It’s hard to say how long I’ve had breast cancer in my right breast. It could have been since the breast specialist at the Midwest Breast Care Center recommended a surgical biopsy after an abnormal mammogram in February 2015. My breast tissue is exceptionally dense, so it is notoriously difficult to read my mammograms. I had already had a biopsy of a calcium cluster on the left side just a few months prior that came back benign. We paid about $2500 (after insurance) for just a needle biopsy and really couldn’t imagine what it might cost for a surgical one. I remember talking to the specialist for about an hour, asking what she would do if she were in my shoes. She just said it could go either way. You have to treat each side separately. Just because the left side was benign didn’t mean the right side would be. Ultimately, I opted not to do the second biopsy.
My next mammogram was a year later – this time at the Olathe Pavilion. Apparently nothing abnormal showed up, because I didn’t have any follow-up appointments after that. Honestly, I don’t remember!
Fast forward to October 2019. I’ve had some hard tissue (probably cystic) in my right breast for quite awhile. Suddenly, I realize that it’s gotten quite large – like, it’s visible when I look in the mirror! That’s when I started to panic. I was looking through my records and realized that I hadn’t had a mammogram for over 3 years! How could this happen?? Well, with Kent and I both being self-employed and the health insurance system completely wrecked, we were forced to sign up for a different health plan in a different network every year. It was tiring to establish ourselves with a general practitioner because we knew by this time next year we’d just have to find someone else. I didn’t have any major health issues, so I would just go to Walgreen’s when I needed a quick check up, rather than try to get an appointment as a new patient, which would take at least two weeks!
I didn’t really have a choice this time. I knew I would need to find a GP who could order a mammogram, so I found a female physician’s assistant in the Olathe network and set my appointment. It was 2 weeks out. Meanwhile, I started down the path of freaking out. I was sure I had breast cancer, that it was all my fault (since I neglected my mammograms), and that I was going to die.
I started processing my feelings through Transformational Prayer – a method of following your emotions to your history and to any lie-based beliefs so that you can take those beliefs before the Lord and ask for His truth. I told Him that I didn’t feel like He was with me in this! Why me? I heard Him say, “You are my daughter. I have prepared a place for you since the beginning of time. This is not your time.” But I questioned it. Could I really trust myself to hear from Him? After all, I’m not trustworthy enough to get my mammograms done. So I went to my friend and mentor Kim who introduced me to Transformational Prayer and had been training me and a few others in this process over the past couple of years. Even though I knew the process, sometimes when you’re stuck in your own mess, it helps to have someone guide you. By the end of our session, I knew that the Lord was going to walk through this with me. Kim encouraged me to go to the walk-in clinic and get an appointment sooner than 2 weeks.
So the next morning, I went to the walk-in clinic and it turned out the physician’s assistant I was scheduled to see had an appointment open up at 11am that morning! At the appointment, she determined that it was definitely cystic tissue and ordered a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. Wouldn’t you know, it took THREE weeks to get that appointment scheduled. On November 20, the radiologist who checked the mammogram and ultrasound saw some concerning things and ordered a needle biopsy of the mass as well as a lymph node that appeared “thick.” Now it’s nearly Thanksgiving, so the earliest appointment I could get was Monday, December 2nd. Same radiologist who read my mammogram and ultrasound did the biopsy. As she worked on me, we chatted about John Brown University where my older daughter Tara is going and where she is taking her son for a visit the upcoming weekend! And then I waited. Results could come in 2-3 days.
Wednesday night I was at church making sure all our volunteer leaders were taken care of for our student ministry as I did every week. I figured by then I would probably get the call the next day since it was already past 6:30. As the students were going into the Auditorium, I followed them in, then circled back out to check my phone for some reason. I had a missed call from a Washington D.C. number which I figured was probably spam, but there was a voice message, so I listened to it. It was the radiologist and this was her personal cell number. I took a deep breath and called her back.
Yes, it’s cancer. I have invasive lobular carcinoma. It’s grade 2 – so that’s good. It’s not grade 3, which is the most aggressive. I have a fight ahead of me, but this is treatable, she reassures me. It did not show up in the lymph node either, so that’s a great sign. I will receive information about the markers in the next few days which will help determine my treatment plan. She wants me to have a breast MRI next just to get a better look at things because my tissue is so dense and check the left side as well. I will be hearing from a nurse named Kendra to set up my appointments.
As I hung up the phone, I was still in shock. I could hear the worship music coming from the Auditorium, so I walked in. As I did, I felt this incredible wave of peace come over me. I found a spot in the back corner to absorb what was happening around me. The lyrics of the final song were just what I needed in that moment: “My fear doesn’t stand a chance when I stand in Your love.” As soon as the song ended, I was ready to leave. My younger daughter Kylie was still there in the Auditorium, but she had her car and could drive herself home. I needed to see my husband and tell him the news. I drove home, still in shock.
Kent was in the office, sitting at his desk. He was surprised to see me so soon and knew something was up. I told him my news as I sat on his lap and finally sobbed. He prayed over me and we cried together. He’s always been there for me for everything and I knew he would be there for me in this too. When Kylie got home, I told her the news, and we cried together also. I told her about the peace I felt and how the lyrics of the song fit the situation so perfectly. Still I knew she had to be worried. Then I called Tara. It was different telling someone over the phone. I was less emotional. She seemed to take the news like a champ, but I couldn’t see her face.
The next day was tough. I spent the morning calling close family and friends. And I realized I still didn’t truly trust God with my life. Something was definitely bothering me, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Something from my childhood left me feeling unprotected. I met with my Transformational Prayer group and my friend Roxanna helped guide me this time. I heard truth that completely changed (transformed!) my thinking. God told me that what I had experienced as a child was a type of testing at a young age. I was set apart even then. He told me that it’s not just me having faith in Him – He actually has faith in me!
In the days that followed, there were lots of appointments, phone calls, and most importantly I kept hearing from the Lord. The day that I was to meet the surgeon and find out the results of my MRI I was feeling especially distraught. God told me, “You can’t change what’s already going on in your body. You can only move forward with the plan that I’ve already laid out. Let it unfold. Rest in what’s good. This body is My house and I will clean it up. Watch Me do the work.” I asked Him what I was supposed to do. “Be still and know that I am God.” Not an easy task to stick to, but I’m trying!!