Cancer brings a cycle of unwanted questions. Scary questions. Questions no one wants to ask. What if they can’t catch it? What if it spreads? What if it comes back? What if I die? What if I have to leave the people I love behind? Will I break my little girl’s heart?

Last week, I was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, an issue common enoughespecially for womenthat it shouldn’t be cause for alarm. But with cancer looming in my background, frightening questions started fogging up my brain. My doctor said my urine tested positive for a bacteria so rare that medical professionals aren’t even sure it responds to antibiotics. And where it could have come from is anyone’s guess.

RELATED: The Only Word Scarier Than Cancer is Relapse

I took the antibiotics they gave me and noticed immediately its peculiar side effect: sore tendons. So, while I limped around this week, my what-ifs have been particularly haunting.

Every painful step I took reminded me that my health is precarious, that maybe my time is running out. And although my husband didn’t admit to it, I know those insecurities were more persistent this week for him, too.

Part of the challenge of living with cancer is coming to terms with one of life’s great mysteries. We all know we’re going to die, but we don’t know when. And I don’t want that big question, in all of its various disguises, to cloud the time I have left.

So, as my urine burned, my tendons ached, and my mind swirled, I decided I needed to reframe my questions.

RELATED: Thank You, Cancer

What if, along with the angst cancer brings, it delivers a gift, too? Not just for me, but for everyone who loves me, for everyone witnessing my journey and taking part in their own way?

What if cancer motivates me to value quality time over quantity time, and if only for an instant, I discover I can taste eternity in a single, precious moment?

What if cancer teaches me not to say “later” but instead to say “now” and dares me to take more chances?

What if it prompts questions that inspire wisdom and lays bare a path to forgiveness and letting gopaths that help me reunite families and patch up meaningless squabbles. What if it teaches me to sometimes say no and other times to say yes?

What if my experience with cancer helps me embolden one person to quit a dreaded job and start something new, exciting, and beautiful? What if that person finds their calling and uses it to change the world?

RELATED: To the Moms Who Conquered Cancer

What if it inspires art and the fearlessness to share it?

What if cancer creates space for joy, love, hope, and faith?

What if cancer reveals life at its core and peels it back to the sweet kernel of truth and perfection that resides within every human being?

In The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank wrote, “I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.” What if the wisdom of a 14-year-old—a girl the same age as my beautiful daughter—shows me what is truly possible, even in a situation as bleak as a cancer diagnosis.

We all have what-ifs. And some of them are beautiful.

Originally published on Breast Cancer News

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Nancy Brier

Nancy Brier is regrowing her hair with her balding husband in Palm Desert, California where they recently relocated. They have an 12-year-old daughter whose hair is perfect. For more of Nancy’s work, please visit http://www.nancybrier.com/

Cancer Taught Me to Open My Hand

In: Cancer, Faith, Motherhood
Woman in cancer treatment holding a young child's hand

When I thought I was going to die, grief blinded me. Not really for myself. I’ve had a pretty good run. Reflecting on my life, it’s easy for me to see that my stroll into adulthood was leisurely. In college, I studied literature, a luxurious indulgence. Even as a naive 20-year-old, I understood the extravagance of being able to sit under a tree and read, albeit in sweltering Missouri heat. I studied the world’s literary masterpieces while sweat trickled down my back, mosquitoes nipped at hard-to-reach places, and the MBA students on campus wondered what I was doing. But those...

Keep Reading

“Wear It Anyway, You Never Know When You’ll Get Another Chance.”

In: Cancer, Friendship, Living
Two women holding up dresses, color photo

“It’s way too fancy,” I told my husband. “I’d be overdressed.” My new outfit was a beauty—white and lacy, perfect for a summer cocktail party, but too much for a school function on a Tuesday evening. In the back of my head, though, I heard my friend’s voice. Wear it anyway. You never know when you’ll get another chance. The last time I saw Shalean, I was bloated from chemo drugs, and both of us wondered if it would be the last time we’d see each other. My prognosis was bad: triple negative breast cancer, already spread to my lymph...

Keep Reading

This Is How to Show Up for a Friend Who Has Cancer

In: Cancer, Friendship, Living
Bald woman during cancer treatments and same woman in remission, color photo

One moment I was wrestling with my toddler and rocking my 3-month-old to sleep, and the next I was staring blankly at the doctor who just told me I had stage four cancer that had metastasized from my uterus to my left lung and spleen. “Well, I didn’t see that coming,” I smiled at the young doctor who had clearly never given this kind of news to anyone before. I looked over at my husband’s shell-shocked face as he rocked our baby back and forth in the baby carrier because I was still nursing, and we knew we’d be at...

Keep Reading

I Never Wanted to Be a Hospital Mom

In: Cancer, Motherhood
Toddler standing with IV pole, black-and-white photo

Life as a hospital mom is not a life for just anyone. You have no other choice, there is no get-out-free card you can just put down and say, “Nope, Lord, I do not want this, take it back.” My heart hurts 99 percent of the time. My heart hurts for my child and the pain he is suffering. A necessary evil to keep him on the side of Heaven’s gates.  My heart hurts from the unknown of each day. Will he eat? Will he thrive today? What utter chaos will be thrown our way today? Will there be vomit...

Keep Reading

Cancer Is Weird

In: Cancer, Living
Woman smiling, color photo

Cancer is weird. For 3.5 years I looked into the mirror and didn’t recognize the person looking at me.  First, it was scared eyes. My eyes had lost the look in them that made me feel invincible. I had learned I wasn’t.  A week or so later, I saw the cut on my chest for my port. Then it was a bald head. Then a bald, steroid filled, and puffed up faced person looking at me. RELATED: This is What Cancer Looks Like Sometimes it was a teary-eyed, defeated person. Someone who had been up all night in pain.  I...

Keep Reading

Please Don’t Let My Baby Die

In: Cancer, Motherhood
Toddler boy lying in hospital bed, color photo

I wasn’t made for this.  I am not strong enough. Lord, where are you taking me? Why does this joyful time, filled with our last baby’s firsts, have to be this way? Why did the doctors look at me that way? They know what’s coming, and deep down inside, so do I. The inevitable word that is about to come out of their mouths.  The C-word.  Cancer. It’s life-changing.  Almost as if it were a car accident. Believe me, I know about that. To be the reason behind a grown man hanging onto a thread. Completely unintentional. I just needed...

Keep Reading

The Art of Showing Up

In: Cancer, Kids
Dad hugging young son

As a father of four boys, you may imagine that life is hectic from time to time for me.  While it truly is, in fact, quite crazy sometimes, it isn’t always because of the reasons you might think.  I have four boys, ages 11, 4, 3, and almost 2, and that certainly makes for an interesting daily living experience for my wife and me.  We do our best to remain patient and lean on God’s strength and peace to fill us on the days that seem overly daunting and occasionally even downright impossible, but we are human.  Therefore, we fail...

Keep Reading

No One Prepares You for When Your Husband Has Cancer

In: Baby, Cancer, Marriage
Family sitting by window

No one ever prepares you for the moment you hear your spouse has cancer.   More so, no one prepares for you to hear this when you have a 5-month-old at home. “Mom, they said the tumor is cancerous, and they need to enucleate his eye on Thursday,” I say quietly into the phone as I pump in a dirty bathroom stall at the eye hospital.   Whir. Whir. Whir. Whir. Gosh, I hate pumping.  Today is my first day being away from my daughter. My mom is watching her while I made the trip to the eye hospital with...

Keep Reading

l Will Never Stop Missing My Sister

In: Cancer, Grief, Loss
Woman in red shirt

It might be 16 years too late to properly depict the depressive senses that engulfed my whole being when I lost my only sister Aurora to colon cancer in 2006. Painful flashbacks continue to fill my everyday life at the most inopportune moments that  writing about it might somehow alleviate my grief. I remember getting that random phone call from her one sunny day in September 2006 and how guilt automatically hit me. It had been a while since I last saw her. “It’s positive,” she said. Backed with years of joking around and playing tricks on her since childhood,...

Keep Reading

Having Cancer at 34 Taught Me How to Live

In: Cancer
Husband and wife on boat, color photo

This picture came up in my Facebook memories today. It took my breath away for a moment, just like it has for nine years now. It was the last picture taken of me before my midwife found the lump and my life changed forever.  The first time I saw that photo, I realized I didn’t know that woman anymore. She was naive. Laying there in the sun without any inkling that a cancer was growing inside her. Look at her—unafraid and without anxiety. Less than 48 hours later, she would be gone, replaced by someone who was afraid of each...

Keep Reading