October 8, 2004 was the Friday before Thanksgiving, but the long weekend was the furthest thing from Faith Krahn’s mind.
She was 46. Happily married. A mother of three. And she had just found a lump in her breast.
Was it something? Was it nothing? Either way, it was daunting.
“It took me all day before I told my husband,” recalls Krahn, a Flin Flon resident who was living in Swift Current, SK, at the time. “It took me until the next day to call my doctor. I needed a whole day to process.”
Doctors and tests quickly followed. A biopsy confirmed everyone’s worst fear. It was breast cancer. Treatment would begin swiftly.
“You start on a journey of being overwhelmed,” says Krahn. “You go to the doctor and so much information is being thrown at you. Once you’re into surgeries and then into chemo and all that entails, then the experience of what I would call cloudy thinking becomes the norm, just not being able to decipher everything really well.”
Barely five weeks after finding the lump, Krahn was under a surgeon’s scalpel. The surgeon failed to remove enough of the unwanted tissue, so a second surgery followed several weeks later.
Then it was off to radiation and chemotherapy. Krahn and 18 other chemo patients, separated in their own stations, received treatment in a spacious hospital room.
The environment was unlike any other she had experienced.
“These are all people whose lives are on hold, sort of suspended at this point in time,” Krahn says. “So any time you would chat a little bit with the person beside you, it was so amazing. There was very little small talk. It wasn’t about the weather. It was, ‘So how you handling it? How are your kids handling it? How long have you got? Do you have an end date?’ And so many times there were people next to me that knew this might be their last chemo because they weren’t expected to live longer.”
From the outset, Krahn had decided cancer would not bring her down, but that was easier said
“I was one of those that wanted to be really strong, and I decided, ‘I’m not going to be sick,’” she says. “I was so sick. Extremely nauseated and very, very tired. There are just so many things that you have no power over, and so you kind of put your hand in both the medical community’s hand and people around you, and just sort of let them lead you.”
Helping to lead Krahn were her husband Randall, a pastor, and her daughter, Becca, who was in grade 4 at the time, as well as two grown children who were living in Winnipeg.
When Faith’s treatment-clouded head was confused by her doctor’s updates, she relied on the ever-present Randall to be an interpreter.
For diversion and companionship, Becca would rush home from school to play the card game Uno with her couch-bound mother.
“A precious memory of that time was Becca praying for me each night when she helped me into bed – a reversal of the parent praying over the child at bedtime that had been the earlier custom,” says Faith.
At the time, Faith and Randall were pastoring at Swift Current’s Cornerstone Fellowship Church. Faith would wear a wig to church, but that was unbearable after chemo treatments made her body feel hot.
“I would just pluck the wig off and be bald,” she says.
None of it was easy, but Faith found herself learning how to sift through the coal to uncover the diamonds.
“At one moment, you’re all dark and everything seems really hard to handle,” she recalls. “And yet at the same time, there’s this realization that there are so many things that are fresh and new that I have to hang onto at this point. So it just changes your perspective of life and the new conviction is, ‘Okay, let’s grab these moments.’”
Faith’s chemotherapy and radiation successfully concluded in October 2005, about a year after she found her lump.
While she was cancer-free after treatment, her doctors refrained from using that term for another five years, as is typical. There was always a chance the cancer could return.
It never did.
Last year Faith, a talented singer and songwriter, was asked to write a song about her cancer journey and perform it at Johnny’s Social Club.
At the time, several people involved with the local music scene had either passed away from cancer or were dealing with their own diagnosis.
Faith graciously accepted the request. Her song, “With You,” proved equal parts emotional and inspirational.
“Life has reached a very different stage,” she sang. “Tomorrow writes another page. With you, I will be. With you, together see. With you, together walking hand in hand. We’ll see this thing through. To its end.”
These days, Faith has been known to provide support to others facing cancer, speaking openly and encouragingly about her experience.
Yet she has put her own cancer behind her both in body and spirit. Only when she hears of someone else being diagnosed do her own diagnosis and treatment come rushing back in vivid terms.
“I have been glad to get on with life, and happy to leave a lot of it in the past,” Faith says. “God has been good.”