So the story begins on the afternoon of Friday August 8th when I went in for my routine mammogram appointment. I know it's really weird to many that I have routine mammogram appointments, BUT, my Mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in her late 20's and passed away in her early 30's from the disease. Because of this unusual family history, I began having yearly mammograms at the ripe age of 19. As weird as it is to you, imagine that it's more awkward to me-- people don't get it, and you get lots of stares in the office coming in that young.
So anyway, though this appointment wasn't a first for me, I will say that I had about a 3 year gap between this appointment and the last due to pregnancy and breastfeeding. It's the same story each time-- they take around 4-6 images, it goes by very quickly and you're out the door with the "no news is good news" shpeel.
All was well and good until Tuesday August 12th when I received a voicemail from the office requesting that I call them back. I was told that "the doctor requested more images." Not many more details than that. Keep in mind that it isn't a doctor that does the call backs-- it's an appointment person who is ready to schedule your follow-up. I don't know that the appointment people have access to details, or if they're specifically instructed not to give any details, but when prodded, she didn't give me much to go on. I was assured that many people were called back each day, and that it could be a number of things.
A few days later I received a letter from the office in the mail. The first paragraph said something along the lines of "more diagnostic testing is needed..... if you haven't already scheduled a follow-up, please do..." Then the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs went into detail about a new law requiring them to tell me that my breast tissue is classified as dense. Though I think the law is new, it's nothing I hadn't heard before. Part of the density issue is that it makes it hard for mammograms to be read, and a big proponent of the density is my age. It was suggested that I have a MRI in the past because it would read better. Based on the contents of this letter, I assumed the density had something to do with the need for more images. I also know that each year when you go back for a mammogram the doctors are comparing images from the last year, so I also had in mind that there was a 3 year gap between my last mammogram, I had birthed and nursed a child for 18 months since the last one, and I had also lost 40 pounds..... there's a lot of factors there. So yes, more images.... yes, it could be anything.
My follow up appointment was yesterday morning, August 18th. Pretty routine check-in, chauffeured to a room to change into a smock and then taken in to get my mammogram. It was explained to me that I would be getting 4 more images done and that this time they would be "magnified", and then the magnified images would be passed on to the doctor right away and then he would come speak with me. This is unlike the last visit. The doctor would be looking at my images right away. In fact, this is the first time I've ever spoken with a doctor since coming there for years. Remember that normally it's the "no news is good news." I was happy about this though, because now maybe some of the vagueness of the follow-up and the questions as to why would be answered.
.... The doctor steps in, and explains that there are calcifications in my breasts. They are small calcifications that are clustered together to make up an area about an inch. And though a cluster is found in each breast, the cluster in the left is a bit "worse."
At this point, I'm in shock and full of questions... this is not at all what I anticipated the follow-up was about. I couldn't imagine them "actually finding something."
I was told I needed a biopsy and that they were going to try to squeeze me into the schedule right away if I could stick around..... Fast forward about 30 minutes, and I'm lying face down on a table with a giant hole in it having my left breast smushed, poked, prodded and numbed so that they can take a hollow needle and make a hole to extract some of the suspicious cells or calcifications. And at the end of the procedure, a small piece of titanium is placed into the spot, "just in case" so that a surgeon can find the spot if there is a need for surgery.
While I remember feeling a little sad that I was there at the appointment alone, I also remember feeling at peace. I was receiving a flood of text messages from family asking questions, saying they were praying for me, and then text messages from Daniel who was totally stressed out, and yet I have such a hard time conveying my feelings in those moments. I wasn't scared. A part of me felt a little bad that I wasn't scared. I remember asking the doctor if I could still workout yesterday, at which he said, "probably no working out for at the minimum 24-48 hours"... and I remember him making a comment/joke to the nurse helping with the procedure, "I think she's more upset about not working out than she is about having a biopsy done today."
The only way that I can explain it, is that I felt incredibly vulnerable, but also incredibly strong at the same time. And I think it's because God had been preparing my heart for this. It's such a beautifully orchestrated story of how He has been speaking to me through his Word. Stories and verses that have been in my personal reading and in my Bible study over the last few weeks kept coming to mind. Here are just a few of them....
- This specific verse was placed in my path over the last few weeks, in 3 different places and from different people/books.... "Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long." -Psalm 25:4-5
- Reading and studying in Deuteronomy in a separate book about God providing and caring for His people. Specifically the story regarding manna. "He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." -Deuteronomy 8:3
- Leeland gave me a rubber bracelet yesterday with this verse on it, "I love you Lord, my strength."
- I like to take books to the doctor's office, like most probably do, so that I have something to read while I wait. And I don't think it's a coincidence that the book I am currently reading and have been about half way through is "Running Scared: Fear, Worry and the God of Rest" by Edward T. Welch and that a portion of the reading that I was enjoying while I waited to have a biopsy was the entirety of Psalm 27.
.... So apart from God, I can't explain the peace that I found yesterday. As we laid down to go to bed last night, I knew that I would receive the results of the biopsy today. Daniel prayed for us and for me, we chatted about the possibilities, and I fell asleep stating "No matter what happens, we praise Him. Good news, we praise Him. Bad news, we praise Him." Words that I couldn't utter in my own strength. Apart from Him, I can't handle bad news.
I'm happy to say that today I received the phone call from the doctor with the results from the biopsy and that the cells were negative for cancer and that it's "Fibrocystic tissue." It's nothing that will go away, and it's something we will keep check on with regular mammograms. Fibrocystic tissue is not cancerous and will never be cancerous, but it still doesn't mean that I will never ever get breast cancer. I still have a strong family history, and there are still increased risks from it, increased risks with dense breasts and slightly increased risks when you have fibrocystic tissue.... But yet again, I'm reminded of a verse that was laid in my path this week in another Bible study.
"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?..... Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." -Matthew 6:26-27, 34
God is so good to me! Today I praise Him. I praise Him for good news. I praise Him for comfort and peace. I praise Him for growing me and teaching me. I praise Him for His faithfulness and His loving presence in our life. None of this is my own doing or my own strength, and I share this story for His glory.
"Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done. Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek His face always." -Psalm 105:1-4