Thursday, April 7, 2016

Cancer, God, and a Study in How Hurting Helps

So just when you think cancer could not be any more fun, they tell you that instead of just one lump to be biopsied on your THIRD round of biopsies, you will need three lumps biopsied in five or six different spots. And to ensure they don't biopsy one they have already biopsied, they first give you a local anesthetic, and stick a wire into your breast that stays in for the next hour as they grope around for other suspicious areas.

Nothing was excruciating. I don't want you feeling sorry for me. But it was uncomfortable, at best. Since the lumps were in two different quadrants, I had to get two different rounds of numbing agent shot into my poor bruised breast. (I had not planned to go grab junk food for lunch afterwards, but as I gazed at the ceiling while deep breathing, and imagining still water and green pastures, I thought I would definitely be getting fast food on the way home. The junkier, the better.)

The doc was actually being kind. If he didn't do that wire bit, complete with a mammogram to determine just where the wire needed to be inserted, I would have had to go on from the ultrasound biopsy to an MRI guided biopsy, complete with an IV to inject the dye. He told me I was a "special case" and he had been carefully selected and consulted with my unique issues. Lucky me!

"I hate that I have to do this to you," the kind doctor said, "But I am trying to save you from the MRI biopsy."
"Thank you," I said, trying not to wince, "I do appreciate all you are doing."
"You're being a real trooper," he said, patting my arm.
"Well, I have no other choice," I said, smiling. He really was a nice man and I could tell it pained him to hurt me.

After they did the five biopsy samples, they patched me up, and put ice on me, and sent me to the MRI. If the "tags" they attached to each lump showed they had not made any errors (oh Lord....), I would only need a non-dye-injected quick MRI to check the tags. By now, it was well after lunchtime. While waiting for the MRI, I kept myself amused by drawing the picture on this blog.

 Fortunately, when they did the MRI, all was well. Now we wait 3-5 days for results of the biopsies. I said goodbye and told them they were all very nice, but I hoped never to see them again in my life. They didn't take it personally.

I may have gone through all this extra biopsy pain for naught. If all those lumps are malignant, they will not do a lumpectomy. Mastectomy will be the only safe option. But all of them agreed, it was worth it for me to find out, and make an informed decision.

For some reason, this thought juxtaposed with my past Monday at the abortion center. No one chose life for their baby through our efforts, which is unusual. Almost always, at least one mama changes her mind about aborting. I wondered as I left, was our being there worth it?

Of course it was. It is always worth it to do what God calls us to do. But did God call me to get the extra biopsies? Not exactly, but I was not the one that had held out hope for the was my oncologist who said it might still be possible. But I would have to have the extra biopsies to rule out any other malignant lumps. It felt like God opening a window. I could be wrong. Maybe this is just another opportunity to see how much disappointment and pain I can endure.

Or maybe, seeds of salvation were planted in my wake. I spoke to at least ten people while there. I told them all about how I pray to stay calm, recite scripture, and have found pockets of joy even in the midst of all the ickiness, lessons from God I might not otherwise have learned. I chatted with the nurse about my work at the sidewalks of the abortion center, and she was so intrigued she wants to buy my book. I smiled, and joked, and never cried out in pain. God, and prayer sustained me, and I told them that. Maybe that was the real reason I was there, even if the biopsy comes back malignant.

Meanwhile, right before I left for the biopsy, I had gotten a text from one of the mamas I work with. She told me her conscience was bothering her over her lifestyle choices, and she wanted to know what God would have her do. It was a wide open invitation to me to share the Gospel, and God's clear commands regarding the issue she was struggling with. She was so receptive.
"I don't want to feel shame and guilt anymore," she said, "I want to do what God wants me to do."
"That fact is a positive sign," I told her, "It shows you have a heart God can reach. Remember, His mercies are new every morning. Now He can begin to help you."

"We're all done!" said the doctor, as he removed the wire he had stuck into me at the beginning. "I am sorry I had to hurt you, but it was the only way I could help you."
"I understand," I said, "And I'm grateful."

Jeremiah 31:9

With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.


  1. You are a wonderful marvelous human being, a light for me.

  2. You are a wonderful marvelous human being, a light for me.

    1. your words are a comfort. just found out they think i will have to do chemo and radiation