“When I was first diagnosed with fourth-stage breast cancer, Philip was at my side, and we felt the world as we know it slip out from underneath us,” Rev. Cathie Young recalled. “But we held onto each other and agreed together that we would not have a faith crisis. We literally shook hands to agree that we would hold onto God and our faith no matter what. There were many days which began and ended in weeping. I would sit and cry out to God and Philip would sit next me crying silently along with me. …We knew God was listening.”
Young, associate rector at St. James Anglican Church, was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma last December. She was faithful in having yearly mammograms, but her type of cancer often shows up only with an MRI, so it had been hidden for years. Further testing showed that, in addition to needing a double mastectomy, Cathie also faced a regime of rugged chemotherapy for six months and six weeks of daily radiation.
“Fear was a constant intruder in the early days of the diagnosis,” Cathie said, “But I knew God had prepared me and wanted me to go through this cancer storm without fear. That became my goal and each time the fear came, I pictured myself in my little rowboat in a terrible storm where the waters were turbulent and threatening. Then Jesus would come into my little boat and just let me rest while He dealt with the storm. It was a consistent theme of His presence and protection. Even now we call these last months my ‘cancer storm.’”
Cathie is quick to point to the presence of God and the power of prayer as marking her cancer storm.
“I began a medical blog on CaringBridge.org and it has had over 25,000 hits since last December,” she said. “I have shared my journey medically, offered my reflections both emotionally and spiritually and asked prayer in every part of the storm. I have people all over the world praying for me and prayer has allowed me to pass through the storm and do remarkably well.”
“Cancer is a very humbling disease,” Cathie continued. “You lose control as you have known it before. You are weak and sick and need others to help you function. Your hair is gone and you don’t look like yourself. … I have folks mention that I am strong, even courageous. That’s not true. Cancer made me weak, frail, even helpless. I’m making it through this hard storm because I have a kind, strong Savior, a loving husband, awesome doctors and a plethora of faithful prayer warriors!”
Cathie explained that her husband Philip has reached a kind of nobility during this time, and she refers to him as ‘Prince Philip.’
“When we are struck with terrible diseases, like cancer, and we choose to find Jesus in a new and deeper way in the journey, our goal ceases to just be getting well,” Cathie said. “That’s still important, of course, but another, more preeminent goals rises far above it. More important even than getting well is the goal of knowing Jesus more deeply and loving Him more profoundly in the process.”
Cathie is excited to share her story and support others dealing with cancer. Both her oncologist and plastic surgeon have asked if they can refer women to her.
“So many women experience such a dark journey when they walk through breast cancer,” she said. “God allowed me something different, and I want to be there for others in the cancer storm and give practical, spiritual and prayerful support. There aren’t many women ministers out there who have breast cancer, and I want to interact with the local cancer community. St. James is on board, and already a dozen St. James folks who have been through cancer want to come alongside me as I reach out to others. My doctor said that by the time I’ve finished treatment, no woman can go through breast cancer and encounter something I haven’t.”
“God has been with me in such a powerful way, I wouldn’t have missed this journey,” Cathie added. “I wouldn’t have missed the cancer storm. I don’t believe God gave me the cancer, but I do believe He gave me the assignment to walk the road through it faithfully. He has provided His presence in such a profound way that it makes the journey not just bearable, but it makes it beautiful.”