Summer of 2013, I got really scared.
I had received a form letter with my mammogram results saying that I had very dense tissue in my breasts and therefore a mammogram was not the best screening avenue I should take. The letter suggested a scan or MRI to get a clearer picture of my breast tissue. This was not a new discovery, it was a mandated notice from the State of California. Something someone thought I should know.
So I contacted my doctor, got a referral and went in for my first breast scan at a lovely, welcoming clinic downtown Los Angeles. I admit, I was nervous, Very. I kept thinking, since I didn’t know that I’ve always had dense tissue, what could be there that I had no idea about? What lurks?
During the breast scan, the technician zeroed in on one spot under my arm. I felt what she was taking more scans of. I FELT the teeny tiny bump. Swollen. Waiting. Hiding out.
She left the room, leaving me lying there with a tiny towel for my chest, the paper yet stylish vest crackling under my every move. When she came back in a few minutes later, she brought a doctor with her. He hit the lights and asked me to sit up.
I held that towel over me, feeling exposed and vulnerable, there was a shift in the room. Something had changed from when I arrived there to that moment when the doctor told me they found something in my lymph nodes under my arm. As he began to talk, I quickly conjured up all the spirits of grandmothers (I usually travel with them, anyway… so they were close by) They came and stood shoulder to shoulder around me. My grandma laying her hand on my arm, aged and warm, I heard her in the hum the fluorescent lights made, she whispered softly like a hum, “it’s okay, Lynne” . I didn’t cry. I put on my professional face and answered his questions.
“Have you been sick? Any infections? Other ailments?” I said, “No. No. None.” He said it was probably nothing and that I could wait six months to see if it grew or if it was going to bother me I could get a biopsy. He told me to have a good day and left.
The technician waited until the door shut and turned to me. She said “you’re getting a biopsy, aren’t you?” Of course. I couldn’t wait six months. How could he suggest that? Didn’t he understand that I felt like I had just went head-on into a brick wall?
Four weeks later, after a course of antibiotics that didn’t do anything but make my upset stomach worse, after that same doctor returned from his vacation, after I fell apart, fear stomping all over me, after I kicked myself for being so vain for not wanting to give up my tiny imperfect breasts if I had Stage 1, for worrying how I’d live without my hair, after admitting that I LOVED my hair, after many therapy sessions and crying jags, after reaching out to heal old wounded friendships and apologizing for what I had done to others, after nearly destroying my marriage because my husband doesn’t have the same relationship to my body as I do, after all this, I calmed down and discovered my power base. I wrote to my girlfriends and asked them for strength. I asked them for prayer and they brought it. They brought it HARD.
I believe that they helped calm what was growing inside of me. I do.
I had the biopsy done, with a recovery that was longer and harder than I thought it would be. But by comparison of what I was preparing to go through, it was fine. I spoke with my mother about breast cancer clinics and she told me without hesitation that if I needed treatment, she was moving me back to Minnesota not just because the U of MN has one of the best centers in the nation but because she wanted me home. She wanted me home. I was loved and felt that others wanted me to go on living.
The biopsy results took longer than they said it would. There was extra examination of the lymph node until finally I was told it was nothing. It was just enlarged. Perhaps at some point I was sick and the swelling hadn’t gone back down yet. I was okay. Every six months I have to go back in and have them scan again, to be sure but I was okay. And tomorrow I set the next appointment to do the scan again. It’s time.
Now, I know my story is nothing AT ALL compared to the amazing fierce women who have fought breast cancer and survived. It is nothing to those who fought and then passed on. What my community did for me is no different than many others. What my family did is no different either. I’m not special. I’m a woman who like so many others have only one body and sometimes disease shows up, and sets up camp.
What I do have have now is an opportunity to help. I’m committed to Avon39, the walk-a-thon to help raise funds to END BREAST CANCER! Life is so precious and we’re fighting for it. Fight.
And I need your help. Please donate to the cause. Help me make my $1800 commitment.
This is my personal AVON39 page, so you can follow me, make your donation. You can find me on Facebook at Stacey Parshall Jensen. You can see on FB and on my page my progress. Please come laugh with me, celebrate with me, be here with me. http://bit.ly/1L8miY3 I’ll be blogging all over the place!!
So, the Toast today is for all the women who fight, for the families and the communities that gather their prayers and strengths to rally together in the fight. It’s a Toast to AVON39 and ENDING Breast Cancer.