Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rewind

Today, I’m going to rewind just a bit and fill you in on a bit more about the actual day of diagnosis.

When I had the stereotactic biopsy last Monday, they made an appointment for me to return to the breast surgeon/oncologist in seven days to get results. However, when I asked the radiologist how long results usually took to come back she said, “Three to five days with preliminary results coming in even earlier.”

I “hmmm”-ed to myself and did the math. (Which, as we all know, is my strong point. Ha.)

“Let’s see. The doctor is going to have my diagnosis on Wednesday or Thursday, but he isn’t going to tell me the results until Monday? What is wrong with this picture?”

Part of my reason for wanting the news earlier (besides just wanting to know) was because, as pastors of a church, it’s much easier to give news to a congregation as a whole on Sunday morning than to have the news dribble out on Monday and the days following. However, I had been told that this was the doctor’s iron clad policy; he only gave results in person.

But I thought, “What does it hurt to ask?”

Since I do a whole lot better stating my case in writing than over the phone, I composed a letter and faxed it to the doctor’s office early Thursday afternoon listing some reasons for requesting earlier results. I didn’t have much faith that it would do any good, but at least I felt better for having tried.

At 5:30 Thursday afternoon, as I was about to put some chicken in the oven, my cell phone rang.

It was the doctor.

He started the conversation with, “Well, I got your letter. And since you went to the trouble of writing, I’ll make an exception and give you the results over the phone.”

At that point, I suddenly decided that I didn’t really want to hear the results after all. Instead, I wanted to put my fingers in my ears and say, “Nah, nah, nah” so loudly that I wouldn’t be able to hear him. I wanted to shout, “No, no! Tell me Monday! Tell me Monday!”

However, since I figured that a woman shouting “Nah, nah, nah” and “Tell me Monday!” into the phone might be somewhat disconcerting to the good doctor, I managed to keep myself quiet during that wee space of eternity when the smallest of silences preceded the loudest of messages.

He said, “I have good news and I have bad news. The bad news is that you have cancer. The good news is that we caught it early.”

At that moment, I had a strong sense of déjà vu because, for the previous few days, I had kept hearing in my heart, “Good news, bad news. Good news, bad news.” The doctor said exactly what I “knew” he was going to say.

We talked a few minutes more and then I hung up. And gazed unseeingly out the window. And stared at the phone in my hand. And pondered the words that had just entered my ears, my brain, my life, my existence, “You have cancer.”

I didn’t cry right then. I didn’t feel the need to. Instead, I just felt the need to hang on desperately to the numbness that had mercifully accompanied the staggering wave that had just swept through my life.

After a few minutes of standing stock still, alone in the kitchen, I finally gathered up my courage to walk upstairs to tell Steve who had been taking a fifteen minute, pre-dinner nap.

I went into the room and said, “Dr. Habal just called.”

I’ve never see Steve wake up so fast in my whole life. His eyes widened slightly and his expression intensified into a look of fast focus as he looked at me.

And I said simply, “It’s cancer.”

He was off the bed and had his arms around me before I could say anything else; we stood quietly for a few seconds, a few tears finally escaping down my face as I thought of what this news would mean for him as well as for me.

After he and I had talked about ten minutes, we realized the time had come to tell Sarah. Sweet, sweet Sarah, who has fought her own battle with her own cancer monster and won. Sweet, sweet Sarah, whose life would also be irrevocably changed by my words.

I didn’t want to tell Sarah. I wanted to shield her from the news. I wanted her mommy to be healthy and “there” for her every moment she might need me. I knew that the diagnosis would mean times spent away from her, times that I wouldn’t feel well, times when I wouldn’t always have the energy to see to her needs.

And I just didn’t want to say the words; I didn’t want to face the scenarios that my words would usher in. But it had to be done.

She was upstairs in her third floor aerie, puttering around in blissful ignorance when Steve called her down to our bedroom. When she walked into the room I quietly said, “Sarah, honey. You and I are now part of the same club.”

It took half a second for the meaning of the words to sink in. Her face crumpled into tears and she said, “Oh, Mom. Oh, no!”

And then I stood up to gather her into my arms. She cried, and I cried, and Steve stood with his arms around us both, praying for us. Praying for himself. Praying for us all. Praying for grace and peace and strength for the journey.

And as tears and love flowed through the room, we truly did feel at peace; we truly did feel that the difficult road ahead of us would be paved with grace.

After about ten minutes, we were able to talk about it a little and--in true Smith Family Fashion—even find a few things to laugh about. Because you know what? Sometimes laughter is just as healing as tears.

We tried calling Nathan but ended up just having to leave voice mail. He called back about 7 pm, just as he was going into his church to play drums for a college group meeting. When I shared the news with him, he was so sensitive and calm and compassionate. He asked the sorts of questions that I never dreamed a 20-year old College Dude would think to ask. He peered right into my heart and said the things I needed to hear. I hung up the phone feeling loved and cared for, and so very grateful for the amazing person my man child had become.

And in a wonderful “quirk” of timing, Nathan will actually be flying home this weekend for two days. Our regular drummer is going to be out of town on Easter, and since that’s a big service for us, we didn’t want to go without a drummer. The church had already made plans to bring Nathan in, not ever dreaming that when the flight was scheduled, he would arrive just a few days after my cancer diagnosis. It will be wonderful to be together as a family, if only for a few hours.

Today’s exciting medical plans include a visit to my new pulmonologist. I actually had an appointment scheduled with him three weeks ago but had to re-schedule; their next available appointment just happened to be today.

That is such perfect timing because we’re coming to realize that part of our decision making process for treatment will include how various sorts of treatment will affect my lungs. For instance, the breast doctor said that radiation can affect the lungs and the plastic surgeon said there are certain kinds of reconstruction (if I decide to go that route) which are not recommended for patients with COPD. And so to have a pulmonology appointment already scheduled during the very week we’re having to make big decisions is incredible timing.

Of course, pulmonology appointments always make me a bit nervous in themselves, because I’m always worried about whether the annual tests will show further decrease in lung capability. (For new readers: I have COPD and my lung capacity is currently about 60% of normal.)

So while I’m not overly thrilled to be going to yet another doctor’s appointment, I am thrilled about the way the timing worked out. It couldn’t be any more perfect.

And do you what’s even more perfect? The pulmonologist’s office is right across the street from my favorite thrift store.

I’m a happy woman.

26 Had Something To Say (Just click here!):

nancy said...

and now, i'm crying. thank you so much for sharing this incredibly sensitive post with us all. Even though I can't be there with you, consider yourself hugged all the way from toronto, I feel blessed to know you and your family through your posts and wish that I could know you all in person. Keeping you and your incredibly brave family in my thoughts and prayers.

nancy irving, toronto, canada

Shannon said...

Becky and Smith family...please know you are all being held high in our prayers from Nebraksa. I have followed through Sarah's treatments and I will do the same with you Becky!!

Lyndsay said...

Oh Becky, there are just no words. You and your family are in my prayers. I wish I could think of something more helpful to say...

Anonymous said...

Ms. Becky, you ARE a strong woman! And this too shall pass. You will find this a sweet journey BUT one that you would never have choosen for yourself. I say this speaking from experience. I was dx with stage IV BC when I was 37 years old. To tell you just how much I have learned since then I thought there were 5 stages of cancer;-)so God was so merciful that 1st horrible day as He has continued to be everyday since. I was giving 18 months to live and I am now @ 5 years and almost 10 months. I am a miracle! Less than 5% of people like me make it 9 months. I am so glad that God put you in the right place WITH the right doctors! You and everyone are in my prayers.
With much HOPE!
Robin - www.caringbridge.org/visit/robinfarley

MaryH said...

With tears for you and your family but also with great hope and faith, I am here - praying and thinking of you and wishing this just wasn't true. God bless you and your family and the love and laughter you share. God's hand is evident already - it may not seem like that to some but it is there and He will guide all of you through this journey. Easter ecompasses the best of God's love and grace and salvation. It will be more special than ever this year.

It also means CHOCOLATE bunnies! Endulge yourself, my friend, endulge yourself!

Anonymous said...

Praying for you and your whole family!!

Cindy
Virginia

Trine said...

Becky, I don't know what to stay, I did not cry, because if my I did my grandmother would come and ask what is wrong and I have never shared with her that I have been reading your blog since 06. But your blog really touched me and... I don't have words, I just want to say that I am thinking of you all and like Nancy wrote as the first one who commented this post, I feel blessed to know you and your family though your posts. You are in my thoughts.

Trine

Nicole said...

You are in my prayers. I had to laugh at this part of your posting:
"And so to have a pulmonology appointment already scheduled during the very week we’re having to make big decisions is incredible timing." As my dear friend would tell you, that was God's timing! All 4 of you are in my prayers during this time.

Anonymous said...

Oh Becky you know we're praying for you through our tears. At least there is plenty of chocolate available right now. Remember a few years ago when you were having health "issues" & we had the chocolate blitz? This time I think we should all eat some extra chocolate for you!
Keeping all of you in my prayers.

Marige M

Marysienka said...

I'm crying too... Reading your entry made me live again the day my mom announced us she had breast cancer. That was such a painful moment, and I wish you didn't have to go through it. Your family has been through enough already! But it's comforting to know that you are surrounded by amazing people, a wonderful family and numerous fans on the internet! We're all there for you, sending good vibes and keeping you in our thoughts & prayers!

Renee

Anonymous said...

Isn't it just a bit comforting to know that the Lord already knew you had cancer, that everything he's whispered to you the last few months, every coincidence that has come together, every prayer he has answered--it's all been with the knowledge that your world would be rocked by this monster. And He's still there. God didn't change. He's not surprised. He's not in shock. He is still your Lord and savior.

Sorry, I don't know if that made any sense, but it's something that his given me comfort--the comfort of the great I AM who was and is and is to come.

-Robin-

Lisa said...

Continuing to pray for you and your family. I'm so glad you can find peace in the midst of this storm.

Hugs,
Lisa

Lisa from Georgia said...

I am praying for you and claiming healing just as I did for Sarah back in your CB days. Bless you all.

Lisa said...

Becky, I am praying for you and will continue to every day! Our loving Father will help guide you throughout your journey! Thank you so much for praying for my son Michael! Bless you and your beautiful family!

Sheri Holthe (Oleson) said...

I was completely ok reading your latest blog entry....until you talked about telling Sarah. Then I was mush and my 18 month old is looking at me like "what's the matter....should I be sad too?". We are keeping you and your family in our prayers and God will keep you close. On April 10th, I am signed up to run in a 5K for the American Cancer Society and will now be running in your honor.

Kaye Joyce said...

Becky,
I just want to tell you how much I admire you. I know God is going to give you a special touch because you are a special lady! I am praying...and all my Facebook friends....that God will touch you and heal you from this terrible thing called cancer.
Blessings on you and the family!
Kaye Joyce
Mt. Airy, NC
kayej09@yahoo.com

Lesley said...

I wish I was fit enough to run in your honor too!
Prayers is all I have so I am flying them down the east coast to your house from my little abode. Thinking of you every day.

Mamasita said...

Oh Becky!

I have not been actually on my blog-friends sites lately, but did see your fb entry and have been praying intensely ever since. I do apologize for it taking me so long to get over here and actually leave some amazing and wonderful words of wisdom that will leave you feeling nothing but peace and love. Or at least some wonderful words. Or maybe just words.

I know that there are no words that can fix this or make it better, so I will just say a few things:

1) I am so sorry that you are having to go through this.

2) This really sucks.

2a) Pretend that I did not say "suck."

3) I am praying for you, Sarah, Steve, and Nathan to have strength

4) I am praying for your doctors to make wise decisions in treatment

5) I am sure that the cancer will be in shock when it realizes who it is up against.

Sending many many hugs your way.

Anonymous said...

Becky, The Smith family is never far from my thoughts and prayers. I will continue to pray for you as you face this next . . . ahh, what do we call it . . . bump in the road? obstacle? challenge? medical crisis? I am glad that you will be wrapped in God's loving arms as you face what lies ahead and hope you find comfort in them. It is also good to know that you have such an amazing, supportive family, extended family, church family and online family to love, support, care and pray for you. Hugs to all of you. Linda in Pittsburgh

Lizz said...

Becky, I don't know what to say. I just want to let you know that as a long time reader of your blogs I think about you & Sarah OFTEN! I pray for Sarah's continued health, for your voice to hold up so you can continue singing and for your family's overall health and happiness. I have come to love your family in a way that is hard for me to describe since I have never actually met any of you. You are an amazing woman with a great family! You & Sarah inspire me daily! You make me want to work harder at being a better follower of Jesus and just a better person overall. I am so happy you have so many people praying for you & loving you and that you know that you are never alone in these difficult journeys. I just wanted to let you know that!
Love, Hugs & Prayers!
Lizz

Lizz said...

Oh and I love what you sai dthe other day on Sarah's page. "Bad days come and go but life goes on and happiness always reappears."
I love it so much I put it on my FB page! Thanks for that!

Anonymous said...

Many thoughts and prayers as you begin this new journey. I wanted to share another caringbridge site with you. It is the page of another Christian woman who faced the start of a similar journey just a year ago....

www.caringbridge.org/visit/
kirstenmurray.

Jim and Rachel Richardson said...

I found something I thought I would share with you. You can go read it at.
http://sarahelisabethsbutterflies.blogspot.com/.

I wrote it awhile ago and just found it today. I needed to read it and I thought how appropriate it is for your battle.
Also I wanted to remind you of God's promise in Philippians 4:13,
"Becky, you can do all things through Him who gives you strength including beating breast cancer."

JoAnn said...

I too received a cancer diagnosis over the phone on a Friday afternoon as my doctor didn't want to alarm me by calling me to tell me to come in for an appointment the following week and have me worry all weekend. It's such a double edged sword as you have found - while knowing is better then wondering, the feelings that come out once you know are indescribable.

My prayers are with you through this process.

JoAnn

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