Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I spent much of August experiencing great fear and anxiety. I was truly humbled and brought to my knees when my first mammogram showed some areas of concern.

At first I was told that the two spots they found were "probably just cysts" but I needed to have an ultrasound to confirm that. A few days later I went to the ultrasound and was then escorted by a nurse into a dark room where a radiologist showed me images of my right breast on a HUGE screen. He showed me two monstrous looking growths and told me that he didn't know what they were, but they were definitely not cysts. That's about the last thing I really remember hearing because thoughts and feelings instantly began whirling in my head. I know I started to cry.

I was scared. Really scared.

I tried to stay calm. I tried to listen to the assurances of a very chatty nurse.... "They're probably fibrous growths." "PROBABLY?" I had heard that word before this test and it was wrong. She scheduled an appointment with a "breast health doctor" and a biopsy. She told me NOT to look at anything about this online. Yikes!

I tried to stay calm. I cooked dinner and took care of the boys and tried to do some school with them. I had a retreat to work on and attend. I had a chore list to work on. I kept busy.

But I was not calm. I was scared. Lots of "WHAT IF's" circled around in my head everytime I got a quiet moment. I was constantly fighting off full-fledged panic.

Jon, my mom, my dad, my sisters, and my friends were all great. They were praying for me and trying to re-assure me. My amazing Catholic OB even called me to make sure I understood the results and I was OK. He reminded me that I need to "put my trust where it belongs."

That statement really helped me begin to focus on the core of my fear. I was afraid that God's plans weren't going to line up with mine.... that I was really going to have to let go of the control to which I so tightly grasp. I proudly profess to be a Catholic, to love God deeply and follow Christ faithfully. I believe that God is faithful to me, that I will behold Him face to face for all eternity when my life here on Earth is ended. Yet I felt that I would give anything to just be able to be healthy and able to raise my boys. I felt like I needed to convince God that MY plans are the way we need to go.... as if He doesn't know what's best for all involved.

Is that true faith? I know that such struggles and questions are normal. I had just never really faced them so head-on for such an extended period of time. It scared me to realize that in many ways I trust my OWN plans and efforts more than God's. I was engaged in a real spiritual "wrestling" match. I turned to a very familiar scripture passage ---

Jeremiah 29:11-14 "For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile."

Interestingly, even that passage was so unsettling for me. I wasn't interested in God's plans. I wanted Him to listen to MY PLANS. When I realized that, I was so humbled. I tried very hard to pray and really be open to God's work in my life. I tried to listen for His Word for me. The only words I could hear were, "Do not be afraid."

A prayer that has been very helpful for me in the past is the part that the priest says after the Our Father at Mass. He prays, "Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ." And we respond, "For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever." Those are very beautiful and powerful prayers that can so easily be glossed over as we prepare for the Sign of Peace and Communion. My appreciation for them has certainly grown during the past month.

Fortunately, when I saw the breast doctor he told me to "take Schoedinger (a local funeral home) off speed dial." He reassured me that he was 95% sure the spots were benign fibrous growths AND that even if they were cancerous, they would be very "treatable".... not even stage one cancer.
And so I was greatly relieved. But I knew that this challenge was more than physical. I knew my faith was being tested. I knew God was speaking to me about more than just life and death issues. I continued to pray about trust and control and faith. I knew that the devil had found a crack in the foundation of my faith and had dug in deep. Fortunately, a few days later I was on the homeschool retreat. I had a lot of time to pray and sort things out.  Confession, adoration, encouragement from wise women, time to think and pray. It was very helpful. I knew God's faithful, patient, loving presence again.
A few days later I went to have the biopsy done. It felt more like a necessary inconvenience than a stressful test. Jon took off work to go with me. My friends watched the boys and cooked me dinner. I was relatively relaxed as I changed into the gown and waited in the waiting area. UNTIL..... I began to feel a bit off balance. Things felt shaky. I stayed calm and got through the biopsy. The nurses and doctors couldn't have been nicer. It hurt a bit, but I kept my eyes closed and didn't see any needles. The doctor even essentially told me it wasn't cancer, since it changed shape. (The smaller spot was actually just a cyst that he was able to drain.)
On the way home, I realized that in my shaky moment before the biopsy I had felt an EARTHQUAKE! Truly! I'm still laughing about that and wondering what exactly God was trying to say/do with that. My first thought, though, was that if this is the end of the world, I'm going to be really mad that I had to go through this whole saga.

Last Friday, just before we left for a weekend in Michigan, I got the official call that the biopsy had come back fine. Alleluia! And so ended  ANOTHER health saga for me. What a summer! Sprained ankle, broken finger, high cholesterol.... bad mammogram. Please Lord... enough. You have my attention. I am trusting in you... and taking care of myself the best I can. 

Another thing I've committed to in the wake of this latest health saga is praying every day for people whose diagnoses aren't so positive... for the panic and uncertaintly and pain people experience every day. All of us are going to experience it at some point. I'm praying for the amazing health care professionals and researchers who are caring for people and searching for new treatments.

I praise God --- not that MY WILL was done in this scenario --- but for his patient, faithful love. For all the chances he gives all of us to learn and trust over and over again.

1 comment:

  1. Katie, thank you for this share that spoke immediately to my heart and yes, my fear! You see, I'm disabled ... so I always thought I had an idea of "how it could end" ... then a suspicious spot was removed from my arm this past week, and let's just say I'm pretty much where you were - which is why your post has been so extremely helpful - bless you!!!