August 18


My Cancer Journey

By Tresta Neil

Called to Learn

Pease know I share this hesitantly as many of you would not have chosen this path. I don't mean to offend or make you concerned. I am at peace and I feel free. 

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on May 7, 2020. After tests and consulting the doctors I was told I needed to have surgery, radiation, and hormone therapy. 

I immediately went off all dairy and fruit. I discovered from my weight loss journey that dairy helps cancer grow. I have been sugar, flour, and meat free for over a year. 

The surgeon gave me several options from lumpectomy (the removal of the tumor) all the way to having both breasts removed, new beasts reconstructed with a tummy tuck (they use the fat from the stomach to fill the breasts-a two year process). I left in shock, how did our culture get so far as to have plastic surgery for a small, type I cancer, that insurance would pay for it? Honestly? I'm still in shock.

To be completely honest I entertained the idea of getting the huge surgery - why not? - it was free and after loosing 100 pounds I have lots of loose skin. The tummy tuck could make me look pretty good. “Stop! It is NOT worth the emotional and mental cost.” I told the surgeon, Dr. Tittensor, that I would get back to her. 

I left confused, “How did I get to this point?” I asked myself. In nursing school I had seen many surgeries and never wanted to entertain the idea of a surgery and now here I was listening to options. 

Since homeschooling I had drastically changed my view of health. I had come from a medical background in nursing to complete natural home remedies. For example, I healed my sons broken arm with comfrey and millet. I pulled a sliver in deep tissue out with garlic. We healed 3rd degree, oil burns with a natural burn paste. Surely, we could heal cancer too. I started my research. There are many who share their stories. I spent lots of time reading them and listening to them on the phone. Several stories scared me, they had a lot more “faith” than I did. 

When I told my immediate and extended family that I didn't know if I wanted to go take the medical route many of them were very concerned for me and expressed their fears. I felt their pain and gave in. I visited with the radiation oncologist and asked him for radiation options and he, very honestly, told me the whole picture. I felt heard and understood. He told me it was the current culture that pushes us to do more than a simple lumpectomy. Together we chose to do a small, localized radiation catheter after the lumpectomy surgery.

I had the surgery on June 5. I went in kicking and screaming, disappointed in myself for doing the very thing I never wanted to do. But, I left the surgery even more disappointed and confused than ever. See, going in, the plan was to remove the tumor and put in a small catheter for the localized radiation. When I woke up, Thom informed me that they found cancer in a lymph node and did not put in the catheter. Now, the cancer was type 2, grade 3, highly active and fast growing. They recommended chemo on top of all the other treatments they wanted me to do. I ran out of there as fast as I could. I felt like I had been told I the worst news of my life. I ran to my room and cried for hours. The surgery pain was nothing compared to the emotional pain. 

Weeks went by and I became numb. My family caught the corona virus and I had to "put off" going in to the oncologists. I actually was glad to have that time. But I didn't use it very wisely - I should have been in communication with God asking Him my options and asking Him my next steps. Instead I ignored anything to do with cancer. Until my appointment. 

At the end of July I visited with another oncologist, he reviewed the whole gruesome story and the results of all the tests. He then recommended:

  • a full treatment of chemotherapy - he told me all the side effects to each of the different types of chemo he would give me. This scared me - it is not just hair loss and fatigue, but numbness in my hands and feet and possible heart failure were the common ones. It got worse from there. 
  • A full month, daily treatments, of radiation - because it is on my left side they’d have to put me in awkward positions to avoid the heart. 
  • 5 years, of hormone therapy. Because this type of cancer eats estrogen, they want to stop the estrogen production in my body. 

I then asked him about the percentages. With the surgery I was now cancer free with a 75% chance of it not ever returning (Whoa, that’s really good!). The chemo and radiation would only increase that by 10 - 15% bringing it up to 85 or 90% chance of not returning but, all the side-effects. Most people choose to bring up the odds he told me. 

“Seriously?” I thought to myself, “all that risk for only 10% of a chance? That was not a huge increase for the risk of side effects.”

He then asked for my decision and when we could get started. I lost it, I was not prepared. The news scared me. We concluded the appointment with me getting back to him by that Friday with my final decision. I left in pain, pain of my indecision - why was this so hard for me? Just make a decision and stick with it!!

I plead with God to bring me peace. I couldn’t go home like this. I looked up and saw the temple. “I will drive to the temple,” I thought, “and not go home until I am at peace with a firm decision.” 

On the way there I received a song - God often talks to me through the lyrics of songs (any type of genre). “I’m never changing who I am,” kept repeating the words until I got to the temple. 

Because we can’t go in during the corona quarantine the gates are locked, so I parked looking at the temple. I repeated the words, I listened to the music and pondered the exact words (the song didn’t apply, but the phrase did). The message was not to change the way the world was telling me, but to follow what God tells me and he will change me into something far better.

I cried … a lot.

I don’t know how long I was there, but I arrive at a decision! 

 I couldn’t compromise my inner beliefs. I had to be true to the promises and inspiration I had already been given - God can heal me through food - or  I couldn’t live with myself. Plus, the odds were in my favor. I prayed to know I was doing the right thing, I prayed for those this would hurt. I prayed to be guided on what to eat, do, say, and be. And most of all help me know and do HIS will and not mine.  

I looked up, the sun shone on the spires of the temple. I had never noticed before, on the steeple was a stained glass window. It was a circle at the top and wave glass going down all the way to the temple. I immediately remembered hearing the story of how this temple was constructed and how the artist designed the stained glass windows. It was that of a waterfall. The symbolism struck me. God is POURING down information to us all. Was I open to receive? He was speaking to me through the stained glass telling me He would guide me, He would show me what I needed to do, to eat, to say, to be. I felt immediate love, to the point of pure joy. I smiled, I wanted to dance. I was set free. 

On my way home, I received guidance, a persons name came to mind. I promised to act on the prompting and call her that evening.

I came home in confidence. I came home beaming with excitement and truth. With God, I had finally made a decision I could live with. A few days later I made the dreaded calls to the oncologists and told them my decision. The secretaries were very kind and asked me why. I told them the percentages were in my favor, I was accepting the ‘C’ grade (it was still passing) and not risk more health problems to bring it up to a ‘B.’ They laughed and kindly said they would be there if I changed my mind. 

Since that day, I have discovered more things I can do physically, mentally, and emotionally that will help keep the cancer cells from returning. I am 5 pounds lighter (I’ve been at a plateau for the last 6 months) and I’m happy - really happy. I feel FREE! 

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