October 02, 2017
Finding purpose in my breast cancer diagnosis
BY Mena El-Sharkawi
Rebecca Stedman believes that every experience had in life serves a purpose, and cancer is no exception.
“Just as I felt like I was chosen to have a child with disabilities, I was also chosen to have breast cancer,” she says.
Rebecca stepped out of the shower one summer day in 2015 and felt a lump in her left breast. She’d received a clean bill of health during a well-woman exam just four months earlier, so she decided to watch it silently.
“I have no cancer history in my family, so I really doubted that it was that. I really thought that it was a cyst, and there was no reason to get all worked up,” she says. “I also didn’t want to acknowledge that it was possibly breast cancer.”
A breast cancer diagnosis
After two weeks of monitoring the lump, she finally told her husband about it. She went back to her doctor for a second mammogram and ultrasound. A biopsy followed and then a phone call.
“They said, ‘We need you to come in, the doctor wants to see you right away.’ As soon as they said that, I knew,” she says. “My husband was at work, and I called and told him, ‘I need you to leave work, I need you to come get me and take me to the doctor’s office right away.’”
On Aug. 12, 2015, Rebecca was diagnosed with stage II invasive ductile carcinoma of the left breast.
“We’ve had many struggles, and this was just another one that I truly felt was going to be used in the next part of my testimony,” she recalls telling herself.
Accepting help during cancer treatment
Rebecca started treatment at MD Anderson in The Woodlands, but in the middle of her chemotherapy, her husband lost his job, along with the health insurance on which she relied.
“We had to pay COBRA, and it dipped into our day-to-day expenses for three months,” she says.
As news of their struggle spread among family, friends and fellow church members, help poured in.
“My husband and I were just overwhelmed by the support we had. People came in droves, offered us gift cards for food, gift cards for gas. My friend put together an online fundraising account, and people from all over the United States were donating funds for us to live off of,” she recalls. “It was an ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ moment, and truly God showed us what a wonderful life we had.”
Rebecca’s husband eventually found a new job that offered the same health insurance they already had. Rebecca has since finished her chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and is now almost done with her breast reconstruction process.
Finding meaning in a cancer diagnosis
As Rebecca reflects on all that she’s been through, she’s come to understand the purpose of her cancer diagnosis.
“Cancer is not meant to hurt you, but it’s allowed to happen to strengthen you and strengthen those around you,” she says. “For my husband and for me, it was learning humility and accepting help and love from others.”
She hopes that other survivors can find the good in their diagnoses, too.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.
TopicsRadiation Therapy Breast Cancer Side Effects Support Mastectomy Diagnosis Survivorship Biopsy Breast Reconstruction Diagnostic Imaging Surgery Chemotherapy
For my husband and for me, it was learning humility and accepting help from others.