Call it fate or coincidence but it seems, at the very least thought-provoking, that two weeks before the Oakdale Relay For Life event April 28, I would be going through my own personal cancer scare.
What had started out as a routine mammogram for a baseline turned into something far scarier and nerve-wracking as I was immediately asked to return for a follow up mammogram with magnification and ultrasound.
The long story short: they’d found something suspicious in my scans and a biopsy was recommended — immediately.
In the space of two short weeks, I’ve ran the gamut of emotions.
When I had my first mammogram, I’d left the imaging center with a sense of accomplishment, feeling that I’d taken an important step toward ensuring my breast health. My step was light and I sent out a reminder to my female friends and fans on Facebook to get their yearly scans in a timely manner.
I wasn’t expecting a speedy call the next day asking me to return for follow-up magnification scan and ultrasound of my right breast.
I was a bit shaken at first but assumed the concern was centered on a cluster of cysts I’ve had since I was 17 and tried to put the nagging worry that it was something else from my mind.
I received the call from my doctor just as I was heading to the Cowboy Museum mixer that the news wasn’t what we’d hoped: a biopsy was needed.
Apparently, there were suspicious micro calcifications that classified as category 4 on the BI-RADS (Breast Imaging-Reporting and Data System) scale.
I was stunned. To be honest, I couldn’t stop crying. It seemed like something out of a bad dream. How could this happen? I was relatively young, I’d breast-fed all my children, and I was fairly healthy. I struggled to keep my composure while on the job but the possibility that I’d been struck by breast cancer kept me from focusing. As soon as I was able, I left the mixer and went home and sobbed.
I clung to my husband and we tried to find comfort amid the fear that lurked in both our minds as we awaited answers.
We met with the surgeon and he decided a stereotactic breast biopsy would be best.
I’m not out of the woods yet but the forest has cleared a bit. If it is breast cancer, they’ve caught it extremely early and that would be the silver lining of a really dark cloud. However, my surgeon feels optimistic and his optimism has given me hope.
I will be honest: it’s been difficult to focus on simple tasks, even though I try to remain busy but I find my mind wanders.
One thing is certain, this event — whether it is cancer or not — has narrowed my field of vision about certain things.
I work an insane schedule; I’m emotionally and mentally exhausted so often that it’s beginning to feel normal. It’s time to get off the crazy train. I want to focus on what matters most in life and that doesn’t include working three jobs. I want to spend time with my kids instead of trying to squeeze them into my hectic schedule for a few minutes. I want to go on a date night with my husband without worrying about what emails I’m missing during that two-hour time span. I want to spend an afternoon reading a book by the window without allowing my mind to drift back to the work that’s waiting for me.
Somewhere along the way I lost track of what matters.
The Universe just gave me a not-so-subtle reminder and I hear the message loud and clear.
And now for my confession: I’ve never been to Relay For Life. My family is very involved and it’s a great cause. I just avoid it like the plague. Why? Because it makes me cry. But I think the bigger reason is because cancer scares me and Relay For Life reminds me that cancer doesn’t discriminate. It terrifies me to think of losing someone I love to cancer.
There’s a certain level of irony at work here. I never imagined it might be me fighting that battle. I just never did.
So will I go to Relay this year? I don’t know. I’ve been crying a lot lately but that’s just surface stuff. The deeper reason? Even though I can bury the fear that pulses just beneath the surface under a smile, nothing will strip away my façade more quickly than being around survivors, reading the Luminarias, and listening to the stories.
I may not have an answer by the time Relay rolls around. Then again, I might. Either way…I foresee tears.
Kim Van Meter is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.