When I first wrote “Mary Lindner’s Big Challenge,” I prefaced it with a small mention of my breast cancer. I was focused on sharing my recent open-heart surgery, not breast cancer.

Hindsight showed me that breast cancer is not a “small mention” thing and that I needed to share more.

I continue to stress the importance of that ANNUAL MAMMOGRAM! That was how mine was detected. I had several years of mammograms to compare with this one. Usually the technician takes the image and leaves to check its clarity. This time she returned and said they needed to do another one, and she left again. On returning, she said the usual: “The doctor will call you with the results.”

The mammogram was done July 17, 1997. The doctor called and said there was a small lump and that he could do surgery on July 29th. He wouldn’t know if it would be a lumpectomy or a mastectomy until the actual surgery. With all appointments and procedures, I always say, “I’m expecting a good report.”

I found a scripture, Mark 11:22-26. It says “have faith in God . . . speak to the mountain . . . command it to be cast into the sea . . . believe when you pray . . . forgive others so God can forgive you.” I found other scriptures, put praise music on, built up my positive attitude and really sought God for my good report. Many people were praying for me, and that meant so much. I had no fear, even though three years earlier I had lost my sister to breast cancer.

The morning of the surgery my husband Al, my sister-in-law Dolores, and one of my pastors, Cyndi, were there with me. They would be in prayer while I was in surgery. My faith was strong, and I felt the Lord had been telling me I would be fine. Since I would be in the hospital overnight, I brought my scriptures and Bible with me.

My doctor and I had talked about lumpectomy versus mastectomy, depending on what he found. He did an initial check, and while semi-under anesthesia he said it was very small, so I had a choice. I chose the lumpectomy.

After I awoke, the doctor came in and told me the lump was cancerous. It was a stage 1 size. He had taken 12 lymph nodes to get a more accurate report. He also had taken blood that would be sent off to a lab with the lymph nodes and lump for analysis.

When he left, I was livid. I was so angry! I literally was in God’s face with my fury. Snorting fire could define it! I let Him have it, pounding my fist in the tray table saying, “You said I would be fine! The doctor said it was CANCEROUS!” God allowed me to spew out my wrath and pound on the tray table until I had vented the full amount and was quiet.

Then He spoke to my heart saying, “I did say you would be fine. But there were two tests you didn’t know about, the lymph nodes and the blood. These are very important. You will be fine.”

Wow, talk about a humbling moment! OK! Here I am LORD, praying for a good report now for both of those tests! So that was my prayer and I felt at peace again.

On August 1st the good report came that the lymph nodes were clean! By the way, when he told me he had taken 12 lymph nodes, my immediate response was, “Oh, one for each disciple!” I wasn’t being funny, as 12 didn’t equate to donuts, but to disciples. My heart was really turned toward God.

August 4th, I got another good report on the blood being clean. The doctor had said all the tissue around the lump was also clean. There was much celebration in the house afterward!

On September 4th, I began the first of 33 radiation treatments. I told our sons that I was ok with the trend of having tattoos. Three permanent dots were put on for the correct line-up for radiation. I didn’t have to have any chemo, but went on five years of tamoxofin beginning October 23, 1997. I also attended the support groups for breast cancer survivors at my hospital. What a good program that is for everyone to begin your journey after surgery. It really helped me.

In June of 2009, I served as Survivor Co-Chair, and Al was Honorary Co-Chair, for our Brainerd Lakes Affiliate, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. It was an honor. This is an annual race for us. On Mother’s Day, 2011, our sons flew in from the west coast to walk with Al and me at the Twin Cities Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure at Mall of America, Bloomington, Minnesota. This was also very special, having the four of us celebrating with thousands of survivors.

Our oldest son has really grabbed the torch to raise awareness for breast cancer. He has a site chanceforhope.com, which he is building. He is using the pictures of survivors he’s taken at the various races he’s participated in. He has a unique approach to raising awareness and publicity for the cause. His license plate has the pink ribbon symbol with the words “4 My Mom.” I couldn’t be more proud.

As I write this in 2011, I am approaching my 14th year of being as survivor. I thank God for each day. I keep faith ongoing, laugh on purpose often, believe each day is special and “dwell under the shadow of the Almighty.” Psalm 91

This was my first big challenge, which prepared me for the second bigger challenge of 2002 open-heart surgery. Looking back now, it’s amazing, as I thought each surgery was surely my biggest challenge I’d ever face. Little did I know these two actually prepared me for another following eight years later.

The time to really prepare for challenges is before they happen. It’s pretty hard to build a house in a raging storm. Better to do it on the nice days. So it is with God. When things are hunky dory, we kind of loosen up on our need for Him and His Word. Not wise. These are the nice days that can prepare us for anything to come. Now is the time to strengthen your relationship with Him. Find meaningful scriptures – speak them, believe them. Pray and “build your house” (faith) while the days are nice. Then you have something solid to hold onto when a storm comes.

I will be sharing my third challenge sometime later. Through all of these challenges I kept my joy. Nehemiah 8:10: “…the joy of the LORD is my strength.”


The Joy of the Lord is my strength!
Nehemiah 8:10