Sunday, December 18, 2016

A One Hundred Percent Chance

So I'm going to tell you something that I think might go against the rules of etiquette, though I don't know why that should be the case. If this is in poor taste or inconsiderate, please forgive me. I don't want to cause you concern, but I do need to share my heart with you. Here goes...

Tomorrow I go for a needle biopsy of an abnormality in my breast. When I was called back after a recent screening mammogram, I was only a little concerned. I'd been called back after my first one six years previously, and all had been well. Like many of the women on my mom's side of the family, I have very dense, lumpy breast tissue, so it's not uncommon to have problems with mammography.

Still, I was pretty nervous when I went on December 8 for my diagnostic bilateral (two-sided) mammogram. Everyone at the center was exceptionally kind, which gave me great comfort. After a very thorough, somewhat uncomfortable exam, the technician told me I needed to wait for the radiologist to review my images in case he might want more views.

As I waited, I sort of prayed with my whole being, not with my thoughts, but rather with a leaning in toward my Father. When I felt my palms getting sweaty, I thought, "Quiet me with your love. I trust you. I trust you."

Moments later, the technician reappeared. I raised an eyebrow as she beckoned me into the hall. "The doctor wants to see you," she said. "This way."

My heart hammered in my chest as I followed her. Obviously, this couldn't be good news. It felt so surreal, that moment, as if my whole life might be changing in under a minute. "I trust you, Beloved," I prayed. "Please, please help me be brave."

The radiologist greeted me warmly and invited me to sit. "Come closer," he urged, pointing to a video monitor.

I wheeled my chair closer, willing myself not to cry.

He showed me the image of my left breast first. Whatever had seemed abnormal on the first mammogram had disappeared. But the abnormality on the right side was definitely there. He pointed at a white dot in a sea of black. "See, this is a change from last year's mammogram. Last year it was 1 point in size, but this year it's 3 points."

I nodded, unable to speak for the sharp stinging in my nose.

"So, we need to examine you more closely," he continued. "This looks like it could be just calcification, but we need to be sure. I'm recommending a biopsy."

He then explained that a small tissue sample would be withdrawn through a vacuum powered needle, guided by 3-D mammography. A titanium clip the size of a sesame seed would be inserted into my breast.

"If the findings call for surgery, the clip will guide the surgeon; the area is very small," he explained. "And if it's benign, the clip will mark the spot for closer monitoring on future mammography."

I nodded vigorously, swallowing hard and wiping a knuckle under my nose.

I followed a nurse down the hall to another room for scheduling. She sat knee to knee with me and spoke gently. "I know it's hard, but try not to worry," she said. "About 80 percent of these biopsies are benign."

I smiled weakly. "Those are pretty good odds," I said.

She apologized when she realized the first available appointment was 11 days away.

I sighed. Eleven days more of waiting?

After we'd set the date, she touched me on the shoulder and sent me on my way.

In the car, I got to thinking about the 80 percent. That meant there was a 20 percent chance of cancer. I pictured five marbles in a jar. What if I had to reach in and pull out a marble, and if I chose the wrong marble, I could die?

Tears rolled silently down my cheeks. "Oh God," I said aloud. "I want to live to see my grandbabies!"

Another thought pushed away all other thoughts. "There is a 100-percent chance that you will take care of me," I prayed. "One hundred percent." I smiled through my tears. "Oh God, I know you will. And I don't have to think about tomorrow. Tomorrow has enough worries of its own."

Back at home, I sent a text to several loved ones, repeating the assurance that God had given me about the hundred-percent chance.

The next person that I texted was a new friend whom I hope to tell you about soon. Her reply was, "This is an opportunity to exercise our God given right for a hundred percent healing. In Jesus name you are healed."

I shivered at the sacred echo. "A hundred percent," I repeated.

I hadn't planned to tell Allyson about the biopsy because I didn't want to burden her needlessly with worry, but she found an article on my phone about the safety of titanium clips used in breast biopsies. She knew I'd gone for my mammogram recently, and she wanted to know what was going on.

I took a deep breath and explained everything as calmly as I could. I passed on the statistic I'd just read: the percentage of benign findings in a needle biopsy is 85 percent. "There's an 85 percent chance that I don't have cancer, and even if I do, we'd be catching it early, and I would have a very good prognosis."

"I'm glad you told me," she said. "I wouldn't want to find out that you had kept it from me, if it turned out to be bad news."

During bedtime prayers a few hours later, my sweet girl laced her fingers through mine and prayed fervently for my healing and for peace for both of us as we waited. "Help us trust you," she prayed. Happy tears slid into my ears. What a joy to pray with my daughter!
Allyson and Me in a Lighter Moment
Destin, Florida, 2015

A few minutes later, I had a time of rejoicing in my closet as I proclaimed scripture after scripture over myself.

  • You are health to my flesh and strength to my bones. (Proverbs 3:8)
  • You will satisfy me with long life and show me your salvation. (Psalm 91:16)
  • You sent forth your word and healed me. You rescued me from the grave. (Psalm 107:20)
  • I will wait on the LORD. I will be of good courage, and He shall strengthen my heart. (Psalm 27:14)
  • I am your Beloved. I will prosper in all things and be in health, just as my soul prospers. (3 John 1:2)
  • The Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in me. He who raised Christ will also give life to my mortal body through His Spirit who dwells in me. (Romans 8:11)

The best verse was this, I think: "You bring health and healing to me. You let me enjoy abundant peace and security" (Jeremiah 33:5)  Not just peace, but abundant peace. And it was so. From that moment, I have enjoyed abundant peace.

The night before my second mammogram, I'd attended the mid-week service and enjoyed a time of worship and communion. There wasn't a sermon, but before the communion, Pastor Ricky said something that caused a quickening in my heart. He reminded us that we are in covenant with God, who is bound by His promises to us. No matter what we go through, He will always be with us.

In the next day's excitement, I forgot Pastor Ricky's words, but they came back to me during my quiet time the day after my mammogram. Here's what I read in Second Samuel 23, the account of King David's last words:

Is it not true my house is with God? For He has established an everlasting covenant with me, ordered and secured in every detail. Will He not bring about my whole salvation and my every desire? (2 Samuel 23:5 emphasis added).

"Oh, God," I breathed, tears coursing down my cheeks. "It's true. You won't break your covenant with me. You have secured every detail. And you will fulfill the desire that you have placed in my heart."

In pouring out my heart to God the night before, I'd confessed my confusion about the timing of this trial. At the very least, it's going to cost me a lot of money--just as I'm getting ready to leave my good-paying job to return to teaching. And if the test should show cancer, my dream of returning to the classroom would have to be delayed.

I had the distinct feeling that the enemy was trying to deter me from following my calling.

"Oh, I will stand in a classroom and teach," I said forcefully. "I will do what God is calling me to do. No weapon formed against me will prosper."

So reading that verse about every detail of my life being ordered and secure brought a smile to my lips. "God, I keep thinking I see my life laid out before me, that now I know your plan for me. But really, I know nothing. There's a bend in the road, and I can't see around it. Maybe things won't go the way I've thought they will, but I know that your plan is better than mine. I trust you. I trust you."

At church a week ago today, one of the women on the prayer team called me over to check on my mammogram results. I told her about the biopsy, and about the 85-percent chance.

She shook her head and grinned broadly. "Well you can just add the other 15 percent to that," she said. "There's a 100-percent chance that God is going to take care of you."

I broke into chills at that second sacred echo. I told her about the other two times God had given me the same message.

"We don't even need to pray again," she said. "We know God has already answered. He will take care of you."

I have clung to that promise since then, even on the day when I broke into sobs after learning that my portion of just the hospital bill comes to $1549. I have no idea what the radiologist will charge. But I know that God will take care of me in every way.

So at this moment, though I'm a little nervous about how much tomorrow's procedure might hurt, I feel very much at peace. I plan to hang onto that peace through the two to three days it will take to get the results.

I promise I won't stay away so long this time. I'll let you know the results as soon as I find out. In the meantime, don't worry, but please pray for me if I come to mind.


Anonymous said...

Sarah my first mammogram I had last year and there was an abnormal spot so I had to go in again for more test everything turned out ok but I have to have one every 6 months now. I feel fear and wotry God is with you and your in my prayers. Love you my sister peace and love by in your heart.

Love Tammy

Sarah said...

Thank you so much, Tammy. It's good to know you can relate, and I so appreciate your prayers.


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