Editor's Note: October marks the 20th annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month—a campaign that has boosted mammograms, pushed for better treatments, and saved lives. This year, a contributing writer shares her story of God's grace during breast cancer.

Life can turn on a dime, as the saying goes-and I have found that to be true. I have also found that God's grace can appear in unexpected places-even while that dime is still spinning.

 

A routine mammogram in the fall of 2002 revealed a suspicious lump in my breast ...which led to a biopsy and diagnosis of breast cancer. Suddenly, I was a statistic-one of over 200,000 women that year who would discover they had invasive breast cancer.

 

"Welcome to the club," my husband said softly, when I told him the result of the biopsy. A cancer survivor himself, his empathy and love were a source of strength in the days and months ahead-and a steady conduit of God's grace.

 

I was scheduled to undergo surgery in two weeks; my treatment would include a lumpectomy followed by six weeks of daily radiation. The prognosis, my surgeon said, was good. I took heart at her words: She was a young woman, a wife and mother, who had only a few years before waged her own battle against breast cancer.

 

She understood my fears and carefully answered my questions. Even as I began my journey, as I sat on the examining table and listened as she described how she would remove the malignant tumor, I felt God's grace and thanked him for a caring and understanding surgeon, and for the peace that surrounded me.

 

In the meantime, I continued on at work, doing my best to concentrate on the tasks at hand. But cancer had become my constant companion. I remember my first day there after learning of my situation. Suddenly, I thought of myself as "The Woman Who Has Cancer" as I walked down the hall to my office, passing people who had no idea of my recent diagnosis of breast cancer. To them, I was just Sue-editor, photojournalist, mom, wife, whatever-but all I could think of was my new descriptor: cancer victim. How suddenly my life had changed.

 

My days, and the hours that filled them, became incredibly precious. I no longer took my life for granted: suddenly, my days were measured. I looked at my family and friends with a new appreciation; I cherished the contact, the connection. Most of all, I realized that it was God who held my life in his hands. Of course, he always did-it just took breast cancer to make it tangible.

 

I underwent surgery December 5. The surgery was a success: the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes. After I had healed, I would start my radiation regimen-33 days of daily treatments, with weekends off. After that, I'd take Tamoxifin for five years and join the more than 2 million women living in the U.S. who have been treated for breast cancer. Quite an impressive sisterhood.

 

The people on the bus