She was diagnosed on the same day you were…

“There are no random acts. We are all connected. You can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind.” 

This quote comes from one of my most beloved books, The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, and I feel like it perfectly sets the tone for the story I’m about to tell you. And yes, I call it a “story” because some of it might seem like a crazy work of fiction. But make no mistake – I believe God wove two seemingly random souls together long before they ever met on this Earth, with some very specific blessings in mind. 

Now every good story has a beginning, middle and end – so let’s start at the beginning. My name is Cassie, and I was honored to be asked by Sarah to write a guest post on her blog. I am 32 years old and four months ago I was diagnosed with triple negative invasive high-grade ductal carcinoma (read: breast cancer). I am a mama to my 1.5 year old daughter Macy, I am a wife to my beloved husband Cory, I am a sister, I am a daughter, I am a friend, I am a child of God – and right now I am having to be a warrior in a battle I never wanted. 

I was diagnosed at the end of April 2021 – and it was during that devastating call I learned that my primary care physician had the misfortune of having to share a breast cancer diagnosis with another young woman under 40 on the very same day. Once I had some time to process my situation, to sit in those emotions and in that pain, I found myself wondering and worrying about this other woman. Who was she? Did she live nearby? How old was she? What plans had she made for herself this year? Did she have a strong support system? Was she scared? Does she know Jesus? 

I was wrestling with all of these unknowns and as much as my heart was aching for my own struggles, I couldn’t get past the thought that somewhere out there was another woman who at this very moment was going through the exact same pain and heartache as me, and I needed to know that she was resolved to fight like hell right alongside me. So I prayed. I prayed for this mystery woman and I begged God to make her feel supported and never alone in this fight. Because even if I didn’t know her, I knew about her and I was going to pray for her every step of this parallel path we were on. 

Time passed, I learned more about my diagnosis and what it meant for treatment. I sat in the Cancer Center during a marathon of visits with what would be my care team of doctors and found myself wondering if that woman was on the other side of the wall, waiting for my oncologist to walk over and talk her through her prognosis.

Tests and imaging were scheduled and conducted, and I dove head first into quick start fertility preservation, pushing back my cancer treatment by a few weeks, but doing everything I could to hopefully ensure the growth of our little family in the future. Eventually day-1 of chemo came, June 1st, and I stepped into the scariest, most uncertain phase of this battle. Chemo round 1, nausea, fatigue, tears, prayers, chemo round 2, nausea, fatigue, insomnia, hair loss, shaving my head, prayers, tears, exhaustion. So many battles, so many milestones. Cancer never takes a day off, and neither could I. 

Each experience during my fight with cancer has revealed to me the goodness of my Lord Jesus – His faithfulness, His graciousness. He is a waymaker and continued to show me the way through this valley, every hardship brought so much light into my life. So many people were showing up for me and my family in ridiculous ways, loving us fiercely and lifting us up in endless prayers. I felt so unworthy of this love, so honored and yet so confused as to why God had chosen me to witness these miraculous acts of service and love. But He was just getting started. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2:19 p.m. – my friend Audra reached out via txt – she had been walking with me through the initial stages of this diagnosis and her generosity and kindness had been such a blessing to my family. Her message was lengthy, as I read the first words she had written, tears started streaming down my face. “Hey Cassie! I just got off a call with my friend Sarah (she was in our virtual advent small group last year if you remember her) and wanted to let you know that she is also in her thirties, attends Eastview, and was diagnosed with breast cancer on the exact same day you were.” I sat on my bed reading these words and I swear to you that the Lord was sitting right next to me, filling the room with a higher power, a greater purpose. Here she was, the mystery woman. This was her name I was holding in my hands. This is the person I have been praying for. She goes to my church. She might want to meet me, to know me too. This was God. There was no doubt in my mind. This entire “chance encounter” had nothing to do with chance and everything to do with predestined purpose written into our stories by the Waymaker Himself. 

Audra shared Sarah’s phone number with me and basically said, no pressure but thought you might want to make this connection. I responded and let her know that I had been aware of another woman under 40 that was diagnosed on the same day by my PC physician and I knew in my heart that Sarah was that woman. I told her to please also share my name and contact info with Sarah and that I would definitely be reaching out to her. And then I prayed. I sat in the shock of finally learning the name of this person that I already cared so deeply for, that I had been covering in prayer without even knowing her and yet feeling so close to her because of our shared diagnosis, and I prayed. I asked God to give me the words. To help me know what to say to Sarah. I asked Him to make me brave, to make me strong enough to wade into her struggles with her, to be part of her support system if she’d have me, and to invite her to be part of mine. 

You don’t really think about this until you have to, but a cancer diagnosis brings so much fear. And to protect yourself from falling victim to that fear and crawling into a deep, dark place your mind and heart put up walls to keep out the things that might trigger you. I can no longer watch hospital dramas on TV, I mute commercials about cancer medication, I had to fast forward through parts of the Bachelorette this season because one of the contestants lost his wife to breast cancer and I couldn’t handle hearing that – because I cannot allow myself to even entertain the possibility of not beating this disease and not being able to live a long and healthy life with my baby girl and husband. I didn’t join any support groups because I knew that as an empath my heart would not be able to carry the weight of their struggles and the possible harsh realities of so many of the other cancer patients in my church family. As selfish as that sounds, it’s what I’ve had to do to protect myself and stay focused on beating this thing. It has been my mental armor.

However, when I learned Sarah’s name there was no wall, there was no hesitation. I knew that I was meant to join her in her fight and she in mine. I felt God working in this crazy way, bringing our circles of friends together and helping us to find one another at the exact right moment. I felt like we were going to need one another and despite the potential fear of getting too close to Sarah’s fight, personally taking on the good and the bad that she might experience, I wasn’t afraid. I was honored. And I sat there sobbing happy tears, thanking God for her name and trying to find the words to say to her. 

But bless her heart, she beat me to it. Less than 1-hour after Audra had reached out to me I got a text from Sarah herself. We spent those next few days and weeks messaging one another; talking about how we had always been aware of one another and praying for one another. We couldn’t get over how we both knew that this was God bringing us together, that we were meant to be part of each other’s journey. We compared experiences, discussed our interactions with our care teams – both recommended by our PC physician, both comprised of the same exact set of doctors. She told me she was almost certain that she was sitting in the room next door on the day that I was going through my marathon of meetings at the Cancer Center, just as I had suspected! We talked about how chemo was going, our experience with telling our friends and family the diagnosis, at what stage I started losing my hair and eventually had to shave it off – she told me she was quickly approaching this dreaded milestone. And then I asked her if she would be interested in getting together in person – and so we began to make plans. 

But it’s never really a good idea to make plans when you have cancer. First my daughter got sick and I didn’t feel like it was safe to potentially expose Sarah to those germs so we rescheduled. Then my daughter got a rash and had to stay home from daycare and go to the pediatrician and Sarah wasn’t feeling the greatest after a round of chemo so we rescheduled again. Somewhere in there, Sarah and her beautiful servant heart, brought me a devotional by Lysa Terkeurst called Seeing Beautiful Again and left it on the porch for me to find. She had said she was reading it during this season of life and it was speaking so directly to her, she wanted me to have my own copy too. Truth be told, we didn’t really even know one another, but so many things kept showing me that our souls were connected and we had known each other for much longer than we realized, God made sure of that. And finally schedules aligned, immune systems held up, and the morning came when we were going to officially meet live and in-person! 

Y’all I kid you not when I say it felt like Christmas Eve – the anticipation, the anxiety, the excitement – what if she doesn’t like me, what if we don’t click, what if she thinks I’m a giant weirdo (probably am)… I think we can all agree that making new friends when you’re in your 30’s is super hard for some reason. I mean c’mon, there are memes all over the internet about the awkwardness that is making new friends as an adult. I found myself laughing at how silly I was being, all worried and what not, it felt like a blind date and that was hilarious to me. But as soon as her car pulled into my driveway – of course I saw it pull in because I was sitting out on my front porch like a kid anxiously waiting on the school bus to arrive – I hustled down my front sidewalk and wrapped her in a tight embrace. I’m not certain she was even all the way out of her car (maybe a bit aggressive there, Cass – tone it down girl). But she hugged me right back, and that serendipitous feeling came rushing in and I knew this was going to be one of the greatest best friend hangs in history. 

This porch was filled with laughter, tears and so many sweet moments.

She had picked up coffees for us and I had made some zucchini bread, so we grabbed all the fixins and posted up in my front porch chairs – it was a beautiful, cool morning and we would sit there for the next 2.5hrs talking about everything under the sun. She was my soul sister and sitting there in each others’ presence, I felt like a piece of me had returned home and I knew that this was an everlasting kind of friendship in the making. It was rare, something this beautiful formed out of tragedy by a God who can redeem all situations, all pain and all suffering. 

The time came for her to go but I knew we’d see each other again soon, and we would of course be talking regularly. Sarah continues to find ways to lift me up and bring light into this difficult time, all the while fighting her own battles. She is a special soul with a heart on fire for Christ and her friendship brings me so much joy! I still think about that day on my porch – we laughed so much, we talked like lifelong friends, we connected in a way that only God could contrive. “We are all connected. You can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind.” This is only just the beginning of our story. It’s still being written – with every day, every round of chemo, every win, every trial – and I know I’m biased but it’s a kickass story to be a part of. And it will have an epic ending, when we both reach remission we will honor that milestone together in what I can only imagine will be the most glorious celebration this town has ever seen! And just as swiftly as that ending comes I know our next beginning will start as we set out to richly live the next chapters of our lives. I’m sure we will continue journeying through this life together as survivors – warriors against breast cancer – souls intertwined for the purpose of serving God’s Kingdom. 

So that’s our story, or at least the start of it. I hope you found encouragement and joy in the miracles and blessings from our amazing God. Be praying for me and Sarah as we fight together. We thank you for your support and for coming alongside us in this battle. And thank you, Sarah, for the opportunity to share my perspective in your Detour Chapter. I am grateful to call you a dear friend and feel unworthy, but honored, to have penned the details of our “not so chance” encounter for all your loved ones to experience. 

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