Write In Between

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

From Lump to Ha-rumph

This post continues to chronicle my breast cancer story as I approach 10 years cancer-free.

Discovering the lump in my breast on a Sunday pushed any serious doctor's appointment to at least Monday. Monday did not seem soon enough. I was seen right away by my gynecologist--who had just reviewed a negative (clean) mammogram 5 months earlier. A day later I met my general practitioner. Both breast exams gave me the same result: go see a surgeon.

After receiving the same recommendation of a local surgeon from my two docs, that decision was easily made. I met with Dr. Local Surgeon a few days later.

Dr. LS said, "Your 36? I doubt very much there's anything really serious going on... that slight breast discharge you have besides the lump? Most likely, it's a breast infection. Let's take a slide sample. Let's treat you with some antibiotics and I want to see you in four weeks."

Whew! My family thought I had dodged a bullet. I should be grateful, right?

A breast infection? Why didn't that sit right with me? I'm sure it was more serious than that. Maybe my worry hormone was in overdrive. But I had such a clear encounter in prayer following the lump's discovery.

It was very hard to calm my nerves over the four remaining weeks of May. I called on my prayer group and my family to send up some prayers with my name attached. People would ask how I was, and I really wanted to cry, but keep giving them the good news that its most likely an infection.

I faithfully took my antibiotics. I repeatedly gave myself breast exams. (Yeah, that's a bit excessive probably, but I kept wanting to "check"on things.) After two weeks on the antibiotics, still no change... I called the surgeon who then prescribed "something stronger."

I got to that follow-up exam four weeks later with no reduction in my symptoms and a pretty nervous psyche. Dr. Local Surgeon, not skipping a beat after my breast exam, "Well, if you're going to keep worrying about this nodule, I'll just take it out." Just take it out. Just like that. No, he still doesn't think its anything. "You're much too young to have cancer."

I had a conference I planned to attend in two weeks at Franciscan University of Steubenville--a much anticipated time away "on retreat" with a friend so I asked, "Could you do it before then, so I can still go on my mini-vacation?" He assured me, "Next Wednesday is open, and you'll be on the plane Friday, no problem!"

And so I was scheduled for a surgical breast biopsy. I asked my pastor if I "qualified" for the Anointing of the Sick. He made an appointment to pray with me the next day.

The morning of the biopsy, I asked the surgeon if I could be awake for the procedure, as I had a rough time with anesthesia medicines. He said the procedure was only about 20 minutes long and that wouldn't present a problem--using a local anesthetic-- as long as I was cooperative and held "still." I guess they had some people who were quite squeamish in the past who preferred to be asleep, or perhaps got too jumpy or something. Not me, I wanted to learn everything. I'm a mother after all, blood and guts don't scare me.

So I was gowned, prepped, and wheeled on a gurney while the nurse in charge of me kept reminding all her colleagues "the patient is awake." Even a big sign hung on the OR wall: PATIENT IS AWAKE. I guess they like to discuss stuff that they might not otherwise want the patient to hear, for as soon as I was wheeled in, I felt like I had trespassed. The nursing staff was kind, but there was not much talking, save the exchange of instruments and my blood pressure readings. I think by being awake I spoiled the mood.

As things finished up-- and yes, I could feel the tugging of the final stitching--not pain, just pressure--I ask "How does it look?" Dr. LS assured me he saw nothing but healthy tissue and it looks good. He said, "Go have a nice vacation!"

I came home with some pain medication--which I needed right away--and for which I thanked God in Heaven for. By Friday I no longer needed the Vicodin and felt good enough to travel on the plane. But the biopsy report was still not in. I wanted to travel with the "good news" that all was well, but, alas, I'd just have to wait. In the words of the kindly receptionist who took my call from the airport, "you want your pathologists to take all the time they need and to get it right." You bet I did.

HA-RUMPH! I had no more lump. Instead, I had a four inch incision and the sensation of stitches pulling, and still no answers.

I kissed my hubby and kids good-bye, and boarded the plane for my weekend away to be refreshed and renewed by our Lord at the conference in the company of a good friend. (Whom I secretly felt sorry for, that she would have to put up with the likes of me after the week I had.)

And I tried to put it all out of my mind. On the plane, my friend whispered the following scripture to me from 1 John 4: 18: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.

Okay, Lord, I'm about ready for some of your perfect love... and my plane touched down but my heart had yet to land.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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