This is a story with a happy ending...
I went for my regular screening mammogram on February 19. In and out quickly, no problem. A week or so later, I had a call from my doctor that they had found a nodule and I needed to go for a magnification mammogram and ultrasound. I was only mildly apprehensive, after all the same thing happened last year and all was fine. Mostly I just thought it was a nuisance.
So on March 6, off I went to the mammography department yet again. They did the mammogram first and sent me out to the waiting room while the technician reviewed the photos. Then brought me back in, saying that if they could show that it was nothing with the second mammogram, I wouldn't need the ultrasound. So when they finally sent me on my way without the ultrasound, I thought great, it must have been nothing.
Wednesday March 11...my doctor called and said they wanted to do a biopsy. Silence on my end. Those are not words a woman wants to hear. She reassured me that it was low degree of suspicion, and would likely be a benign result. "Do not stress about this, ok?" She insisted, and asked if I had any questions...I was too stunned to think and said no. I went downstairs and told Dave...he was as freaked out as I was. We just held each other in shock for a while, absorbing the word "biopsy" and trying not to think about what that could mean.
But no matter that my brain heard the words "low degree of suspicion", my mind still drifted into thoughts of cancer. I thought of Kim and what she has shared about her journey through breast cancer...no way could I get through such an ordeal with that much strength, humour and grace. I tried to concentrate on my doctor's words that it would likely be benign, but so hard to keep your mind from wandering into the shadows! I was grateful for my prayer shawl and wrapped myself in its comforting embrace.
I don't know how many times I read these words this past month. Every time I put down a glass or a mug, I found myself reading the words on that coaster. And praying for the strength to get through this time of waiting, wondering, worrying without driving myself and everyone around me nuts with my impatience!
I didn't tell anyone other than Dave for a couple days. I didn't want to talk about it, I didn't want to make this into a bigger deal than it was, I didn't want to burden my loved ones. My mom and sister were dealing with some other things. I certainly didn't want to worry the girls. Valerie was soon heading off to NY for March break with one of her daughters and a friend and I didn't want to cast a shadow on her trip.
But a couple days later, I was at Valerie’s house to pick up her youngest daughter K (who was spending the day with my M) and she asked how I was. I muttered a half hearted I'm fine, intending to slip away without saying more. But when she looked concerned and asked what's wrong, I was overcome with the selfish need to share my anxiety with my best friend. So I said in a low voice (so the girls didn't hear) "I have to have a biopsy on a lump in my breast"...Valerie looked startled, and then gathered me up in a hug saying, "we'll get through this together".
We waited three weeks for the biopsy...which weeks I spent feeling withdrawn and anxious. Even knowing it was low degree of suspicion, I found it hard to shake off the dark thoughts of "what if." I wasn’t dwelling on it all the time, but a shadow darkened my heart and I slept badly every night. This time of waiting coincided with some dark days for my beautiful Sara, so my emotional energy was drained. But I was frantically busy at work, working three weekends in a row, so that kept my mind occupied to a large extent. Dave and Valerie were both amazingly patient with my withdrawn and moody self during this time.
Valerie offered to come with me to the biopsy appointment...I said I would love that. (Dave offered to accompany me too, but Valerie offered first so he was out of luck!) April 3 rolled around. The appointment wasn't until afternoon, but I stayed home that morning, knowing I wouldn't be able to focus on work anyway. Valerie said she'd come to my house in the morning and we'd go from there. I was up early, after a restless night, prowling around the house, cleaning with nervous energy and waiting for her to arrive. As the morning rolled past with no sign of her, I started getting irrationally pissed off that she wasn’t there yet. I swept every floor in the house, cleared clutter off tables and counters, scrubbed the stove top, and finally attacked the cat hair on the furniture...thinking to myself Hmph, obviously her idea of "I'll be there in the morning" isn't even remotely the same as mine, and that had I known she wasn't coming until noon, I would have done something else that morning besides hanging around my house waiting. Sometime after 11, she called and said she'd stopped by the office, bad move, but was on her way. I told her “never mind then, if you're busy, I'll just go alone”. She asked if I wanted to go alone. I said no, but...she said well then shut up and I'll be there in a few minutes. Finally at ten to twelve, she arrived. I growled that I should have just gone alone, because I was feeling worse than when I got up. She replied, "of course you do, this day sucks! Do you really want to go alone?" I grumped "No I don't, but I feel worse now because on top of waiting for the biopsy, I spent the morning waiting for my best friend to not show up and I really didn't need that today!!!" She very gently agreed, gave me a hug, and then we headed off for lunch before the appointment. (We have since had a good laugh about the whole thing. Dave found the story highly amusing, especially my enraged cleaning spree!)
We arrived at the hospital well in time for my 1:30 appointment, and sat in the waiting room, not saying much. At 1:40, Valerie said impatiently "ok, anytime now...that has been the longest ten minutes in history!" Eventually I asked the receptionist how much longer and she said my biopsy was actually for 2:00 not 1:30. Arrgghhhh!!!! Eventually they called my name and in I went. The nurse told Valerie I'd be about 45 minutes, so not to get worried if seemed like a long time. It felt like a long time to me, I have to say! Sitting in a chair with one breast flattened, my head tilted to one side, not able to move a muscle, while they froze me, then took 7 core biopsy samples and a few mammogram images...but finally I was done. I had thought my doctor told me I'd find out right away, but the nurse at the hospital said the samples had to go to the lab and the results would be sent to my doctor in about a week. Oh no, not more waiting, I thought in dismay.
I wanted to go to movie afterward to unwind, since was feeling pretty frazzled from the procedure itself and learning that I had to wait yet another week. First Valerie said unfortunately she had work to do…but after a moment, decided she could do those the next day, and came to a movie with me after all (I joked that it was her penance for being so late that morning!) We went to see "Knowing" with Nicolas Cage and quite enjoyed it, right up until the really bad ending. When I thanked her for coming with me to my appointment, she said that selfishly she wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else, and that was wonderful to know.
Another week of waiting, wondering, worrying...after the Good Friday service, I left the church feeling bleak and drained and empty. I cried all the way home, even pulled over along the way and sobbed for quite a while on the side of the road...and wept off and on all day. A day of tears was a good release for me though. I am blessed that Dave doesn't pester at me about why, he just lets me blubber away, knowing that I need to purge my emotions occasionally with a bout of weeping and that during those times, all I want from him is to know he is there when I need a hug or a listening ear.
Finally the following Tuesday, I called my doctor's office to see if they had the results. Yes, they did - hallelujah, the waiting is over!!! Wait, they wouldn't tell me over the phone, I had to make an appointment in person. That gave me a bad feeling because my doctor normally tells me things over the phone. So when Valerie asked I wanted her to go with me, I said yes please. Once again, we sat impatiently in the waiting room until I was called in. The doctor almost immediately said the biopsy was negative for malignancy...he said some other stuff too, but I was so thrilled to hear the negative part that I didn't absorb anything else...I'll go back and follow up with my own doctor next week (she was away so the other doc gave me the results.) I came back out into the waiting room and said to Valerie "does the ear to ear grin give it away?!!" Her face lit up with relief. We went back to her office and shared a cup of tea while I regained my composure from falling into a puddle of relief. I called Dave and let him know...he too was a puddle of relief!
I am so thankful that my biopsy was negative for malignancy!!!! Am singing Hallelujah for real!!
I am deeply thankful for the strength of God that carried me through this valley of uncertainty. And I am thankful for Dave and Valerie, whose love and hugs held me together during a long month of waiting. And for my mom, my sister, my daughters, and friends who would all have offered their support had I shared this sooner (I just wanted to spare them the agony of waiting so didn't tell them until after I got the results.)
And all I have to show for my ordeal is a little tenderness and a teeny, tiny "tattoo" (on the right...to match my mole on the left):
And this song in my heart, that I have been singing everyday since last Wednesday!