Saturday, July 3, 2010

The "C" Word

The "C" word. It's scary to even think about it, let alone say it. It all started with a routine annual mammogram. No anxiety, just get it done and don't think about it for another year. Then I got a phone call to come back for a follow-up mammogram - no big deal, this has happened before and I am in a new, smaller facility this time. The anxiety grew when I was told that there were some suspicious areas on the film and I needed a stereo-tactic biopsy (needle biopsy) - just the word "biopsy" gives me a cold feeling. Anxiety quickly turned to anger - did I really need this hassle, or were they being overly cautious because the facility was smaller and less advanced? Off we went to the best women's care facility in Pittsburgh for a scary, high-tech procedure that left me nervous and sore - this was getting serious! But I really did expect to get the news that all was well and nothing abnormal was found. Wrong again! I got a call from a nurse who (I thought) said that nothing abnormal was found but there was an overgrowth of cells in that area, which had to be taken out so they didn't become cancer (there's that word), and I should see a surgeon. I made the appointment, focusing on the good news - no cancer was found - this was preventative action; but the prospect of surgery was frightening. In spite of my deliberate positive attitude there was doubt lingering in the back of my mind. Isn't the overgrowth of cells the definition of cancer? (that word is starting to come up more often) Back to Pittsburgh for the surgical consult and reality set in - the surgeon clarified that the biopsy was inconclusive and they needed a larger area of tissue to test for cancer (the word has now exploded like a bomb into my world). The odds are in my favor - 80% of these biopsies come out negative - but I only heard 20%. I might have cancer. It's a small chance, and if I do the cancer is in the early stages and very treatable. But I might have cancer.

Images start flowing through my mind: the woman in the waiting room at my first biopsy with a head scarf (chemo? will that be me?), the woman in the wheel chair and the woman in the hospital bed who were also in the waiting room (what horrors were they dealing with? will that be me?) My grandmother died of cancer, one friend was terribly sick from chemo, another was weak and burnt from radiation, and the list goes on. We all have many heart-breaking memories of friends and family who have fought this disease. Have I become one of them? Our church supports a "Relay for Life" program that raises money for cancer research and treatment; it's an amazingly active community effort that culminates in a 24 hour walk/festival/celebration. The highlight is luminaries representing cancer survivors and victims lining the 1/4 mile track and up the bleachers. Will I be included in that glowing tribute next year, and will I be celebrated as a survivor or mourned as a victim? I know that is morbid and counter-productive - I have to stay positive and, after all, the odds are in my favor right? RIGHT?! Could someone please keep telling me that over and over again because I can't seem so focus on that fact!!

No matter what happens I know God will be with me and my family through it all - I felt His strong and comforting presence during my first biopsy, and I felt covered with the prayers of my loved ones. I KNOW He is with me and I will actively draw on his strength through the whole ordeal (it's already an ordeal even though nothing is conclusive). But I am weak. And I am scared. And the "C" word hangs like a cloud over my head, and sits like a lump in my gut.

1 comment:

  1. There is nothing I can say that will make you feel better. I wish I could take it away. What I can, will and have been doing is pray for you and with you. He will give you everything you need even in the scariness of it all. I know you know that but I have found that I need to be reminded over and over again because I am human.