Diagnosed February 2016
February 7, 2016 — I spent my birthday wondering when I would be hearing from my mammogram.
February 8, 2016 — On this, the 20th anniversary of my beloved Aunt Jane’s death to breast cancer, my letter came. The diagnosis was the fear of every woman. Flashbacks to my aunt’s courageous struggle flooded over me. Coincidence? I don't think so now.
A quick visit to my OB/GYN left me overwhelmed and numb. So many things flashed through my mind. I was about to become “Mema” again by adoption to my long-awaited fourth grandson. No way was I missing that! Who made out this time schedule for me anyway?
I found myself standing in the office of the school where my daughter, Jenny, teaches. Immediately, they found a sub for her and we were off to a prearranged appointment with a surgeon, Dr. Frie, who began a series of biopsies.
That night, all I could do was lie awake, pray and cry. A lot of whys and what-ifs kept creeping into my mind. I kept thinking of my special Christian friend who is a breast cancer survivor and whose daughter recently survived breast cancer. Oh, how I wished to talk to her! It was much too late, so I didn’t call.
And then my phone rang. When I answered, my friend Bonnie, whom I had been thinking of, responded, “Janis, I was looking at my phone and your name just appeared without my phone ringing! Are you okay?” After pouring out my day’s events to her and praying together, we had to laugh and agreed that God really does know how to use a cell phone!
Several meetings with precious Carolyn Cook, Breast Health Nurse Navigator, proved so empowering. The “whys and what-ifs” were replaced with “let’s get her done!” I was better able to comprehend what was truly happening. I realized that God had already set out a personal path for me. I now had a plan of action and wonderful caregivers all along the way. My path was to take place at Aiken Regional Medical and their Cancer Care Institute. I was walking this blessed path one step at a time. As if by magic, Carolyn had helped me change to a positive focus. My new goal was to ring my bell of victory at the end of my treatments.
Everything started moving at a rapid pace. Many biopsies, lab tests and paperwork were completed. Prior to my surgery on February 26, I could feel the prayers of my church family, friends, family and even total strangers from everywhere. They all were my cheerleaders. This support gave me courage I had never experienced.
While diligently keeping each appointment, I carried a clay cross gifted to me by my close cousin, Martha, whose mother was my Aunt Jane. Surgery day came and I was allowed to carry my cross into the OR with me. Upon waking, it had been placed back into my hands. My son and daughter gave me fantastic news: the cancer had not spread! I had been given a lumpectomy.
Tests showed that the likelihood of the cancer returning was in the "gray area." I was two points away from a certain recommendation for chemo. Since it was so close, the decision was up to me. Prayerful consideration lead me to a conclusion for radiation only for now. Decision made. I started radiation on March 31. One more step taken.
Radiation therapy can be very intimidating at first. Alone in a room, on a table, odd sounding machines moving over and around you. As I would lay there clinging to my cross, I would envision an electric bug zapper. Every time I heard the Linear Accelerator noise, I made myself think of how God was zapping everything bad from my body and was grateful. I secretly named it “God's Zapper.”
May 17, 2016 — My last day of radiation. Radiation done! I’m now a proud breast cancer survivor! I received a certificate of completion as the radiation crew cheered for me. Oh, happy day!
I could not ring my victory bell just once. No, I rang it three times. Once for my God, who put me on this healing path and once for Dr. Ezekiel and all of the ARMC Oncology Department that gave me treatment and care specifically designed for my needs. The third ring was just for me. I had prevailed. I had walked the path one step at a time. My oldest grandson captured the moment for Facebook as I rang the bell, and gave my victory sign with one hand and a thumbs up with the other hand. I’m in the pink now! In fact, pink is my new black! I’m so grateful to everyone who helped me. I am on a long healthy path of life taking one step at a time. I now have my fourth grandson and plans to see all four grow into men.
God gives us daily choices of paths to follow. Mine, thankfully, led to Aiken Regional Medical Centers and the Cancer Care Institute. Don't keep cancer a secret. Let others know what is happening so you can lean on them for prayers and support. Let the professionals guide you and make a plan of action tailor-made for your needs. Set a pace and stay on course. This is your new job. Embrace pink. Live radiantly each day with a positive purpose.