I wish you could have known my incredibly spunky little mother. In 1947, when I was twelve years old, my Mom underwent a radical mastectomy where surgeons removed her right breast and the lymph nodes under her right arm. That was in the days before lumpectomies and reconstructive surgery. Mama was left with a long, red, jagged scar which extended from just below the shoulder almost to her belly button.
I knew my Mom had cancer. We had prayed—everyone had prayed that the fearful knot in her breast would be just that, and life would go on as usual. We prayed that surgery would not be necessary, but the day came when Mama was whisked off to the hospital, and my sister and I were left behind.
Late in the afternoon Daddy found us playing on the wash porch when he returned with the news that Mama’s breast had been removed, and she was all right, but in his sadness, he did little to reassure us. We went to bed with heavy hearts that night longing for the day our beloved mother would come home and things would get back to normal.
What a glad day it was, when she returned. The doctors had told her, because the lymph nodes had been removed, she might never again be able to use her right arm.
“Well,” she replied, “That’s ridiculous! I still have two little girls at home who need me, and I need my right arm.”
I can still see the little spongy, blue ball mama held in her right fist, as she squeezed it over and over in an effort to strengthen the muscles in that arm. The doctor’s verdict didn’t stop her for a moment. In fact, her first chore when she returned was to do the ironing. Between her trips back to the hospital for radiation—at that time, chemo therapy was only in the experimental stage—she carried on as though nothing enormous had happened. She made sure that life for us was as it had always been.
If there was pain, she never spoke of it. If she wept, she wept alone. My mother was not a whiner. Only in later years did she tell me how that surgery had made her feel so much less a woman. She never used a prosthetic. She just stuffed a clean soft cloth in the empty side of her bra and went on with life.
You might say that my Mama had a lot of “Intestinal Fortitude,” that she had “Guts.” There are many ways to say that she was courageous and determined. She faced life with a “fighting spirit,” always committed to making bad things better—to going on without giving up.
There was a sort of dichotomy in all of this. For while my Mom was tough and tenacious under fire, she remained the sweet, kind, and godly woman we had always known.
How did she do it? She was a little thing not extremely strong physically. She was not what we would call “well educated,” not even “well read.” She had not traveled the globe or rubbed shoulders with the great. Yet she knew who she was.
She was the child of an old time shoe cobbler, but she was also a “Child of the King.” At the age of fifteen, in a Methodist, “school house” revival, Mama gave her heart and life to Jesus. After that, nothing was ever the same. She was faithful to God for the next three-quarters of a century never turning back for a moment regardless of the circumstances. There is a picture tucked away in my heart of my Mom sitting quietly with her Bible open on her lap. She was my example.
I am like my Mother. I am strong, and my strength comes from the very same source.
DNA might have a bit to do with it, but actually Mama drew her tenacity and toughness from her relationship with God, for she knew He is a God who does not fail even in the worst of times.
The promise in Isaiah 40:29-31 assures us, “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength…those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Don’t be tempted to turn back when the going gets rough, but rather, call upon the Lord until your strength is renewed. He will not fail.
My Mom never cast aside her confidence, and her cancer never returned. She lived with a jagged scar for forty-two years—a reminder of God’s faithfulness. In eternity, she will have a new body with no reminder of the sufferings of this life.
Be encouraged! GOD IS THE OMNIPOTENT ONE! He has enough strength for both of you.
The sun will come out tomorrow!