I just wasn’t sure how to title this post. I thought that since this month is Breast Cancer Awareness month, I would share my own personal breast cancer story. I should warn you though…this is a very long post.
Please don’t feel that just because you are here now, that you have to keep reading.
So…here goes. I kept a journal during the summer of 2009. Here is part of that journal.
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Wednesday, May 13, I had THE mammogram. I was called and told there was something on that mammogram that required another mammogram and ultrasound.
Tuesday May 26. That morning, I went through the 2nd mammogram and then headed over to the ultrasound area at the hospital. During the ultrasound, the technician took quite a while and it wasn’t until she had me hum that I began to think maybe something was up. Years ago I read somewhere that when you hum, sound waves don’t pass through solid masses. When I asked if the sound waves were passing through whatever it was she was looking at, she said, “I can’t tell you that.”
After the ultrasound, she said the doctor would want to speak to me. So she took me to this room, it was dark and there was the doctor, a radiologist and 3 nurses. All along 2 walls were pictures, mammograms and ultrasounds, of my boobs. The doctor introduced himself, but don’t ask me what the heck his name was. I do remember thinking he was handsome. By now I was starting to get a little concerned. He told me what was going on. He showed me my pictures and showed me that there was a “suspicious” spot on my right breast. They felt they needed to do a biopsy of it, but not to worry because biopsies were often just routine and not necessarily a big deal.
So, in a daze, I scheduled a biopsy. I don’t even remember walking back to the women’s center. My mind was going a million miles an hour, trying not to panic. Biopsies are no big deal, remember? The handsome doctor said so.
Wednesday June 3, I went to the hospital for the biopsy
The next day, Tuesday morning June 9, 2009, my doctor called me. I was at work. He actually called my cell phone…he didn’t even have one of his nurses call…it was the doctor himself. uh oh. This can’t be good news. He told me they got the report back.
I have carcinoma in situ. The lump in my breast is cancerous.
I have cancer.
There was some question about whether or not the “carcinoma” had spread to the surrounding tissue, so it was sent to Vanderbilt University for a closer, second opinion.
He told me that it, the lump, would have to be removed and then proceeded gave me a list of surgeons here in Kokomo and 1 in Indianapolis. He said it was my choice and told me a little about each one, but I needed to decide soon.
You just told me I have cancer in my breast and I have to decide something?
Am I supposed to be thinking clearly?
So, I’m sitting in my office at church, people everywhere in the building. My hubby is at work on the farm. What now? So, I called the hubby on his cell phone and he said he was actually here at the church ground spraying (his family farms the ground behind our church). I asked him to come to the office, the doctor had called.
I went outside and stood in the church parking lot and told my husband of 16 ½ years that I have cancer in my right breast. That was possibly one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
Hubby and I talked for a few more minutes then we decided that we should go back inside the office building and tell my pastors. They prayed with us and then release me from work for the rest of the day.
We made lots of phone calls to those whom we had told we would call when we got any news. I called my sister in South Africa. Lovely Daughter was spending the day and night with a friend. Little Man was at Grandma’s for the day. My Oldest Son was at home. So…now the question is…how and when do we tell the kids? And my Mom and Daddy. I ended up picking Lovely Daughter up from her friend’s house, having My Oldest Son go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. My Pastor and Very Good Friend came with us to be a support for me and to be there for my kids when we tell them.
So, that’s what we did.
We sat in my parents living room and told our three kids that I have cancer. I was so concerned about telling all three of them for different reasons…I wasn’t sure if Little Man would even really understand what was happening. He was only 6. Lovely Daughter was only 12. Entering her teen years, would I even be here for her? I don’t even know at this point really how bad this is…And then…My Oldest Son. He just graduated from high school. He’s in the process of joining the Marines. I did not give birth to him. He came to be our son after his first mom died. How can I possibly tell him I have cancer? This just isn’t fair. To have to tell him that now I, his 2nd Mom has cancer. I was just heartbroken. I was scared to tell them. They’re my children.
After talking with the kids for a while everyone gathered around me and Daddy anointed me.
Then, I called my brother in Vanuatu…I had to wait to call him because of the time difference.
Then, we decided to celebrate my future healing by going to the India Garden. My most favorite restaurant. Some very good friends who live in Indy met us there. Mmmmmm, comfort food.
Over the next 2 months, I would live my life in a daze. Always on the verge of tears…never did a day go by that I didn’t cry at some point.
Friday, June 19. I’ve very weepy today. On top of everything else going on, My Oldest Son left home last night. He got angry and packed his bags and left. How am I supposed to deal with this? I find out I have breast cancer and my son left home. I’m so sad. I’m so broken. About all of it. I suppose I should feel great. And I should know, that apparently, God thinks I’m strong enough. 1 Corinthians 10:13. Whatever. I don’t even know how I’m supposed to feel about anything. Angry? Mad? Sad? Hurt? Confused? Ok. That’s how I feel. Right now anyway. I’ve decided that I should keep this journal as a way to get things out of my head and heart and hopefully process them. I don’t want pity. And I don’t know what to tell people with they ask, besides prayer, how they can help. I want to say, “Can you make all of this just go away? That’s how you can help.” I know all the scriptures, how God will work everything together for good, how he will never leave me nor forsake me, how he doesn’t give us more than we can handle, how he is the Great Physician, he is Jehovah Jireh, he will provide, how he wants me to cast all my cares upon him, I believe he will heal me, I believe he loves me.
So, when will the knowing and the feeling collide?
Sunday June 21, 2009…My Son came home last night. With many tears and apologies, he asked if he could come back home. That was the longest 2 days of the summer.
We scheduled the surgery for Tuesday, July 29…MORE THAN A MONTH AWAY…HOW WAS I GOING TO GET THRU IT?
Over the next few weeks, I tried to live as normally as possible. I still went to work, I still went to church, I went to church camp as a high school girls, I had my 20th high school class reunion…friends and family came over to check on me to see how I was or to offer encouragement…
A lot of people ask how I was doing and told me that they had been praying for me every day. I guess I just really don’t know what to tell people when they ask how I’m doing. Fine? Okay? Crummy? Sad? Scared? All of those? Sometimes I don’t feel like people REALLY want to know. And then, if they do, how do I know who means it and who is just being polite? So, who do I share what with? I’m trying to live my life as normal as possible and yet there’s this “thing” hanging over my head and I know it’s there and YOU know it’s there. Are YOU someone who wants to REALLY hear about it? Or are you just being polite and asking the question out of habit? Because that’s what you’re supposed to ask people? I have learned that I shouldn’t ask others that unless I’m really willing to hear their answer, their cry for help…When I ask that question to someone, do I really care? Is my relationship with them one that is trusting, honest, even to the point of taking time from what I’m doing to ask how they are and then am I willing to care about their answer? Most of the time when someone asks me “how are you?”, I can’t honestly tell them. I just don’t know right now. Or maybe my answer is, “Right now, I’m okay. But ask me again a few minutes later and that probably would not be my same answer”. I don’t feel physically sick. It’s my heart that feels the most down. But not my literal life-pumping heart. It’s my spirit, I guess. I try to continue my day doing normal things, and yet there’s something potentially very terrible inside my body. Like the elephant in the room, that no one really wants to talk about, or doesn’t know how to talk about it. I feel like I do a pretty good job not thinking about it much. I try to keep busy, doing something, going somewhere. But, then there are times like right now that … alone writing this and my reality hits me.
I have cancer. I don’t FEEL like I have cancer. I don’t even like saying that word. It can be a very ugly word. cancer.
The day of the surgery came and went. Lots of friends, co-workers, pastors, came to offer prayer and support during the surgery. Many people brought meals over. I realized how truly blessed I was and my family is.
Tuesday August 11, 2009
Sooooo…today I sat down in Daddy’s recliner and ‘happened’ to look at his little calendar thing that sits on the table beside his chair and this was the devotional for the day…”Within each of us is a desire to know what lies ahead, a desire to have hope, a desire to have an anchor cast in the land to come so that we can endure the land of today.” -Max Lucado… Zeph. 3:20...At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you back home. I will give you honor and praise from people everywhere when I make things go well again for you, as you will see with your own eyes. Hmmm. Is God trying to tell me something?
August 27, 2009
The biggest news from the day was that the breast cancer doctor’s office FINALLY called with my results.
Clear. No Further treatment needed!
I don’t doubt for one minute that my LORD healed me. He removed that ugly little cancerous tumor from my body. It’s not there. I’m reminded of the verse, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles.” I feel that all I’ve been doing through this process is waiting. I mean, on May 11 the doctor ordered that first mammogram, then I had to wait on that, then after that, I had to wait for a second one, then I had to wait for the biopsy, then I had to wait for the results, then I had to wait to meet the breast oncologist surgeon, then I had to wait for surgery, then my surgery was moved back a day to I had to wait longer, then after the surgery, I had to wait on the results and when they finally came, I had to wait on a second opinion.
That’s a lot of waiting.
A lot of resting in the Lord.
A lot of having to trust Him for what is coming next.
He knew all along why He had me wait. He was right there. Waiting with me. I’ve surprised myself a bit, I guess, by trusting that He does know what He’s doing. And I know He knows what He’s doing. I don’t doubt that. It’s the “why” he’s allowed it that I wonder about. What was the purpose to all this? Was it for my benefit? Or was it for someone else’s? Was it so HE would be glorified through it? Was He? Did I truly honor Him in my thoughts and actions through this time? If the outcome had been different, would I feel hurt, anger? Part of me feels that now, knowing the outcome so far. Why put me and those I love and who love me through this? What’s the point? Was my going through all this, the tests, the surgeries, and waiting, waiting, waiting worth it all? And going through it all without either my best friend or my sister here with me? Why? What was the point? What lesson did I learn? I learned to let go and wait on the Lord.
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Three years later and here we are.
There is a song that continues to speak to me. I honestly don’t remember hearing it before that summer more than 3 years ago.
It’s called “I’m Letting Go”. I think that’s the lesson I learned. To let go and let God have control.
I’M LETTING GO
My heart beats, standing on the edge
But my feet have finally left the ledge
Like an acrobat
There’s no turning back
I’m letting go
Of the life I planned for me
And my dreams
I’m losing control
Of my destiny
It feels like I’m falling and that’s what it’s like to believe
So I’m letting go
This is a giant leap of faith
Trusting and trying to embrace
The fear of the unknown
Beyond my comfort zone
Giving in to your gravity
Knowing You are holding me
I’m not afraid
Feels like I’m falling and that’s what it’s like to believe
Feels like I’m falling and this is the life for me