Through the Eyes of a Survivor: A Glimpse of Faith, Hope, and Healing

Through the Eyes of a Survivor: A Glimpse of Faith, Hope, and Healing

Jasmine Nichol Tate

While enjoying a date night with my spouse at the Orpheum Theatre to see “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Farewell Play Tour,” I met Jasmine Nichol Tate, a young lady with a beautiful smile who was seated next to me. We exchanged pleasantries and chatted a bit before the performance began. She mentioned that she had traveled to this event to celebrate with her mother, who was quietly seated next to her. During the intermission, we continued our conversation. She further shared with me her life-long challenge with Sickle Cell Anemia, but her reason for celebrating this particular occasion was for another issue. Jasmine was recovering from a mastectomy and had just recently completed a series of chemotherapy.

Jasmine was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 23 years old. But on this occasion, she was excited about feeling good enough to take this trip to have fun with her mom. My immediate feeling of sadness had no time to settle in as her engaging smile and excitement charged our personal space. Perhaps she had explained her circumstances too many times before that it resembled a sermonette. I listened to her story with my heart, and this compelled me to seek meaning in her truth. Not only did I realize that any test in life can accompany a blessing, I now know that life’s challenges can renew our spirit bringing lessons and new beginnings. Hopefully, I can share this beautiful miracle and inspiring message in a little neatly wrapped package, as Jasmine managed to do.

Discovery: The Storm 

Simply preparing for what Jasmine describes as an ordinary day, she performed an examination of her breast. She mentioned her awareness of the importance of this routine. However, on this specific day, she felt something odd that seemed to be a lump. During a follow-up visit to her doctor, who normally treats her for Sickle Cell disease, further inquiries were conducted, but ultimately, she was sent home with no answers. Later as the pain worsened in that area of her body, she knew that what she was experiencing was certainly not normal. It’s as if she developed a sixth sense to visit another doctor, her OB-GYN, as soon as possible.

She recalled having to insist that this medical staff listen and give their full attention to her complaints and concerns. A referral was issued to continue more testing at the Breast Center Clinic, where both an ultrasound and a mammogram were performed. To her surprise, the results were labeled “undetermined.” Unsettled with these findings, she was offered a third option. A biopsy procedure was done. This exam revealed that indeed, there was cancer detected in her left breast. Jasmine explained that on Tuesday, August 1, 2017, the day that she was given her diagnosis, became “the day her life changed forever.” This news was devastating, especially to a Sickle Cell Anemia patient. What else could happen? Where was God in all this?

Treatment: A Turbulent Eye-Opening Experience

There were many decisions to be made regarding the methods for her treatment. Included in her many choices, were the willingness to have faith or fear what was happening to her. One ray of hope which emerged was early detection. Jasmine’s saving grace as a survivor was God’s guiding hands in the ordeal. Critical to surviving was “finding her cancer in its early stages.” She knows that this really does save lives; therefore, routine exams are essential. Even having taken these precautions, she was not spared from the physical and mental agony of a mastectomy and chemotherapy in addition to a flu virus. Her fear of uncertainty lingered with hair loss, recurring bouts with her Sickle Cell disease, and lengthy hospital stays. As if this was not enough, the situation progressed. Her weakened immune system invited a staph infection. According to Jasmine, this was indeed in the “deathbed” category. It invaded her body for some time and caused a tsunami of medical complications. It was the perfect storm that placed her odds for survival unconscionably bleak. Yes, there was a great support system and its benefits, but the battle was personal.

Some storms come with more turbulence than others. At times it may seem that the mayhem within a storm captures our attention even more than the rain or lightning. Likewise, it just may be the havoc that occurs in our minds that causes us to seek shelter — this was Jasmine’s reality. What was totally out of her control had to rest within the shadow of the almighty God (Psalms 91:1). She found herself seeking that secret place in her soul. Realizing that her human reactions to her situation were only human instincts, they voided her thoughts about her purpose in this storm. It took some reflection time, but gradually, she began to embrace a new truth related to her life. As her body was changing, so were her mind’s eyes. Instead of only focusing on her pain and suffering, she felt the need to develop a more positive mindset. Maybe her current crisis was allowing her to learn how to redefine and discover herself as not just sick and vulnerable, but human. Eventually, she could see that her thoughts were helping her to transform purposefully. Perhaps she was not the victim as she had thought, but victorious. Every new day was another miracle of surviving and a reason to be hopeful. From what appeared to be a difficult experience with cancer and its unforeseen twists emerged a path to show her who she really could become and how she could best contribute to humanity. She practiced gaining a clearer focus, which contributed to her will to help others accept and respect the change in life as well. Could it be that through both prayer and praise, God had granted her a gift via her cancer ordeal?

The pain and the uncomfortable treatments continued, and there were many watershed moments, yet she learned that these moments were her body’s mechanisms for mental, physical, and spiritual cleansing. Throughout this healing process, there were revelations of how she could help others with her advocacy. No matter how uncertain things looked on some days, what was certain was that each passing day, she grew in her faith and hoped for a cure. During the discovery of her cancer, she felt that something was wrong. Now at this point, she saw that there was something right happening. By harnessing the realization that healing both from the outside with medicines to inside her mind was rejuvenating. The power of her mind shift was as necessary as the medical treatment that she was receiving.

Recovery: A Glimpse of Sunshine

Today, Jasmine lives cancer-free. Her acceptance of what exists in her life, along with lessons learned to fuel intimate gratefulness to God. The wisdom gained from her experience has become an unexpected welcomed blessing. As a breast cancer survivor, hope in her purpose to encourage others is limitless. Her journey remains a real eye-opening experience proving that everything in life possesses unique meanings. Seeing the world through new lenses helps to appreciate days that are no longer consumed by “what ifs” regarding cancer, but her “what is” concerning her life. For Jasmine, learning to differentiate grief from grace is a continuous part of healing. Somewhere in the middle, she has found purpose in ways that encourage us all to learn to trust our journey and its processes. She urges us to seek wisdom to manage all parts of life through our faith, especially things that we cannot control.

Negativity is its own disease. Therefore, attitude plays a significant role in rising above any challenge, because you can then begin to recognize that in life, everything seems to be a miracle. Jasmine strongly affirms that “I know that I’ve beat breast cancer” as she prepares to complete the next phase of breast surgery to replace a tissue expander with the actual breast implant. Enthusiastically, she says, “being challenged and pushed to my limit developed new perspectives of what is less fatal, but more important.” Her perspective on faith and hope is staying positive and to smile through storms. There is profound meaning in the portion of the Lord’s prayer, which requests God to “give us our daily bread (Matthew 6:11).” This bread for Jasmine represented the gift of empathy in that it is her understanding to see people, things, and circumstances from different points of view. Avoid worrying about issues that rob you of your peace. Teach yourself to let go of stuff not significant enough to hold in your mind-space. It’s only stuff, the extra baggage that may have kept you stressed in the first place. It tends to bring you “peace that passes all understanding” that believers often speak of in (Philippians 4:6-7).

Second, only to trust that God holds the first and last words over our lives, it is necessary to know that education is the key to surviving. Take time to learn about your body, for no one knows its changes, pain, or discomfort better than you. Trust your gut feeling, for it can be God’s message to you. Use both your physical and common senses by remaining persistent, asking questions, and becoming proactive. Remain curious about that which concerns you and learn how to interact with medical professionals effectively. One opinion from a single individual may not be the absolute answer for you. Celebrate you!

This was her reason for traveling to celebrate on the evening we met. At that time, I did not immediately see the scope of the grandness in her bright smile when we encountered each other. Upon reflection, her eyes were like a ray of sunshine, showing me a glimpse into her soul. Her story may seem fairly typical to many, but to me, the richness of meeting her was in divine order. It was a wake-up call filled with life’s truths to ponder from this day forward. As directed in Proverbs 3:5-6, we must remind ourselves to “trust in the Lord and lean not to our own understanding, but acknowledge Him in all things, and He shall direct our paths.”