1 September 2021
Enjoying my eBike on the day of my diagnosis
I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The radiologist and clinical nurse specialist (CNS) were using words such as malignancy, surgery and radiotherapy. It was surreal. Hadn’t I only been recalled for a repeat mammogram “just to check” a tiny speck noted in my upper outer right breast. I wasn’t at all concerned when I arrived at the breast screening clinic that day, expecting to hear that this hardly-visible speck was just normal fatty breast tissue. Instead the radiologist was very sure that the magnified image of this 5-6 mm spiculated mass was strongly suspicious for malignancy and needed early intervention. His biopsies confirmed the diagnosis of Grade 1 infiltrative ductal carcinoma, one of the most common breast cancers diagnosed in New Zealand. In what seemed like a flash I was meeting a breast surgeon and CNL, scheduled for surgery within 2 weeks and being discussed by an entire team of experts. It was breathtaking.
I hadn’t been conducting regular breast examinations, but then such a tiny speckle couldn’t have been felt anyway. Thank goodness that I had been keeping up with routine breast screening. I was surprised that my appointment for recall mammography and biopsy went ahead given that it was scheduled for the first day of a snap Covid Level 3 national lockdown. I am grateful for such a fabulous cancer screening in this country, that it goes ahead on public holidays and national emergencies. I had taken a friend with me to take notes, ask questions, absorb and make sense of this surprise diagnosis with me.
As the time for surgery drew close I sensed a very familiar quiet nudge in my Spirit that this cancer journey was to be a gift to me. It was so clear and compelling I shared it with my family, friends and nurse-lecturer colleagues.
Click “The Gift” below for a deeper insight
My husband Jim & I had been planning and saving towards my retirement scheduled for the 17th December 2021 for nearly 2 years. Our plan was to take our motorhome on a one-way ticket to the South Island of New Zealand for a long, open-ended journey of discovery and relaxation. We were almost ready for my retirement and very much looking forward to this new chapter in our lives. I know it sounds absurd to be comparing potential loss through a cancer diagnosis with the loss of much-anticipated retirement plans; but I did. I was concerned about cancer surgery, radiation and potential resurgence; but I was also bitterly disappointed at what this might mean for my retirement. Everything had been going so well and to plan and now THIS!
Being an academic, the first thing I did was scour the Internet and every book I could get out of the library on invasive ductal carcinoma. The five-year survival rate for localized invasive ductal carcinoma is high — nearly 100% when treated early on. My lesion was only 5-6mm, the smallest that can be detected on mammogram and it had been caught early. I had a very capable surgeon and Clinical Nurse Specialist. I had been discussed by an eminent team of very experienced breast-care health professionals. It should all be pretty straightforward. I have big breasts, apparently ideal for breast-conserving surgery such as the proposed wide excision. Sentinel node biopsy would be performed at the time of surgery, which should hopefully be a formality. I easily had enough sick leave to manage 6 weeks off work. So shock as it was initially, given time to process the situation I wasn’t overly concerned.
As a Christian I am very familiar with what I have come to know as the nudging of the Holy Spirit. I very often get a clear impression of something I should be paying attention to. It didn’t come as a surprise to experience a specific impression regarding this cancer diagnosis, but it did really surprise me that this cancer diagnosis was to be “a gift” to me. How could this possibly be a gift? Aren’t gifts good things? I felt to read the 23rd Psalm. Verses 4 and 6 particularly spoke to me; v.4 “Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I am not afraid when you walk at my side” and v.6 “So why should I fear the future? Only goodness and tender mercy pursue me all the days of my life”. Proverbs 2: 7-9 in the Passion translation of the Bible says, “He becomes your personal body guard, protecting and guarding you as you choose what is right. Then you will be empowered to make the right decisions as you walk into your destiny”. I am sure that part of my destiny is to search for and discover the “gifts” that lie within this cancer journey. Perhaps you or a friend may also become aware of these “gifts” or benefit from some of the thoughts and resources that are shared.
You are so brave & beautiful, thank you for sharing your journey & gift.
Thanks Jane. I hope you find it interesting. Lovely to hear from you.
Although you are no longer lecturing, you remain a very generous teacher. Thank you for your wondrous self.
Thank you so much for your kind words Kate. I’m glad that you have found something I have written useful.
Marie: You a such a strong and faithful woman. Your love of The Lord shows in everything you say, do and write. You are an inspiration for so many. I feel so privileged to be walking along this journey of life with you.
Thank you…😊🙏🏻💖 JAN
Thank you Jan for your very kind and supportive words. It is an honour to be able to share how I feel about my gift of breast cancer with readers of this blog.
You are an absolute inspiration and full of positivity Marie….This will truly be helpful and hopeful for many people.
Take care Marie
Lots of love