One year ago today, at about this exact time in the late afternoon, I received the call that I had invasive ductal carcinoma.
I find myself reflecting on all that has transpired this past year. I can't believe it has only been a year, as a whole lot of life was lived in one year. There is much that has happened that I wish had not, but there is A WHOLE LOT MORE that has happened that I would not trade for the world. I can't even begin to tell you how much love has been showered upon me through words and actions. I also can't even begin to tell you how close God has been to me throughout the year. He held me, never left nor will leave me, and is just an amazing, amazing God!
Here is a bit of what I have written about that day one year ago:
It all started with a lump.
A soft, small ½ inch round thickening.
I never dreamed I would eventually be told that the thickening was actually a 6 centimeter malignant tumor.
We were celebrating Christmas, 2009, I bring 3 sisters in front of a bathroom mirror and discreetly show them what I had been keeping a puzzled eye on for months. They too, are puzzled, as we all stare with furrowed brows at this lump thickening of mine. I go to the doctor. She sends me for an ultrasound. I am told it is normal tissue, and I that have some fluid filled cysts, nothing to worry about.
But I still worry, I stand in front of mirror many evenings, while brushing my teeth, looking with eyebrows still furrowed. I examine. Is it changing? Am I imagining? I am a bit unsettled.
It is May. I make the decision to go back to the doctor. She points me to a surgeon, just in case. This surgeon is the “best in town” She is one who deals with breast lumps daily and has for years. She quickly looks, quickly feels. She scoots her chair up to mine, looks me square in the eyes and says “I know what I am feeling and it is not cancer.
SHE IS SO CONFIDENT!
I name her Dr. Confident.
She tells me to go home and quit worrying. I sigh relief.
My hero husband does not. He presses, for now he is puzzled. He is out of place in this room, the first time he has ever come to such an appointment with me--it is even during a workday.
Why did he come?
Because of his love and God’s plan.
Husband asks “can we at least have an ultrasound to compare to the last?”
Surgeon sighs, hastily scribbles out a consent for an ultrasound and says “If you must, so you quit worrying…but I know what I am feeling and I am sure it is nothing” I leave confident, because she was confident.
The order for ultrasound sits, gets buried under paper.
I become buried in summer fun with my 3 girls—they are a 10, 9 and 7.
It is now the end of August.
I start having pain under my left rib, in the spleen area.
They want to ultrasound.
I think, “Oh, I should go dig out my other ultrasound order, the one for breast. I’ll hit two birds with one stone” Might as well.
My spleen looked perfectly normal BUT
My breast is now puzzling the professionals
They do a biopsy.
The procedure is incredibly painful, a searing pain that shook my core, and an experience that made me shake for over an hour later.
Why wouldn’t the anesthetic work?
Why couldn’t they get me numb?
We now know it was because vascular areas do not numb well.
Tumors are hungry and greedy, which makes them very vascular.
We didn’t know this then, but I wonder if my kind nurse did…
I wait for 3 days.
The call comes on a Tuesday late afternoon.
I am in my bedroom.
My home is full of rowdy kids, mine and neighbors.
The nurse says, “will you please hold for Dr. Confident”
My heart is pounding. I am sitting on the edge of my bed.
Elevator music in one ear, the sound of my children playing downstairs in the other.
There are more sounds, the sound of my heart pounding, and of thoughts swirling.
“Why didn’t the nurse just tell me?” “Oh, no. It is the end of the workday. Dr.’s save the hard calls for the end of the work day “
Dr. Confident comes on the phone, voice low and serious.
“Amy, I’m sorry to have to tell you that you have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma”
Silence... but then my breath gets louder and faster.
“Do you understand what I am saying?” “That means you have breast cancer”
I find myself in my closet, phone still attached to my ear. I am having to concentrate on my breath, I say the word “Ok” three times. It is the only thing I can think of to say. My knees feel weird. Is this what they mean by “weak in the knees?”
She wants to see me.
I then get angry and find my words. I tell her no.
I remind her that she named herself Dr. Confident.
I remind her that hero husband had to ask for an ultrasound.
I have not spoken to her since, but I do think I have forgiven.
I pray my story has changed her name to “Dr. Humbled” for her future patients sake.
I send kids home. I call husband. He tells me later that his knees, too, had buckled.
He comes home. We look into each others eyes, fear reflecting fear.
His hug never felt so good.
I am so sad for this good, good, husband, sad that I am the cause of his fear reflecting eyes.
Kids go to Bible Club for 3 hours.
We spend that time making many phone calls to those who love us.
I stutter out the words “I have breast cancer” with each call. The experience of hearing my voice say those words aloud, knowing they cause fear and pain in those I love was not one I would get used to very quickly. Every time I say it, I have to force it out. It sounds so harsh. It makes me cringe.
There is a thunderstorm that night.
I listen to the thunder, and a song with this verse as a chorus
(Isaiah 43:2)” When you pass through the water I will be with you. When you pass through the flames you will not be burned-do not fear”
It is the first of many, many times our God would comfort me with song and His Word. He has been with me, so near, so sweet and dear.
Despite His words to me, fear had me in its grip that night.
I tried to sleep.
I would drift off, and would wake, dry heaving.
Fear was wreaking havoc on my body.
I tired of waking to the heaves.. so I get up.
I find myself sorting. I sort recipes. I think about how they will outlive me.
I throw out recipes that are full of sugar. I don’t want to leave junk for my girls.
I think of the junk, the baggage that I have left, will leave. I beg God for more time to make it all right. To turn junk into treasure. I can’t stop thinking of dying. I feel crazy. Husband wakes to comfort me. He tells me I have to shut down the thoughts. I agree, and for a moment feel less crazy.
How does one do this?
How does one fight fear of death, while facing death?
How do I open my clenched fists and allow “no’s” to become open hands that say “come what may?”
Answered prayer started happening the very next morning.
I wake up to the harsh reality that I had dumped Dr. Now Humbled and am left in need. God moves mountains for me and shows me a beautiful chain of events within hours that was only by His doing. God maneuvers, and by 10:00 am I have an Oncologist. Not just any Oncologist, but one who is and has been everything I need....
I will stop there. :)
Facebook has a new feature where they show your status from the years before in the sidebar. I got chills and tears when I read mine from a year ago, written in the evening, after an emotional evening of phone calls. I vividly remember writing it, I was starring at my computer screen while in a daze, but then was shaken to the present by loud thunder. That thunderstorm spurred this status:
It also reminded me of a song that we sing at church. I immediately looked up and watched this video at least 3 times in a row. This song is a favorite and one to this day God uses to remind me of who He is.