I sat in the examining room this afternoon, after my surgeon (Dr. Diehl) had left, and shook my head in stunned disbelief. When I wrote in this blog last week, my course of treatment was set, and all that remained to be determined was the date of my mastectomy. One day later, I received a call from my surgeon’s assistant asking me to return to Ann Arbor for further xrays. It was all rather cryptic and I resolutely barred myself from getting too excited too fast.
My mom and I made the 7-hour trip to and from the hospital today and I can safely say that it was one of the most rewarding drives of my life.
Six weeks ago, during my first visit with my doctor, she asked me what my feelings were with regard to a mastectomy. As stunned as I was on that day by all the information I had received (and the 16 mammograms I’d endured), I answered as honestly as I could. I briefly told her about my faith and the life choices it had prompted me to make, about my hopes for the future and my desire to enter it as “whole” as I could. (Plus a few other things not “printable” here! ) All I really remember of my explanation is that it was heartfelt–just as was my desire to beat this cancer. It’s that desire that prompted me, in the following weeks, to begin to consider and eventually accept the reality of a mastectomy.
But Dr. Diehl, the kindest and gentlest doctor I’ve ever met, had heard not only my words, but my heart on that day. And though we’d all agreed, two weeks ago, that a mastectomy was the best course of action, she wasn’t satisfied with that conclusion. Unbeknownst to me, she gave my case another hard look last week and determined that there might be just one more approach we could take before resorting to something as invasive as a mastectomy.
She sat me down this afternoon and explained the situation, telling me that she’d taken my case to the Tumor Board AGAIN today to be reviewed by all the surgeons, radiologists and oncologists in the Breast Cancer Center. They agreed to do one more procedure before settling for the mastectomy. So…and there are tears of relief in my eyes as I write this…on Sept. 3, I will return to Ann Arbor to have more surgery on the original tumor site and to have another wire-guided biopsy done on the remaining calcifications. (Anyone who has been reading here regularly knows what a circus those wire-guided biopsies can become in the life of Drama Queen Me!) If the calcifications are of the “pre-cancerous” variety, Dr. Diehl thinks removing them and enduring 6 weeks of radiotherapy might do the trick…and I could probably have that radiotherapy done in Germany. If they’re of the more aggressive type, we’d then go on to do a mastectomy. But Dr. Diehl seemed hopeful. Which means I’m allowed to be hopeful. Which means…
Just before she left the exam room, I asked Dr. Diehl why she had bothered to review my case again and take it back to the Tumor Board this afternoon. She said, “Because I remember what you said on the first day you were here.” Like I said: she hadn’t only heard my words–she’d heard my heart. How many doctors do you know who possess that kind of compassion?
There is a new addition to the skyline in a field near here. Six giant wind turbines, powerful and gleaming white. I call them the “gentle giants” and derive so much comfort from them that I thought it was important to name them. (I have this thing about naming things and renaming people–it fosters complicity and a sense of belonging.) They’re Alarian, Billy-Bob, Charlie, Desiree, Esmeralda and Falafel (don’t ask). Those 400-foot structures, graceful in their solidity, remind me of God and have come to symbolize His angels to me. While we humans are busy flailing about like frantic windmills, determined to fix our problems and plan our steps and predict our outcomes, the power of God, so high above our earthly plane, is steadily, steadfastly, compassionately at work.
From a distance, it is difficult to fully grasp the towering solidity of the “gentle giants” on Port Franks’ outskirts.
The same is true of God. I have seldom sensed His majesty or authority as fully as I have
while resting at His feet. From the vantage point of that kind of closeness and dependence, there is little else to hear and breathe than He. My prayer for the remainder of my life is that I will not leave the sacredness of this place, even if the disease that flung me here is lifted from my shoulders. May I continue to aspire to little more than kneeling at His feet and gazing on His splendor.
Thank you for your prayers–for your faithfulness and concern. I believe that Dr. Diehl’s stubborn commitment to my case, when she sees hundreds of women suffering from this disease, is a miracle you helped to make happen . God heard you–and though the final outcome of this McJourney ID is still not known, He has been at work. That’s good enough for me.
So…as I sip a tall glass of V-8 (trying to make my peace with retchtables…I mean, vegetables), I can only praise God for this reprieve, plead with Him for the results of my next surgery, and exuberantly quote the student whose saying has become the motto on my latest favorite t-shirt: