The Breast Cancer Diaries | Part 2Laura Ann Miller
The Waiting – the Long In-between
November 4, 2021 | Thursday
It’s one day before my mammogram and ultra sound.
One day before knowing if I’m healthy or if I have cancer.
It’s been approximately one month since I tried to make this appointment. There was nothing earlier. I tried. One month seems like a long time to wait to know if you’re dying of some unknown thing inside your body, but then again there’s a freedom in not knowing. The freedom comes from the assumption everything is totally fine. Which seems like an odd thing for a person who imagines worst cases scenarios all the time. But I knew a month was a long time to fear the worst. To carry it day and night.
I tired to let it go. I think I did my best, but maybe I just set the worries down close by… because my own body has been aware this whole time regardless of how I’ve tried to carry on. I’ve felt frustration and suspicion towards my breasts and also fear.
I had a dream this week and in it I felt pain in my chest and I knew this was cancer. It felt clear, like a simple fact. This is cancer. But was I only dreaming my worse case scenario or was the dream a gentle confirmation and preparation?
Friday is the day.
Tomorrow I’ll know.
I wonder about those few days I’ve booked at the cabin in Georgia for Thanksgiving break-
Who will I be there?
My thoughts are going too far into the future now. Too far into the what if’s…
Either way the retreat will be good for the soul.
Mike took time off to go with me.
He’s optimistic, based on the vibe he got from my doctor. That’s good.
When Friday is almost over, I’ll know.
What ever the outcome, this should change me.
I’m longing for freedom…
November 5, 2021 | Friday
I woke up to the sound of rain.
I hit snooze and stayed in bed far longer than I usually do. This day off is a gift for so many reasons. I couldn’t possibly go in or take time off and explain why. I need time to myself. Time to process all this.
Mike and August made it out the door for work and school on time.
I stayed home with Coco.
I found a podcast to listen to about how to develop a rich mindset while finishing my crochet beanie. The beanie is pretty awful, it’s giant and has a life of its own, but I’m proud I finished it! And now I know how to make the next one better…
I needed to shower before my appointment. To stand in the warm water and let my mind wander.
I couldn’t figure out what to wear. But when I finally settled on my black jeans and a black and white striped hoodie I spotted my Grandma Betty’s silver bracelet and knew I had to wear it. She’s a breast cancer survivor. It was comforting to have it on.
Mike came home early to go with me. We got in the car and I drove through the rain.
I thought I was ok, but I felt my frustration during the registration process…
My paperwork is written up incorrectly, I thought for a minute I wouldn’t be able to be seen, but they can get the paperwork they need. For us there’s a difference in price, instead of $243 dollars it will be about $500. For now we pay $200 and wait to see our balance after insurance…
I sit down in the waiting room, but I’m called back right away. I’m brought into the mammogram room with butterflies on the wall and given a pink robe. Mike is left behind.
I go through this new process and I explain the change in my breast and the area where I felt the lump. The technician says she can see what I’m talking about. It’s frustrating because I’m still hoping it’s nothing, but she notices.
I can’t help but wonder at the design of the machine. It’s incredible technology, but intensely uncomfortable. I think of the engineering and robotics students and wonder if this machine can be improved. No offense to the people who put so much work into this wonder of technology!
I wedge myself in as I’m told, my face pressed up against the plastic shield, and hold on to the machine as it compresses me and rotates around my body. We do a series of these images on my right and left side. And then I wait in my pink robe for the ultrasound images.
The ultrasound room also has butterflies and a large screen TV with a scenic meditative music video playing. The lights are dimmed and I lay down and see a beautiful landscape photograph illuminated on the ceiling. It makes me happy to know nature photography plays an important role in providing a relaxing atmosphere in a medical room. I’d rather be outside taking photos…
This experience is much quieter and gentler than the first set of the images. The gel placed on me is warm, almost hot, it’s comforting as the ultrasound wand glides over my body…
I need a few more images on the mammogram machine again with the magnification lens this time. They’re reassuring that this is normal, but I’m resigned to the fact, they’re concerned with what they see.
After we finished I went back to my waiting room and texted Mike to let him know we were almost done. I got changed and let my technician know Mike was waiting out front. She went to get him and we walked back to the ultrasound room and waited for the radiologist to come in.
This all seems so matter of fact.
I can only say I felt like a small child in a big unfamiliar world taking it all in.
The radiologist came in the dimly lit butterfly room with my mammogram technician. Her face was kind. She bent down low to talk to me in my chair and looked me in the eyes as she spoke slowly. She looked familiar, like I’ve always known her, but I didn’t. She was a stranger trying to tell me she was concerned with my images. My next step would be two biopsies.
The technician was handing me a packet of information while the radiologist was asking if we wanted her to show us what she was talking about. We said yes, but I knew it didn’t matter. We walked over to the screen and looked at the images, the small dots of concern, the lump, with the glowing red center.
I didn’t know how to respond. What to say. The radiologist looked at me with such concern, but I felt like I already knew what she was going to tell us.
We gathered our things and they walked us out. Out into the waiting room, out into the rain…
Mike drove us home.
“Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.” Micah 7:8
“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.””
November 6, 2021 | Saturday
Mike and I sat down with our beautiful girl to let her know somehow what was going on. “You have cancer?!”
She shut down pretty quick at the thought of it. I sat outside with her and Coco in the grass and tried to reassure her. I told her we didn’t know yet, but that we needed to get it checked out.
We just weren’t sure… do we mention it before the biopsy? This way she’s a part of the process good or bad? If it is bad news, she isn’t just hit with it out of the blue.
Preparation for the worst seems better somehow. Is that a normal way of thinking?
November 7, 2021 | Sunday
Tonight mom and Heidi called to see if we could spend Christmas together in Williamsburg.
I couldn’t give an answer.
I was going to call them after I knew when my biopsy appointment was, but they called me first!
My mom was reassuring. She told me about her two neighbors with breast cancer who are doing well.
Heidi listened and prayed over me.
November 9, 2021 | Tuesday
I got the call to schedule my procedure.
Monday morning 7:45 AM
I’m nervous about getting queasy and the bandages and all of it. I asked the nurse scheduling me about taking a sedative… is it normal to request one? She said it was. This was reassuring.
Mike talked to Ethan today. I don’t know how it went.
I told my two closest coworkers today.
I want to keep this all to myself till I know for sure, it’s hard to share. What if it’s nothing? But I need to take time off of work and sharing the process and asking for prayer through it has been comforting. I have a good team at school and I’m thankful.
Aunt Jan sent a text letting me know she and my cousins are praying for me. She started by saying she heard about my “lumpy boobs!”
She has a way of making me laugh and bringing comfort all at the same time.
Maybe everything is just fine. Maybe it’s all nothing. My paperwork says 80% of biopsies are negative for cancer. Those are good numbers.
November 12, 2021 | Friday
The hospital called to request payment this afternoon. They wanted $4,000. I was taken a bit off guard. We have an HSA account, but I have no idea how much is in there. I paid a deposit of $200.
I don’t know what’s going to come, but today it’s finally Friday night. I have this weekend. Then Monday and Tuesday to myself. Peace.
I can’t help but think about what I’ll do if it is cancer. What will I do if it isn’t?
November 14, 2021 | Sunday Morning
I couldn’t sleep this morning.
I decided to get up and take Coco for a walk. It was slightly cool this morning. I’m thankful this change in weather is coming. We walked and watched the sunrise, I tried to photograph it, but I couldn’t find the best composition. The colors were beautiful and strange this morning. Shifting and changing in intensity. Deep oranges in a soft glow, fading out to twilight blue. I thought the show was over too soon, but then an encore of purple pink clouds rose up all around in a final moment of color.
Everyone is asleep. I found my grandma’s devotional Bible next to me and read, God Is Able–
“But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” Jude 1:20,21
Help me to follow your will, to pray in your Holy Spirit and to know how to keep myself in your love. Amen.
November 15, 2021 | Monday
The Day of the Biopsy
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
I’m home now. I made it through the process without a sedative.
I’m thankful for all the the prayers from family and friends. I know this made a difference in giving me peace to go through this process today, even if I got a little dizzy, sweaty, and fainty during the second biopsy. The lavender aromatherapy patch on my robe was comforting.
The technician who had helped me with my first mammogram and ultrasound came back to my waiting room to ask if I’d had any trauma to my breasts. “No, none.” I told her. And today, when I had my first ultrasound for the biopsy, I thought I saw the nurses glance at each other when looking at the screen. These are the little things that, despite the reassurance of others, give me pause. Do those things mean anything or am I imagining the worst?
What will this outcome be? I feel peace about it either way, knowing God is with me no matter what. But I still feel tense in the waiting and wondering. I should know the results in three more days. What will happen going forward?
“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.” Psalms 62:5-6
November 16, 2021 | Tuesday
The tide goes in
The tide goes out
What will it bring?
I’m thankful for the prayers for peace that were prayed over me. Aside from a few tears Sunday night I felt at peace going into the process instead of overwhelming thoughts of fear. This I know was answered prayer.
“Jesus is there. He is alive, and He is working. Focusing on everything that is happening will indeed lead us to exhaustion, confusion, anger, and sorrow. But communing will lead us to Jesus—the answer to everything.”
-from the Bible app devotion
November 20, 2021 | Saturday
- I thought when I had my mammogram and ultrasound I would know if I had cancer or not. I’m not sure why, but I thought for sure that would be the determining factor. By the way the radiologist spoke to me and explained to Mike and I what she was seeing in the images, she did indeed seem like she was explaining that I had cancer. Except for the fact another procedure was ordered. The biopsies.
- Now. These two biopsies are done. They were done on Monday. The Dr. or nurses explained my results would be in in about 2-3 business days. Wednesday or Thursday. So I made it through those two frightening procedures without medication, 3 Steri-strips, and ice packs wrapped into my bra waiting patiently for Wednesday and Thursday. Waiting for my Dr. to call with the results. Thursday. I will know. This will be it. But she didn’t call. Friday no call. Saturday no call. I still don’t know. Now I feel like a mad woman, frustrated and impatient. Is it too much to ask for a phone call ? A simple, it’s cancer or good news, no cancer? I’m mad. I’ve waited patiently, calmly for over a month, but now my desire to know has taken over. I’m no longer calm, not afraid, but restless. I slept on the couch and woke up early picking up my phone to research the difference between a non-cancerous cyst and a cancerous tumor. I read all morning piecing together what I remembered from the radiologist. Many indications suggest I have breast cancer, but some indications suggest whatever was found is non-cancerous. I still have no idea. The good news, it seems, is that these non-cancerous cysts all start to occur in your 40s. I’m 42. This morning I read 75% of biopsies come back as benign… When will I get that call?
It’s good to have this journal and these notes to re-read. I can see my focus is turning off of the quiet gentle trust in Jesus and to my circumstances… so again I read and meditate on this fact:
“Jesus is Here. He is alive, and He is working. Focusing on everything that is happening will indeed lead us to exhaustion, confusion, anger, and sorrow. But communing will lead us to Jesus—the answer to everything.”