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When the “Helper” Needs Help.

Last month I introduced myself as a helper, an encourager, and a professional volunteer. This month I am the one needing the help. I am grateful to have made so many deep connections with throughout these past 16 years serving as an Army Wife, and I loved how my friends and I could pick up anytime and start right where we left off.

That being said I never thought I would be calling several of these friends and all of my family members to let them know that I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Around the end of January, I found a small lump, about the size of a grape, on my left breast.

PSA: In the United States nearly 40% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives according to cancer.gov

I cannot express how important it is to have a routine practice of a self breast exam. It’s every easy—I usually would do it while watching TV, preferably after my boys have gone to bed. But it is nothing too crazy you can’t just do with a blanket over your chest, your shirt does not need to be off. And if you find something that feels weird, ask your partner to feel it… I’m sure they won’t mind. 😉

Anyway, I digress. Upon my finding, I called Blanchfeild Army Hospital here at Fort Campbell right away, however they couldn’t get me in until the first week of February (it was the end of January, so it was maybe a week out). Then, on March 15th my lump was confirmed to be Invasive Mammary Carcinoma; and on March 29th Vanderbilt Oncology confirmed that I am at stage 2 with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). Follow my story in more detail at Caring Bridge website. If you are interested, my husband has been keeping it up-to-date. For now I will skip to the here and now.

I am surrounded in prayer and I am surrounded in encouragement from all over the world, (one of my closest Army Wife friends lives in the Netherlands and a friend is out in the Holy Land praying as well). I have so many loved ones volunteering their time and money in means of meal trains, free housecleaning, watching our boys and sending me trendy head wraps and clothes that support my future hair loss and provide space for my chemo port. My family is blessed beyond measure and it’s a little unnerving, both the diagnosis and the extra help. .

I have never felt so much unconditional love in my life. In this lifestyle we move away from our families and figure out how to do all the hard things on our own until we meet and create our own tribe of support. However, sometimes when we help others there is an unwritten energy exchange expected, but that could be my own projection, and in the here and now I feel none of it. See, I am hypersensitive by nature, so I can easily pick up on subtle cues, but my friends and my family are stopping my overthinking before I have a chance to think about it. They are calling me a sunshine, and sending me Bible verses. My boys are resilient, as most Army Children are. They are doing extra chores around the house without being asked and giving me soft hugs. My yoga studio is allowing me to keep my classes going with a rotating teacher, and my professors at Austin Peay State University are supporting me with extended deadlines and dismissing my absence with grace. Yet, I am happy to report I have met close to all of my deadlines on my writing assignments.

However, all of this is only the surface of my story. There is no way I could do any of this if my husband wasn’t able to be by my side every step of the way. Some how by the grace of God my husband is in a position where he is freely able to go to every appointment with me. There is even a projected FTX coming up where the whole 101st airborne division is required to attend and his leadership assigned him rear D. We were expecting him to go and have family to stay to help out, but God.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

So, today Husband and I shopped for bras that offered both gentle support and a soft and wide enough strap to cover my chemo port without causing irritation. And if anyone is going through this, I highly suggest shopping at arie.com and purchase the lacy one or the super soft and thin material with a wide strap.

This journey is projected to take a good year and a half with a double mastectomy in my near future. I have let myself have many feelings, anger, frustration, sadness, and grief, but all of that is quickly followed by hope, love, light, and breath. And when people ask me how I am doing with the marathon of everything I smile and say,

“I am breathing and I am alive.”

Being an Army wife has somewhat prepared me for this new chapter of the unknown. We are all familiar with being thrown into the wind of uncertainty. Where will we live next year? Who is my new PCM? Where are the best Mexican restaurants? And I have heard time and time again from my civilian friends,

“I don’t know how you do it, I would never be able to live this lifestyle.”

What I say to that is…

  1. You can do anything when you have to.
  2. If you met the love of your life like I have, you would do whatever it takes to be with him. Even if it means that to be with him, is to be separated for many months at a time.

With my husband’s retirement right around the corner, combined with my diagnosis, I am so grateful that we are in a sweet spot with a supportive command team. To get here has had its rough spots, but to be in the relationship we are in right now, I would do it all over again, in a heartbeat.

I will end this post with how I end all my yoga classes (feel free to whisper to yourself):

May my body be healthy. May my soul be at peace. May clarity come to my mind. And, may my heart be filled with love. Namaste. 

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Author

  • Justine Kaneris

    Justine is a writer. Whether writing in her journal, blog, or sharing a post on social media, writing is a form of meditation and a way to connect her mind and spirit. What she enjoys most is making unique connections with people. Being a military spouse has allowed her to travel and to be a part of many communities throughout the United States. It has been a privilege to see different cultures and groups within the many cities she has lived during the past 16+ years. Along with writing, she is a mother of two and a yoga teacher. She is deeply in love with the wealth of knowledge and wisdom she gains from faith, yoga practice, and the community in which you will often see her writing. Throughout the week she teaches yoga classes and pursues her bachelor’s degree in psychology; her weekends are best spent going on hikes or watching movies with her family.

4 Comments

  1. Sharita Knobloch

    Holding you in prayer, Justine! Please let us know how we can help you and offer support on this journey.

    Reply
    • Justine Kaneris

      Thank you Sharita, it was a hard one to write, but the first of many. Thank you for your prayers! I will let you know friend. <3

      Reply
  2. Kathleen Palmer

    Proud of you for writing this! Praying for you and your HELPERS!

    Reply
    • Justine Kaneris

      Thank you for the nudge! Yes a huge prayer for everyone of our helpers I couldn’t keep feeling like me, with all of them!

      Reply

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Supporting Our Military Children

Supporting Our Military Children

One thing that has been most important to me, as a military spouse, is figuring out how to best do this life while supporting our children with the changes and difficulties. When my children were very small, there were many times that my husband was away, and I had to parent my children alone.

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