Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Almost Normal

I have a yearly MRI now. Plus mammogram. And sometimes ultrasound.

About every other year they come back with questionable results. (That's why a breast MRI has been added to the lineup.) And I'm in that place again.

My mammogram came back clear last month, but the MRI showed an area of "enhancement" near some "fat necrosis." (The necrosis had been noted last year, but the enhancement is new.) So my oncologist sent me for a breast ultrasound; and afterwards, the radiologist recommended a biopsy.

She explained it like this: the fat necrosis is nothing to worry about. Although it can look really nasty on the imaging, mimicking cancer, it's a normal response to the radiation, where some cells die off.

But the area of concern is a small "shadow" adjacent to the fat necrosis. It could just be more fat necrosis; but there's no way to be absolutely sure from imaging alone. That's why the radiologist wanted to do a biopsy. "I'm concerned, but I'm not," she told me that Friday. "Don't go home worried. Don't let it spoil your weekend."

So I went home and worked through my post-exam routine. (I'm getting used to this!) Whom should I contact first? Text or call Mom and Dad, the kids, and a few others. Then update my FB status. 

When I talked by phone with my son Josiah that afternoon, he said, "Mom, don't take this wrong or be offended . . . but this is starting to feel normal. When I got your text, I almost shrugged. Then I thought, 'Here we go again.'"

I'm not offended. He's right! This feels 'way too normal. And it always seems to happen at the same time of year: either Christmas (when we're welcoming our kids home and planning festive celebrations) or spring (when we're gardening and planning family road trips). Yes, indeed. Here we go again!

I sometimes wonder why I continue to go through these times of testing and waiting. Is there something more that God wants me to learn? Last fall I caught part of a radio program where the speaker (I believe it was Chuck Swindoll) said, "No test is by accident. They are all by design." If that is true, then what would it look like for me to pass this test?

I think the answer lies in what my mind and heart do in the waiting.

There's a part of me that's telling myself, "It's cancer," just because this is following a previous pattern of events. But if I've noticed a pattern in my testing, I've also noticed a pattern in my response. It's similar each time; but thank God, it's improving. I've learned a few things along the way.

About rest

When I was going through chemo five years ago, I had to rest. At some points in the treatment cycle, I just stayed in bed ~ reading, napping, doing cross-word puzzles and sudoku, and listening to audio lessons from Simplifiy101. My family handled housework and meals, friends brought food for us, my parents came often to help ~ everyone took good care of me.

And I enjoyed it! Well, part of the time. It was hard for me to let others do jobs that I thought I should be doing. And as the weeks dragged on, I did start to get a little bored. (I had never thought I'd get tired of reading!)

But I have to admit: sometimes I miss those days. Now, I see biopsies and surgeries as an opportunity to take advantage of a rest period. 

Before my biopsy last Wednesday, I announced that I was taking the rest of the day off. How nice to come home afterwards, crawl into bed, and get caught up on some much-needed sleep and some reading! My family kept tabs on me, and Greg fixed a delicious dinner for us. It was good to give myself permission to take a health holiday.

I'm learning to look forward to these enforced times of relaxation!

About work

Two years ago, when I was waiting for the results of another biopsy, I threw myself into yardwork, gardening as if my life depended on it. Last December, while waiting for a breast ultrasound verdict, I had the busyness of decorating for Christmas to distract me. And this month I've been organizing my house and purging papers. Along the way, I've learned that hard work is an antidote for worry. 

When I'm working away at something I love, my adrenaline flows, my heart rate goes up, I breathe ~ and for a little while I can forget the worry and loss that I'm facing.

About worry

I confess: I'm a worrier. When I was in college, I saw a poster that said something like: "Worry must work ~ most of the things I worry about never happen!" I've sort of taken that as my mantra.

But what good does worry really do? If this is cancer, worrying about it won't change the outcome. And if it's not cancer, then worrying was a total waste of time! Jesus said, " . . . can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?"¹

It already is whatever it is, whether cancer or not. And either way, it doesn't change what I'm doing today. It might change what I'm doing next week, or next month ~ but a thousand other things that I don't even know about could also change my future! I see why Jesus said: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."²

My heart trembles a little as I write this, knowing that tomorrow morning at 10:00 I will be sitting in my surgeon's office to hear my sentence read. The "what ifs" loom larger as the time draws near.

But I cling to the words: "Don't worry about anything."³ It's like God is saying, "I've got this under control. I'll take care of everything." He wants me to trust Him ~ with all my heart.⁴ So I'm trying to sit back, relax, and watch with curiosity to see what He's going to do!

¹The Bible, Matthew 6:24 (NRSV)
²The Bible, Matthew 6:34 (NIV)
³The Bible, Philippians 4:6 (NLT)
The Bible, Proverbs 3:5 (NASB)

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