My dad grew up as the third in line of five children to my grandparents. He and his two brothers and two sisters can keep a person entertained for hours with their stories from the growing up years. There are hilarious stories about haircuts, jokes, and mishaps. There are horror stories about lost toes and lawn mowers, and getting locked in trunks (even though they all laugh now when they tell those). There are heartwarming stories of their love for their mother, who is in heaven now, and her love for them, which spilled over onto all of the grandchildren.
When I think about this very large side of my family, one that at this time includes my grandfather Raymond, the five children, their spouses, fourteen grandchildren, many of those with spouses, and thirteen great-grandchildren, I think of music, laughter, and celebration. We are a musical family for sure. We love to celebrate just about any holiday or function with singing and music, whether it’s real singing, lip-synching, or doing a dance number (all ages…yes, all ages). I’m not kidding!
Once we settle down, the stories usually begin. Because there are so many of us, we share stories that have gone on in our lives during the past year since we don’t get to see each other very often. You may hear fifteen different stories going on at once. But on many occasions, and especially at Christmastime, we all quiet down at some point and listen to some of the old stories. The ones we already know. We know how they will end; whether we’ll be laughing hysterically or crying softly by the end. We know the people, the events. But our hearts are warmed by hearing the familiar stories of our family’s trials, struggles, and victories.
Here is my Aunt Becky’s story. She is my dad’s older sister, one who takes care of the details of our get-togethers and functions. She’s one of those who are in charge when we are together. This is her story of a time in her life when she was totally out of control of her situation, but God was in control. This is her story of how cancer was not the end of her…
This story began in the hot summer days of 2003, when Becky started having a shooting pain in her right breast. She did a self-examination at home and felt a good-sized lump under the right breast. Having had benign cysts before, Becky and her husband Rodney assumed that this was the cause of the shooting pain. Still, she called her doctor, who quickly scheduled a biopsy for mid-July. The biopsy revealed dreaded news that so many are given each year. Becky had breast cancer. “Cancer…me? It was a very aggressive type of cancer so I would be treated very aggressively. This was one of the darkest days of my life. All I could think was, I am going to die. It was almost as if I was in a tunnel while the doctor spoke to me. I heard him talking, but I didn’t hear what he was saying.”
Becky’s sister Amanda began to pray scripture over her. “She stood at the end of my bed and started quoting Psalm 118:17… ‘You will live and not die and will declare the works of the Lord’. I remember thinking to myself, You can say what you want, but I’m going to die. The doctor has just given me my death sentence.”
Becky spent the next several weeks in doctor appointments, having tests and making decisions. She spent many of these days crying, thinking her life was ending. Then one day, things changed. “I had been reading my bible and praying. I listened to a lady on the television who said ‘Sometimes our lives get in such a mess that we don’t know which way to turn. No matter what your situation, you need to turn this mess into a message and this test into a testimony.’” Becky knew that this moment was just for her. She was on this journey, on a path she didn’t choose, one she had no control over. She decided right then and there that while she couldn’t control the situation, she could decide how she was going to handle it. “I said, ‘I’m going to take this bull by the horns and I’m going to tackle him down and win.’ This mess will be my message, and this test will be my testimony. I started repeating the scripture that my sister had given me the day I was diagnosed… ‘I will live and not die and will declare the works of the Lord.’ And along would come another scripture, and then another. I felt such a peace. A peace that passes all understanding. I thought, ‘This is a win/win situation. If the Lord wants me to join him in heaven, I know I’ll have a beautiful place and I’ll get to see His face. And if he sees fit for me to stay here awhile longer, I’ll get to see my sons and their wives build beautiful families. I’ll be surrounded by my family and friends who love me. Wow! I can’t lose!’”
Becky needed this peace to fill her and uphold her as the aggressive chemotherapy began to take its toll. As the weeks and months passed, the sickness and tiredness weighed her down to the point that there were times she thought she wouldn’t make it. Her strength was robbed until she could hardly walk from her bed to the restroom, struggling for breath with every step.
“When we are so weak and down, the enemy will try to creep in and take over,” she says, “And if we’re not careful, that’s exactly what he will do. It’s completely up to us. Attitude plays a big role in survival when you are traveling on any difficult journey. The most important thing is to realize that you need to turn it all over to the Lord and let him handle the situation. You have to put your complete trust in the Lord. Trust in the Lord with allYour heart. Not part, but all.”
Becky recalls one point when she was especially low and weak. The Lord whispered a message to her soul that let her know she was not alone. “I was lying in bed and I was so weak that it frightened me. I started singing in my very trembling and weak voice…
‘Til the Storm passes over, ‘til the thunder sounds no more,
‘Til the clouds roll forever from the sky,
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand,
Keep me safe ‘til the storm passes by.
-‘Til The Storm Passes By, M. Lister, 1958
“As I finished singing the song, I lay there and prayed and thought ‘Oh, Lord, I just don’t think I can go on.’ And then a presence in the corner of my room appeared. It was as if it were an angel. And the message I received within my spirit was ‘Hold On. Don’t let go. I have promised to be with you and I am here and will be with you every step of the way. In My word I tell you that I will be with you and never forsake you. Just take hold of my hand.’ At that moment I felt a fresh breeze blow across my face. I knew then that everything was going to be okay, I was going to be okay and this test would turn into my testimony.”
After 12 chemo treatments, 36 radiation treatments and two other different chemo pills taken by mouth for 6 more years, Becky has been cancer free for 11 years. She has been married to her husband, Rodney, for 40 years and says, “We are still going strong! He was a solid rock during this journey and I could not have been more blessed to have him in my life.
“We have three sons and three beautiful daughter-in-laws. And the grandchildren that I didn’t have at the time of diagnoses…I now have SIX!! God has been so good to me and my family. And family and friends are very important during a time like the one I went through. They are there to help you with chores, cook a meal, or just to sit while you cry a little. And you should let them. This is very important for the healing process. Sometimes in our life we have to just sit back and let others help out. And we have to let go and let God be God. ”
Becky’s story is a true testimony to the peace, the courage, and the strength that God will give us–no matter what journey we are on—if we will put our complete trust in Him. He can take a story that the enemy tried to intercept for a tragic ending and turn it into one the sweetest story of our lives. It is truly so sweet to trust in Him.
Becky urges others to become educated about breast cancer. The information is readily available. Go to:
“I would also like to encourage every woman to do self-exams on a monthly basis. Be sure and talk to your doctor about when to start getting mammograms. Early detection could save your life,” she adds.
In Loving Memory of Mary Faye Muncher…
Becky writes, “My mother was my biggest prayer warrior. She was diagnosed with breast cancer five years after me. She had a double mastectomy and we opted for no treatment due to her age and her health at the time. She did take a chemo pill for five years. Mother lived a good long life. She and Daddy were married for 62 years with five children and their spouses, fourteen grandchildren, and thirteen great- grandchildren. Mother went home to be with our Lord on December 2, 2013. We miss her terribly but have comfort in knowing we will see her again one day.”
What A Friend We Have in Jesus Adapted by Paige Givens and Tim Muncher (my dad, Becky’s brother), 2014