Breast Cancer


One year ago while at work, my phone rang.

No one spoke on the other end. After I said hello several times, I heard a familiar silence -- one I always got when mom was too choked up to tell me some bad news, like when one of the grandchildren were sick. Then gradually, she regains her strength and able to speak, as I ask, "Mom is that you? What's wrong?"

Only this time the news wasn't about one of the kids, but about herself.

Finally able to respond she said, "The doctor called and I need to repeat my mammogram, there were two suspicious masses."

For a moment I was silent. Fortunately, I am nurse triaging calls in gynaecology at the time, had some knowledge on mammograms, and my response just kicked in. So I talked to her about it, like I've done so many times with patients.

Even though I had seen many second mammograms come back negative, I immediately got on the phone with radiology and arranged for the second mammogram to be scheduled, for the following week, at a different location. Hearing the urgency in my voice, the receptionist, ever so sweetly, tried to reassure me that first results like this happen quite often, and that a second mammogram would tell us more. Thanks so much, for your help, I replied.

Over the next couple of days I waited impatiently for the results.

Mom continued to keep busy, at 5'2" and taking total care of my 6'2" dad, since his stroke not even a year ago, keeping busy was never a problem for mom. She raised five children, a few grandchildren, and worked at Sanders Candy Bakery for many years, and was always a pillar of strength. She was born in Detroit, the oldest of six children.

Her father was a window washer, never had a lot of money, as she helped raise a family long before one of her own.

Then finally the call came. The doctor's voice more serious, more concerned, as she read the results.

"There remain two well defined masses, suspicious for breast cancer, and I'd like you to have a biopsy as soon as possible."

Stunned, is the only way I can explain the way we felt. I felt my face go flush as my mother began to cry. I tried to stay strong for her and explain there were cases where biopsies came back negative, and how masses were just watched closely after that, not to give up hope. It was my turn to be a pillar of strength for her.

Starting to doubt my own knowledge, I got on the phone to my gynecologist. He was the one all of the medical staff went to see, and I trusted him. Trying to maintain a legible voice, I asked him if he could get mom into Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit, as soon as possible.

He didn't waste any time and called the center immediately. They were so backed up, it would be two whole weeks for the appointment -- the longest two weeks of our lives.

After leaving mom's house, I went home emotionally exhausted, laid on the couch in total darkness and just cried. The next day I couldn't do anything. I felt as if I were paralyzed. All of my years of experience in gynaecology couldn't have prepared me for this. How would I get through this life without my mother?

"How God?" I cried.

I forced myself to go to work, although it was very difficult concentrating, or talking to patients with the confidence I once had. I asked all those I came in contact with to pray for my mom. I called our pastor, my friends, my brothers and sisters and asked them to start praying for her, as they did my dad, not long ago. And they all said they would.

Each and every day, I got down on my knees and asked God to heal her and to give me the strength to comfort her. And every day I went over to her house just to be near her.

The morning finally came to drive her down to Karmanos for the biopsy. Somehow, I felt strong, with a confidence that I know I couldn't have gotten all on my own, but from a higher power. As we went into the Institute, we walked up the hall, went up in an elevator, and through the two big doors. She signed in, we waited for her name to be called, and it wasn't long before she was called in.

I wanted so much to be with her, to hold her hand, like she'd done for me so many times in my life. She was one of the most dedicated and loyal mothers and wife. I could always go to her with a problem and we could talk about anything. Not many of my friends could say that about their mothers.

She had helped me through a divorce, raising a son, and an illness of my own. She taught me strength, confidence and perseverance. It wasn't long, before I looked up, and to my amazement, there she stood, crying.

I asked her if the biopsy was painful. She replied, "They didn't do it!" In disbelief, I asked, "What do you mean, they didn't do it?"

She explained they did an ultrasound to locate the mass, but couldn't find any masses. The doctors had several films from the prior mammograms to compare, and after calling in other doctors to confirm it, no masses could be found. After several attempts, they said, "Lady, we can't biopsy something that's not there."

Mom cried, "Isn't that great?"

I couldn't believe it and keep uttering to myself, "They couldn't find it -- it's completely gone."

We walked back to the elevator, rode down to the lobby, and as we began to realized what they had just said, we wrapped our arms around each other, and we just stood there. Holding on for dear life. I didn't realize the lobby full of people, sitting in chairs all around us when I blurted out, "Mom, God healed you, He healed you." Suddenly I noticed through those tears of joy , the onlookers all smiling.

All the way home we cried, we laughed, and we cried again.

Then she asked me, "Linda, how could two masses disappear just like that?" I told her, "I believe in miracles."

It's one year later now, and the words those doctors said are etched in my mind forever, "Lady, we can't biopsy something that's not there."

Oh what lovely words. Mom continues to go for mammograms every six months, and each time the results still read, "Normal radiographic mammogram."

And I thank God for the gift."

Linda Ferris LAFRN10@aol.com



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