bumps in the night

Pastor Debra's Journey through Breast Cancer

When I was six years old, our family moved into a new house. It was absolutely the most exhilarating thing that had happened in my six short years! For weeks prior to the move, I was giddy with excitement, imagining the wonders of my new pink bedroom decked out with new furniture. No one else in the family was getting new furniture – just me – so you can understand the complete ecstasy that had overtaken my childlike senses! My new room was at the end of the hall, a graduation of sorts, as I was now old enough to be away from the constant watchful eye of my parents. There was just one small glitch in the plan: my twelve year old brother’s room was beside mine and I could, on occasion, hear what he was up to in his room. “Boy noises” I liked to call them. Nonetheless, my new room proved to be everything I had imagined until one night I heard a bump… followed by another bump. Not just a little bump but a GREAT BIG BUMP; the kind of noise that makes a six year old certain that someone or something is creeping down the hall with nefarious intentions. For weeks, every time I went to bed, I heard the bumps until finally, I could no longer contain my fright and I began screaming for help. Of course, as soon as my mother started down the hall to see what on earth the matter was, the bumps ceased. This was repeated over and over. Pretty soon, Debra was in a heap of trouble, that is, until my mother, in her wisdom, figured out that my brother was responsible for the mysterious “bumps in the night!” For years to come, every time I heard any sort of bump in the night, my heart would begin to race as my mind took me back to the terror of my sixth year.

Earlier this year, the bump in the night returned; but this time, it appeared as two small dimples and a lump in the side of my breast. Once again, my heart began to race and I was immediately transported back to my childhood memories of a threat slowly but methodically making its way toward me. This time, however, it wasn’t a brotherly joke. This time it was a cruel twist of fate.  I had done everything a woman should do to prevent breast cancer. In my mind I rehearsed all the ways I had taken proper care of myself: regular checkups, weight under control,  exercise,  breast feeding my babies.  After a host of testing, surgery to remove the tumor and a lymph node biopsy, my husband and I are sitting in the oncologist office hearing that I have stage III metastatic breast cancer.  My heart raced. I wanted to throw up. I had to tell myself to breathe. Numbness set in. This was bigger than any bump in the night.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul wrote: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Cancer makes you vulnerable both physically and emotionally. Your body has been invaded. Your life is turned upside down and inside out. Suddenly you are weaker than you ever thought possible. But in the midst of weakness and vulnerability, in the terror of bumps in the night, I have found peace. It is the grace that Christ gives. I am surrounded by people who are supporting me and praying daily for my healing. Beloved friends in Christ have shaved their heads in solidarity. Whatever my needs are for the day, Christ has exceeded them. In my vulnerability, Christ’s power has been made visibly plain for others to see. “Therefore I am content with weakness; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Glory to God!


    From goulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties
    And things that go bump in the night
    Good Lord, deliver us!

This was recorded in The Cornish and West Country Litany, 1926