by Angela Bergmann
I found a lump in my breast on January 1, 2019.
Surely this isn’t serious, I thought. I breastfed five babies and breastfeeding was supposed to reduce my chance of getting breast cancer. Plus, my doctor told me that my breast tissue was not dense or fibrous, which apparently reduced my risk further.
I decided to be safe. I called my doctor’s office and told them my discovery. Even then, I had to wait six weeks for an appointment.
See, they don’t think it’s urgent either, I tried to convince myself. My mom died of cancer when I was 20. Ever since then, I’d been waiting for Cancer to come get me.
After six weeks of feeling the lump each morning, my appointment arrived. The doctor didn’t hesitate to refer me for a mammogram. The next day, I got a phone call to schedule the procedure for the following week. This doesn’t happen often in Canada. My case was labeled Urgent.
My thoughts quickly spiraled out of control. I had breast cancer. I was going to die young. This would leave my five children in an even worse, more fragile state than I’d been in when my mother died. I began writing letters in my head—letters my children could open and read on the day they graduated from high school, the day they’d get married, the day their first child would be born. The kind of letters my mom never wrote to me.
I wondered if I would need surgery. Would I have to have chemo? Would I lose my hair? Would I become so weak that my kids would need to take over the chores like I’d done for my mom? How would my breast cancer experience compare to my mother’s, who had no treatment options? This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. This wasn’t the way I was supposed to die.
That wintery weekend, I holed up in my bedroom and binge-watched Netflix to keep my mind off the upcoming mammogram. How would I tell my children that I had cancer? Would they be as upset as I was when I had heard my mom’s diagnosis? How could this be happening to my one and only daughter? Would my children struggle with their faith like I did when God took my mother from me?
Mammogram day arrived. I nervously undressed from the waist up and succumbed to the plastic clamps of truth. I was sent back to my cubicle and told to not get dressed. I waited to find if I would need further procedures which were available on site.
I imagined a biopsy needle. I imagined tumors growing in my breasts. I wondered what my funeral would be like.
They came to tell me I needed an ultrasound.
That was it, I thought. It’s a death sentence.
I had breast cancer and I was going to die. At least I knew I was going to heaven. I hoped my kids would have the same peace of mind I did when my mom died. My faith may have taken a beating but I always knew I’d see her again.
I lay flat on the procedure bed, fingernails boring into my cold, sweaty palms. The doctor poked and prodded my breast with the ultrasound wand. I tried not to scream. I tried to control myself from jumping off the papered exam table and running from it all. I couldn’t do this. I wasn’t ready. God, how am I going to do this?! Help me bring my children through this with the same grace my mother showed me!
Oh look, the doctor said casually. There’s no blood supply here. This isn’t worrisome. You’re good to go.
Wait, what? Hold on, but I thought…
You can get dressed. We don’t need to see you again. We’ll send the final report to your doctor. Have a good day!
I don’t have cancer? I’m not going to leave my children motherless…yet? I still have time?
I got dressed, shaking with relief. I don’t have cancer. My daughter still has her mom. My children will not be motherless victims of breast cancer. I can make plans again. I can thank God that Cancer has not come for me, this time.