How is this season looking for you? Yellow cheer blooms along the lake path this time of year. I took in all the beauty on a walk recently and thought about the uphill road I’ve been on for a few months. Maybe you’ll find some encouragement in reading a bit of my story.
What is it like to hear those words you thought were always for someone else? “You have cancer.”
While each of us knows we are not immune, the shock of reality bashing into what was only a vague concept is brutal. My road got pretty rocky within the space of one hour at the doctor.
I’m in the middle of my adventure with cancer. Here’s a bit of what I’ve experienced so far. Of course, everyone’s journey is different. I don’t know the treatment or outcome for me, so I can’t say what “works” or not. But by talking through some of what’s happened, I hope you’ll know a bit more about what it’s like. I hope you’ll find encouragement for a time when you or a friend or family member is suddenly launched on this path.
A year slipped by since my doctor gave me a reminder card for a mammogram. My results had always been normal, so why take time off work to go for this test? With the new year, new calendar, new schedule that came with retirement — OK, I would make the appointment and go. The results came back with the bottom line highlighted in yellow:
Normal mammogram with no evidence of malignancy.
Good news! But the long, involved fine print talked of a “focal asymmetry.” I was to go back for an ultrasound.
Later, more than one doctor expressed dismay that I received a highlighted printed result informing me there was no malignancy.
Partly because I did have more time to spend in a medical office, I made an appointment for an ultrasound. Just to check it out. My reading showed that “focal asymmetry” was usually some kind of shadow and turned out to be nothing of concern.
In the waiting area, clad in a little blue paper vest and my jeans, I thought about my life. For some reason, sitting there all alone with medical people bustling about, I decided to look back at the times my life was spared when I could have so easily not made it.
First, I had polio at age 2. So many polio patients didn’t make it, or ended up affected the rest of their lives. (Think President Franklin Roosevelt in his leg braces and wheelchair.) My leg healed to the point where my parents couldn’t remember which leg was afflicted. Then there was the time at age 9 I rode my bike down a busy street on a hill and somehow veered in front of a car. The driver, a family friend, later told my parents if he hadn’t been “able to stop on a dime” I would have been hit. More recently, there was the rush-hour accident when my car was smashed between two SUVs. As I ricocheted back and forth with sounds of metal crashing, I really did think this was it. My car looked like a taco, folded front and back, but I was able to stand up and walk away with just a few bruises. (Shout out to Toyota for making a crumple-free driver’s zone.)
So God allowed me to live a healthy life thus far, and I know I’m in his hands past, present, and future.
And then the pleasant nurse called my name.
The ultrasound tech was nice but quiet as she looked at the screen. And there it was, so clear even my untrained eye could tell immediately she had found a tumor. She zoomed in and took “stills,” said she would be back with the doctor, and then left the room.
In no time the doctor came back with the tech.
“You have cancer.”
The room immediately went foggy brown. The two women stood over me as I sat on the exam table and I looked from one to the other. They were in monochrome. I had trouble focusing. I definitely had trouble formulating words.
The doctor volunteered that the next step would be a biopsy to confirm cancer. I was probably looking at a lumpectomy with radiation. I would stay a night or two in the hospital.
Out in my car, I texted my husband and a few others about the “not good news.” I needed time to gather my wits before I drove home. Immediate texts and calls came, which would be the start of an amazing support system that continues to grow and sweeten.
The refrain “I have cancer” rung in my mind as I drove home. I was on an adventure, one I would gladly forego, but one to delve into because my life depends on it.
Meanwhile, I’m focusing on the spring blooms that grow wild for a only a few weeks each year. And they are at their peak right now!