Jul 172013

So no, I have not fallen off the face of the earth. 20130717_185335 (1)

It has been over a month since I posted anything.

It has been one of those… well you know, one of those months.

Busy, crazy, a bit scarey and sick.  First off, I now know the fear that a woman faces when the doctor calls to tell you that there is something that needs checking.  For me, it was an abnormal mammogram.  I got called back for further pictures, and I knew that when the radiologist followed the technician into the room, that I was not going to leave with relief that day.  Without sounding alarmed, he explained that there were some calcifications that were misshapen (as if they must conform to a certain size and shape) and that there were a group of them hanging out in my left breast.  Basically, he explained that it was “suspicious”.  A word that my brain would try to interpret in a thousand different ways….

I was a bit dumbstruck.  I expected that all would be normal.  I always do.  So I walked with the technician to speak with to Pam, the nurse navigator who would explain how I would have a stereotactic biopsy that was minimally invasive and done under mild sedation, if I liked.  But first they would inform my primary doctor and then I could wait for her to schedule my visit with the surgeon (even though it was the radiologist that would perform the procedure).

So I followed the proper channels, asked my nurse daughter to accompany me to see the appointment with the surgeon.  Because she understands all the medical jargon.  David will stay home and pray for me.

Except before I did that, I had to see the cardiologist.

My other health crisis was a nagging irregular heartbeat (that I have had for over 10 years) that now became more that a bit nagging.  A bit concerning.  My doctor agreed, so off I go for tests, Holter monitor (to track what my irregular heart was doing) a visit with the doctor and his stethoscope that revealed a heart murmur that I never knew that I had.  So an echocardiogram reveals that yes, I have a floppy valve, but nothing to worry about and news that a change in prescription would help.  Sigh.  Relief.

So the biopsy was scheduled on the day that we were supposed to leave for Wisconsin for my nephew’s wedding.  But I made the adjustment and went ahead with the schedule offered me.  I accept the offer of a mild sedative—only because, well because.  With a heart rate that has been so uncooperative, I decided that the sedation might tame it for the procedure.  Again, I call my nurse daughter to come along for the adventure.  I still have the sense that all is well, but better go through with the test to be certain.

Stereotactic biopsy is done using radiology technology to locate the exact position of the “suspicious” area so as to guide the radiologist’s needle to the area that they want to suck out and give to the pathologist.  Sounds simple enough.  They use a modified massage table (not really) that has areas that allow your, um, breast, to hang into the area that allows the radiologist to photograph and then guide a needle into the “suspicious” area.  I’m glad I couldn’t see the picture of me in that position.  While staying as still as I can, I compose a letter of the valuable input for the designers of this “padded” table.

Now simple it may seem, but let me tell you, not simple to remain in the same position with your arms and shoulders pressed against padded plastic while your breast is sandwiched between two plastic vise grips.  My jaw is pressed against the table in such a way that I can barely answer the questions that the “audience” poses.  The temptation to move is overruled by your strong desire to cooperate so that the task can be completed.  After 2 hours and three tries (they do numb you, but not enough, so I ask for more), they were able to capture the “suspicious” little calcifications that we wanted the pathologist to peer at under his trusty microscope.  I must tell you—if they were going to have to make a fourth try, I’m just not sure I had it in me to “hang” in there for another “stab” at my “chestalarea”.  Thankfully, I did not have to “press” through.  The nurses were so very supportive, compassionate and affirming.  The mammography nurse, Patti, did inform me that I would be “quite bruised.”  Epic understatement. I am sent home with small pink gel packs to control the swelling.


Since we were headed to Wisconsin, I had made the follow up appointment for the day AFTER we returned.  Getting a call while 1,000 miles away was not going to change anything, so I asked NOT to be called so that I could be home and able to act, should I have to face any more action.

But I did get a call.  A call during another call, so I did what I never do—call the unrecognized number to see who was trying to get me.  We were in a poor cell reception area, so all I heard was the receptionist answer and identify the surgeon’s clinic name as the call’s origin.  It was the surgeon’s office!  So now I cannot find out why they called when I had asked NOT to be called.  My mind raced—did they not get the memo that I was 800 miles away on a trip and did not need to hear bad news that would disrupt my week, my entire vacation, and my life, for that matter???  I went back and forth.  Maybe they had good news and wished to dispel my fears.  Or, maybe they just got it mixed up in the office and were just doing the usual routine:  call the women when they need to schedule a lumpectomy or mastectomy.  Just do the job they way they always do it.  Or, they needed

to change my appointment because there was a conflict??  For about three hours, I had this silent debate in my head.  Finally, I tell David that I need him to pray for me.  My solid peace has just disappeared like the water that swirls down the drain at my kitchen sink.  My stomach is in knots, my head in overdrive.  So pray we did.  Talk we did.  And process I did.  If I had to have more done, then I would find that place of peace that Jesus and I have together in spite of all that David and I have been through.  I know that place, I trust His Face.  He has never let me down. I would wear pink on my pathway to health if my news was not good.

We continued on the drive through North Dakota until my cell phone rings again.  I recognize the number this time.  It is the clinic.  They are calling to tell me… to tell me that the biopsy was normal, nothing to worry about, all is well.  They simply wanted me to know so I would enjoy my trip.

I asked the nurse if she could hear the relief coming from this side of the phone.   She certainly could.  Suddenly the fear slipped away as quickly as it arrived, my stomach regained hunger and my heart, well, my heart raced with joy.  I had spent about 3 hours arguing with my speculations and was near to the place of peace that I knew and have known for so many years, making my mind up that no matter what, His grace and love would carry me wherever I would go.

And now life was carefree once again.  Those visions of wearing the pink scarf and walking the hard path have vanished.  I privately condemned myself that a few sentences from the surgeon’s office would so quickly bring peace when my personal faith had struggled so hard to achieve the same peace on that highway between Bismarck and St. Paul.  Why did I have to take that journey through the “what ifs?”  “how bad?” “and where to next?” when faith would have spared me all the wrenching speculation?  I don’t have the answer for that, but I do have a new compassion for those who get the calls with bad news.  For several hours, I lived in their bodies, their minds and felt their fear and anxiety.  It was real for me and I will never forget what those minutes and miles were like.  Though my news was reassuring, many do not get that assurance that life will continue normally.

So I am past the heart scare, the breast biopsy, the 2,400 mile trip in 6 days, and company with eight kids for almost eight days, and the consecutive bout with a respiratory bug that brought fever and aches while I trudge through.

I will overcome, I say to myself.  Living with David, who has faced all sorts of life’s obstacles and illnesses, I have learned courage and faced down my enemy, self-pity.  His example has made me know that I can appropriate what David has owned, that peace and solidity that his faith in Christ has brought to him.  If David will overcome with the help of our Lord, then I will go look for it also.  Because for about three hours of interstate highway between Bismarck and St. Paul, I know that was it there for me because I sought it.  But seek it, you must.

It has been said that people don’t follow Christ because Christians have not made their faith attractive to unbelievers.  I reject that philosophy—rather, I hope that your need, whatever it is, will take you to that road where you seek the One who brings the peace that passes all understanding.

Because ultimately, this life will have its sorrows, sicknesses and disappointments.  If you have not been attracted to that peace that He offers, then it is you that I bear sorrow for.

So now you know, I have not fallen off the face of the earth.  Just distracted by life in general, and faced with a deficit of time to type out my journeys.  I hope to have a bit of boredom for a while—like the moment a few days ago, when I realized that my house was quiet and clean for the first time in about three weeks.  I just wondered for how long… and how long it would be before I wished for the chaos of a houseful of family and grandkids to pick up after.  For I know me, and clean and quiet will suit me for only a just a little while.  Because believe it or not, a week where I run my dishwasher only twice, is a week of too much quiet and clean.

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 Posted by at 7:37 pm

  10 Responses to “My brush with the pink path.”

  1. Oh Arlene! I know those fears from two breast biopsies and a thyroid biopsy. The two breast biopsies were normal but upon waking from the thyroidectomy my favorite surgeon told me with surprise in his voice that the lump was malignant. He had to remove half of my thyroid. I wouldn’t have been able to face that without the prayers of my husband and my Bible study women! That was over thirty years ago and here I am! A little bit of faith goes a long way!

  2. Wow. Perspective. I will stop whining about my arm that hurts and the cast that is so tight it feels like I could burst out of it. I will be more thankful for the people who have come to my aid these past few weeks and not let the dirt in my house and the shabby yard drive me crazy because of my perfectionism. Because this, too shall pass and trials do draw us closer to Jesus and I am very thankful for that!

    I am also thankful for you Arlene and glad all turned out well!

  3. Arlene, thanks for sharing your story. I have had those scares as well. I know how instantly your heart can race when the radiologist follows the nurse into the room after reading the mammogram-in fact that has happened so many times for me that now it is ‘almost normal’. I am thankful for faithful friends that I can call and say please pray again. God is good in everything!

    • Really? Almost normal? I hope I am done with this! Thanks for reading my blog– share it with your friends, will you? Hope all is well with you. (When is YOUR next mammogram????) Let me know so I can be praying that the radiologist stays at his cubicle!

  4. […] a week of trepidation that burned off about 4 lbs. Read my post about my Brush with the Pink Path here. Not a fun way to lose that extra fat, but hey, if there is a silver lining to a $3,000 biopsy, […]

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