Interruption My Journey with Breast Cancer

Call back. Two words when placed in the same context with mammography is at best unsettling. Every year, many women are called back in for more testing after their screening mammograms. Many of these women go on to find out there is nothing to be concerned over. Even many of the ones requiring a needle biopsy, after fearing the worst, learn their results are benign, take a deep breath, and move on.

Thursday June 9, 2016:  “Well that’s over with for another year,” I mention to my husband leaving my screening mammogram. Oh I now wish that were true.

Friday June 10, 2016: I listen to a message on my cell phone from the mammography center asking me to give them a call back. My heart races a little, but then I think it’s probably in regard to billing. Returning the call I learn the radiologist found an abnormal area of concern in my left breast and I need to schedule a diagnostic mammogram.  They can get me in Monday morning. Are you sure you can’t get me in today? No ma’am, no availability today.  I will have to wait through the weekend.

This is not in my plan. I don’t have time for this. I have things to do. I have kids and a husband to take care of. Cancer would really interrupt my life.  Then my thoughts dare to go down the road … what about my kids? Will they lose their mom earlier than they should? They’ve already been abandoned and rejected by birth parents, what will this do to them now? How will they get through this? What will my husband do? It’s not fair. We are planning to finally travel one day, after our kids are out of house. So much for that.

I want to cry but that would be so over reacting. It’s just a call back.  I don’t know anything yet. I am much more anxious than I should be. Don’t assume the worst and don’t give in to drama.

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

Monday June 13, 2016:  Monday morning I go in for the diagnostic mammogram. She explains the area of concern is calcification. It is common but “can go either way”. She assures me someone will explain more after the images are examined. I am seated back in the waiting area. Finally I am called and a doctor introduces himself. He explains it is a very small spot (tumor) in my left breast. Again he states that it is a calcification, very common, but “can go either way.” I hear it as there is a 50/50 chance you have breast cancer. He continues to explain the next step is to do a needle biopsy of the tumor, to determine if it is cancerous, pre-cancerous or benign. He also tells me that it is very small. So even if it is cancer it is detected early and vey treatable.  Again, I hear … there is a 50% chance I have breast cancer … but small and treatable. The first available appointment for a biopsy is Thursday afternoon. Three days away.

What about the mission trip in a few weeks? Will we still be able to go? It’s not fair to my son if he doesn’t get to go because of this. And the money we’ve already paid? Refundable? Most likely not. What about that conference in October? Will I still go? Will I lose the money? Definitely an inconvenience.

So many others go through biopsies with negative results. I’m sure it will be same for me. So why am I still so worried?

I fall in bed at night and finally let myself cry. Why do I let myself get so worked up over things I don’t know for certain? I am beginning to really dislike waiting.

Proverbs 3:5
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.

Thursday June 16, 2016: I was hoping to get some results, or at least know something immediately after the biopsy today. Instead I will have to wait until next week. I feel like an idiot thinking I would get the results today. Everyone else probably thinks so too.

After talking to the doctor who did the biopsy, I am somewhat relieved. Even if it is cancer, it is small and detected early … not as bad as I feared. As the doctor implied, it will be a bumpy road but not a disaster. What do I have to be scared of? Either way I win. Even imagining the worst outcome, I get to go home. God will take care of me. And He will be glorified through it all. Actually I get the opportunity to see Him work either way. It could very well turn out to be a blessing. But I also cannot show that I am afraid. I assume it would show as a lack of faith. And of all things I have, I have faith. I have no doubt God is good and He is in control. So why am I still anxious and afraid?

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Monday June 20, 2016:  I make sure I turn the ringer up on my cell phone as soon as I wake up.  I do not want to miss a call. It rings as I am standing in the kitchen and I see it is a number which could be from the mammography center. I answer as I walk into our home office. A woman introduces herself and tells me she has my biopsy results.  She asks if I have time to talk.  Uh oh. This can’t be good news.  My heart races. I sit down and she begins to tell me my results came back positive for cancer.  She pauses, there is just no other way to say it … it is cancer. I am so relieved to know something definitive. But I really did not want to hear this.  I begin to cry but I  have to get through the details of this conversation. She is giving me the name of a surgeon and will call me back with the first available appointment date. She also gives me the name of a local non-profit cancer center, who can provide resources and walk me through what to expect.  At least I can move on to treatment. At least the initial waiting is over and I can now DO something.

I hang up the phone and call my husband. I make a few more phone calls and tests, my sister, my oldest daughter, my best friend,  and then gather my three younger kids together to tell them. Yes, mom has breast cancer, but we are going to be ok.  Just a bump in the road. A bumpy road offering an opportunity to watch our amazing God  at work.

The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.

Tuesday June 21, 2016:  I am able to get an appointment with the surgeon the next day. We learn that it is a small tumor, 5mm in size, DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ), high nuclear grade.  Good news considering. Non-invasive. His surgical recommendation depends on the results of genetic testing for the BRCA gene mutations. If negative for BRCA then I will have a lumpectomy (partial mastectomy). If positive then possibly a full mastectomy. After the lumpectomy I will have a few weeks of radiation. I should not need chemo. Great news actually.

Really not that big of deal. Just a surgery and a little radiation. No chemo. So many others have so much worse.

Come and see what our God has done, what awesome miracles he performs for people!

Wednesday June 22, 2016: Appointments with geneticist and breast center today. Geneticist gathering history of cancer in my family and drawing blood to send for testing. We should have results back in two weeks or less. Will then move forward with surgery.

The breast center visit is very informative. Lots of questions answered. There is just so much information to absorb. Reassuring that the treatment statistics for DCIS is 98% “cure.”  So thankful my hubby is with me for all these appointments.  Having someone else helping process this information is a huge blessing.

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Now that I have some answers and a plan, posting details on Facebook.  Probably the best way to keep everyone informed. Many already know since it went out on the church prayer list, but now it seems so official. I am so relieved that it is not worse, but it is still somewhat an emotional roller coaster.

Right now it is comforting when people know I have breast cancer and acknowledge it. Saying almost anything is better for me than ignoring it. Don’t ignore the elephant in room. I’m thinking about it anyway. When it’s not acknowledged I second guess my own emotions … am I’m making a bigger deal out of this in my head than I should? Do I really matter? Why am I thinking about this when it seems to be a non-issue? Am I just self absorbed?  All this self talk comes and goes.

When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

Thursday June 23, 2016:  So I didn’t expect to breakdown and cry in front of my family this afternoon. I need to be strong for them. The kids don’t understand, and I know they have their own fears. They don’t need their lives put on hold. It’s not their fault. I also don’t like being impatience, irritable, snappy, distracted … blah blah blah.  I guess I have to admit I am afraid.

But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.

Friday June 24, 2016: A little down today. Hubby is being so quiet. I am a little concerned about him. I can’t break down because everyone is depending on me. I can’t be selfish.
I am a little more concerned about surgery.  We talked to the surgeon about my hemophilia carrier status. He recommends scheduling an appointment with an oncologist/hematologist to discuss it and be prepared. Never having surgery before, and knowing my Factor VII (clotting factor), being an obilgate carrier, is generally 50% or less, I just want to head off any surprises.
I am glad we are heading to work out. Exercise will help me think better.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

Monday June 27, 2016: So my surgery is finally scheduled – July 19. A little later than originally thought but it’s the earliest time available. Appointments also scheduled with Oncologist/Hematologist and Radiation Oncologist. My calendar focus has shifted a bit over the past couple of weeks.

But God is at work! My two sons are both active in sports … opposite sports. My calendar usually revolves around baseball and basketball, practices and tournaments. As happens often, this week’s schedule includes a week-long baseball tournament in Missouri, AND a basketball tournament in Texas. Divide and conquer! But God stepped in (albeit to basketball-son’s disappointment). Texas basketball tourney is canceled. So, the whole  family is packing in and heading to Missouri for some baseball with family time thrown in. God is so good. It’s sometimes the “little things” that are so sweet!

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

Monday July 4, 2016: God’s timing is perfect. He gave our family such a sweet gift working out details for our Missouri trip. Lots of laughter and a much needed mental break for me from all the ‘what ifs’. Now back home in Texas and ready to get my genetics panel results back.

Taking this one day at a time. I can see how He has been preparing me to trust Him in this, through other circumstances over the past two years. I’ve learned through less life shaking situations recently that God is trustworthy. He is faithful. Even when I don’t understand what He is doing, or why He is allowing something, I will still trust Him.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Thursday July 7, 2016: Since my initial meeting with my surgeon, I have had to stop all hormone replacement therapy. Cold-turkey. He explained that my tumor tested highly estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor positive (ER+/PR+). Meaning the cancer cells are sensitive to those hormones.

Ouch.

It has taken me and my doctor the past 2 years to finally get my perimenopausal hormones evened out. I have been very thankful for micronized progesterone. But here we are. This bump in the road has now not only derailed my emotions, but it has messed with my hormone balance. Not a pleasant sight.

So please pray for me, and extend some grace if you happen to end up caught in the hormonal crossfire. I apologize in advance.

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Friday July 8, 2016: Appointment with hematologist today. Focus on heading off any problems during and after surgery related to my lower clotting levels (due to hemophilia carrier status). More blood work and waiting. Why is it always over a weekend?

I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word.

Sunday July 17, 2016: BRCA1 and BRCA2 are known genes linked to  “BReast CAncer” (hence BRCA). If a person carries a mutation on either, or both, of those genes it greatly increases the person’s risk of developing breast cancer (or a reoccurrence). Although the chance of carrying the BRCA mutations is fairly small, if the mutation is found, the risk of breast cancer greatly increases. Evidently my doctor felt the chances were high enough to warrant genetic testing before final determination of surgery.

In my case, if one or both of the genes had been positive for the mutation, my doctor indicated he might consider recommending a full mastectomy, due to the increased chance of reoccurrence. But since both genes were negative for the mutation, I am scheduled for a lumpectomy. Good news! 

Although BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations are linked to an increased risk of developing breast (and ovarian) cancer, there are also other known linked genes which are associated with lesser increased risk. My geneticist recommended a more complete panel be tested if BRCA were negative. Those results will not be back prior surgery, but will provide useful information in determining a longterm treatment plan.

More information regarding genetic factors related to breast cancer can be found here: http://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/genetics

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.