I hate mammograms, so I avoid them like the plague. After having my boob vice-gripped between two-glass blocks, and flattened to the point of my passing out, I don’t do annual exams. I know I’m supposed to, and believe me, I’ve had too many girlfriends get breast cancer to know better. I am just being stupid.
I finally got one done last month after three years, and it was tolerable. It was over within a few moments, and I was on my way home without a second thought.
The day of my daughter’s 18th birthday, as I am driving to the party to set up, I get a call. “You need to come in for a second scan. We have observed a change in your right breast from your previous scan.”
WHAT? I am freaking out, trying not to get too alarmed. I put it out of my mind, and force myself to focus on celebrating my first-born’s milestone into adulthood. (We had a great night, praise God.)
The next day I began to think, and wonder, and worry. This is routine, they said. It’s not unusual for people to get called in for a second scan. I shouldn’t worry, right? Right. So I wait. And pray. And try to convince myself it’ll be okay.
It’s amazing what you think about before having the results of an ominous test. Your mind wanders to things you should get done, or people you need to reconnect with, or promises undone. You begin to wonder if God really does have “plans for welfare and not calamity, to give you a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11).” You bargain with God.
I start thinking of my son Josh, who’s 12 years old and homeschooled. What if I don’t see him grow up? What about my new “adult” child? Will I not get to see her in a wedding gown, as the beautiful bride I know she’ll be? Then there is Mario, my husband, best friend, and soul-mate. No, God, not now! Not yet!
The ironic thing is that I just finished a class at Biola on why God allows evil, and intellectually, I know why bad things happen. I can give you all kinds of apologetics as to justify it, to try to make sense out of the senseless. Now will I be tested on how I will endure suffering as a Christ-follower?
The day of the scan comes. I feel on edge all morning, my nerves are shot, and I’m irritable. I drive to the hospital breast center downtown, and walk into the main floor. I’m so frazzled, I get lost. A woman who looks emaciated, wearing a beanie cap over her bald held, and walking around in a hospital robe, says, “Can I help you find where you’re going? I know this place pretty well,” she weakly smiles. Oh my goodness! This poor woman looks like she has cancer, and is helping me find the breast center! I felt terrible. I stopped focusing on myself, and began to look around me. My heart broke with the pain I saw in some people’s eyes. Who knows what they’ve just been through? Who knows what diagnosis they’ve just been given? I feel deep compassion and empathy at those I see.
I get taken back to a waiting room to put on a ‘lovely’ hospital gown, and wait with other women, listing to HGTV blare out it’s recommendations on home improvements. I didn’t look at the others—it was terribly awkward. We’re all here for the same reason. The great unknown. Those moments when your health hangs in uncertainty.
I get called back to the scanning room. The technician was friendly, and did her best to make me comfortable. The vice-grip bears down. I hold my breath in pain. Done. I shuffle back to the waiting to remain for the results.
“Lisa?” The technician calls my name. This is it, I think to myself. Do I have cancer? “We’re going to have to do another scan. The radiologists are not sure.” Oh. My. Gosh.
Back to the waiting room again. I try to read a book I brought. I read the same page five times. Fifteen minutes later. “I am really sorry, but they want to do another scan. This time they want to use a 3D imaging scan.” I am ready to faint. This sounds bad. Oh, dear God in heaven!
Back to the waiting room. This time I casually glance at the other two women who’ve been sitting with me, seeing me get up now three times. “Isn’t this fun?” I say, and they chuckle back nervously. The room lightens up a bit.
My stomach is in knots. I can’t concentrate. I wish Mario was with me. I feel alone. But I’m not alone, now am I? God is always with me, as He promises. I begin to relax a little. I pray for His strength because at that moment, I have none of my own.
“Lisa? Come with me.” The nurse seems pleasant enough. Is this a good sign? She is smiling, and for a moment, I feel hope.
“The results came back negative. You don’t have breast cancer.” I just sit there, feeling relieved and unsure. “Really?” I ask, wanting reassurance. “Yes, you don’t even have to come back until your regular annual exam.”
I am flooded with relief. I silently thank God, and walk back through the halls of that hospital filled with hurting people. I wonder why I am not one of them? Suddenly all those promises I made to God come back to mind, and I vow to fulfill them. For those who weren’t as blessed that day to hear good news, I will live my life to the glory of God, as I try to walk out His ways on earth, bringing His hope and His light to dark places.
And I will get an annual mammogram!