This is a true story of a lump and a total lack of faith: an autobiography.It was about two months ago...on a Tuesday. I was in the shower doing my shower-thing...lathering and what-not...when all of the sudden, there it was. A lump. A pretty obvious one, at that. What? Where did that come from? Was that there yesterday? My mind immediately took off in a million directions as I became the Louis and Clark of lump exploration. Every piece of rational thought exited my brain at record breaking speeds as I stood paralyzed in a now lukewarm shower. Wait, what am I supposed to do?
So, being the reasonable woman that I am...I opted for the shut-up-and-pretend-I-didn’t-notice method of emergency management.But about 45 minutes later...after a rather harried “what the HECK” conversation with God, I decided pretending wasn’t one of my spiritual gifts. So, on the way to work, I called my doctor and made an appointment. But the darned thing was...I couldn’t get an appointment until the following Tuesday. Oh boy. Do you know how much damage a girl can do with 7 days, WebMD, and an overactive imagination?
And yet...I still kept my mouth shut and didn’t tell a soul what I had found that morning. I know, right? Not my usual method of coping. But for some reason, this particular medical condition felt really personal. Really intimate. Probably because it had to do with my boob. There, I said it. Boob. I feel better.
Several days passed...days spent mostly on half-hearted and comical attempts to distract myself. I’m sure I did what any woman would do under the circumstances...I tried to convince myself that I completely imagined it. Everybody knows I am pre-disposed to extreme flights of fancy, right? Just the other day I was convinced that a binder clip was a huge hairy spider. Yes, mental instability was a lovely alternative to the big “c” word...and, so... I decided to ignore it.I made it to Friday.
Friday morning...on the way to work...I decided to call the doctor’s office back and use all my “wink and twinkle” to con my way into an appointment that day. Apparently, I’m a wink and twinkle ninja...because an hour later I was sitting in an empty examination room trying to appear calm.The nurse came into the room to take my vitals. She instructed me to strip down and put on an oversized hospital gown. Does anyone else hate hospital gowns? I know, right? They rob us of all dignity. And all I can think about is how many other stranger’s naked butts have touched it. I asked the nurse if I could keep my pants on. She laughed like I had told a great joke. Of course I could keep my pants on...it was a breast examination. I laughed too. Not because I thought it was funny...but because keeping my pants on felt like a small victory. Wink and twinkle ninja wins again! (See, I told you. Extreme flights of fancy.)
So, there I sat. In a cold examination room. By myself. Clutching the front of blue faded hospital gown. Waiting...staring at the door....and waiting.I think we can learn a lot about ourselves in those moments. The moments right before we are reminded, once again, that very little is under our control. I learned a lot about myself in the waiting...and very little of it was flattering.
Eventually, that door did open. And in walked a very, VERY young man wearing a white lab coat. He was a medical student named Jake...the clean-shaven boy next door. In a nervous, stammering voice he asked if I minded if he examined me while I waited for the doctor. It soon became clear that I was Jake’s first breast exam. Well, “medical” breast examine at least. I know, right? This is my life. And that’s how I knew I was truly a nervous wreck. I didn’t even try to crack a joke. And, man-oh-man, there were so many possibilities. I never once told Jake he had to put a ring on it. Opportunity missed. Instead, we just mutually agreed to weather the awkwardness through silence.Eventually my doctor came in and examined me. Yes, she confirmed...you have lump. I needed a mammogram. And once again...I found myself in the waiting.
My appointment wasn’t until Monday. It was Friday. I got to experience a whole weekend of waiting. Which means...of course...I got to experience a whole weekend of ignoring the big-‘ol-possibly- cancerous-elephant in my left boob.By this time, I was smart enough to break my silence and tell a very small group of people about the lump. And that very small group of people were smart enough to ask a much larger group of people to pray for me.
Monday finally arrived. I had meticulously prepared by breaking out a brand new razor to shave my armpits...and by wearing my “nice” bra. I grabbed a granola bar...swung by and picked up my mom...and then drove across town to be felt up by more strangers. But the good news? I totally got to keep my pants on the whole time.I was shuffled from room to room that morning...all by very nice, very happy women wearing colorful scrubs. I learned that if a girl has to have her boob squeezed by a complete stranger...it actually helps if the stranger is happy. Nobody wants to be fondled by someone who’s not enjoying it, right? It also helped to know that at age 36...I was the youngest woman in the waiting room by at least 20 years. Which means I totally had the perkiest breasts. That’s probably why those nurses were so happy.
After my mammogram, they took me in to get an ultrasound. A very pregnant technician lubed me up and then started looking for the infamous lump. She had the monitor turned at an angle...so, I could see the screen. There it was. I could totally see it. A dark mass. She spent several minutes taking pictures at different angles...measuring it. Typing. Measuring it some more. I could see it. A mass. All of the sudden, ignoring it no longer became an option.Eventually she happily excused herself...telling me that the Radiologist would take a few minutes to look at the pictures and then he’d be in to talk to me. I was left alone again. In an oversized hospital gown. Staring at the door...waiting.
Many of you already know the ending to this story. And many of you are only reading this story to find out the ending. But, you see...I didn’t write this story to tell you about the ending. I finally picked up my “pen” to tell you about the 5 minutes I spent alone in that ultra-sound room. Left alone with the realization that I had a mass in my left breast...and I could no longer pretend otherwise.I said earlier that we could learn a lot about ourselves in the waiting. What do we do? What do we think? What do we feel? What do we pray? Those moments when something is held in the balance and we have no control over the outcome...those are very telling moments.
Those five minutes told me that I do not trust the God of the Universe to say “yes.” Instead, I almost expect Him to say “no” or “not yet.” And so my prayers aren’t prayers for miracles...they’re prayers for survival.Oh dear. When did that happen? When did I stop praying for a “yes” to the desires of my heart?
I laid on that ultrasound table and prayed that God would give me the strength to survive a battle with cancer. As if cancer was a foregone conclusion. I could almost hear the Father say, “Oh, Alissa...ye of little faith.”I think my journey of physical suffering has conditioned me to expect more suffering. And even more twisted...I almost prefer it. You see, when I’m hanging on to my last shred of sanity...dry heaving over and over again...faith seems easy. It’s all I have left. There’s no possible way to rely on myself when I have absolutely nothing worth relying on. My body is broken. My mind is numb. And my heart is shattered. But what if...what if I had a “yes” to good health? What if I had a “yes” to a loving husband? What if I had a “yes” to a life of meaning? Would I know what to do with that?
So, instead of facing the profound possibility that the God of the Universe would say “yes” to something that seems so out of my reach...I’ve started carefully crafting my prayers, so that I won’t be devastated if the answer is “no.”The result of this lack of faith...is that I began to live life where “yes” is the more terrifying answer. Oh dear. When did that happen?
Eventually, my five minutes of reckoning came to an end...and the radiologist walked through that infamous door. He quickly and succinctly explained to me that my mass was most likely benign. And that I have something called Fibroadenoma. Not uncommon in women my age...and likely a 99% chance it’s not cancerous. I’ll have to get an ultrasound every 6 months for a couple of years...but he assured me, I probably had nothing to worry about.Well, what do you know...God said “yes” to good health.
It has taken me many weeks to realize the length and depth of Abba’s true gift to me. He needed to get my attention...and He used a lump in my left breast to do it. Admittedly, sometimes I’m a bit slow to see God’s grace...even when I’m carrying it around in my bra.My lump taught me that in order to experience the crazy, wild, outrageous love of Abba...I have to trust Him to say “yes” to the crazy, wild, outrageous desires of my heart.
Brothers and sisters...if you’re reading this blog, it’s for a reason. He wants to remind us all to pray like crazy people. Ask Him for things that feel scandalous and presumptuous. Don’t live a life in fear of the “yes.” Because if I’ve learned one thing in this wild, messy life down here...it’s that even when God says “no” to something I want...He’s ALWAYS saying “yes” to what I need.Today, I’m going to pray for a healthy body, a hot husband, and life lived smack dab in the middle of meaning and abundant joy...a life where wearing pants is optional and cupcakes grow on trees.
What are you going to pray for?