A planner by nature, Kathy Gilder schedules her mammogram each October – breast cancer awareness month. When her 2011 test returned questionable results, Kathy was scheduled for a biopsy. On Halloween, Kathy was diagnosed with two types of breast cancer.
“My natural human response to my diagnosis was fear and a desire to run from that reality,” shared Kathy. But soon, Kathy began searching for acceptance of her condition. She asked her father-in-law, who was praying for a miraculous healing for Kathy’s body, to instead pray for peace and acceptance. “Because of these prayers and those of others, my spirit changed, and I began looking at this experience as a gift to embrace and perhaps bless others,” Kathy said.
In December, Kathy had a lumpectomy, followed by four rounds of chemotherapy beginning in January. There were numerous ups and downs with multiple side effects to deal with along the way. But, Kathy’s biggest challenge was giving up any sense of control. “I’ve always been very organized and used to feeling in control – but cancer takes that away. Having to let go was tough, but it has brought a whole new depth to my relationship with and reliance upon God.”
Kathy had tremendous support from her extended family, church, neighbors, and especially her Huntsville Botanical Garden family, where she serves as Vice President of Operations. Kathy was particularly encouraged by her husband Steve, who in loving support, shaved off his hair after Kathy lost hers during chemotherapy treatments.
Kathy’s garden represents life and all its idiosyncrasies. She selected a rainbow of colors to reflect God’s covenant of grace for better days to come. A multi-layered garden of different heights, smells, and textures imitate the many layers of cancer – for those afflicted and those touched. As someone who is typically systematic and organized, Kathy hopes her garden reflects the chaotic, “hot mess” the journey of cancer, as well as life itself, can be.
Kathy completed her four rounds of treatment in March and is currently undergoing radiation. Kathy’s message for other cancer survivors is, “The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you. Grasp the hand that He offers for strength, drink His Word for nourishment, and share your journey with those He places in your life – and you in turn will provide strength and inspiration for others. Choose to take the path of faith, hope, and love.”