“I looked you up on your blog.” One of the women at the retreat where I was speaking this weekend, stopped me on the path. “I didn’t realize you had breast cancer.” She smiled, a sister sharing a bond. “Me, too. I found out in 2015; it has been six years, and I’m clear!” She told me a little of her story – a much more harrowing story than mine – and parted with, “I just wanted to encourage you, from another survivor.”
I can’t tell you how much that meant to me.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – something I take much more seriously than I used to, after going through treatment for breast cancer since early last year. I’ve now spoken to so many friends, acquaintances, readers, and women at events who have been on their own journeys, and I wanted to take a moment to tip my hat to all of you this month. Thank you, ladies, for your courage, your transparency, and your welcoming arms to every one of us who finds ourselves a part of this particular club that no one ever wanted to join.
You’ve told me your stories and hearing them has done something precious: it has allowed me to feel that I’m not alone. It has given me hope. It has taught me so much. So in case it helps someone else . . . here’s PART 1 of my story.*
Four days before Christmas 2020, Jeff and I had just finished some Christmas shopping and were driving home to meet a hairdresser friend who comes over to cut our family’s hair. My cell phone rang. It was from the center at which I had recently had a mammogram and then a biopsy. I honestly hadn’t been worried about it after that. Since our family has zero history of breast cancer, I assumed what had appeared on my screening mammogram was just a cyst or something. In fact, I had been far more concerned about the fact that a biopsy meant that someone would be inserting a needle deep into my breast. Once that ordeal was over, I stopped thinking about it.
The best bad news
On the call, the radiologist who had done my biopsy asked how the wound was healing up. I chattered for a minute and started asking a question about some stitches that weren’t behaving. She finally cleared her throat and interrupted me. “We got the pathology results back. The report shows that there are abnormal cells.”
“Abnormal cells?” For a moment, I was completely confused. “What do you mean?”
“It means you have breast cancer.”
I looked over at my poor husband who had only been hearing my side of the conversation. “I have breast cancer?”
Jeff’s eyes went wide. He looked like I probably did: shocked and disbelieving.
“Yes. You have breast cancer. But thankfully, because we caught it on a regular mammogram it appears that we are getting it early.* I know this is bad news. But truly, this is the best bad news that you could hear right now. There is so much we can do. My colleague is going to call you in a few minutes to discuss next steps.”
As I ended the call, we pulled into our driveway. My friend was already in our house talking with our teenage children. Jeff and I had no idea how we were going to go in there and act like everything was normal; I knew I had to tell them.
I stepped inside, said hi to my kids, and asked my friend if she could come into the garage for a moment. She must have seen a weird look on my face because when we stepped back into the garage, she asked if everything was ok. When I told her what I just found out, a completely understandable expletive left her mouth. We said we needed to tell the kids, so we put the haircuts on hold, sat down with our teenagers at the kitchen table and explained what we had just learned. It was hard. They were scared.
I wasn’t scared. Because it didn’t actually feel real. But that soon changed.
Stay tuned for PART 2 in next week’s blog as I continue my story in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you want to learn more about early detection, visit the National Breast Cancer website here.
*Editor’s note: Ladies, get your mammograms!
This article was also published at Patheos.
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