Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Walking the Ridge

It has been eleven months since I was diagnosed with high-grade, invasive breast cancer (stage 2a). Those words still chill me. And last week I thought I’d found another lump.

The more I examined it, the more confused I became. Sometimes I thought for sure it was a lump, and other times I could hardly feel it. I tried to convince myself that it was a muscle tear from a new workout routine at the gym, or something related to my partial mastectomy; but then I would tell myself that it had to be a lump ~ what else could it be?

I was already scheduled to see my oncologist on Monday. This routine appointment had been scheduled back in October after my last follow-up with her. I was so thankful that it was already on the books . . . and scared to death to go. And yet, waiting for four days was agony.

I was plunged back into the uncertainty of a year ago. Life seemed so short . . . every day seemed precious. But I had difficulty focusing on the most basic tasks. I clawed after a future that seemed to be slipping away. How could I have once again taken everything for granted?

The night before my discovery, I had been part of a Bible study led by my husband. We ended with Mark 4:35-41. Jesus was taking His disciples in a boat to the other side of the lake. But then, He fell asleep, and a life-threatening storm came up.  The disciples panicked and accused their Teacher of not caring. Jesus, of course, woke up and stilled the storm, but then challenged His disciples with their fear and lack of faith.

We discussed this. I suggested that the disciples still didn’t know that He was God. But a friend had another idea: “The disciples had already seen Jesus perform lots of miracles. But sometimes when the problems become personal, we have difficulty believing that God will act. We believe that He has power to help others, but not us.” 

That story became very dear to my heart over the weekend. And once again, as in my other trials, my mind grasped for simple phrases that I could repeat to calm my trembling heart:

* "Oh, God, preserve my life from the dread enemy.” ~ Psalm 64:1
* "Be with me, and keep me from harm.” ~ I Chronicles 4:9,10
“When I am afraid, I will trust in You.  I will trust and not be afraid.” ~ Psalm 56:3,4
* "You are behind me; You are before me; You are with me.” ~ Psalm 139:5
“I will not be afraid of sudden fear.” ~ Proverbs 3:25
“Tomorrow will take care of itself.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.”  ~ Matthew 6:27
“Do not worry about anything.” ~ Philippians 4:6

And then some heart-stopping questions from Jesus Himself:

“Can worry add a single hour to your life?” ~ Matthew 6:27
“Why are you afraid?  Do you still have no faith?” ~ Mark 4:40

Somehow I survived the weekend. Sometimes I felt totally detached from what was going on around me. Other times I was flooded with unexplainable peace and even exhilaration ~ and then, I figured, someone was praying for me. Or maybe I had just accepted the inevitable.

On Monday morning, Greg went with me to my doctor’s appointment, to be my support ~ and an extra pair of eyes and ears. As we sat in the waiting room, I scanned the e-mails that friends had sent to encourage me that morning. One friend’s concluding words stopped me in my tracks:  “...if we can't sleep with HIM in the storm....WE WILL REST IN HIM….” I couldn’t believe my eyes. These words seemed straight from the Lord, because Julianne had NO CLUE what we had studied the week before!

After a cliff-hanging wait, we were called into the office. My oncologist is wonderful ~ a compassionate listener and a calm explainer-of-facts. We discussed many concerns that I had on my list, and she gave me encouragement and helpful suggestions.

I saved “the lump” for the very last. And after a thorough examination, my doctor said, “I can feel scar tissue, but no breast lumps.” Really? Is that it? She felt certain that everything I was feeling ~ aches and pains, all we had talked about ~ were a normal result of chemotherapy and radiation and this early menopause that the chemo has thrown me into.

Physiotherapy and exercise will probably help. That said, she reminded me to let her know if the pains get worse. We can always do a bone scan if we feel the need. I have a mammogram and ultrasound scheduled for April. And she’ll keep a little closer eye on me; I’ll see her again in five weeks.

I walked out of her office wanting to be excited, but not sure if I should let myself. I almost feel guilty for anticipating a long future, but then I feel guilty for worrying that the cancer will come back. I seem to have discovered a precarious ridge, this fine line that we all must walk if we are to be honest with ourselves: trying to plan for the future and yet live in the moment, while holding our dreams loosely.  But as a friend reminded me today, "We should all live like that. We will then be surprised and exhilarated at where God will guide us . . . beyond our wildest dreams." And I'd rather be surprised than disappointed!

Over the weekend, when I kept feeling that spot and had come to the conclusion, “I don’t know; I just don’t know,” I remembered Who DID know, and a song that my Dad used to sing when I was a little girl started running through my head:

“I know Who holds the future, and I know Who holds my hand.
“With God, things don’t ‘just happen;’ everything by Him is planned.
“So as I face tomorrow, with its problems large or small,
“I’ll trust the God of miracles ~ give to Him my all.”

I don’t even know who wrote it ~ but to their words I say, Amen!


  1. Anne.....another favorite of mine is by Don Moen. It has been my lifeline for years now.....check it out....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zo3fJYtS-o

    Love you....Patty

    1. Oh, Friend, you can't believe how perfect the timing was on that . . . for honest real. Thanks for sharing. Love you, too!