I discovered a lump at the end of January – it felt like a small marble under the skin of my left breast. That discovery led to a doctor’s visit, which led to a mammogram and a sonogram, which led to a biopsy, which led to a visit to a surgeon, which led to a lumpectomy last Wednesday afternoon. As you can see, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind.
It took almost a week, a very long week, for the pathology report to come back. The few people who were “in the know” asked me how I was doing during the wait. I replied that the worst part was not knowing what I was facing. I wanted to give this thing a name, and make a plan, and I couldn’t do either for several days.
It now has a name. I have pre-invasive breast cancer. Fortunately, it looks to be in its early stages, and my doctor is confident that it can be cured. I know “cure” is not a word that oncologists use lightly, and it’s a good one to hear.
I also have a plan. A week from Thursday, I will undergo a mastectomy that will also include the examination of a couple of lymph nodes. If there are no surprises, it might be the final step in the treatment. My doctor does not expect me to require radiation or chemotherapy, more good news in a cancer conversation.
So as you can see, once we got past the C-word, the rest of the news was relatively encouraging. If you have to get cancer, this looks like a good one to get, as long as you catch it early. Every indication is that we have done so.
Now that you have the facts, please allow me a couple of short rants. I apologize in advance for what may appear to be morbid humor – remember, I’m three weeks into this, and have had more time to adjust to it than you have.
First, BREAST cancer? Seriously? As if I didn’t already get enough flak for growing roses and playing the Celtic harp, now I come down with a disease that strikes women 99% of the time, and whose trademark is a pink ribbon. Yeah, yeah, I know, men have breasts too, and in the U.S. over 2000 of us will find cancer there this year. I’ve read the statistics. But still – BREAST Cancer? Mammograms? The remnants of my masculinity are taking a serious beating here.
Secondly, for the record, this had nothing to do with my recent weight loss. When I lost 30 pounds a couple of years ago, some folks wondered whether I was sick. Cancer gets the blame for scaring my family and for the loss of my left breast – it will NOT get credit for me being thinner. I’m vain enough to want credit for that.
This is the part of the post where I’m tempted to throw out a couple of clichés to make me sound courageous. That would be cheap and dishonest, because I don’t FEEL courageous. Early stages of cancer detection and treatment seem designed to make you feel small and helpless, at the mercy of forces beyond your control.
My daughter found a way last week to remind us that such is not the case. She wrote out on cards the words to a worship song called Oceans, by Hillsong United, and left them leaning up against the window in the kitchen for my wife and me to see. Here is the second verse of that song:
Your grace abounds in deepest waters, Your sovereign hand will be my guide. Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me, You’ve never failed, and you won’t start now.
I’m not looking forward to the next few weeks – there are some unknowns, and I don’t like unknowns. But I fully expect my God to show Himself faithful in this next season of my life, because He always has. I don’t think that is courageous, any more than it is courageous to expect the car to start when you turn the ignition. His faithfulness in the past has conditioned me to rest in that faithfulness in the present, and to count on it for the future.
He is faithful, and I can rest. He gets the credit for that, not me. I’d be grateful for your prayers, for me and my family, that in the coming days we would find that rest when and where we need it most.
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