Pinch of Faith: Facing the fears of breast cancer with help from family and friends

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There are a couple of annual medical tests that I, along with thousands of others, undergo. In the interest of good health, we submit to these routine events and breathe a sigh of relief when we get positive results, putting them out of our minds for 12 worry-free months.

I felt it was time to eliminate one of these exams a little over a year ago, but went ahead and scheduled my annual mammogram for what I believed to be its finale. A few days passed and I thought all was well.  However, a phone call from the facility where I had it done brought unwelcomed news.  

Some “irregularities” were detected and I was summoned to return for another mammogram and ultrasound to allow the radiologist a clearer image of the suspicious areas. Following those two procedures and a thorough exam, I received the welcomed news that everything was fine, but cautioned to follow up this year.

In February, with some trepidation, I found myself contorted into unnatural stances, with sensitive body parts compressed between vice-like machinery that was surely designed by a masochist. A week passed before I was again informed that I should return and underdo more testing. Expecting a positive outcome again, I was blithely unaware of what chain of unsettling events was about to occur.

“Mrs. Lambert, we found a suspicious place on your right breast, so you need to come back for a biopsy.”

The words were straightforward and to the point, but I felt myself grow nauseous and anxious at the mention of the word “biopsy.” 

She went on to explain that, aside from the initial injection to deaden the area, there would be minimal discomfort and I would be able to drive myself home following the procedure. This advice fell upon deaf ears. Growing up in a family that did not allow anyone to even go for a physical exam alone, I was accustomed to one or more relatives present for moral support. If someone was hospitalized, it was cause for the gathering of the clan at the bedside at all times. COVID changed all of that and family presence dwindled to a negligible number.  

A firm believer in the healing powers of friendship and social interaction, I solicited the aid of a good friend to accompany me on the day of the biopsy. I was told that the pathology report would be forthcoming in a few days, and I was very grateful that I was not alone on the long ride home. Her companionship allowed me to focus on unrelated events and eased my fears.

I was enjoying a steak and biscuit for breakfast, watching the birds share breakfast outside our kitchen window when the call came. The previously tasty morning meal stuck in my throat when the caller spoke the word “malignant,” and I experienced the sensation that I was going to awaken from a bad dream at any second.  

My physical and emotional reactions coincided and created a veritable storm within my body and mind. Great sobs literally shook me to my core while the pit of my stomach bottomed out. The response was immediate, and surreal. I was in denial and did not want to accept the findings. Despite his futile attempts to calm and reassure me, my husband joined me in prayers for strength and acceptance.

Ten agonizing days and nights passed before I was able to consult a surgeon. During those long hours, I experienced every emotion known to humankind. Fear, anger, depression, optimism, doubt, and confusion dominated my thoughts and actions. It was a roller coaster of ups and downs and I was gripping the safety bar of my faith with both white knuckled hands.  

During this time, I spoke with at least a dozen others who had undergone successful treatment for breast cancer and were living testimonies to heroism and bravery. They were my beacons of light during a very dark and scary life storm. 

One of them, a double mastectomy patient who was my former next door neighbor and extended family, volunteered to go with me to the initial surgical consult. She was invaluable in translating all the new medical terminology introduced that day and knew all the right questions to ask of the doctor.

Still in the process of further testing before the date and extent of my surgery can be determined, I share this experience with my faithful readers as I ask for prayers for a complete recovery and applaud every person who has walked this journey before me. I shall attempt, with God’s help, to guide those that may follow me. 

As I focus on Holy Week this year, the promise of the resurrection that follows gives me newfound hope.

Copyright © 2023 Mary Margaret Lambert

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