80: Additional Views

80: Additional Views

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings

Additional Views

There is much in the world to make us afraid.
There is much more in our faith to make us unafraid.

~Frederick W. Cropp

“The radiologist reviewed your mammogram and has recommended additional pictures.”

With one telephone call, “what ifs” rose to swamp my thoughts. Was it … the “C” word? I pushed the thoughts away and reminded myself of a favorite Bible verse, “Don’t be anxious for anything.” But my thoughts weren’t easily reined in.

My annual mammogram had followed a physical exam a few weeks earlier. Everything had been normal. Was a possible time bomb now ticking inside me?

The earliest appointment I could make was the following Friday, exactly one week later. My sleep was fitful for the next three nights. I alternated between trust in the loving sovereignty of God, and the recurring flood of “what ifs” that invaded my thoughts when I let down my guard. My husband, Russ, tried to be reassuring, but I saw worry in his eyes. How much of it was a reflection of my own fears?

Monday morning, I called to see if they had any cancellations. The appointment was moved up to Wednesday. In the meantime, I prepared to teach a Bible study. One of the questions caught my attention. “What attitude is required to see God at work in your life?” The answer was faith. Now I needed to act on my faith. That meant shutting out the “what ifs”—not allowing them even the tiniest toe hold in my thoughts. I would trust my heavenly Father for whatever might come, “C” word or not.

On Wednesday, I recognized the receptionist at the diagnostic center. The familiarity bothered me. It shouldn’t have been this way. She should have been a stranger to me, someone I saw once a year, not once a week.

She handed me a form. Before I could object, she said she knew I completed the same form last week, but they needed another one for this visit. I looked at the questions. “Reason for mammography?” Last week the answer had been easy. “Annual.” Now I wondered what to write.

She sensed my hesitation. “Just write ‘additional views.’”

Additional views? It sounded so … clinical. So objective. As if to obscure the fact that these “additional views” would determine if my body had turned against me. I completed the form, returned it to her, and waited.

A perky woman called my name. I recognized her as the technician from my prior visit. This time the familiarity was comforting, and I wondered at my inconsistency.

I pleaded for information about the first mammogram as she positioned me for the X-rays. “Tiny calcifications,” she said, but hastened to add that calcifications are common and frequently not cancerous. The doctor would make a diagnosis based on the size, shape, and distribution in the “additional views.” I struggled to process her words.

She reassured me with her warm eyes and bright smile. She was not permitted to give me any more information, other than to say that my doctor would have the results in a day or two. As I exited, she gave me another broad smile. Could I take that as a sign that everything was fine? I needed more than a smile.

I logged on to the Internet at home. A quick search provided definitions of macrocalcifications and microcalcifications. Relief over my “tiny” calcifications was short-lived. Macrocalcifications are almost always non-cancerous. Microcalcifications—the tiny ones—are a different matter. They can be a sign of cancer, though not always. I was reminded of the adage, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

A phone call brought the test results. My calcifications were the micro kind, and they had appeared since my last mammography a year earlier. The doctor recommended a biopsy and gave me the name and number of a surgeon. I asked him if the surgeon was one he would trust with his own wife. “I already have,” he said.

The surgeon could see me the next Tuesday at 8:15 A.M. I was grateful for the early appointment, but it meant still more waiting.

Wait. I had never liked that word. It always struck me as a waste—precious minutes passing unproductively, never to be reclaimed. I had heard it said that God is less concerned with the destination than He is with the journey, and I was beginning to understand what that meant. The issue wasn’t whether I had cancer. The issue was how I would respond to these circumstances—with trust and faith, or doubt and fear. I chose to trust the One who had shown Himself faithful time and time again.

I arrived at the surgeon’s office at 8 A.M. on Tuesday, the first time I’d been early for anything in months. The doctor examined me and explained the biopsy procedure. Computer positioning would direct the biopsy needle for removal of tissue samples. My facial expression must have changed, because the nurse handed me tissues, and the doctor hastened to assure me that eighty percent of calcifications are benign. I composed myself enough to ask how many of these procedures he had done. Both he and the nurse responded together, “A thousand.” I felt a little better.

The biopsy was scheduled for the next Monday, with a follow-up appointment with the surgeon three days later for the results. More waiting.

My natural inclination was to keep busy, to fill the minutes and hours with enough activity to distract me from the circumstances threatening my world. But another Bible verse came to mind. “Be still and know that I am God.” Again I had to make a conscious choice to release control that I didn’t really have in the first place.

Russ and I arrived early the day of the biopsy. The procedure was uncomfortable, but not as painful as I had imagined. The doctor explained what he was doing at each step. Halfway through the procedure, I broke into a sweat as fear washed over me. I reminded myself that I was not alone. God would carry me through. An hour later we were home. I was sore, but the worst part was waiting until Thursday afternoon for the results.

I prayed for the biopsy results to be benign. But I remembered a question I had once asked a Bible study class. “If God chooses not to give you another thing in answer to your prayers, will you love Him any less?” I knew that no matter what happened, God still loved me and would work it out.

Thursday found us once again waiting for my name to be called. As the nurse led us to an examining room, she asked how I was feeling.

“That’s what I’m here to find out,” I said.

She held up my chart, pointed to the word “benign” and said, “You’re good. Real good.”

The doctor confirmed the diagnosis with a broad smile. He ordered a follow-up mammography in six months. I breathed a prayer of thanks to God for His undeserved mercy.

I thought back to the first telephone call. Had it only been three weeks? My life appeared no different from that day to now, but I am different. One thing remains constant, however—the loving care of my heavenly Father in whatever may come, “C” word or not.

~Ava Pennington

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