A Morning started in fear

If you have ever been diagnosed with a serious health condition, you know that any appointment that ends with the words “I’m sending you to radiology for an ultrasound right away” has the potential to test any confidence you have and fill your mind with fear. This was how my morning started. A few weeks back I found a small lump deep in my armpit nested very closely to my tissue expander. I immediately talked myself into believing it was nothing, however I couldn’t get it out of my head, so I shared my discovery with a friend who has also faced breast cancer this past week. Her advice was to call my oncologist to have this checked out right away just to be sure. I made the call Friday late afternoon and was given a 9:00 am appointment today.

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I have done this a lot over the past year, but for some reason, walking into Lemmon Holton alone for this appointment took me back to that very cold day in February when my life forever changed. I distracted myself with my phone as I sat in the waiting room and waited for my name to be called. This has very much become the norm over the past 11 months, however today undressing from the waist up and covering myself with the very familiar maroon gown, gave me chills. As I explained where to find the lump, I prepared myself to hear the words, “this is nothing” but instead I heard, oh…. I do feel that, and another lump down here as well. I’ll call over to radiology and see if I can get you in for an ultrasound right now”. My stomach sank a bit, even though in the back of my mind I know this has to be protocol for anyone with the awful “c-word” in their medical history. She said “just leave your gown on and head to the radiology waiting room; they’re going to squeeze you in. Oddly I was lead to the very same chair that I sat in almost 11 months ago to the day, before having my very first mammogram and ultrasound. Within a few minutes, my name was called. On the way to the ultrasound room, I ran into the very first nurse I met at Lemmon Holton. She embraced me with a huge hug and told me how great it was to see me, before looking at me again with shock on her face and asking me what I was doing there. After chatting for a moment, the technician lead me back to the very same ultrasound room that my original scans were taken in. I was trying to keep a positive mindset, but the entire experience seemed far too similar to the scariest day of my life. As I again lay staring up at the eerie cherry blossom trees on the ceiling tile above my head, my mind raced with thoughts of reasonable explanations for the lumps in my breast, yet I planned for the worst at the same time. Just like my first ultrasound, the technician stood up and said that she had to talk to the radiologist and that she would be back in a bit. With every minute that passed I began to doubt my confidence more and more, however I had my game-face ready when the radiologist walked through the door. To my surprise, there was finally a difference in today. He didn’t have the worried “cancer” look on his face like my first radiologist. In fact, he even took the time to flash a smile before introducing himself and saying…. I’m pretty sure we’re dealing with fat narcosis here…. you can breathe. I think my heart skipped a beat and jumped for joy in the very same moment. Fat narcosis is a benign condition that can occur in your breast post breast cancer, however further testing is usually necessary to rule out a cancer recurrence. It consists of fatty tissue that has been bruised, injured, or has died. Fat necrosis can result after any type of breast surgery, from biopsy to reconstruction. In some cases the tissue does need to be removed but either was this was great news.

After getting the good news, my technician took me back to the room that my original nurse was waiting in. She looked at me with her amazingly caring mom eyes and asked what I found out before embracing me with another huge hug. She then told me that I made an impression on her the very first day we met and that she has been following my posts on here. She said that she has wanted to tell me how proud she is of me for sharing my story with the world. I got the warm and fuzzies when she told me that I have no idea how many women I am helping with my openness and applauded me for bravely baring all in front of the GVSU Occupational Therapy grads. She’s not the first person to say this to me, but she truly believes that god is using my journey to help others. I will say that I am not really sure what is happening or if there is a higher power at work here, but I have to also admit that this journey has already opened me up in ways that I never felt possible and made me again see the good in a very scary situation. It warms my heart to hear that I am helping others in sharing and very must motivates me to continue sharing. I made a promise on day one that I was going to stop being a control freak for the first time in my life and let this journey take me wherever I was meant to go. At this point, I do not know what lies ahead, but I do often wonder if this experience is all part of a bigger plan for me. Could all of this be leading me to find my true purpose? I guess only time will tell. For now I am keeping the faith that something “good” is coming my way.

After chatting for a bit, I was sent back to my oncologist’s office with the good news… and guess what! I got a little more good news. I was told that the lesion found on my liver a few weeks back is quite small and hasn’t grown much, so my oncologist believes it is a hemangeoma. She plans to run blood work in a few weeks to confirm that my liver enzymes are trending down, but at this point she does not believe there is any cause for concern. Just like that the weight of two elephants was lifted off my chest and hope again filled my heart. Before signing off tonight and keeping the promise I made to three nurses today, that I would stop doing so much and actually rest so my body can fight this decease; I want leave you with a powerful thought. Living the rest of my life with the looming cancer cloud over my head isn’t exactly going to be easy. The truth is, I am certain I will face more mornings full of fear that my cancer has returned, but experiences like today’s also remind me that cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence. In fact, from what I understand there are more people living with cancer then there are people dying from cancer. I am not going to let cancer define me, but I am going to let this experience with cancer shape me. Just as I said in the beginning, I will face whatever tomorrow brings with strength, grace, and determination.

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