God’s Masterpiece: Surviving breast cancer

Venis Daniels (R) stands with her family after her son, Anthony, preached his initial sermon in October 2018, 8 months after her mastectomy. VENIS DANIELS / COURTESY

For most people, finding a new and itchy lump in their breast is terrifying. For Venis Daniels, it was a call to action.

“Initially, I didn’t have a sad feeling or a depressed feeling, I actually felt offended when I found the lump, if that makes sense,” Daniels said. “It didn’t belong there.”

She found the lump in October 2016, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and quickly got to work figuring out what it was.

Daniels had to wait 30 days for a mammogram, which was inconclusive. After an ultrasound, another 30-day wait, and a biopsy, she was finally diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Through all of that, I had to completely trust God,” Daniels said. “I didn’t want to talk to anybody, I didn’t want people to comfort me in their way, or tell me, ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s going to be OK,’ because I didn’t know. I didn’t know if I would live or if I would die.”

Now, Daniels is diving into her history and her faith to make sense of what happened to her, and is coming out with her book, God’s Masterpiece … Fearfully and Wonderfully Made!, detailing this experience.

“I wanted people to see that you can survive this,” Daniels said.

After her diagnoses and some testing, doctors decided to do a mastectomy.

“I didn’t even know that they would offer to reconstruct my breast. I just thought that I would have no breast there, I would have one flat and one full. I had no idea what to expect or how this was going to go down,” she said.

The mastectomy was a success, and Daniels was able to avoid chemotherapy. Instead, doctors placed her on Tamoxifen, a hormone therapy taken orally.

“We say all the time, ‘Things happen for a reason, things happen for a reason, things don’t happen by chance.’ That’s what I believed. There is a reason I found a lump. There is a reason this lump was cancer. There is a reason I didn’t get chemo, or radiation. There is a reason for all of this. Hope,” Daniels said.

For Daniels, hope and God go hand in hand. She describes an ultimate trust in God, even through the pain and confusion.

“When I found out about this lump, my immediate reaction was, ‘Lord, I trust you,’ ” she said. “I didn’t feel any frustration or anger towards Him about it. I never blamed Him or got upset with Him, I never shook my fist at Him.”

It was not without hardship, though. Even with the confidence that God was on her side, Daniels still struggled.

“When I got by myself I just cried and prayed, prayed and cried,” Daniels said.

This experience inspired her to share her story. In doing both personal reflection and research for her book, Daniels said she began to connect the dots between her medical history and some of the problems that she faced in adulthood.

“When I was a baby, I had a period,” Daniels said. “My mother rushed me to the hospital and she was told that I was going to be precocious. By the time I turned 9 years old, I had my menstrual and my body was developing.”

Daniels thought that there could be a connection between her body’s relationship with estrogen and her medical problems.

According to Stanford Children’s Health, experts are not always certain what causes precocious puberty. However, there are two types, one being gonadotropin-independent. This type is caused by “early secretion of high levels of sex hormones,” including estrogen.

“Here I am, I have this longstanding relationship with estrogen, which is running amok in my body,” Daniels said. “I’m not a doctor, this is just me, through research, putting this together. It was so much to absorb.”

These theories, and her faith, have made it possible for Daniels to make sense of what’s happened to her, and she hopes that sharing her story will help others do the same.

“If you have a source that can comfort you or provide you with the ultimate confidence, it can help take whatever illness that you’re dealing with in a different direction,” she said.

Her message to someone else dealing with hardship?

“My one answer is always God,” she said. “If I didn’t know who He was, I can’t tell you how I would have reacted to all of this. No matter what, God loves you. He will never let you down.”