a testimony by Betsy Recker
Hello! I’m Betsy, and I I have been attending Calvary for 12 years. My husband, Bryan, and I have lived in Rochester for 13 years. We moved here after his residency in order for him to become a partner in a periodontal group. We both did all our schooling at the University of Iowa and met as neighbors, each occupying one side of a duplex, in Iowa City, IA. I was a middle school science teacher, and he was finishing up dental school when we met. We met in January of 2006, were engaged in March, and married in June, almost 5 months after meeting. Besides being a teacher, I was also a licensed bridal consultant. So, I planned two weddings in the spring of 2006 – my own, and the 700 person, black tie only event that I had already signed onto before meeting Bryan!
Bryan and I have had an interesting life together. On one hand, we have had a rather continuous series of significant life, family, and business events that have been difficult to deal with. We haven’t suffered from anything truly catastrophic, but just a steady stream of serious and difficult circumstances. On the other hand, we have had many wonderful moments as we learned how to be married and grew into a family of 7! Funny enough, we struggled to get pregnant for two years. But, through many ups and downs, 11 pregnancies, countless ultrasounds, 6 labors, 3 premature births, and more than 35 days with someone in the hospital due to childbearing things, the Lord has provided us with 5 beautiful children this side of heaven. Kate (almost 12), Jill (10), William (8), Emily (5), and Timothy (4) keep us very busy, especially since we homeschool.
We own our own business, which sometimes is called child number 6. He was born right after William in 2014. That year was a tough year. Bryan worked literally 90 to 100 hours a week trying to start a new office from scratch. Meanwhile, I had the 3 kids, aged 3 and under, with William having weekly medical appointments for months. That year, Bryan didn’t take a salary. We put all our money that he earned into building his business. The Lord provided in an amazing way. Our 3-4 months of emergency expenses in the bank account lasted through the 13 months he ended up not taking a paycheck. The business settled in and became such a blessing to our lives. Bryan truly flourished, and we had more flexibility as sole owners and not partners.
I love to take, archive, and digitally scrapbook photos. I am dreadfully behind in my scrapbooking at this point, but if I had free time, I would spend some of it on the photos. Telling our family’s story is something that brings me great joy because I get to recount God’s faithfulness in the big picture, but also in the details of every page. I have and continue to develop in my “God watching” since becoming a true believer in 2005.
These days, we are in full swing of the elementary years. On a typical day, I spend my time with the kids doing school. We have to be pretty efficient with our time to handle everyone’s educational needs each day. On Tuesdays, I work two days in one. I complete my normal day with the kids, from 7am to 6pm, and then I sit at my office and work from 6pm until well into the Wednesday morning hours. Bryan usually wakes up around 4:15 am on weekday mornings, and there are times I meet him – me going to bed while he is getting up. I like my second day on Tuesday. I am a natural night owl. I love the peace and quiet of the night during which I work diligently.
There have been some less peaceful nights in the Recker household in recent past, as we have gone though another pretty tough year or two in 2020 and 2021. Of course, the pandemic wreaked havoc on the normalcy of our small healthcare business. We had our doors closed for us for 12 weeks. That was just a whole situation in and of itself. God provided. We then had other major and unexpected changes at the business, which caused high stress for several months. God provided again. We then had a deer run into our vehicle on the interstate and total our car. Thankfully, the kids were not with us. We walked away with only minor injuries. God provided. Just as everything was feeling settled, I went to go get my 2nd ever annual mammogram. This led to a biopsy, which led to a Sunday morning in August, 2021. A Sunday morning which should have been typical but was not. And the Lord knew everything and had prepared everything in advance. He had already provided. We just didn’t know how yet.
After Bryan told me that I had breast cancer, I felt numb and as if I were going to pass out. So, I lay back down on the bed. Bryan, having been awake a bit early that Sunday morning, had received the Mayo Portal message that my biopsy results were in. He had read them before I woke up so that I would not have to. As I awoke and started getting ready for church, he sat me down to deliver the news. Ironic as it is, Bryan biopsies people regularly for cancerous looking areas in the mouth. He told me later that he has never had to tell anyone yet that they have cancer, and that he didn’t think his first delivery would be to his wife on the week of her 40th birthday.
We were in shock. We didn’t know what to do. So, as soon as I could be upright, I got out of the bed, we got the kids ready and went to church. I guess we just thought we would rather be there than anywhere else. I don’t remember the sermon that day. I just remember people singing and me convincing myself to just keep standing. And then people sitting and me trying to convince myself to just remain seated. Then, at the end, I saw my dear friend and she asked me if I had heard any news. The tears came. I’m not sure how long I sat on the back bench with her. Then, we went home to tell the children.
That ushered in some pretty chaotic times for our family. Besides the busyness of fall activities and trying to get school up and running for 5 kids, I had appointment after appointment after appointment for tests and imaging. Then, there was a long period of waiting. From all the information I had gathered from any medical professional who would talk to me on the phone, my diagnosis was good. The cancer was contained and had not invaded my body. A small lumpectomy with a few days of radiation would set me on a new course. The Lord knew. He had it all planned. After 5 weeks of waiting, talking to no doctors during that time, I finally had my first breast cancer clinic appointment. The doctor, who happens to be a sister in Christ from one of our church plants (the Lord knew), put the MRI up on the screen. I am not medical, but I knew instantly that I wasn’t having a little lumpectomy. My entire left breast was lit up all over. The doctor delivered the obvious news. A mastectomy would be the only way to take care of the problem. I don’t remember much about the appointment after that.
Lots of appointments and lots of waiting. Knowing that I had an aggressive, high-grade cancer growing inside of me. Trying to be mom, living out this entire process in front of my 5 children who were trying to understand. Trying to be wife and understand that this was not just my own process, but one for my husband, as well. That was hard. I had moments of epic failure. But, the Lord had plans. I had to fight a little bit to get a surgery date that was only 2 months out instead of 3 or 4. Time was stressful, as the cancer was still contained, but we didn’t know for how much longer. The Lord provided during this time through people…many Calvary people and dear friends.
On the day of my surgery, I had coordinated 6 various adults to care for the children (we have no family around Rochester) from 4:30 am until 9:00pm at night, including taking them to their choir practices and concerts that evening. I had a surgery that lasted over 6 hours. They removed tissue from my collar bones down the length of my ribs and to each side under my arms. They took 2 lymph nodes. After that, another surgeon came in and reconstructed me with artificial materials on both sides. I wasn’t too worried going into surgery, but I was worried about waking up. What would be the prognosis? It would be initial findings, but had the surgery been in time to keep the cancer from invading my body (and thus avoiding chemotherapy)? Or, would I be looking at another, worse challenge ahead? How would I feel? How would I look? How would I not use my arms for 6 weeks with 5 kids at home all day?
Through all the years of our married life, the thing that has become the most meaningful to me is watching the Lord provide. He does. The funny thing is that most of the time, it is not through the means or circumstances by which I thought He would or should. But, He always provides. He provides just the thing at just the time. And often, I find, it is not until the circumstances have slightly passed that I put all the pieces together and stand speechless and in awe of what He did right under my nose without me fully realizing.
The final pathology report revealed that my cancer had to be tested further than normal because it was so significantly close to having been invasive. However, the final path report was not invasive. The surgery had been just in time. When the surgeon called me a few days later to give me this final report, I got off the phone and wept. I wept for about 2 more weeks. Some in relief, some a backlog of everything I had held in over the last months of trying to hold it together, but much of it in awe of the Lord’s timing.
I am now 6 months post-surgery, which is about when I should start to be feeling back to normal. I did not have to do chemotherapy or hormone therapy. Since then, we decided to move to a new house (yet another incredible God moment), and both a friend and my mom have been diagnosed with breast cancer, so things have not slowed down.
I always hesitate to tell people our story. Even the above is just a scratch on the surface. It is hard not to sound negative when you tell someone about circumstances, one after another after another, that just seem heavy and have gone on for years. But, to me, in hindsight, they are beautiful. Beautiful in a way that is so deep in my soul that no one could take it away. It is the joy that only Christ can give. Through them, the Lord has brought me into deeper and deeper trust in Him. I have felt His gentle arms wrap around me in protection of my soul. It isn’t that bad things aren’t going to happen, and certainly not that I always feel joy at every moment, but I do watch for the Lord to show Himself. I know He will. He will redeem the pain if I am willing to see and walk in that redemption. His joy is greater than any emotional feeling I will ever have.
In summary, I would say watch for God. Watch for Him. Don’t just think that you will notice or wait for the obvious to appear. Look at all circumstances with trusting expectancy. Follow the details. Look back on circumstances with an eye towards Him. The Lord who created you will delight you in ways you never imagined possible through circumstances you never thought probable.