by Stephanie Hall
This is a story. No wildly passionate, bodice ripping scenes; no crazy antics or wild chases of any kind. Just a story. About a woman. With two children. And a marriage. And some plans for the future. This woman had just hit 39. She was in a marriage that was doomed; things had just fallen apart, but they agreed to tough it out “for the kid’s sake”. In truth, fear was the dominating factor in the decision to remain. But that will be another story.
This is about a lump. Yes, *that* kind of lump. Two weeks after her 39th birthday, she discovered a lump. It was about the size and density of a small stone. If you have any gravel about, the lump was about the size of an English/Green Pea. (Why is it we always use food as a reference? Because everyone will know exactly the size mentioned?) Lumps and bumps were not unusual for her, she has fibroid cysts in both breasts. They become inflamed and quite painful if too much caffeine is consumed at the wrong time during the month. If you understand, I am sorry. If you don’t understand, that means you are blessed to have never endured this phenomenon, so be grateful. So, like I said, lumps – no big deal. Small, hard irregularly shaped lumps that spring up quickly – a very big deal. And at 39?
She went to the doctor, who was quite condescending. After all, she was “Just a woman” not an MD, so she wouldn’t really KNOW anything about this medical stuff. Really?!?! That doctor was summarily fired and a new one found. It was the Physician’s Assistant who decided further investigation would be good. This lump grew maybe a centimeter or so within the 2 weeks it took to find a new doctor. After a couple more weeks of “watching” it, the PA said, “I know you are going to worry constantly until we do something, so let me schedule a biopsy.” Again, what is it with the condescension? And the PA was a woman, too.
Insurance companies were notified, parents had been notified earlier, but the info about the next step was shared, too. Moms have a way of worrying that cannot be beat. The insurance company gave the go-ahead on the minor procedure. Schedules were set, arrangements were made and plans were in place – until the day before the biopsy. During the time spent on those plans, the lump grew, then “super-novaed” It got smaller and harder, as if that were considered possible, and became a bit more irregular in shape. Nerves were frayed. But everyone gave great effort to holding on and having a positive attitude.
The day before the procedure, the day before! Said insurance company called and stated, “well, you are either going to have to pay out-of-pocket or get a second opinion. We could not have possibly approved this without a second opinion.” They did give the approval, the notes were in the charts, in the Day-Timer with names and times, but hey, it was a classic example of the Golden Rule. They had the Gold, so they were arbitrarily making up rules. The procedure was canceled – the clinic was quite gracious since it was such short notice. That impressed me.
A new surgeon was located – one who had the approval of the insurance company. The insurance company recommended him. And he had a cancellation that allowed the second opinion to happen the following week. It was a long 8 days. The weekend was the hardest. No work to go to; not much to focus on but the constant background thoughts.
The big day finally arrived. At the appointed time, the woman went to the new surgeon. She had absolutely no history with this person or his practice. But the “pinch hitter” had a very kind office staff. His nurse was extremely gracious and thoughtful. She even took extra steps to ensure the patients comfort while waiting for the doc. And he did not take long to arrive! This man was on the spot – more doctors should be like him these days.
“at that moment, I knew I had received a miracle.”
So the doc arrived, the nurse was with him and the additional exam began. The doc poked and prodded. He asked, again, exactly where the lump was located. He checked. He checked again. He asked the nurse to check. The patient checked. They even examined the breast on the opposite side just to make sure there had been no confusion. There was no confusion. The lump was gone! It had completely disappeared. Nothing. It was, as they say ‘solid gone’. The doctor reviewed the notes from the other surgeon. He reviewed the notes from the previous exams by the OB-GYN. He looked puzzled, he checked for the lump again. Then he started to smile. I really cannot remember exactly what he said, but it was something about luck, fate, faith and dodging a bullet. But at that moment, I knew I had received a miracle.
Since I gave away the “surprise” ending in the previous paragraph, let me say I had no idea how heavy that had been until that moment. I was in shock. I got dressed, thanked the doctor, paid the bill and headed out the door. There were smiles all around in that office; most were still unsure if it was a miracle or malpractice, but I assure you that lump was there! And I most assuredly knew it was gone! I called my Mom with the good news. Her only response was “Well, I knew it. We’ve been praying for you in bible study group since you told me about it. I just knew it was going to be alright.”
For my part, it was a semi-game changer. I would like to tell you I suddenly became the most gracious person in the world. I would love to tell you I suddenly found huge faith and have walked a narrow path since. But the truth is, I did not. I was relieved. Greatly relieved. I had watched my horse-riding partner go through chemo and radiation for late stage breast cancer. It was not pretty. Her gorgeous long, thick, lush, full-bodied hair came out in clumps on her pillow. She succumbed after only a few months. But while watching her , I made a decision. I too had long luscious healthy hair and I have made a decision. If I was ever faced with chemo, radiation or anything of the like, I would cut my hair and donate it before starting treatment.
I was not facing treatment. Thank God. But I DID still have the hair. And I immediately made an appointment with an experienced hairdresser. I do not know who got my hair, but whoever it was received two 14” pony tails and two 16” pony tails. And I hope they were able to enjoy it. Now there is too much grey for my hair to be an acceptable donation. But I would do it again in an instant if someone else needed it. As for my “attitude of gratitude”, that took a bit longer to develop. Develop it did and my life has changed. Since I have been focusing on what I have and being thankful, more good things have flowed into my life. Great friends, good times, laughter – daily laughter – the deep from the soul laughter that cleanses and refreshes. I still remember those dark days. When I encounter a friend or acquaintance who is fighting the good fight, I do not share my story; some of them just do not understand why me and not them. And that’s okay. I understand their feelings of fear, frustration and worry.