My stomach sank. I checked again; this wasn’t just a lump, this was a mass. We were going to northern Michigan to visit family, and I didn’t want to spoil anything so quite uncharacteristically, I told no one. Not even my husband Mark.
We arrived on a Thursday and saw family and had a wonderful time. In one way it helped in small doses to be distracted, surrounded by a family I love. On the other hand, I was straining to be civil. All I could think about, the main thought on my mind all weekend was, I must have cancer.
Saturday morning rolled around and in the shower I checked again. I found another mass, this one smaller, but definitely another one. I thought, I’m riddled with cancer.
Saturday night I told Mark that I wanted to go home the next day even though we had actually planned to stay until Monday. I knew my mother-in-law Maureen wanted us all to go to church with her on Sunday and that she’d be disappointed, but I couldn’t sleep and I admit, while mostly numb, I was exhausted from playing the part of a happy carefree relative-in-law. Mark was confused but when I said that I would explain later, the wonderful man that he is stood his ground when his mother protested about our early departure.
My beloved sister-in-law Katherine called later that week. At that point, I had told Mark and had already been to my doctor, awaiting my appointment with an oncologist. Katherine asked why we left so hastily. I told her. She knows about breast cancer, she lost her mother to it. She was wonderful, understanding and ever a faithful and solid Christian woman, promised to pray.
Soon I received a call from Maureen – she expressed her concern and absolute support (Katherine had called her) and it was after that phone call the numbness began to recede. In it’s place, I had a cold feeling of dread inside. I began to struggle with fear. I confess, even as a strong Christian, I feared most of all, the loss of life and next, the loss of a breast. The fear of losing my breast was almost as great as the fear of losing my life.
Two days before my needle biopsy with an oncologist, I received a Bible verse from an app on my phone. Coincidentally, I had downloaded this app only a week before I found the lump. I find these daily reminders or messaging apps (even if they are uplifting), to be somewhat annoying so it really was unusual that I put this app on my phone in the first place.
I had been praying that no matter what trial lay ahead, that I would continually seek the face of God through it all. I have a tendency to get side-tracked in a crisis and panic. Seeking God is sometimes a last resort…
That day as I felt the phone vibrate and the familiar alert tone rang, I reminded myself once again to remove that app from my phone. Then I scrolled down the Bible message for the day.
Usually they were profound and significant oft-repeated passages. Today, it was one simple verse that I don’t even remember actually reading even though I have read the Bible cover to cover several times and study the Bible often.
It read, “Genesis 15:15
Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age.”
I read it again, then again and several more times after that. I clung to that “annoying" verse like a life-line. I believe now in retrospect that was a hug from God and I thank Him with a heart full of gratefulness for His mercy.
I found a peace. His peace. The fear subsided. I faced the oncologist appointment with stoic resolve. Mark went with me, my earthly pillar of strength. He stayed in the room when the female breast cancer M.D. had to jab the needle into my breast. She had to jab very, very hard, I squeezed my husband’s hand tighter but I kept it in perspective. It wasn’t childbirth…
She gave up. She said she was unable to extract any fluid and wanted to do an ultra sound. As I wiped the sweat from my brow, I realized the entire time she was strangely upbeat. As she went out the door to arrange for an ultra sound, she said, “I’m pretty sure it’s not cancer, but let’s get this ultra sound ready and really see what we have.”
Sure enough – the “Swiss cheese” as she called it, that I saw from the ultra sound results, was a series of fluid-filled cysts. The fluid was clear, if it was cloudy, that could be a problem, but I had nothing to worry about. The diagnosis was Fibrocystic Breast Disease, a very common non-cancerous condition affecting about 60% of women.
I was jubilant. I felt spared. I felt undeniably blessed and grateful.
I was also reminded when we listen to that still small voice how great God can be.
That is my piece for today.