Other titles I mulled over for this post include:
“What a Week”
“That Time I Could Have Had Cancer”
“Don’t Say the “C” Word”
“My Interesting Armpit”
For a few weeks I noticed a slow swelling in my left armpit. It wasn’t painful at first and at it’s largest protrusion resembled half a tennis ball beneath my skin. After about week 2, it started causing tingling and numbness down my whole arm. It felt like I had laid down on my arm and it was falling asleep. The pain got so bad it was keeping me from sleep…and that’s when it became unacceptable for me!
Monday: called doc to get it checked out. She prescribed antibiotics to rule out bacterial infection. However, there was no indication of infection; no fever, redness or hot skin. She ordered labs and sent me to get an ultra sound of the lymph nodes as well as a mammogram.
Tuesday: went to imaging center for my pics. An amazingly crusty old nurse was verbally reviewing my case with her colleagues while I changed into a gown. She came to get me and explained that my doctor should have ordered a diagnostic image and not a screening. In her no nonsense, matter of fact tone,”If you were an old lady like me, a screen would be fine. But you are young and symptomatic. You need the diagnostic and we don’t do those at this location.”
I agreed with her logic and was eager to hear the results of the diagnostic imaging immediately after the squish pics.
She personally called the diagnostic center. They did not have an opening until the following week. I thought, great…I’ll take that.
“That’s not good enough.” She said. “Let me talk to the manager…”
Oh Balls. Why does she think this is urgent enough to get me in sooner?
She got me an immediate appointment.
Before the mammogram, I got the ultra sound.
“Not to worry you,” the tech said after collecting the images, “but I am going to have the doctor review these right now. He may want to come in and get more views.”
My interesting armpit might need more views? Why?
No more views were necessary and I was sent away for the mammogram.
For those of you who have never experienced a mammogram, let me say, that if it were not for the sober atmosphere, it would be comical. Never will I look at a tortilleria the same way.
After several image angles, I was directed to wait in a small room before getting dressed in case the radiologist wanted more images.
My fellow mammogramees were all several years older than me. They all had earned their grey hair and wrinkles. They gave me kind and compassionate smiles…or was that empathy?
Don’t say the “C” word. If it is it is, if it isn’t…great.
The tech called me back for more pictures. The doctor reviewed my images.
All the while, God gave me peace. I wasn’t freaking out (yet) and I understood and appreciated the thoroughness of the techs and doctors.
No breast cancer! WHEW!
But those lymph nodes…those lymph nodes could not be ignored.
Wednesday: I headed out in the morning for Bible study. I assumed it would be several days to hear back about my lab and ultrasound results. After all, it certainly didn’t feel like anything to get worked up about. It wasn’t breast cancer, so it probably wasn’t anything.
Then my phone rings. It was my doctor.
Not the doctor’s nurse. THE doctor.
“Hello, Mrs. Tanner, how are your lymph nodes?”
“Doing fine…not as painful, so that’s good, right?”
“That is why I am calling. The ultra sound shows that your largest lymph node is 4 cm. There are 2 others that are 1-2 cm. I am going to discuss your case with my colleagues and see about referring you to a specialist for a biopsy.”
I called my husband and gave him the update. Eric and I cope with bad jokes. He said,”Did you tell her we can do the biopsy at home? We have all the equipment.” (We have vet supplies). That’s when I crumbled into tears. If Eric was making jokes than I knew it was bad.
A great thing about God, is that HE knows what we need. I got to Bible study and was loved on and encouraged. Dear friends hugged me, assured me that no matter the outcome, God was still in control and it would all be okay.
Joshua 1:9 came to mind:
“I repeat, be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do.”
I replayed those words over and over. I let them wash my fears, rinse, and repeat.
Another phone call.
“Hello, Mrs. Tanner, this is Texas Oncology calling. We would like to get you in as soon as possible…see you tomorrow.”
[Insert melt down montage here]
Feeling much better, I washed, rinsed, and repeated Joshua 1:9. I also trusted that IF God were to allow cancer to be a reality for us, than HE would give us HIS strength and peace to overcome it. I also know that NO MATTER WHAT, I AM ALWAYS HIS GIRL.
Identity crisis averted, I proceeded to make a few phone calls to friends and family to update them on the process. As I sensed panic and fear I pointed them to Joshua 1:9…wasn’t just me who needed to hear from God.
Thursday: Eric came with me to the oncologist appointment. As we sat in the waiting room, it was impossible to not think that this could be our life: sitting in these chairs time after time waiting for chemo treatment. A sweet elderly woman, Ms. Mary, came to sit near us.
“What are you here for? Lung, breast, colon..?”
“Just here to get my lymph node examined.”
“Oh,” she broke eye contact as if she knew that was a bleak diagnosis. “I have been fighting for 2 years. Doc gave me 2 months, but I am still here.”
She studied me. She calculated the depth of what it would mean for a young mother to have cancer. Her eyes got teary.
My eyes got teary.
With a little cough, she assured me it would get easier. “There’s a lot of us. There are a lot of support groups. It’s hard at first, when you first find out. Then it’s all right. You only get through this with the right attitude and prayer. Lots of prayer.”
Prayer. Yes. I believe that. I knew lots of people were praying for me. I knew any peace or comfort or strength was from the Lord. Philippians 4:4-7 says:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice! Let everyone see your gentleness. The Lord is near! Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell you requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. ”
Ms. Mary was called back for another treatment, but I know all she really wanted was to be called home.
Soon it was my turn to see the oncologist.
She examined my interesting arm pit and checked my skin for melanoma and other cancers.
“Your lymph nodes are decreasing in size. Let’s just keep an eye on them and have a follow up in a couple of weeks if they don’t completely go down after finishing the antibiotics. I think your doctor made all the right calls this week, but I don’t see any cause for alarm.”
[Insert running-and-jumping-down-hospital-halls-high-fives-for-everyone montage here]
Wow, God. Remember that time I could have had cancer? Remember what you did for me? You gave me peace. You helped me be strong. I can trust you because you are a good and loving God. You could have allowed it to be anything. But you protected me.
Wow, God. You moved many people to pray for me. You showed me how you give peace beyond understanding to those who love you and seek you.
Wow, God. What a week!
Friday: Slept in.