Twenty days after that initial appointment I sat with my husband in an examining room at a local breast clinic hearing the words “you have cancer” for the first time. When the surgeon uttered those words my first words to her were, “No I don’t.” I explained my mammogram experiences and my family history. There was no breast cancer in my family. My mother had a benign tumor removed when she was about my age. What she suspected from my records was just that.
This doctor (the first of many I would see over the next month) gently, yet firmly explained that she was certain what she was seeing on the ultrasound was cancer but she would need to confirm with a mammogram and biopsy. So I stayed and had a mammogram. After the mammogram she once again sat with us and used the word cancer. She told me to make an appointment for a biopsy as I checked out of the clinic.
Nothing about what she said made any sense to me. It was not possible. As we checked out of the clinic the surgeon approached me and said she had a cancelation if I would like to stay and have the biopsy that afternoon. In retrospect I’m pretty sure she was lying. But she must have seen something in my eyes; a deep fear of doubt that might keep me from coming back. Or maybe the full medical picture she was reviewing made her realize I needed immediate treatment. (I was ultimately diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer; a rare and aggressive form of the disease).
We stayed. As I lay on the bed in the procedure room I had a radiology technician, a nurse and a medical assistant at my side. They spoke calmly, settling me into the position that was needed. They explained the procedure, how things would feel and what they were doing. I also signed the required forms and tried to appear positive. The medical assistant stood next to the bed, holding my hand and asking me about mutual people we might know from my place of work. She stayed by my side, holding my hand through the whole wait as well as the procedure, assuring me that it was alright to squeeze her hand if I felt any pain.
It was during that quiet moment between setup and meeting the radiologist; somewhere during that time when I lay with my eyes closed holding the hand of a stranger that deep inside I felt these words from Psalms 46:10: Be still and know that I am God. And so my story began.