When I turned 40 a year and a half ago, my mom said, “Don’t forget to schedule your mammogram. You’re 40 now. You need to have one.”
What? What was I hearing? A mammogram? Wasn’t that something that old(er) women had done? Surely, as a 40 year-old woman, I was definitely too young to need one of those, right? Nope. (Why did I ever doubt my mom?)
I waited and waited. You know…I was busy. I’ll get around to it, I told myself.
As my 41st birthday neared, my mom urged me – again – to go and get a mammogram. Reluctantly I made an appointment to have it while I was still 40. Otherwise, as she pointed out, I would be two mammograms behind when I turned 41.
The procedure itself was relatively painless and was over in no time. During the procedure, the technician informed me that because I had no baseline for comparison, I shouldn’t be surprised if I get a callback for a second test. Ok, I thought.
A week later, I received a letter in the mail that mentioned something suspicious was detected and that I needed to return for further testing. This news wasn’t really what I had expected when I was told not to be surprised if I needed to return for further testing. I imagined going back because they couldn’t see something clearly, not because something looked suspicious. The next step was an ultrasound.
Fast forward a few weeks…
The ultrasound confirmed that there was indeed a clearly defined mass (it looked like a chewed piece of bubble gum to me) and that a biopsy was the next step to determine if it was cancerous. Biopsy?? This was getting more serious. I left my appointment, went to my car, called my husband at work and as soon as I heard his voice, I burst into tears. (No one ever said my timing or delivery was always perfect.) He was able to understand my words through muffled tears and his words soothed me enough to pull myself together. Then I began texting and emailing my family and friends to go to God on my behalf and pray for a benign tumor.
Fast forward a few weeks…
After the biopsy, four days passed before I received a phone call with the results. A phone call that could’ve changed my life forever. I’m a pretty optimistic person but honestly, God heard from me a lot that week! And boy – my poor husband. He is normally very even-keeled but he, too, was also pretty concerned. He tried to be strong for both of us. I love him so much. (The funny thing is that before he left for work on the morning I received the phone call, he prayed a prayer over me like he’s never done before. It left me speechless! God used him to calm my nerves that morning.)
I was relieved when the call came in and I found out the test came back negative. I was cancer-free! Praise God! My mom, who was in the car with me when I got the call, started screaming and praising God right then and there! (I’ll never forget that moment EVER!) I didn’t hear much after, “Kathie, I have good news for you”, but I was so relieved that God had answered my prayers.
Because of the size and location of the tumor, my doctor recommended that I have the tumor removed, but the ultimate decision was mine to make. After doing some research, I decided to have the tumor removed after our church’s VBS wrapped up.
The morning of my surgery, I felt good and confident, ready to put this ordeal behind me. With my husband and children by my side, we arrived at the hospital, checked in and waited…waiting is so hard, isn’t it?
Have you ever been in a place of anticipation and waiting?
My surgery went well, with no complications, although no one told me about the horrible nausea that followed. The day after surgery was also tougher than I expected. I was in an incredible amount of pain, had a sore throat (I was intubated prior to surgery), nausea and sleepiness. Thankfully, I was able to take a week to just recover – it took 7 full days for me to begin to feel like myself again.
Why did I share my story?
I share my story because God answered my prayers! I am so thankful for insurance, supportive family and friends and knowledgeable doctors and medical personnel.
I share this story because God often uses unexpected situations to draw us – and those around us – closer to him. I had so many people praying for me, texting me encouraging words and sharing their stories of going through a similar experience. We grew closer to God and each other through that scary time.
I share my story because two friends who had put off their own mammograms went to have theirs done. If my story could help one person, yay!
I share my story because rest did my body a lot of good. I was really a non-functioning member of society for the days following my surgery. All I could do was take pain meds and sleep. And that was alright with me.
I share my story because oftentimes, we don’t listen as intently about issues that haven’t affected us or someone we care about. I have learned so much through this process and want to help others learn, too.
Needless to say, this year I’m paying more attention to stories about breast cancer awareness. Last week on the Today Show, I saw a segment that the American Cancer Society is now recommending mammograms start for women at age 45, not age 40. (I have no family history of breast cancer, but had I waited, my story could’ve ended very differently.)
I encourage you to take care of yourself, go get a mammogram and/or encourage someone you love to get theirs. You have too much to live for to skip it!