Women ask me all the time, “How did you know it was breast cancer? How did you find it?” The women are almost always nervous, quiet, and shy when they ask. It is usually followed by, “I mean, if you don’t mind talking about it?” The thing is, I don’t, mind talking about it, any of it, I have a ridiculous lack of boundaries I guess. So, here it is…
I was a fan of her talk show. It was in the days before TiVo, so I didn’t catch every episode. I would have to be at home, and work tended to get in the way of that. I wasn’t a fan of the show so much as I felt connected to her. Others would say the same thing I am sure. She seems to have that affect on people. For me it was small, weird coincidences between us that I would identify with in the stories she would tell. We had a love of TV, and a strong memory for the details of past TV shows. She would tell stories of her daughter, and I would sit, stunned as if she were telling the story word for word about my own child. Just different things really, but I liked the show. I was sad when it went off the air. I felt like a good friend had moved away and we no longer kept in touch.
When the press started that she was coming to The View I was excited. I didn’t watch The View, it came on in the morning when I was at work and I wasn’t interested in any of the hosts, but now it was Rosie and a new age of TiVo and DVR’s. I set my TiVo and started watching her that September. It was everything I wanted it to be. I had my friend back. September was enjoyable, and then October rolled in.
October, it seemed, had always been covered in orange and black, but in recent years a sea of pink was settling in as we celebrated breast cancer awareness month. The View, with Rosie at the forefront, dove into the month. The last segment each day covered stories on women with breast cancer…survivors, uplifting stories really, nothing negative. I didn’t watch. I told myself I had things to do, that I didn’t have time with four small children to watch the whole episode. Each day of October the segment would come on and each day I would click off the TV. But, in the back of my mind I couldn’t let it go, they stayed with me, these stories I didn’t watch and the message they were trying to send.
While I knew it was important to do self exams, I didn’t do them. I would wait until I had my yearly exam and let the doctor do it. It felt weird and overwhelming, and I just didn’t understand what I was looking for whenever I would try to do an exam. The View kept on with the stories, and I kept turning them off. But, at night, they would come back to me. Haunt me really.
I tried not to worry as I had an appointment with my OBGYN in November. I would tell myself, they will do an exam then. But, the haunting continued. Midway through October I started checking. And each night I checked, I would come back to the same spot. It didn’t feel like anything they tell you to look for, but it didn’t feel right either. I couldn’t get it out of my mind.
At the end of the month my husband ended up at the doctor. And this is probably the most amazing part of my entire journey, because he NEVER goes to the doctor. But, on this day he was there, and I must have been obsessing over it more than I realized, because he was aware enough to mention it to our amazing Nurse Practitioner. She told him to have me drop in and she would check it.
I did drop in, and she did check it, and she said the exact same thing I had been thinking every time I checked it, “It doesn’t feel like it should if we were to be worried, but it doesn’t feel right.” This led me to a mammogram at age 38, on the last day in October.
I knew at the mammogram appointment I had cancer. Chatting with the mammogram lady about my life and kids, and her life and kids, was casual and breezy…and then it wasn’t. In a moment my life changed. In that moment, there was this sudden shift of energy, a sucking up of the air in the room. The mammogram lady said, “How many kids did you say you have?” She really could have said, “Oh dear, you have breast cancer,” and truly, that would have been more subtle.
There are a series of incredibly fortunate events that happened to me after that moment. The doctor reading the mammogram that day knew my dad and called my doctor immediately, and then my own doctor (who knew my dad) called me. The phone was ringing as I set my purse down on the counter after the mammogram appointment. Less then a week later I was in the handsome surgeon’s office discussing the removal of my breast. I am grateful. I hear women’s stories all the time, and the fast paced journey I went on is the exception, not the norm.
For most of my life my faith has been tied up in my church. I love my church, the people there, the messages I listen to on Sundays, the kids’ programs my children attend, and all that is a part of my church experience. I know that I have a faith that I cling to with great integrity, but it is not the type of faith where you will hear me say, “God spoke to me” or “I will just put that in God’s hands.” It has always been a faith that needed something concrete to get my attention.
I am grateful, because God knew that I needed a certain concreteness to get my attention. And in the end while I love Rosie, and most often you will hear me say, “It was Rosie, I owe it all to Rosie.” I must give credit where credit is due. God spoke to me, he just knew he needed a really spectacular hook to get my attention. So I thank them both!