When I'd pulled up in front of the surgical center I was doing alright. I'd prayed the entire way over that God would remove from me a spirit of fear and grant me courage in its place. It was courage I'd had as I boldly rode the elevator up to the third floor. It was courage I'd lost as I flipped through magazine after magazine and allowed the Father of Lies to use fear to permeate my thoughts. I'd finally been called back and my blood pressure was the highest I'd ever seen it. Thankfully, it was still well within normal. The nurse left and I waited.
I called my mommy. "Remember the Flu Shot Experience?" I was six. The nurse came in with the vaccination. I snapped. Berserk. Completely. I ran around the office and out the door, shrieking at the top of my lungs. It ended with my mother and the pediatrician holding me down so that the nurse could administer the vaccine. I had to write a note of apology. It wasn't my finest moment.
I proceeded to tell my mom that I was seriously contemplating a repeat performance. I mean, it's been 24 years. I figured that maybe my time had come once again. She asked me if I could feel her hugging me. I didn't answer for a long time. She probably thought I was mute on account of the fact that I was wondering how I could feel a hug from 800 miles away. In actuality, I wasn't speaking because the lump in my throat was swollen with fear and tears. I knew if I spoke it would all come flooding out.
I'm just not a huge fan of needles. Or scalpels. Especially if they're going to be used on me. Especially if they're going to be used on my breast.
It all started back in April when I noticed a tiny lump just under the skin. After waiting a few weeks to see if it would change, disappear, or grow, I went to see my doctor. Based on its location, she suspected that it was a blocked duct and had me put hot compresses on it. I went back to see her a week later. The bump had not changed. Again, because of its place of residence, she sent me to a specialist. I saw her in June. After an ultrasound, the plan was to keep an eye on it for the summer and come back to see her three months later.
So last Monday I saw her again. She opted to remove it.
Eight days later I found myself sitting in the procedure room waiting for her to enter the scene. My mom was 800 miles away but, thanks to technology, pressed directly to my ear. She talked me off my ledge. Or, at least, she talked me out of running around the doctor's office screaming like a total ninny. After all, it really wasn't even appropriate when I was six. I don't remember what she said to me but I loudly declared, "I know I'm not going to die!" And just as the second half of the sentence came out, the doctor walked in. All she heard was the declaration, "...going to die!"
She quickly turned her head in my direction and said, "Are you talking to me?" I explained that, no, my mother was on the phone. I quickly hung up. She had me get on the table. Then she couldn't find a marker. So she left for another five minutes.
I hadn't been afraid of the procedure until two different people, on the same day, told me that the numbing needle was quite painful. I stared up at the giant light and pictured a torture prison where people routinely came at my breasts with enormous needles of death. She came back in. She told me that the first part was the worst part. So I've heard. I told her that I'd once run around the doctor's office in an attempt to avoid a flu shot. I'm nothing if not chatty when nervous. "It's just like having dental work done," she explained.
"I've never had a cavity," I replied.
"Get me the small needle," she said to the nurse. Oh good, I thought. I'm getting away with the small needle. I don't think her or her pregnant nurse had any intentions of holding down a full grown woman with a sudden and irrational fear of biopsies. The nurse handed her the biggest needle I've ever seen used on me and that's when I realized that it probably had something to do with width and not a lot to do with length. She plunged it mercilessly into my...self. Okay. She totally didn't. In fact, I barely felt anything. Really. It hurt less than a flu shot to be sure. Just after the initial poke I did feel a slightly uncomfortable push as, I assume, she went into tissue. "Is it horrible?" she asked.
"No!" I almost shouted, annoyed that I'd lost nearly an hour of my life freaking out about this. I should have listened to my mom who kept telling me that it couldn't possibly be that bad. Note to self: Mother knows best.
Then she performed an excisional biopsy which I've come to realize is the same thing as a lumpectomy. I felt nothing except for weird tugs and pulls. The worst part was listening to the snip snip snip of the scissors and realizing that she was inside of my body cutting things out. It was just a little disconcerting. She pulled out a pea sized mass. Just as she began to sew me up my stomach began to growl. I started pushing on it with my available hand--the other one was secured under my head--and hoping that if I sort of massaged it, the protest might stop. In the middle of a stitch she asked, "Are you feeling this? Is this hurting you?"
"No," I said. "My stomach won't stop growling." She then shared with me that her stomach often has dialogue as well. This prompted my sharing of the time my stomach distracted an entire group of students from the SAT at hand. She assured me it wasn't distracting her. "Good. I'd rather ruin 100 SAT scores than distract my surgeon," I answered. She laughed.
She finished sewing me back together and put medical glue on the incision. And then I waited and waited. The nurse was standing there. The doctor was sitting there. I was lying there. Nothing was happening. Am I supposed to jump up and be on my merry way? I wondered.
She pulled the light closer. "The warmth from the light helps the glue dry. I want to to make sure it's dry before I put a bandage on," she said. "Otherwise you'd have to come back so that I could remove the bandage. Or live with it forever. Your choice."
I laughed. "I'd probably rather not have a bandage stuck to my chest for the rest of my life."
"Oh! The worst was when I did a rectal surgery. A few hours later the poor woman called me up and told me that I'd glued her, uh, cheeks together." Let me tell you, nothing makes you love your surgeon more than finding out she once glued a patient's butt together. "Thankfully she was a really good sport about it," she finished.
I'm really private about certain things. My health is one of them. I just didn't want to tell anyone, or for goodness sake blog about it, until I had an answer. I could barely stand the waiting myself and I didn't want to wait knowing that everyone else was sitting on pins and needles right along with me. So I came home and I kept quiet. Turns out, if you want to keep quiet, you need to tell your five-year-old the plan. He knew something was up so I explained to him that mommy had a bump taken out of her. I showed him my bandage. That night, Troy took the boys to the softball field. A man from our church asked Troy if he was on Daddy Duty. "Yeah, Lori's not feeling well," he answered.
"Mommy has a band-aid on her nipple!" Garrett screamed. And if you think I didn't just try to figure out a more appropriate synonym for nipple to use in its place you'd be wrong. Because I totally did. But that's what he said. To a man my father's age. About that man's pastor's wife. Good times. The best of times, really. So much for keeping things quiet. One must have first birthed a quiet child, I suppose.
While that fun episode was occurring, I was at home, recovering. Oddly, I was completely at peace with whatever news the results would bring. I kept praying that God would use this to glorify Him. If breast cancer--at thirty of all things--would bring Him glory, so be it. If a clear reading would bring Him glory--bring it. If I've learned one thing through the trials of bringing children into my family, I've learned that God's way is Plan A. Every. Single. Time.
"If I have cancer, God, so be it. May your name be lifted high!"
As it turns out, I don't.
The doctor called this afternoon. It was benign.
To God alone be the glory!