrared camera to detect heat patterns and blood flow in body tissues.
Digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI) is the type of thermography that’s used to diagnose breast cancer. DITI reveals temperature differences on the surface of the breasts to diagnose breast cancer.
The idea behind this test is that, as cancer cells multiply, they need more oxygen-rich blood to grow. When blood flow to the tumor increases, the temperature around it rises.
One advantage is that thermography doesn’t give off radiation like mammography, which uses low-dose X-rays to take pictures from inside the breasts. However, thermography isn’t as effective Trusted Source as mammography at detecting breast cancer.
Not considered a good way to detect cancer. False-positive results can sometimes result because other issues could be causing the inflammation. Suggested only for women under 50 who have dense tissue. This is obviously a non-evasive procedure unlike the mammogram but the mammogram is a much better detector. You will find it difficult to get insurance to cover this procedure and probably have to drive a few hours to find a place that has the thermograph.
Since it shows changes in your breast. I’ve thought it would be good to start early in your twenties to have a base picture to look at. But again, read more at Healthline for more information.
Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves rather than radiation to produce pictures of the breast.
For the procedure, some gel will be placed on your skin. Then a small transducer will be guided over your breast. The pictures will appear on a screen.
This is a painless procedure that typically doesn’t cause side effects.
Ultrasound of the breast may be used after an abnormal mammogram or in women with dense breast tissue. It’s not usually used in routine breast cancer screening for women at average risk.
I have opted for this one the past two years. No pain to speak of. Since Fibro is an issue where pain arises from pressure, one can feel some tenderness in some parts of the breast. But this option is much better for my situation. Your insurance will probably approve the procedure but you may have a deductible or co-pay.
Check into Herscan that travels around some states doing this procedure. They have a fee which is about what your co-pay for an ultrasound would be.
You’re lying face down on a massage table, your breast encased in a water bath through an opening in the table. Tiny ports from a surrounding ring fire ultrasound waves. There are no X-rays and no pain. There is no holding still for 20 minutes or more.
Water Mammogram is a relatively new option. My PCP told me about it. I haven’t tried it yet. The above link is an article about it. It seems to be just as helpful as the traditional mammogram. I may try it next time.
Other Options for Mammogram
As I researched these options today, I saw that Mayo Clinic has an article on Molecular Breast imaging. I’ve not heard about this one before. It seems to use dye and imaging. See more info at Mayo Clinic article.
I lack the words to tell you the effect this weekend has had on me. I went to visit my dear friend, Debra at the nursing home. She is fighting Stage 4 Brain Cancer. Besides the chemotherapy and some kind of radiation cap that she had to wear all the time, Debra has had two brain surgeries to try to stop the swelling and the growth of cancer. The doctors give her less than six months to live.
I entered the nursing home at the far end of the facility. It was a long walk down to Debra’s room but it gave me a chance to see the whole facility. It all looked nice. I was comforted to see that she was in a clean facility. There were seating areas everywhere and visiting rooms and dining areas. There were wonderful helpful workers all along the way. My hat is off to the nursing staff that works with these precious people suffering from such debilitating diseases. I am thankful for every one of them.
I could give you a discourse of the next two hours but for my friend’s sake, I’ll just share a few things I have found lacking as I go through this trial with my friend. I’m just a bystander in this matter. Although, being a pastor’s wife, I have gone alongside many time.
The Greatest Need is Support For the Caregivers
My husband and I found that what is really lacking is support for the caregiver. Awareness is rising of late but we really need to become more aware of people with chronic illness, cancer or not. I would like to see churches create a team of people that make sure our sick do not fall through the cracks. Sadly, the sick become “Out of Sight: Out of Mind”. I recently read this article about How Can the Church Better Serve Chronically Ill by Shona Smith. Shona had some wonderful advice for churches. Even the sick could take this information and share it with their chur leaders.
The Caregiver is Lost and Alone
We have found that outside of caring for their loved one, they are also holding down a job, trying to keep the house/family together, dealing with financial issues, and they often are completely ignoring their own health. I recently read Sarah Beckman’s new book Hope for the Hard Places (my review here) which gives excellent step by step advice for when trouble comes our way. Many of us would do ourselves a favor to read this book and prepare our own families for the inevitable Hard Place.
My friend Anita Ojeda has experienced caregiving for her husband who had cancer and survived. There are many things she learned along the way and after the fact. She is now trying to encourage caregivers to take care of themselves. You will find her website, Blessed: But Stressed, very helpful. There is also a facebook page, Self-care for Caregivers.
What is Lacking for Cancer Patients
Core friends that stick around. We’re all guilty of this. The first month we do whatever we can for the patient and family. But somehow we tend to fall back into our routine of life and completely forget about our friends. Let’s admit it, I am guilty. You may be guilty as well. We need to be calling or dropping by frequently, doing simple household jobs, cooking a meal, etc. I have a downloadable list of ideas to get started on. The aforementioned author, Sarah Beckman has another book called, Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving Your Neighbor in their Time of Trial. I haven’t read this one yet. But possibly, we all could learn a few things from her book.
Prayer. Real true “I see it and feel it” prayer. Facebook is a place to start where you can tell them you are thinking of them. But we need to visit them and pray over them. Call them and pray with them over the phone. I had a friend once that rose early every morning before work and walked around a friend’s home praying for them. Every day for months until her death. Now THAT is visible prayer.
Encouragement through cards, flowers. Debra’s room was not only dim but void of cards. Again, I’m guilty as I have not sent her one card. 🙁 There was one small flower arrangement and that is it. (live flowers might not be good, as some patients cannot handle the smells.) I would like to get a card shower going and have everyone I know sent her a card. If you want to get involved send me a note through our “contact us”. I’ll send you an address.
Other Great Things Lacking
Providing other needs. If you visit on a regular basis, take notice of needs like is she cold? Does she need a blanket? Drinks and snacks so they don’t need to buy them? Don’t go empty-handed when you visit. grab a bag or basket and place a few ready to eat items in it. Maybe a book to read or puzzle books. You can get many items like this at a dollar store. Speaking of blankets, I know of two churches that make quilts to send to cancer patients and others. I received one when I first was hit with chronic pain. Not only does it keep me warm, but it also encourages and reminds me that someone cares.
Lastly, and importantly, an illness like cancer is terribly expensive. Even with great insurance, the bills begin to rise beyond what a person can fathom. And just when you think you have a way to figure it out, there is another surgery or issue that arises. In Debra’s case, they are still trying to get hospice care or a way for someone to sit with her and tend to her needs. This comes with a $250/day copay. Think of it, where would you be if this were you?
Here’s my challenge
I imagine we all know of someone who is struggling with a serious illness. Donate to their cause, even if it is just $10. Maybe you can add it to your monthly budget. Just 10 bucks. Give up a cappuccino. You will brighten their day and make a difference in their lives. Imagine if everyone would give just $10. The bills would be taken care of quickly. Find their GoFundMe page and donate today.