My story is about the providence of God and how nothing is wasted. God has the ability to take us through the valleys of our pain and suffering, carry us through if it is needed, and show us beauty that comes out of our dependence on Him.
My name is Dorothy Constants and in November of 2007 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My cancer was caught in an early stage and I had a partial mastectomy in February of 2008. Instead of radiation or chemotherapy I chose to be on Tamoxifen for five years. I know that in comparison, my breast cancer battle seems mild, and somewhat insignificant, and I agree. But for me it was a test of my faith in God, and if I believe what He says in Jeremiah 29:11 ” that He has a plan for me, a plan to not harm me but to prosper me and give me hope”.
The early detection, the pain I experienced in my left breast that led me to get a mammogram, was like God saying “you are living in a broken world, and even though you are my beloved daughter, you are not immune to the illness everyone else is experiencing, but I am alarming you so you can get an early detection. You will live.”
Recently I read an essay entitled “God’s Challenges” written by my daughter Olivia in 2010. Please allow me to share what my then eighth grader wrote:
“Why? Why did my mom get breast cancer? Why? Why did my coaches’ wife get bad MS making him have to quit? Why them? Why now? God, why? The questions and doubts run through my head when bad things happen to good people in my life, and I always turn to God, questioning and blaming him.
In 6th grade my mom went to my basketball game that night and my dad didn’t. Afterwards, I found her in the car and not the gym. She was quiet and I sensed something wrong. Life transitioning into more work and the responsibilities of middle school was hard then. Anyway, my mom started to cry. I remember the dark road, the hot car, and the look on my mom’s face when she told me she had breast cancer.
I remember every emotion I felt those days. I didn’t just feel them for a day, though; for weeks, months, and years I will carry those emotions. Through all of this, some days I was closer to God than others. I hate to admit it, but there were other days where I hated God for doing this. 2 Corinthians 6:4 taught me that all Christians go through hardships and it’s never easy, the verse says, “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses…” And even in hardships, we should come to God and ask for comfort, reasoning, and love.
Have you ever wanted to make an impact on someone’s life? I feel that with this piece of advice, God will change their lives, which is better then anything. If you go through hardships, I (Olivia) challenge everyone to cast their struggles to God, it’s never easy, but God is always there and has a plan for every one of us”
The reason I share this essay with you is that a year later, on June 23rd of 2011, my Olivia died in a sailing accident. Reading her essay proved to me that God used my experience with cancer to shape the belief of my daughter. She was honest saying that sometimes she hated God for allowing bad things happen to them. I can say the same for myself. Why God, did you allow this to happen? Why her?
But at the end, Olivia’s faith grew stronger. For her to give the advice, and challenge us to give our struggles to God, because he has a plan for us was my proof. So, for the love of my daughter that God took and for the one I still have, I have to seek God’s strength for everyday to go on living. Trust that my breast cancer experience wasn’t wasted but was a stepping stone of faith for my family to build our future on. And the hope, is for us to look forward to the reunion in heaven with our loved ones that have gone before us.
I remember the day I learned of the tragic accident that took Olivia very well. Upon reading the news articles, I mourned Olivia’s death from a distance. I never had the privilege of knowing this sweet girl, but knew she was a part of our church family. Imagining the suffering that her parents and sister were experiencing had me completely beside myself. Their loss was touching me in a profound way. Little did I know that it was helping to prepare me for what was around the next bend of my own life.
A little more than one month after Olivia’s death, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In my darkest of moments, I was remembering how this family had endured such tragedy with their eyes continually fixed on Jesus. I finally got to meet Dorothy for the first time while shopping at the mall around the holidays of 2011 and learned that she too had walked her own breast cancer journey. She spoke of her prior belief that breast cancer would be the worst thing she would have to endure in life. She also shared about her grief, especially with navigating through the upcoming holidays without Olivia. But her testimony was clear that God was sustaining her in her grief.
The testimony of her life since that time has been to not let the tragic moments, her breast cancer journey and the loss of her beloved daughter be wasted, but instead be used for good. The Constants have spent time reaching out to other families grieving the loss of a child, as well as have set up a foundation that is doing wonderful things for others in the Spirit of Olivia. See www.oliviaconstantsfoundation.org to learn more. It is Warriors like Dorothy and her husband who have inspired me to find beauty in the ashes. Thank you, Dorothy for allowing your faith and complete dependence on God to be a stepping stone to how I would handle my breast cancer journey and use it for good.