On November 15, 2016 I had my normal annual mammogram that I have had every year since I turned 40. After my mammogram in 2013 I remember how my heart dropped when I got a call saying I needed to come back for an ultrasound of my right breast, because they thought they saw something. The “something” they saw turned out to be a small cyst, absolutely nothing to worry about. So, when I received a similar phone call after my mammogram in November about something they needed to look at further in my left breast I was so unconcerned that it was almost two weeks before I called to schedule the appointment for the ultrasound and mammogram compression views of the area of concern.
On December 22, 2016 I returned for the additional testing. They first did the mammogram compression views of my left breast, which by the way is much more uncomfortable than the regular one they do. Then off to the familiar ultrasound room. I assumed the position with my left breast exposed and my left arm above my head as the technician did her thing. I watched as she measured something she saw on the screen. When she finished she said, “Stay in the same position. I’ll be right back.” She returned with a male doctor who told me I have a mass in my left breast that would require a biopsy. Baffled, I asked, ‘So, this is something different than the cyst that was seen in my right breast 3 years ago?’ He quickly responded, “This is something completely different.” Then proceeded to explain what the needle biopsy would be like. I told him I had a needle biopsy done on my thyroid before and knew the process. He said that the one they would perform on my breast would be much less painful than the one I had on my thyroid. He said other than a needle stick to numb the area I shouldn’t feel anything. Next, they allowed me to get dressed and took me to the “quiet room” so a very nice woman named Vanessa could softly tell me not to worry and that 90% of the time it turns out to be nothing. I’m thinking, ‘Well Vanessa, it may not be cancer, but it is obviously SOMETHING or I wouldn’t be sitting here in the quiet room with you making sure I understand what the doctor told me.” The biopsy was then scheduled for January 9, 2017.
In the midst of all of this I was recovering from a concussion I sustained in a car accident on December 4, 2016, the day after my 46th birthday. So, to say I was less than pleasant would be a tremendous understatement. Still, I had a wonderful Christmas with my beautiful family and began preparing for the New Year with great expectation! On December 29, 2016 I had a dream/vision of a doctor in a hospital talking to some people. I didn’t see myself or my family in the dream. He said, “Everything went well. She is doing just fine. We found the cancer on the left. It is always on the left.” The dream or whatever it was didn’t scare me as much as it made me curious. I wondered if God was preparing me for the results after the biopsy. The only thought that kept cycling through my mind was “This affliction is not unto death…(John 11:4)” and “You shall live and not die and declare the works of the Lord (Psalm 118:17).” The next day, December 30, 2016, I woke up on “auto pilot” singing praise songs, dancing around my room mindlessly, yet meticulously, gathering all of my personal, banking, and insurance information. I put everything in order in a way that would make all of my information easily accessible to my daughters. I didn’t give any thought to what I was doing or why. I just did it.
Monday, January 9, 2017, biopsy day, finally arrived and I was not nervous or anxious at all. I was at peace. I got dressed, put on make-up, took a selfie and sent it to my family. I even joked that I had to make sure I looked my best just in case the doctor or someone involved with the procedure was a hot, single, Christian man. I told them he would’ve already seen my boobs, which may qualify as a first date. No such luck. Ladies, never let a man tell you what will or won’t hurt your lady parts. The assault on my left breast that they called a needle biopsy was much more painful than the one I had on my thyroid. When it was over they said my doctor should have the results within 72 hours.
On Tuesday, January 10th, the very next day, I get a call from my doctor’s nurse who told me my doctor would like me to come into the office so he could talk to me that day. She asked if I could be there by 11:30. I said I could and would make sure I cried before I got there, since the result of the biopsy was obviously cancer. My doctor explained that I have invasive ductal carcinoma, which is the most common type of breast cancer women get. He told me who my new “team members” would be; a breast surgeon and an oncologist. He told me the next step would be “staging,” which would require more diagnostic testing and ultimately surgery to remove the tumor.
On January 12th I had my first appointment with the breast surgeon who basically reiterated what my doctor told me. She ordered an MRI of both breasts and a PET Scan of my whole body to rule out any other areas of concern. I had both of those tests done yesterday, January 17th. I woke up yesterday morning in tears and unnerved by the whole process. The day before and on that morning I kept hearing in my spirit, “There is more to be seen.” For the first time I felt as if I was afraid. I am so thankful that God has given me women of God that I can text, email, or call with my emotional meltdowns. I sent out the distress signal and they responded. As I was crying my eyes out, Jesus whispered in my ear, “You are NOT afraid. You are nervous, which is a normal human response when you experience something new and uncomfortable. Fear is a SPIRIT, which I have not given you (see 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV) and therefore has no place in you. When you finish crying, get dressed so we won’t be late for our appointment.” Him saying “our” appointment gave me great peace, because I knew He was with me. So I pulled myself together and got dressed.
The PET Scan technician, Hassan, explained he would be injecting some kind of radioactive stuff into my veins, then I would sit in another room for an hour while it worked its way through my body, I guess. I joked with Hassan while he was doing the injection that I was going to light up like a Christmas Tree when I left. He laughed. People have always said I have a beautiful, bright smile. I told him I expected my smile to really light up the room today! He smiled and escorted me to a room that had a nice recliner in it, dimmed the lights and said he would be back in an hour. I reclined, put my headphones on, and listened to my worship playlist. I got to spend a whole hour of just Jesus and me before the next set of unnerving handling of my body. How awesome is that!
After the PET Scan was finished I was seated in a hall waiting area until they were ready for the MRI. There I was joined by Kevin, who was also dressed in one of the highly fashionable blue gowns I was wearing. We chatted a bit as we both tried our best to keep our lady and male parts adequately covered so nothing came popping out that would’ve made us both very uncomfortable. During our conversation he said/asked, “You are a Christian?” I said, ‘Yes’, but didn’t get a chance to ask him what gave it away, because they called me in for the MRI.
The MRI wasn’t too bad, but was uncomfortable because my left breast is still sore from the assault it endured during the biopsy. The MRI assistant, Rosa, was an absolute sweetheart and the technician, Connie, was very pleasant. I got to listen to music in headphones throughout the process. I chose jazz. Connie selected Kenny G’s “I’m in the Mood for Love” CD, which she assured me was among his best. I enjoyed it so much that I downloaded it from Apple Music as soon as I got home.
The whole process for both tests took about 2 1/2 hours. My mom, the awesome Missionary & Reverend to whom no one is a stranger, took me to the appointment. So, I was not surprised at all when I entered the waiting room and she introduced me to an older gentleman named, Mr. Renee, who promptly gave me a hug, told me to give it all to God, and I have a wonderful mother, which I already knew. But, I was glad Mr. Renee was able to experience her special brand of sunshine that I am able to enjoy on the regular. As we were leaving I again saw Kevin, now fully clothed, and we all walked together to the parking lot. He also got to experience my mom’s special kind of joy. With a big bright smile (not as bright as my now radioactive one – LOL) he gave me a hug as we headed in opposite directions to our cars.
I would love to say I am blogging my cancer journey for some noble reason, but the truth is I am doing it, because on January 13th Jesus asked me to. I have written about some very personal, traumatic things that have happened in my life, but I always did so looking back at it, not while going through it. I said, ‘Lord, this is so personal and raw for me right now. Do I really have to share it in such a public way?’ He responded: “What you deem personal is the very thing I will use to bring healing, comfort, and My very Presence to those who read what you share. Not everyone is sick with disease. Many are sick in heart, sick in spirit, or among the walking dead who do not know Me. You are honest, real, and transparent. You do not hide behind Christian platitudes or memorized scriptures. You SHOW who I Am just by being who you are and allowing Me to be Myself through you.” So here I sit blogging my journey…
For today…somehow making Hassan smile and laugh on a day I was super nervous and giving Kevin a hug he seemed to need made me feel like in some small way they got to see Jesus through me. Because it was definitely His smile, His jokes, and His arms yesterday!