Case Closed

I finally returned to work on Wednesday morning. After my son’s tonsillectomy and finding a lump in my breast over the previous seven days, it felt like I had been gone from the office for forever. But it wasn’t forever…it was five business days. Which goes to show you just how quickly life can turn. The morning dragged on and on as I anticipated whether my results would come in from my biopsy the previous day.

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Around 10:30 that morning my phone rang and I immediately recognized the number. It was the hospital! I jumped up from my seat and grabbed my phone heading for a more private setting. I answered to a cheery voice that shared that I would be able to come in that day anytime before 2:30. I asked if noon or 1:00 would work and the voice answered, “I’ll put you in for a biopsy check at 1:00.” Anxiously I asked, “Will I get my results then too?” “Yes, you will” she answered. I had secretly hoped she would just reveal my results over the phone but I’m sure that is outside of protocol…so I silently retreated to the fact that I’d have to wait until my appointment.

While the minutes dragged by, I was surprisingly calm. I realized the woman from the hospital had not suggested that I bring someone with me. That had to be a good sign. I felt very optimistic but tried to hold back. It’s an errie feeling to be so close to the answer but still not know.

1:00 finally rolled around. My sister had planned to come with me already and I was glad to have her there. My pastor met us at the hospital as well. I entered the Women’s Center and didn’t wait more than three minutes before my name was called. The nurse asked me to have a seat in a small office. Her name was Kelly and she had a sweet, friendly demeanor that immediately put me at ease. She removed my bandaging and checked my incision. She asked if I was having pain and I answered that the pain was very mild. Nurse Kelly reported that everything looked good on my incision and I should expect the tape to start to peel away over the next five to seven days as my wound heals. She then took a step back from me and said “Oh, and your results came back fine so you’re good!”

And that was it. I was a little in shock. Thankful. But in shock. It was so simple. Nurse Kelly explained that I had a fibroadenoma (non-cancerous tumor) and it would require no further intervention. I had about a billion questions running through my mind. I asked if the tumor could continue to grow but she was unsure. She gave me an information sheet with some basic information on fibroadenomas and let me know if I had any problems going forward to contact my doctor.

I stepped out of the hospital into a beautiful March day. I was relieved. I was thankful. I was also a little numb. The influx of emotion over the last two days was catching up with me and it would take some time to fully digest that I was okay.

I shared the good news with my friends and family and I went back to work. Back to my normal life. Back to routine. Back to being a normal, regular 31-year old, healthy mom of two.

That evening I visited my uncle who is in his final stages of life. He has battled cancer for the past eight months. He is on his journey to heaven and hospice is telling us that he is down to days. I don’t know my uncle as well as I wish I would have. What I do know about him is that he is a Vietnam vet who fought for our country, he is a fisherman and he loves the outdoors, and most of all he is a kind man. He is sleeping a lot at this point but we were lucky to find him quite alert. He was however in severe pain. When I went to hug him, he winced at my touch…but he still wanted a hug. When I told him that I wished there was something I could do for him, he said I already was doing something for him by just being there. He talked about an eagle he saw from his window in the past few days, told a fisherman’s story and spoke of relatives that have passed on many, many years ago.

As we left, I was sure of one thing…God is with Charlie now as he continues to make his journey. I had told my sister earlier in the day, after we got the good news on my biopsy, that the one thing that resonates with me about the previous 48 hours…the thing that I come back to when I ask why I just went through this…I cannot shake the feeling from that first day, Day One. When I came home from the doctor who had confirmed that there was something growing inside of me that needed further testing, after I had learned that there was a chance that I could have breast cancer, I prayed to God and asked for his help to be strong and I truly felt him surround me. I felt closer to God in that moment than anytime I can remember. So that feeling, that knowledge, that God is closest to us when we need him the most…that he carries us when we’re too weak to carry ourselves…that he is standing beside and carrying the weak, the sick, the poor and broken-hearted…that’s the greatest promise I can imagine.

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I’m back to life as usual…mad-rush around in the morning, work, mad-dash for dinner and bedtime in the evening and then do it all over again the next day. I feel so blessed to be given the grace to continue on and I will try to hold on to the memory of that “Day One Prayer” but I know it will fade as I get lost in the hustle and bustle of life. But I take peace in knowing that when life throws me my next curve, there is nothing I will ever have to face on my own.

A Bump, a Blessing and a Biopsy

Today was the day for a mammogram and ultrasound…the day to get some answers about the bump that caught me by complete and utter surprise yesterday morning as I laid snuggling in bed with my youngest.  At 31 I had never had a mammogram before and I was nervous about the procedure as well as the answers that it could lead to.  Thankfully I received an enormous amount of support after my blog post last night and it helped to give me strength.  I received countless messages, comments, friends sharing my story and asking for prayers…as I said yesterday, I believe in the power of prayer and your prayers carried me through today.

Back to the mammogram…a friend had advised me to take a couple of Tylenol beforehand to offset the discomfort of the test…I had no idea what to expect.  A bundle of nerves, I was relieved to find not one, but two friends, waiting for me at the registration desk.  I registered and made my way to the Women’s Center.  There I dressed in the lovely hospital gown (at Jace’s tonsillectomy the week before a nurse referred to the gown as the “Dr. Seymour Butts Gown”…I liked that.  I’m easily entertained.).  Within ten minutes I was escorted to a room and had my very first mammogram.  I was surprised to find that it wasn’t as awful as I had feared.  Awkward…a little.  Painful…not at all.  Also, word of advice, you can’t wear deodorant when you have a mammogram.  Sometimes being a woman is so weird.

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From there I waited in the waiting room for a few more minutes before it was time for the ultrasound.  That procedure took a total of five minutes and the doctor came in shortly from there.  From entering the hospital doors, registering, having a mammogram, having an ultrasound, the whole ordeal took less than an hour.  The doctor read my tests and explained to me that he believed (and please forgive my lack of medical knowledge…I interpreted the best I could) that the lump in my breast was a tumor (not the word he used).  He could not be sure if it is malignant or benign.  He explained that he had a two percent leeway to make his assessment.  If the tumor had characteristics that cause it to fall between the 0% – 2% range, he could assess that the tumor is benign and no other action would be necessary.  Unfortunately, my tumor has some abnormal characteristics.  He assured me that the likelihood of the tumor being malignant is still very low (he placed me at the 5% range) but he could not be sure without performing a biopsy.

I was left to dress and then met the nurse to make an appointment for the biopsy.  She explained that during the biopsy the doctor would give me a shot for general anesthesia that would numb my entire breast.  From there he would make a tiny incision and insert a needle to remove samples of the tumor to send for further testing.  The doctor would receive my results back within 24-48 hours and would have me come into the office to talk through the results, as well as to check my incision.  She pulled up the calendar and found that the nearest appointment was on the 30th…eight days away.

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I left the office feeling a little deflated.  I was thankful for that the tumor was most likely benign but still uneasy to not know for sure.  I also couldn’t imagine waiting eight days to have the biopsy and then an additional one to two days to learn the results.  I realize this is the experience for most people…the waiting.  My heart aches for them.  I’m not sure that there is much worse than not knowing.  I headed home and made a few phone calls to give updates to my family.  I choked back tears thinking of going through Easter egg hunts, church services, work days with this heavy burden on my heart.

I was still processing my morning and allowing the events of the past 24 hours to sink in when my phone rang.  It was the hospital.  They had a cancellation…it was about 11:30 in the morning and they could take me today at 1:15.  This is a miracle in my mind and soul.  I didn’t expect or dream that this would happen although I prayed for it, and to my awe and surprise, my wait was over.  Eight days were turned into an hour and a half.  Isn’t that amazing???  I was in awe.  I called my sister and asked if she could come with me.  And as always, she didn’t miss a beat.  There was no question…she was by my side.  My Pastor also stayed with me through this entire ordeal.  I feel so blessed to have so much support.

The nurse had warned me that the numbing shot for the biopsy would be painful.  She actually repeated that sentiment several, SEVERAL times.  I went in anticipating a painful experience and to my surprise…it wasn’t bad.  That’s all I can say about it.  It isn’t the most pleasant experience…I don’t care to do it again…but all in all, it wasn’t bad.  After making the incision, the doctor placed the long, needle-like instrument into my breast.  I could watch on the ultrasound as he prodded the mass in my body.  He warned me that I would hear and feel a pop and sure enough, there was a pop.  I don’t know for sure but I imagine it is like when you get your finger pricked and the little needle explodes from the plastic to pierce through your skin quickly.  After the pop, he would draw out the instrument, remove the sample and then go through the process again.  We did this a total of four to six times.  And then it was done.  The nurse applied pressure to my incision for fifteen minutes, dressed the wound and I was able to get put my clothes on and head home.

Hopefully, the results will be in by noon tomorrow.  If the results come in, I will return to the hospital between 1:00 – 3:00 tomorrow and learn what my results are.  At the absolute latest, the results will be in on Thursday.  Either way, good news or bad, I will know an answer for certain by the end of this week.  I can’t exercise for 48-72 hours.  I can’t take any aspirin, blood thinners or ginkgo biloba.  I can’t lift more than 10 pounds.  But that’s it.  At this point that is the only fall-out from the bump that turned my week on it’s head.  I can handle all of that.  I can be grateful that there will be an answer…and hopefully one that says that I am cancer-free.

I still can’t believe the past two days have even happened…they have been bizarre and blessed and unreal all at the same time.  I have felt every range of emotion…fear, sadness, nervousness and anxiousness, happiness and excitement, worry, stress, thankfulness.  The past two days have been everything…every single thing.  But what stands out the most to me is the kindness.  I have been shown so much love and kindness over the past two days that I am astounded.  I have received messages, prayers, surprise visitors and friends that wouldn’t allow me to do this alone.  I have been given support from those that are closest to me and old friends alike…from those that know me well and those that have only known me a short while.  The nurses and the doctor were nothing short of amazing and gracious.  They were understanding and patient.  And above all other amazing happenings the past two days, when I received the call that said I could have the biopsy today…eight days before the next opening…I saw all of the prayers come into fruition.  I can’t say thank you enough to those of you who took the time to mention me in your prayers.  It is so powerful.  So thank you.  Thank you so much.

I hope to have an answer tomorrow and will update when I do.  Tonight I am thankful for God and his graciousness.  Today could have gone much differently but tonight I feel I can go to sleep with some peace.   The tests are done.  What will be will be.  Now I wait on results.  I have nothing but hope and optimism for what tomorrow will bring.

Grace Carried Me Here, and by Grace, I Shall Carry On

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I awoke this morning in a bit of a fog.  The last week of my life has been consumed by my seven-year old’s tonsillectomy.  The surgery went very well but day two was extraordinarily rough with him throwing up and having a temperature that topped out at 104 degrees.  He would improve and then take two steps back.  I had planned to return to work today, but after Jace had another rough morning yesterday, I decided it would be in his best interest to not be forced to wake up at six in the morning and be carted around so I can make it in to the office by eight.

Anyhow, I awoke this morning with a tiny little body curled up into mine and I have never been so comfortable in my life.  I wasn’t sure at first if it was my son or daughter who had snuck into my bed, but then I found her little toes and felt her hair in the dark and figured out that, yes…yes, it was definitely my daughter.  Why is she so cuddly???  I can never get out of bed when she is around….that is unless she is pulling me out of bed by the arm demanding strawberry milk and/or pancakes.  We definitely have those mornings as well.  But this morning was different.  Her eyes fluttered open and we laid in bed just soaking in the day.  She chatted and I listened and felt calm and happy.  The house was quiet which meant my son was still sleeping and I silently patted myself on the back for deciding to stay home to let him get some much needed rest.  Then I stretched out my arms for a good morning stretch and as my fingertips grazed the top of my chest, I noticed a lump in the top left-hand side of my chest.

I focused in on the spot in disbelief but yes, it was there, a round, hard ball in the top left-hand side of my breast.  I wish I could say that I am a responsible adult female and regularly do self-examinations to check for this sort of thing, but I don’t.  I often forget that I’m now 31 and I’m really not as young as I used to be.  My daughter was still chattering away but my world ceased to move for the moment.  The logical side of my brain said “Don’t panic, Melissa.  This could be anything.  It’s nothing to worry about. Don’t panic.”  The emotional side of my brain flashed the unthinkable…my children growing up without me there, the worst possible scenario, the pain and suffering that comes with the dreaded “c-word.”  I decided to call the doctor.

I had thought that they may tell me to give it a couple of weeks to see if it would go away…maybe it was hormonal.  But that’s not what the nurse practitioner said.  Instead, she asked if I could make it in at 11:15 today.  I thought about my son and his health but knew I had to go.  So I said I would be there and phoned my mom to see if she minded to watch the kids for an hour.  Thankfully, Jace woke up feeling better than he has over the past week and he was excited to go to grandma’s.  I went to the doctor and again, I thought that maybe she wouldn’t notice the lump during the examination…that maybe it’s my imagination.  But no, she immediately found it and agreed that it was there and it is not normal.  

It’s odd…the feeling that I got at that moment.   I try to be very logical in life but that is not my natural place.  Naturally I’m more emotional, artistic and passionate.  But those skills don’t serve me well in times like these.  So when the doctor explained that my lack of family history in breast cancer and my age are good indicators that the lump could be non-cancerous, I just sat and listened trying to not react in one way or the other.  She told me it could be a number of things and that she wouldn’t jump to cancer.  It could be hormones, caffeine, a cyst, a non-cancerous tumor….or it could be cancer.  She said we would schedule an appointment for a mammogram (I didn’t think I had that coming for some time yet…bummer) and an ultrasound.  As she left the room so I could dress, I felt total and complete shock.  This is not what I expected today.  As I worked with the receptionist, I held back tears and tried to act normal.  Thankfully, the hospital can fit me in tomorrow, so my wait will not be long.

My husband called as I was leaving the office and I broke down.  This is scary.  There’s no other way to lay it out there.  I think I’m going to be fine.  But knowing ALL of the possibilities, how can a person in this position not be scared?  I went home to an empty house and sat down in my living room on the steps.  I put my hands together and I prayed.  I pray everyday, but today, in this moment of helplessness, I felt closer to God than I have in a long time.  I prayed that God is with me over the next day, that He helps me to be strong.  I prayed that He helps me to do His will and accept His will, whatever that may be.  And I prayed that if it is His will, that my tests tomorrow turn out a positive result.  And if His will is the opposite, if I get bad news tomorrow, that He is with me to help me take the next steps.

The truth is that whatever is in my body is already there.  Good, bad or indifferent, it is there.  It is only by God’s grace that I’m even here now to write this.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed.  I have been so blessed in my life with more than I deserve.  I pray that I’m given the grace to grow old with my husband and my children but I don’t know if that is my path.  My blog is named “No Luck Necessary.”  Have you wondered why?  It’s not because I think I’m so great that I don’t need luck.  It’s because I don’t believe in luck at all.  Everything I have and everything I am is a product of God’s grace.  I have tested this theory throughout my life, pushing my limits.  I am living proof of His grace for us.  Now, today, I pray that He has a little more left for me.

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I’m not sure if I should be sharing this.  The only people I’ve even spoken about this to are my husband, my mom, and my mother-in-law.  I hesitate to share this with all of you.  It is so deeply personal.  I started this blog three months ago because I had an overwhelming calling to write.  Something inside me kept saying that I needed to write.  I don’t know why or if it will ever develop into anything more than a past-time, a hobby, a therapeutic outlet. But if one person reads this and relates, one person goes home and does that self-examination tonight, one person has hope and strength when they’re in the same position in the years to come, then I’ll be happy with my decision to put it all out there.  If you are reading this, please add me to your prayer list tonight, along with all of those people in the world awaiting test results or those who have gotten the test results back and are battling for their lives.  There are so many who need prayers and I believe in the power of prayer. By God’s grace, I’ll look back on this day in the weeks, months, and years to come and it will be a passing memory, a false alarm.  But only by God’s grace, there is no other way.