One of my commitments in the new year was to schedule all of my health appointments early. A physical, my 2 dental cleanings, etc. I was determined to start 2017 off right and do better than years before. As this story has unfolded I’ve debated sharing but was inspired by a beautiful girl I went to college with who found out in a routine exam she had breast cancer and is fighting hard to beat it and raise her 2 boys. Cancer does happen to healthy, 30-something year old women and routine checkups save lives.
During my physical in January my doctor felt a lump in my neck, on my thyroid. It’s always scary to hear those words: you have a lump. A lump of what? Then the c-word among others gets tossed around and you feel the panic rise. I scheduled an ultrasound. Let’s find out what’s going on.
I will admit, I was more emotional in those weeks of waiting then I ever would have guessed. Keeping with my commitment to being more vulnerable in friendships – I shared with my close friends, my family, and my bible study. I asked for prayers, especially for peace.
Two weeks later I was thrilled when my doctors assistant said: you’re all good!
The relief was immediate. The emotions came to a final head. And a few days later with a grateful heart I went back to my usual self.
So flash forward to March and I go back to the doctor for an unrelated appointment. Imagine my surprise when she says: how did your biopsy go? Oh no, I replied, I didn’t need one. Your assistant told me about my results from the ultra sound and I’m all good.
Her assistant told me wrong.
In fact, he read me the wrong results entirely. I, in fact, had a lump. Or a nodule as they’re called in the medical field.
I made it all the way to the front seat of my SUV before I burst into tears. I remember saying all the right things: It’s ok. People make mistakes. We’ll just go from here. But as I got into the car and put my face in my hands it hit me: I had a nodule and I was now three months late finding out what it was.
I’ll spare you all the nitty gritty details and tell you that I had another ultrasound at a specialist, followed a month later by a needle biopsy. This is where they stab you very deep in the neck with a needle four times and extract ‘samples’ from your nodule. It’s terrifying and painful. I said afterwards: well, I wouldn’t wish that on ISIS.
My parents, my friends, my sisters, and every guy I’ve ever dated will tell you: I’m tough. I got my wisdom teeth pulled on a lunch break and went back to work. Without pain killers.
Cancer scares are a different kind of pain though. Yes, there were needles and I hate those. But the weeks of waiting for answers. Of worrying about the what ifs. And the heart breaking thoughts of: if this is serious… are a pain that’s hard to describe.
I’ve never been a fearful person. In fact, I could stand to be a little more afraid or intimidated at times. So was was new to me. The anxiety. The fear. And the sorrow at feeling like I lost my invincibility. What if I’m not ok?
Nearly three weeks after my mom squeezed my toes while I grabbed the side of that doctors office ‘bed’ with one hand and wiped tears from the corner of my eyes with the other while they gathered samples – I got the call. I stood in my kitchen gripping my counter tops as the doctor said: you’re healthy. I held on and cried with relief. I’m healthy.
That level of fear and uncertainty are lonely. Even as I had my family and friends praying and walking through those months with me – I felt isolated with my fears. I wasn’t voicing all of the emotions I walked through. Even this week as I tried to share with my bible study my gratitude for my health I could barely get the words out around tears. I am grateful. I am relieved.
Even though I was released with a clean bill of health at the end of a tough couple of months I want you to encourage you to schedule your yearly appointments and stay on top of your own health. Routine health screenings save lives. And if you’re walking through a similar season to mine, reach out. Even if your friends and family can’t fully understand what you’re going through – I assure you, they want to be there.
A note from 2018: I grew a lot last year. I’ll admit that cancer scare stuck with me for the rest of the year (my biopsy was in the summer). I finally got around to making that Will I’ve been meaning to make. And I spent a little more time with my nieces and nephews (yes, nephews – plural!). I squeeze them a little harder. And at the end of the year when my newest nephew, Simeon, joined the family with my middle name it meant everything. I’ve loved a little harder and let go of a few more grudges, insecurities, and imperfections.
In this season I was reminded how fully the Lord has answered my prayer for friendship. I was overwhelmed by the number of my friends and coworkers who volunteered to go to my appointments and procedure with me – even offering to taking time off work or hire babysitters for their kids. It was humbling, encouraging, and unbelievably generous (I’m crying writing this). I prayed for a long time that the Lord would give me quality friendships and he has delivered beyond my ask. My Mom ended up flying in to go with me but even as I arrived home after to a big bouquet of flowers I couldn’t help but think that the Lord has given me this incredible family of friends.
I wish on no one the fear and loneliness those couple of months gave me. But I’m grateful for this: they gave me perspective. That time is fleeting and un-promised. That there are people I still want to share Christ with and opportunities I want to cherish. I have no idea if I’ll have 65 health more years or not. So in the meantime, I’ve decided to live each day I do have loving fiercely, leading well, and sharing my faith in big and small ways.