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Thursday, July 20, 2023

My Life with Ralph - Part I

I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and whispered "this may be the day that changes your life forever; or maybe not, but brace yourself beautiful". I stopped myself from putting on deodorant and quickly applied the hydrating eye cream that helped me feel less old. 

Every year since I turned 40 I've been going for a mammogram right before my birthday. It made sense to me - to associate something somewhat negative with something positive and therefore they'd even out. Kind of like having dental work done without numbing so I can get a fancy latte on the way home. Life is all about balance afterall, isn't it?

I'm a bit of what most would call an awfulizer - but in all fairness, my daddy told me "prepare for the worse, hope for the best, and you'll always be ready for whatever comes your way". So, here we are, Monday, July 10th 2023. This was supposed to be an amazing year since 23 is one of my lucky numbers - and since 7 is also... you'd think this whole damn month should be filled with glitter, unicorns, and sunshine. It has not included as much of those things as I'd hoped.

The mammogram went smoothly. I wore all the right clothes, and I was in and out in record time. I stopped at the office and got lots of things done since no one knew I was there - no interruptions and no children in tow meant I was a professional machine! Stopped and helped a friend and then on the way home, blocks from my old house, on a stretch of road I once walked with our now teenagers, I got the call. I assumed they were calling to tell me everything looked fabulous and they'd see me next year. 

After pulling over, I put the new appointment on my calendar... "we need to get you back here as soon as possible" they had said. I'd be going back on the 12th for another more in-depth mammogram and an ultrasound and a meeting with the specialist who would give me more information before I left the facility. I made sure I had hung up the phone and put the van in park. I dialed my Pastor and sobbed into the phone for what felt like an eternity before I could summon up the courage to tell him what was going on. 

"I can't do this - not right now..."





"how do I tell Mark that I might not be okay?"






"I breast fed all those babies - doesn't that count for anything?"

Pastor talked me through things and reminded me that I can do hard things and I've done hard things and no matter what, Mark is the best husband and he is going to help me. 

I never did turn the radio back on.

I drove around the block several times.

I needed to tell Mark before I got home. The kids would know there was something wrong if I came home with a tear-stained face. It was too early to worry them.

"Hey - can you meet me at the neighbors pole shed?"


He met me and held me while I sobbed into his big strong chest. He held me while the tears flowed down my face into his cut-off shirt. 

I made it through the day and then we had a family meeting. By that time, I had washed dished, made dinner, vacuumed the house, and done the normal mom things and I was in control of my emotions. I could calmly and very matter of factly explain that:

"Mommy has a small - VERY small spot on her boob. It wasn't there last year, so it hasn't been there long. We are going for more testing after summer vacation. This is all going to be fine, a bit inconvenient, but fine. Ask questions and it's okay to talk about this."

Questions ranged from "is it cancer?" to "are you going to die?" and my eldest son just gave me a squeeze which says a lot from a teenage boy.

July 12th 2023

Mark came with me for the procedure(s). It was a lot of waiting for him and I felt very guilty for taking him away from the farm. Long story short - the initial reading was NOT wrong. I was in a much better mental place though... it's hard to explain, but I have 4 daughters and statistically, 1 in 5 women will get breast cancer and if I look at it that way, I'm incredibly thankful to have it. God knows I would die a thousand deaths to spare myself from having to bury a child. I am however incredibly angry. My mother refuses to have regular mammograms saying she doesn't care if she has issues or not. She thinks it's some kind of conspiracy between the medical doctors and pharmaceutical companies. Needless to say, we have NO family history. Not like, no one in our family has had breast cancer, but like no one (until my mom) has lived long enough to be tested ... I started going a few years ago because I want my daughters to have a medical history to go off. 

anyway - here we were - standing in a warm dark room listening to the specialist explain the next steps. We were assigned a breast health coordinator who provided a lot of great information. We named the tumor Ralph and I looked at my husband as we walked out and said "fuck Ralph". There's of course still a chance that Ralph is just a happy little benign tumor. There's also a chance he's not. The good news is he is 4mm and my left breast was always a bit of a slacker anyway ... 

The kids are being incredibly supportive and trying to look at the situation from a practical standpoint. It's not likely this will kill me, and I'm strong and healthy. I'm still eating the way I always have - and we sometimes laugh about how maybe I should have eaten more garbage and less salads... but in reality that's not how things work. 

For now, we are living our best lives and as soon as I get home from vacation I'll go in for the biopsy (with my husband by my side) and we'll see what lies in front of us. A few things I've decided:

If I need chemo or radiation I'm shaving my own head instead of waiting for my hair to fall out

If anyone call pull off having just one boob, I can

I'm going to take lots of pictures of my boobs ... not to share, just for me. Because you don't realize how beautiful something is until you try to envision life without them

Thanks for being here on this journey - it's scary, but I've done hard things before God's got me through thick and thin.