But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.” “Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their arms,[e] and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders. Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.” Isaiah 49: 14-16; 22-23.
“…Those who wait for me shall not be put to shame…” I am going to count on this latter Scripture, because on October 18, 2022, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I cannot say that I am not devastated by the news, because I truly am. I got my routine yearly mammogram, as I always do, never once thinking that I could have cancer. I felt fine, had no symptoms, and thought I was doing the right things to keep my health: exams in the shower, didn’t smoke, drink, or eat poorly, took vitamins and supplements, all of that. Well, none of that had an impact: I STILL have breast cancer, and I feel great fear, sorrow, and betrayal. I feel sad because these are the breasts that fed my son, and that he snuggled in as a baby and a toddler. They were more than just attractive, they actually provided nourishment for a new life. At the time, 24 years ago, this was truly fascinating to me, and I praised the goodness of God that I, as a Mom, could feed my child anytime, anywhere, and that this food was all that he needed to sustain him for the first few months of life. This is still remarkable to me, and a hallmark of the majesty of creation, that we women would have all that was needed to take care of our young, right here on our chests. Pictures of the Madonna and Child had new meaning once I became a Mother. Many a time I held and protected my own son as the Blessed Mother held Jesus, supported by her arms and her breasts, looking confidently and safely at us from his mother’s bosom. This indicates to me that the breasts are not only the milk that flows to sustain the baby’s life, but are the support and care for the growing child before he can walk on his own. It is part of our strength, the core support of the child to have that strong maternal chest holding him/her up. Not anymore. Disease and malignancy have desecrated one of my breasts, and it will have to be taken away (in part or in whole), and its companion may have to go with it as a prevention measure. “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mt. 27:46). Yes, I am past the time that I would need to feed a child, but these breasts still represented my womanhood to me, and now without them, what will I do? I suppose that will do what I always do, the only thing I know how to do. “I will lift my eyes up to the hills from whence comes my help” (Ps. 121: 1-2). It is, therefore, a good thing that I live in the hills of West Virginia. There is no greater help than the arms of Jesus and his Blessed Mother to comfort the soul who is scared, sick, and grieving, this I know. Of course, it is infinitely harder to do when that soul is you. Too often, people in the church do not admit when they are afraid, upset, or angry with the hand that life deals them. We are encouraged that, in order to be “seen” as a good Christian, we must tamp down our feelings and pretend that we are resigned to the fate that the Divine has for us, being patient followers trusting in Him and his path for us. On one level, yes, there is an ultimate trust that the journey we are on is one that will be for our highest good. However, I have never been a tranquil follower, ever, at anytime. I believe that I have to fight for this life that I have, hold these doctors to higher standards of care, question all that is placed in front of me, and be discerning in the path ahead. I do that with everything in my life, why stop now? I believe that I was created this way, and that far from NOT trusting in the Lord, I am in conscious co-creation with him to make sure that I am not leaving here too early, or staying here broken and dissipated, unable to do His will. May it please God to not find me too arrogant to think that the world has other issues for me to address, and that I cannot do that if I am not at my level best, and may he also grant me the gift of more time. So, fight on I will, with God’s grace, with the assistance of the Angels (St. Raphael, I’m
talking about you) and Sts. Agatha and Peregrine, patrons of breast and all cancers (respectively), and with a humble yet healthy dose of help from Sts. Martin de Porres and St. Andre Bessette, divinely-enabled healers of the sick. Yes, I am calling in the troops, and am going to try to harness my upset and fear and turn it into healing in mind, body, and soul. I am an active warrior and fighter in the best of times, and in these worst of times, I promise to be fearless and persistent, until my dying day. But today ain’t that day. Author: Sheila Coleman-Castells, M.Ed., Bilingual Education Researcher, former Professor and currently Political Lobbyist/Advocate specializing in Education and Training Diversity, Equity and Equality in Legislatures (Federal and State) all over the US.
Native Washingtonian, Member of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church, Washington, DC and current resident of Morgantown, West Virginia.