It seems that with every year there is another box to check. With every mammogram I could answer with relief, no family history of Breast Cancer, that is until right after Christmas.
My mom mentioned, a couple of weeks before Christmas, that she was going in for her yearly mammogram. I blithely replied that she was brave.
"I would never go in for anything right before the Holidays!"
Why?" she asked.
"They might find something and I wouldn't want to ruin Christmas!"
She just laughed at me. "Oh, Cathy!"
Since we wouldn't be together for Christmas, I sent her some flowers the week before. She called to thank me for them.
"Did you get my email? she asked, thinking her email had caused me to send the flowers.
I told her I had been so busy at school that I hadn't checked it for a couple of days, that the flowers were "just because I love you!"
"They got my mammogram results back. I have to have a biopsy."
I went down to Mom and Dad's with my daughter the Monday after Christmas and was there on Tuesday when the phone call came. My dad was in the den watching a football game. She took the call in their bedroom and I stood at the door and listened to her side of the conversation and I knew.
When she came out to the dining room, where my dad and I were clearing the table, she simply said "I have breast cancer". My dad literally reeled, dropped the plate in his hand to the floor and braced himself with both hands on the table. His stricken look was a hard for me to see. I held it together.
An appointment with the Surgeon was made. An appointment for surgery was made. Many reassurances were made. Surgery was the twelfth. We had a huge school wide test on the eleventh, that I had to be there for. My sister and I left our families, after school, to make the 3 1/2 hour drive down to our folks. A constant stream of conversation about our faith, family and fears, seasoned with our tears, filled those 3 1/2 hours.
The next morning, what should have been a one to two hour surgery turned into more than 3 hours and I knew. We waited with the others, on long rows of chairs that ran parallel to the Consultation Rooms. All, but one man, got their reports from a victorious doctor as he stood in front of, or sat beside, them to tell of a good outcome. Our surgeon called us into the small Consultation Room where he proceeded to relay his findings of a small tumor in the first Lymph node they checked. A lumpectomy and removal of the Lymph nodes were performed. He sat like Abraham Lincoln at the memorial in Washington DC: His hands rested on the wooden armrests of his chair. His head was bent slightly, eyes focused on the floor. He was somber and seemed tired. I could feel his disappointment for us. He told me and my sister how much he thought of our Mom and Dad, what good people they were. When we left the small room, all eyes were on us, like drivers slowing down to look at the wreck. I don't know how, but we held it together.
My mom was shocked by the amount of time that had passed when she finally "woke up". Dad told her what they had found, but she was still dopey from the anesthesia and really didn't get it. She told me that the next day, after she talked with the Doctor, it hit her and she "just sat in her bed and bawled". Her nurse, Ivo, found her in tears and talked to her. He was just a young guy, but his words brought her comfort and, as she said, "I just figure there's no use crying about it". She has a strong faith. It's in the Lord's hands and he will be her strength and comfort.
She is recovering remarkably well, so well in fact, that it is hard to realize that it wasn't "just a surgery." We're waiting for the next report and treatment options. Suffering from a blood disease that requires regular phlebotomy, blood thinners and special diet, she is already treated by an oncologist who will decide what to do next. In the meantime, I am holding it together.