His Response to My Breast Cancer: Selfless Giving

Photo by Kim Harms

On January 20, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. A month later, I underwent a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. What the breast cancer did to knock the wind out of me emotionally, the surgery did physically.

IMG_20160229_220820580In the past few weeks my husband, Corey, has had to help me do a lot of things that I didn’t figure I’d need assistance with until I was in my 80s.  You know, like sitting on a toilet.

To give you a glimpse of recent days in our home, the following is an incomplete list of normal everyday things breast cancer made it necessary for Corey to help me with.

  1. Walking.
  2. Sitting down.
  3. Repositioning myself in my chair.
  4. Standing up.
  5. Eating.
  6. Scratching my itchy nose when my hands couldn’t reach that far. (When I was coming out of anesthesia this was torture!)
  7. Brushing my teeth.
  8. Combing my hair.
  9. Washing my hair.
  10.  Going to the bathroom.
  11. Getting dressed.
  12. Applying chapstick.

I’ll refrain from listing the gross my-wife-just-had-major-surgery stuff he’s had to deal with. Suffice it to say, some of the things he’s done for me make me a little lightheaded to think about.

I am steadily improving, but it is a long rode. It is amazingly challenging to function without the use of ones chest muscles, but my legs are learning to make up for the lack of strength in my upper body.Screenshot_2016-03-08-09-42-13

Corey is usually just a text away (as my screenshot shows) ready to take care of my every need, no matter how small or weird.

And at the end of the day, we sit side by side in our loveseat recliner and watch episodes of M*A*S*H* while I wait for my pain meds to kick in. During that time, I hold his hand and wonder how he can love me so much. How does he have so much to give? All is well with the world in those minutes.

Cancer still sucks. Recovering from a bilateral mastectomy will not make the highlight reel of my life. But as much as I have loved Corey over the past 18 years, I love him even more since cancer came.  Without the detour my life took this winter, I would still be a happily married woman who enjoys Netflix with her husband, but with cancer I am a happily married woman who has a deep and tangible understanding of selfless love.

It’s not been easy. It’s not been fun. But in a very real way, it has been good.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Kim Harms

Kim Harms is a writer and speaker who is represented by Literary Agent Karen Neumair of Credo Communications. She is under contract with Familius Publishing for her first book, tentatively titled Life Reconstructed. Harms has a degree in English: Literary Studies from Iowa State University and was a regular contributor at the former Today's Christian Woman. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction surgeries in 2016 after being diagnosed with breast cancer and writes about her Life Reconstructed at kimharms.net. Central Iowa is home, and she lives there with her husband Corey and their 3 ever-growing man-children.

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  1. Kim: I understand what you have gone through. My step mother had breast cancer twice. The second time, I was able to help her through her ordeal. She was not a candidate for mastectomy due to her lung condition. She had six weeks of radiation. I transported her four days of each week. It was an experience I have not forgotten. This was my summer of 1996. Then in November that year the doctor diagnosed my dad with colon cancer. He was not a candidate for chemo. He had radiation to shrink the tumor (the surgeon called it a humongous tumor) My husband and I were involved with their illnesses for almost a year total.

    1. I’m sure your help was an amazing gift to your stepmother and your dad. I don’t know how I would have gotten through this without Corey, my folks and his folks. I had someone with me 24/7 for the first 3 weeks after surgery.

  2. Kim, this is a beautiful picture of selfless love. Such in-your-face authenticity of real life struggles. May we be Jesus with skin to those hurting physically or emotionally. Thanks for sharing your heart. Prayers you continue to recover your strength, a complete healing and for your main care taker to be blessed back 100 fold for his example of giving totally of oneself.

    1. Thank you Karen. It has been a really hard winter, but God is good. And I have been so well taken care of. I’ve got several plastic surgeon appts. and another surgery ahead of me, but the cancer hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes, so I am not in need of chemo or radiation. Praise God!

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