“Good morning,” I said as I greeted Connie in the locker room before swim class Wednesday. “How are you?”
“Just fine,” she responded, “and today I mean it because I know I don’t have cancer.”
My surprise wasn’t that she didn’t have cancer. My surprise at her response was that she hadn’t meant all those “I’m fine” responses for the past three months as she battled breast cancer and then battled a mystery nodule in her lung that her doctor thought might be cancer. On Monday, Connie learned that her nodule wasn’t cancer but something more benign.
(If you’ve missed Connie’s story, you’ve got some catching up to do. Read “Fight breast cancer and carry a big stick,” “When your friend battles breast cancer,” and “The difference between an adventure and an ordeal.”)
I’m guessing that the uncertainty of the mystery nodule — after the “adventure” of battling breast cancer — might have made Connie’s “fine” responses a bit less than sincere these past weeks. Not knowing and waiting, waiting, waiting was wearing on my friend.
It took only five weeks — from the day of her revealing mammogram to the end of her radiation treatment — for Connie to beat breast cancer. On the last day of her radiation treatment, just a couple days after Christmas, the radiologist took a wider-view CT scan, which revealed a mass in her lung.
It took the rest of these past three months to get her latest — benign — diagnosis. Following the radiologist’s revelation, Connie did a lot of waiting — for the doctor to schedule another scan, for CT scan itself, for a doctor’s phoned results, for the doctor to call another office to arrange a PET scan, for the scan itself, for a doctor’s appointment to get the results of the scan, for a call to schedule a biopsy, for a lung biopsy, for the emergency patients that held precedence that day, and, finally, for another doctor’s appointment to get the results.
It’s NOT cancer!
It took longer to get a diagnosis of the mystery nodule than it took for Connie to learn she had breast cancer and beat it.
Last Thursday, Connie finally had a lung biopsy. Monday morning, after she met with her doctor to discuss the results, she sent this text: “It’s NOT cancer!”
It was a group text, and my phone exploded with celebration — everything from “Yay!” to “Woohoo” to “Hallelujah” and images of flexed bicep and thumbs up emoticons.
I, of course, celebrated but then asked the most practical question of all: “Is it a peanut?”
(It turns out this funny-shaped nodule isn’t a peanut, but it’s pretty close. Connie has an amyloid mass in her lung — and an amyloid is an abnormal protein. Peanuts are protein too. Just saying. I could be a doctor.)
So while Connie waits — yet again — to meet with her doctor regarding any care going forward, she’s thanking you for your prayers, allowing me to write this “grand finale” of her health woes, and celebrating.
Her boss is taking Connie and her female colleagues to a spa this morning during work. Jana and Tami are hosting a girls’ night pajama party. Nearly daily at the health club, Connie’s celebrating with someone as she shares her latest news: “It’s not cancer!”
But it’s NOT over
In the midst of her celebration, the impact of Connie’s experience continues. She isn’t forgetting. She’s going to a breast cancer support group and both getting support and giving support to others.
She’s been knitting “knockers” — knitted prosthetic breasts — for women who’ve gone through a mastectomy. When Connie was in the throes of deciding between a lumpectomy and a mastectomy, her sister sent her a link to a website named Knitted Knockers.
“How can you not follow a link named that?” Connie said.
An avid knitter, Connie went to the website, downloaded and printed the instructions, and she’s been knitting “knockers” to donate ever since. (She’s made 21 so far.) She immediately began sharing the “knitted knockers” information with her doctors, her friends, and her support group. And when she let Knitted Knockers know about her campaign to enlist others, they sent her materials to hand out.
She’s like an evangelist for Knitted Knockers, and she’s winning people for the cause. Now a team of medical professionals and knitters and crocheters are making “knockers” for our local hospital’s cancer center.
And that isn’t all. As part of her “adventure,” Connie experienced the agonies of wait time (as I might have mentioned above). Waiting for the doctor to call, waiting for appointments, waiting for results. When she returns to her doctor on Monday, Connie intends to advocate for other patients, explaining the patient’s perspective and urging doctors to communicate and care quickly.
And please know you’re NOT taken lightly
As Connie’s friend and self-appointed spokesperson, I can’t thank you enough for your prayers on her behalf. When you shared the blog posts on your Facebook pages and tagged Connie, more of her friends saw the posts, learned of her “adventures” and reached out.
Though the past few months have been difficult, Connie has found herself surrounded by friends near and far, new and old, as well as her family and medical professionals. She was often blown away by the love and care shown her — and blown away by how these people had heard of her trials.
Her next-door neighbor, for instance, came over to help her move something and asked how she was feeling — as if he knew about her health issues. Connie hadn’t mentioned a thing to him. So how?
He’d heard about Connie via his friend on Facebook. He’d met this Facebook friend while traveling in Italy. The friend shared the blog posts about Connie on her Facebook page. Because the friend happened to be Connie’s sister-in-law. And so Connie’s next-door neighbor learned of her illness via a path from Italy. Go figure. Small, big world.
Connie does not take you lightly. Thanks for being part of her large, praying, loving world.
Yesterday morning, our friend Rosie came into the locker room. Though all of us had been at the gym all week, we hadn’t seen each other (and, trust me, we keep attendance).
“I hear Rosie!” Connie called out. (Rosie was checking out her masterpiece on the scale, as is her habit.)
Rosie came around the wall of lockers, and I pointed to Connie and said, “She’s got news.”
“It’s NOT cancer!” Connie said.
“Praise God!” Rosie exuded. “Now Sara can relax.”