It has taken me almost an entire week to really process all the information I was given during my doctor appointments with the breast surgeon and oncologist last Thursday. My sisters and my mom went with me to the appointments. I woke up that morning thinking about when I joked with Hassan, the PET scan technician, two days prior, as he did the injection of the radioactive substance into my vein. I joked that I was going to light up like a Christmas tree when I left. That thought led me into prayer. I prayed that God would illuminate Himself in me in such a way that Jesus could be seen in me as bright as the star that led the Magi to Him after His birth.
After I prayed I started getting ready for another long “date” with Jesus.That day I decided to do it up the best I could (pictured above). In order to accomplish that it took much longer than it would have any other day. I felt like I was moving in slow motion. I put on my headphones, hit shuffle on my Gospel playlist, and listened as I was doing my hair and make up. The first three songs that played were “My Worship” by John P. Kee, “Balm In Gilead” by Karen Clark-Sheard, and “Worth” by Anthony Brown & Group Therapy. I left the house that morning with my mind fixed on Jesus, determined not to be moved one way or another by anything that was said to me. In my mind, I knew all I needed to know. Jesus told me on December 29, 2016, before I even had the biopsy that, “This affliction is not unto death (John 11:4 NKJV).” And, “I will live and not die and declare the works of the Lord (Psalm 118:17 NKJV).” That was enough for me.
My first appointment was with Dr. Hampton, the breast surgeon. My sister, Leslie, went in the exam room with me so she could be my “ears” and catch all the things my brain did not during the conversation. This was strictly a results and plan of action appointment. As soon as we got in the room Leslie had the ingenious idea to record a voice memo of the appointment on her iPhone. It never occurred to me to do that. Yesterday, as I listened to the recording for the first time, I began to remember (which for me is actually seeing random images that look like snapshots or small movie clips of something that happened in a non sequential order), both of my doctor appointments from last week. The way God compensates for what was injured in my left brain is simply amazing to me. He takes the random images in my mind and one by one He “assigns” or attaches words to them. Then as I type the words, He helps me move them around until they make sense. That is how, even with aphasia, I am able to write this blog and wrote and published my first book, “Conversations with the Master: Revelation Genesis” in 2012. But, when I wrote the book it was truly all Him. I was just His stenographer.
As I am sitting here trying to attach the right words to what I remember it is really difficult. It’s almost as if I type out the things they told me and what I know is to come, it makes all of this more real to me. I don’t know if that makes sense or not, but that’s what I feel like inside while I am writing this.
Dr. Hampton went over the details of my tumor, the full results of the biopsy, and my treatment options. My tumor is considered small because it is a little less than 2 cm, which right now classifies it as some variation of Stage 1 invasive breast cancer. She explained that invasive cancer has the ability to spread, but does not do so always. She went over a lot of specifics regarding the tumor itself and said she was hopeful that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, because they didn’t appear to be effected on the PET scan. She then went on to say the only way to be certain is to remove a few of my lymph nodes and biopsy them. From all of the information she had available, she said my two options were a lumpectomy and a unilateral mastectomy (removal of the entire breast).
If I chose the lumpectomy she explained that she would remove the tumor, a margin of the breast tissue surrounding the tumor, as well as a few of the lymph nodes under my left arm. About a month after the lumpectomy I would begin radiation treatments everyday, Monday – Friday, for seven weeks. She said she could not definitely say chemotherapy would not be a part of my treatment plan until they received the pathology report from all that was removed. If I chose the mastectomy she said they would essentially remove all of the breast tissue from my left breast, similar to the way you gut out a pumpkin. I would then have my left breast reconstructed and that would be it. I would not require radiation, or chemotherapy. In my mind, it was a one and done procedure that I truly considered. There just seemed to be too many unknowns with the lumpectomy. The only thing she could tell me with certainty is that I would have to do radiation treatments. And in both cases I would have to take some kind of hormone pill for five years. As she continued talking, and my sister asked her some questions, I no longer heard anything they were saying. Instead, I was hearing what Jesus said to me on December 29, 2016 after He told me I wasn’t going to die.
He said, “As for all else concerning this affliction all I ask is that you trust ME and ME alone with the details. You needn’t stress your mind or be nervous over the results of man’s report or man’s prescription for healing. I and I alone am your Healer. I am the Great Physician. I created the body in which you now dwell, every inch of it. I created every cell, every blood vessel, every microscopic entity that even man has not yet discovered. There is no sickness, no disease, no ailment, no affliction greater than Me! This is MY load to carry not yours! I carried it with Me to the cross and it was defeated that day. So why then would I place this sickness upon your back to carry? So, My beautiful one….just remember I NEVER make a promise I cannot keep. And My promise to you this day is that I shall keep you in perfect peace, with your eyes on Me and Me alone, and you shall believe ONLY My report no matter what is seen or said in the eyes of man. MINE is the final say in all things.”
When I rejoined the conversation Dr. Hampton and my sister were having I did so knowing Jesus was asking me not to choose what sounded to me at the time like the lesser of two evils, the mastectomy. With that, there were no unknowns to contend with and no drawn out treatment process, just recovery from the surgery and a pill to take for five years. I told Dr. Hampton that I would do the lumpectomy and repeated to her what I understood the process would be. The surgery is scheduled for Monday, January 30th and I should be able to come home the same day.
I finished my appointment with Dr. Hampton 15 minutes before my scheduled appointment time with the oncologist, Dr. Mendoza, whose office is in the same building. This appointment was just for me to be reacquainted with Dr. Mendoza, who is also the hematologist, I saw six years ago when I had the stroke. He was just as pleasant as I remembered. It was strange to go over all of the changes that occurred in my life the last six years. Until that time, I don’t know that I really realized how many life-changing events had occurred. He was glad to see the significant progress I had made since the stroke and equally disappointed that I was seeing him again now for breast cancer. He basically reiterated the things Dr. Hampton told me. He, however, after looking at the pictures and reports from the mammograms, the ultrasound, the MRI, and the biopsy, did not agree with Dr. Hampton’s timeline of starting radiation a month after the lumpectomy. He said he was not comfortable doing nothing for that amount of time. So, he told me to schedule an appointment with him for two weeks after the surgery. He believes all of the pathology reports needed to begin a treatment plan should be back by then.
After the appointment, I relayed the information my to mom and sisters, who all waited in the waiting area this time. We then decided to go to Friday’s for lunch. As we all sat at the table deciding what we were going to order, talking about random things, all of their voices, including my nephew who joined us and was seated next to me, began to sound like a bunch of inaudible loud noise. In my own mind I was trying to force my brain to do what it just wasn’t ready to do, which was put all of the seemingly millions of pieces of information I had just received together in a way that was clearer and not so overwhelming. So, I sat at the table and began to cry. All I could say was, “This is a lot. It is too much.” Everyone at the table immediately tried to console me as I continued to cry and tell them they just did not understand what I was trying to say. Finally, I dried my tears, ordered my food, which my baby sister, LaShawn paid for. So, I joked, “If crying at the table gets me a free meal, I will have to do it more often.”
When I got home I immediately went to my bedroom, cried some more, and told Jesus I really needed His mind (1Corinthians 2:16 NKJV) going forward to be able to process what was happening. When I finished crying, I put my headphones on, got in my bed, and listened to music. Later in the evening I played my Bruno Mars Playlist (which now includes all of his CDs). As I listened, I realized though I really do believe “24K Magic” is a good CD, when I listen to it it’s a welcomed escape from information overload, crying, cancer, battle weariness…all of it. Listening that night I had absolutely no thoughts my mind, I just lay in my bed listening to Bruno’s voice (I really didn’t hear any of the words – just his voice layered over some really good instrument sounds).
I’m still not afraid. I still KNOW I am not going to die. I still KNOW I am already healed. And I KNOW all of those things as absolute truth, because God spoke it. Despite all that I know to be true, in my humanness, I still have a dull ache in my heart as I prepare myself for surgery day. For today, I am just so very thankful I made the decision to accept Jesus as my personal Savior when I was five years old. Our relationship has matured greatly since then. When I journal our conversations I almost always end them with, ‘I love You, Jesus. My Lord, My Love, My King, and very best Friend.’ I cannot imagine trying to travel this journey without Him.
As I’ve been writing this post I have been listening to, on repeat, a beautiful song called, “Because of You,” by Tamia, who has multiple sclerosis. The song so beautifully describes how she has only made it because of the Lord and puts words and music to how I feel today. Check it out if you get a chance.