Monday, June 19, 2006

Strength for the Journey (Part II)

“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble and tottering knees. Say to those who are of a fearful and hasty heart, Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God will come . . . He will come and save you.” ~ Isaiah 35:3,4

This week I would like to share the following excerpts from some of the inspiring notes and words of encouragement I have received over the past couple of weeks:

Dear Eileen:
I remember your mother (my dear Aunt Peg) far more than I should. I have no idea why. But I can't help but think that she would she would be telling you today "get off your rear-end young lady and get this over with, your family needs you strong and healthy. They love YOU, not your breasts."


If you are not an inspiration for all of us, I don't know who is. My heart goes out to you with so much going on and so many decisions needing to be made. I so agree with your decision about the mastectomy; with your family history, it would probably have to be done anyway at some point in the future, so why not now when it can be a preventive measure? I know it's such a heartrending decision to make, but it seems your medical team and especially your son and brother all agree it's the most effective option. I know so many people who, like you, dread losing a breast, but breasts are not who we are at all. I think you've made the right decision, and you do have such a warm and caring family to stand by you.


That statement is so true. "You are not your breasts." You will be a different person without them but it will be because of the experience and growing you will be going through. Just the realization and deeper meaning about who you really are will be growth and change. Every day we are different than the day before because we have added a day's experiences. Dramatic experiences sometimes change us at a faster rate, but it is growth in the Lord for one of His children.

Eileen, my dear:
Adulthood brings one precious right:
The right to make your own decisions.
You're exercising that right. Fear not...

Remember: you already have enjoyed many blessings in this life, and the close and loving support of your family in this crisis is in itself a boon denied millions in this world. I've told you before that in my opinion the Lord never gives us a load heavier than we can carry, with His help and that of our loved ones. . . .One further thought: Trust in the power of love, which transcends death and the grave, and in the care of your guardian angel, for 'tis sure you have one.

You are so not just your breasts! You were a great person before you breasts developed, I am sure! You will be a great person without your breasts. You are your heart and soul! That will never changed no matter what the surgery entails.

I will love you just as you are and so will your other friends. Our bodies are like our houses, if people come to see our bodies or our houses instead of us, poor souls are they!

As for your little granddaughter, she will be the love of your life . . . she will adore you with or without breasts, and you will adore her regardless of her mental ability.

Remember, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger – and you see the world through much different eyes.


We don't always (sometimes rarely) understand God's plan but we just have to trust and rely on Him for our strength. And, we are so blessed with loving families and hosts of friends from whom we can also gain strength. It often seems when we think our plates are full, we realize our most important lessons.

May God continue to hold you and your family up as you continue with your treatment and care and may He also continue to hold Josh, Lisa and Katelyn in His loving care.

“Trials are not enemies of faith but are opportunities to prove God's faithfulness.” ~ Author Unknown

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.’” ~ Lamentations 3:21-24

You have been in my prayers and somehow I knew you would make a wise decision. Your faith has carried you this far and it will in the future. Hold on to the rope.

Remember what is most important.

It’s not having everything go right, it’s facing whatever goes wrong.
It's not being without fear; it's having the determination to go on in spite of it.
Remember that every day ends and brings a new tomorrow full of exciting new things.
Love what you do; do the best you can,
and always remember how much you are loved. ~ Vicki Worsham

I Know Not
Author Unknown

I know not what the future holds,
Of good or ill for me and mine;
I only know that God enfolds
Me in His loving arms divine.
So I shall walk the earth in trust
That He who notes the sparrow's fall
Will help me bear whate'er I must
And lend an ear whene'er I call.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”~ Isaiah 55:8,9


Eileen – Your husband is right—and remarkably astute—when he said the procedure was a bridge, not a plank. And your doctor is right when she said you are not your breasts. You are much more than that, and you have shown us that column by column. More than that, you’ve shown that to me by the encouragement and love you’ve shown me even when I was a stranger. Believe me when I say that I am with you every minute of your journey. I am there holding your hand. You will come through this thing completely intact with all that matters. You will still be Eileen Umbehr, and we will still love you.


Eileen....Our feeling is how blessed you are that with your FAITH you can turn this whole situation over to the LORD for direction. I feel sure I have mentioned to you before that part of my nightly devotions includes the reading of the following:

“Have no fear for what tomorrow may bring. The same loving God who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. God will either shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength to bear it. . .”

"When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it's time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things will happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly." Edward Teller

Be at peace then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

“Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything by prayer and petition (definite requests) with thanksgiving continue to make your wants known to God. And God's peace, which transcends all understanding, shall...mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." ~ Philippians 4:6,7


I got this story [“God’s Cake”]
again today so there's some message for me (obviously)
and I'm sharing it with you :")

I will pray about and for your health.
Know that everyone is....

Each of us are given so many blessings as well as
the 'balance' of those positives, too.

Strange to think that way, but it is the combination of both
that make us wiser and more compassionate if we choose to believe that God's hands are holding ours through it all...

I am taken back in time....

My son's face contorts with fear as he readies for the 'stick' of the needle.

His plaintiff cries cause me to break out in a cold sweat because I am anticipating his pain, yet I know it is for his own I smile and reassure him.

'Steady, now.....there....all done!'

Beads of freshly squeezed tears begin to dry on his smooth, rosy cheeks. did it!! See? It wasn't too bad was it?

“But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me thus?’” ~ Romans 9:20

God’s Cake
(Author Unknown)

Sometimes we wonder, "What did I do to deserve this?" or "Why did God have to do this to me?" Here is a wonderful illustration.

A daughter is telling her Mother how everything is going wrong: she's failing algebra, her boyfriend broke up with her and her best friend is moving away.

Meanwhile, her Mother is baking a cake and asks her daughter if she would like a snack. The daughter replies, "Absolutely Mom, I love your cake."

"Here, have some cooking oil," her Mother offers.

"Yuck" says her daughter.

"How about a couple raw eggs?"

"Gross, Mom!"

"Would you like some flour then? Or maybe baking soda?"

"Mom, those are all yucky!"

To which the mother replies: "Yes, all those things seem bad all by themselves. But when they are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake!

God works the same way. Many times we wonder why He would let us go through such bad and difficult times. But God knows that when He puts these things all in His order, they always work for good! We just have to trust Him and, eventually, they will all make something wonderful!

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” ~Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

Eileen by campfire

Strength for the Journey (Part I)

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” ~ Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

As I prepare for my surgery this Wednesday, June 21st, I am overcome with gratitude to everyone who has sent a card or called to let me know that they have been praying for me. I have received unexpected, but welcome hugs from so many people who sincerely hope and pray that the surgery will go smoothly and my recovery will be swift. Even some of Keen’s colleagues and clients have added me to their prayer list! Best of all, I have made new friends in breast cancer survivors who were willing to share their personal experience with me. All of these things, along with my faith in God, have been a great source of encouragement.

"Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee. . .” Psalms 55:22

I also owe a special debt of gratitude to Keen’s sister Kihm who is coming to help me before, during, and after my surgery. This is an excerpt from the “real letter” Kihm sent me (as opposed to an email):
“Should you decide on surgery, I would like to offer my time to you. Basically, I work when I want to, and not working for an extended period of time is no problem. Help at home after you return from the hospital is essential! Please take an offer from someone or two or three for about 4-5 weeks after surgery. You will be so glad you did. I am available at your disposal. Whether you need or want me or not, know that I am upholding you vigilantly and constantly in prayer. Love always, Kihm.”

“A man has joy in making an apt answer, and a word spoken at the right moment, how good it is!” ~ Proverbs 15:23

Kihm’s handwritten note made me realize that she was truly sincere about wanting to help. After I told her that I would gratefully accept, she responded by saying that she was humbled and honored. Of course I told her that it was the other way around! I am the one who is humbled and honored that she would make such a huge sacrifice for me. And since she is a registered nurse, I feel especially blessed to be in such capable hands. God has truly provided for all my needs through friends and family members like Kihm.

This has been a difficult week for me. As the date for surgery draws near, the realization of what is going to happen has really started to sink in. The spouse of one breast cancer patient put it this way: “[The fight] takes you up, down, under, and around the full spectrum of physical, emotional, and mental dimensions.” (From the resource book “Show Me”, published by Penn State Medical Center) Last week Keen and I met with a woman who had a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, and she was very straightforward about what is involved. The process of reconstruction is somewhat lengthy – about five months – and pretty uncomfortable. For most people, it is well worth the pain and trouble, but for me right now it feels like more than I’m prepared to handle, so I’ve decided to delay reconstruction at this time. I would like some time to heal from the emotional and physical aspects of the bilateral mastectomy first, then I can decide whether I want to go with a prosthesis (that fits inside a bra with a pocket in it), or whether I will opt for reconstruction surgery at a later date. Either way, they won’t be my real breasts,so it may not make a whole lot of difference.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to picture myself without breasts so it won’t be such a shock – but it’s not easy. It’s kind of like trying to prepare for childbirth when you’ve never actually gone through it. But Keen has been unbelievably supportive throughout the entire, difficult process. He writes me encouraging notes to tell me how proud he is of the way I’m handling everything. The other day he taped one note to the bathroom mirror, and another note to the steering wheel of my car. It read: “I love you, Eileen Umbehr. You are the love of my life. Your beauty and grace give me the strength and courage to attack and defeat the dragons in our lives. Love, KAU.” After we made the decision to delay reconstruction, he sent me an email that read: “Embrace your freedom! You’ve earned it!” The other night we were talking in the hammock and I asked him if it was going to bother him to see me without breasts. “Not at all,” he replied, without skipping a beat. “Then I can hold on tighter.” Of course that brought tears to my eyes.. “Where do you come up with this stuff?” I asked. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” he answered. “I love you – the person on the inside. It’s what’s behind the breast that’s precious.” Keen said he believes that we’ll be closer than ever after this experience. That’s why I’m doing this – so that hopefully we can enjoy our love and life together for many, many more years to come.

“If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or fight like hell.” ~Lance Armstrong

In closing, I’d like to share some more words of encouragement from “my old pal, Scott.” Once again, his thoughts are too good not to share. God bless you, Scott.

Dear Friend,

It seems like you are under a dark cloud these days--so many unexpected turns in the road. It must be nice to be someplace like Alma where you can get outside by yourself and scream your head off to release some tension. I'm a big believer in "scream therapy"!

It's interesting to me that you used the example of leg amputation to make your point to Keen. I have a co-worker whose husband was a hardcore biker before he became a Christian, and now he attends biker rallies around the country ministering to bike gang members. He and his wife are welcomed by some of the most dangerous groups in the country because they trust and respect him, and that enables him to preach the Gospel where no one else could. Recently, due to complications of diabetes, he had to have part of a leg amputated which made riding his motorcycle difficult. Friends pitched in to finance alterations (essentially, training wheels were installed) to his bike so that he would be able to continue to ride, and continue he did. His preaching became all the more effective and powerful due to his physical challenges. Since that time, he's lost part of the other leg, but his bike is outfitted with hand controls and he is still on the road preaching to his flock. As you said, "...we are not our breasts...," we are not our arms and legs either. It's all too natural that we identify with those things we can see and touch and feel, but we are much more than those things. What is the scripture that speaks of all the fullness of God being poured into these "weak earthen vessels"? Whatever happens to our bodies in this life, we live on as long as we can still contain the essence that God has poured into us, and life ends only when the vessel breaks and that which was poured into it is set free from containment. You, my friend, are a vessel that holds so much of God's greatness. The vessel may chip here and there, the handles may come off, but what you were fashioned to be--a vessel--remains, and we are all blessed because of you.

Eileen, you are facing some difficult days. Lean on your family and friends; let them be close to you. Sometimes we just want to crawl off by ourselves and isolate, but that accomplishes nothing but rejection of those people best equipped to lighten your load. Hold tight to them, and remember Keen's words: this is not a plank, it's a bridge.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you . . .I have called you by your name, you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned or scorched, nor shall the flame kindle upon you. For I am the Lord your God." ~Isaiah 43:1b-3a

Kihm Umbehr Blount

Monday, June 12, 2006

Facing Reality

“Besides this you know what a critical hour this is, how it is high time for you to wake up out of your sleep – rouse to reality.”
~ Romans 13:11

Before I begin my article this week, I would like to thank everyone who takes the time to read my stories in The Prairie Post. In the good times and the bad times of my life, this column has been such a therapeutic outlet for me. And a big thanks to Joann Kahnt for making it all possible.

First of all, I want to share our latest baby news! On June 7th at 5:37 p.m., our son Josh and his wife Lisa had a beautiful 8 pound baby girl named Katelyn Seraphina. We feel so blessed to have two grandsons and two granddaughters. As Asher told his Mommy, “Now it’s equal!”

I had the privilege of being in the delivery room (along with Lisa’s mom) when Katelyn was born. Lisa did an amazing job going through eleven hours of labor – all natural! Shortly after Katelyn’s birth, however, we knew that there were problems, and the doctors and nurses asked the grandparents to leave the room. After waiting in the hallway for what seemed like an eternity, Josh came to get us. We soon learned that our new little granddaughter has Down Syndrome. Of course it came as quite a shock to everyone, and there have been many tears shed, but with God’s amazing grace we have accepted the news and are anxious to surround little Katelyn with all the love and nurturing she will need to thrive in this life and reach her highest potential. We fully expect that this one special little girl will add a new dimension to our lives and bring us unimaginable joy. In fact, she already has. Grandpa Keen thinks that she will surprise us all. “We’re going to be an audience to a miracle,” he said.

Mommy Lisa and Baby Katelyn

Daddy Josh and Katelyn Seraphina

It goes without saying that I’ll be writing more about little Katelyn in future columns, but for now I’ll continue where I left off last week when Josh had finally convinced me of the need to have the reexcision done after the lumpectomy. Yes, it was time to face reality, but I still felt terrible about the idea of having to go through surgery all over again. It just seemed like I was in a hole and I was never going to work my way out. So that night while I was lying in bed, I began mulling everything over in my mind. As I reflected on what I went through last year (mammogram, magnification views, biopsy), and what I have gone through this year (mammogram, magnification views, biopsy, wire localization, lumpectomy – to be followed by reexcision and seven weeks of radiation), combined with what I’ll have to go through in future years (all of the above, plus yearly MRI’s, just to keep close surveillance on the situation), I began wondering whether I should consider getting the bilateral mastectomy done after all – even though I didn’t test positive for the abnormal gene. With four out of seven women in my family with breast cancer, there still seems to be something genetic going on. (Dr. Einspahr explained that there are some cancer-causing genes which haven’t been identified yet.)

After considering the pros and cons of a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy, I decided to get up and make a list. The results were extremely persuasive. On the pro side were things like: no need for further mammograms, magnification views, biopsies or lumpectomies, and no need for future radiation or chemotherapy. But the most compelling benefit would be that I can reduce my risk of developing an invasive cancer by 90-95%. In my mother’s case, she had a mastectomy, but it was too late. Although I realize that there are no guarantees in life and I may still have to undergo some measure of monitoring, since the type of cancer I have did not spread, I just feel like I’m in a unique position to obtain the maximum benefit from a bilateral mastectomy by attempting to prevent something invasive before it has a chance to get a foothold.

After I finished compiling my list, I began paging through a resource book titled “Show Me” (published by Penn State Hershey Medical Center). The book contains pictures and personal stories of women who have undergone various breast surgeries followed by breast reconstruction. One of the stories was about a woman who started out with the same thing I have, DCIS. They performed a lumpectomy, but they didn’t achieve clear margins. (Apparently this is quite common with DCIS since it is too small to be seen.) So she had the reexcision done and hoped that would be the end of it. But they still didn’t get clear margins. In fact, that time they found an invasive cancer, so she opted for a mastectomy. Her story really made me think.

The next day Keen and I went on a long walk and I told him what I was thinking. Even though he’s never wanted me to have to go through such a drastic procedure, he heard me out and could understand my point of view. I told him that it would be like having gangrene in your leg. Yes, you may have to lose your leg – and nobody wants to go through that – but the realization that it will ultimately save your life greatly diminishes the emotional impact of the ordeal. I also explained that I didn’t want to have my life hijacked and disrupted every year about this time. The stress, anxiety, and pain I will have to go through year after year (not to mention the time and expense), just to monitor the situation, is too much. In my mind, a double mastectomy provides a long- term solution, as opposed to a short-term solution that only gets me through this year.

Later that day we had a family meeting to discuss my change of heart. Josh, Keen II, and Kirk all understood my reasoning process and agreed with it. (My daughters-in-law, Erin and Lisa, our parents and siblings have been incredibly supportive, too. And Jared even called from overseas to offer his support.) Basically, if I am comfortable with my decision, then my family will support anything I want to do – especially if it will reduce my risk of developing something invasive in the future. I told them that I don’t want to spend my life putting out little fires and hoping that an ember didn’t get missed. I would rather fight one big war than multiple little battles, especially when my chances of success are greater. As Keener pointed out, the seven weeks I would have spent driving back and forth for my daily radiation treatments, I could be spending in recovery.

I have spent a great deal of time researching this issue from every angle and I have spoken with several women who already had this procedure done. In addition, I’ve consulted with a nurse oncologist at Mercy Hospital and several doctors including Dr. Bernita Berntsen, Dr.David Einspahr, Dr. Diana Katt, and my brother, Joe – and they all agreed that a prophylactic mastectomy is a reasonable approach for women like me who are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. In fact, my brother said that I’m a prime candidate for the procedure, due to the fact that I have already had a form of cancer myself, and I have a strong family history. Apparently, our insurance company recognizes the benefit in prophylactic mastectomies, too, because they informed me that they will pay for the procedure if I have two or more immediate relatives (i.e. mother, sister) who have had unilateral breast cancer. (I have three; four including myself.)

That’s not to say that I haven’t experienced any fear or trepidation about all of this – especially now that they have scheduled a date for my surgery – June 21. I told Keen it feels like I’m walking a plank, and he replied, “It’s not a plank, it’s a bridge.” Even though I have other options, those options only get me through this episode, and I just don’t feel like I can go through all of this year after year. It would destroy my spirit. I don’t like any part of this. I am not a good patient. I hate all the procedures and the anxiety that accompanies them. I don’t like sitting in hospital waiting rooms waiting for the beeper to go off. I do not like it, Sam I Am. I want to live! I have a husband, children, and grandchildren to love; people to help and books to write.

Although I feel comfortable with my decision, there is one obvious aspect that is particularly difficult – losing my breasts. I came into the world with these breasts. I nursed four babies from these breasts. I’d kind of like to keep them. Recently I had a dream/ nightmare where I was introducing myself to someone and I felt like I should announce: “Hi, my name is Eileen. These aren’t my real breasts.” There’s a part of me that wonders if I will still be a real woman if I don’t have real breasts. Dr. Berntsen put it simply this way: “We are not our breasts.” I will be the same Eileen Umbehr I have always been on the inside.

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." ~ 1 Samuel 16:7b

And the heart of a person is the important part anyway.

“Do not let your adornment be merely outward--arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel-- rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”
~ I Peter 3:2-4 (NKJV)

My friend Scott shared an inspiring story about his own mother who made the same decision 20 years ago, and she hasn’t had a recurrence since. He wrote:

You are so very much in my heart and in my prayers--all of you. So much is going on in your world with the decisions you face, your sister’s announcement, the arrival of Emma Eileen, and the upcoming arrival of the new baby. I've known you a long time and one thing I've always been certain of, even when we were scrawny, green little pups at SAS, is that you are a wise woman. You are able to look at all sides of an issue--no matter how unpleasant--and wrestle with it however long it takes until you come to the conclusion that is the wisest and godliest one available to you. Whatever you decide will be the best for everyone concerned--I truly believe that. As your family surrounds you with their loving arms and prayers, know that your old pal Scott is in the circle too.”

“My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.” ~Psalm 62:5

Lisa and Eileen ~ Two weeks before Katelyn's birth

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

That Was Then

"You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away. And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning. And you will have confidence, because there is hope." ~ Job 11:16-18 (RSVB)

In my last update, I shared the good news about our first little granddaughter being born. Emma Eileen is two weeks old now and is doing great. She spent the first week in the hospital while they helped her with some breathing issues, regulated her temperature, and treated her for some jaundice. But she is back home now with her Mom Erin, big brothers, Asher and Gabe (who just adore her), her maternal grandparents (Papa John and Nanny Lu), Aunts Misty and Michelle and lots of cousins and other relatives who love her very much. Unfortunately, Jared is still stationed overseas so he has had to settle for pictures of his new little daughter. Now we are anxiously awaiting the birth of our next grandchild, as Josh and Lisa’s baby is due on June 14th!

Also included in my last update was information about my lumpectomy surgery scheduled for May 24th. As you can see from the following e-mail I sent to family and friends, everything went fairly well:

Hi All -

Just a note to let everyone know that the lumpectomy procedure went well yesterday and I am doing fine. I had one short spell (I think they called it a "vagal response”) where I became lightheaded and felt hot and my heart rate dropped to 38. On the way home, I was nauseated and vomiting, but the doctor prescribed some medication and I was able to eat a regular meal later in the day. I slept well last night and feel only minimal pain this morning. I'll see the doctor again next Friday to find out when we will start radiation. It usually starts four weeks after surgery.

Thanks to everyone for all the prayers! God's grace definitely saw me through.

Love to all, Eileen

Well . . . that was then . . . .

Two days later I contacted the surgeon’s office to see if the pathology report had arrived yet. A couple of hours later Dr. Berntsen called to deliver some “good news and bad news.” The good news was that they did not find any invasive cancer cells – they only discovered additional DCIS cells, which was what they had expected. The bad news was that they did not get a large enough margin around the involved area. All the margins were clear, but in two out of the three they only got 1 ml. instead of the standard 2 ml. Dr. Berntsen explained that the remedy for this problem was to “simply” go back in to get the additional tissue (also known as a re-excision). The last thing I wanted to do was to go back under the knife again! I asked her if there were any other options available and she replied that the 2 ml. margin was the “gold standard.” However, she did agree to consider the possibility of letting the radiation pick up any cells that might have been left behind. Of course, that was music to my ears.

But that was then . . . .

The very next day I received a call from one of my sisters. After we talked about my surgery, she said, “Do you remember how I told you that I was with you, sister? Well, I meant that in more ways than one.” Then she asked, “Are you sitting down?” She told me that three weeks earlier she was diagnosed with another form of breast cancer known as Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC). It is a form of cancer that is difficult to identify on a mammogram. Consequently, it went undetected for at least a year, resulting in the development of one very large tumor and another smaller one. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It seemed surreal to learn that this dreaded disease had attacked yet another member of our family. But my sister is a woman of faith, and she is drawing strength and comfort from the knowledge that God is sovereign and He loves her.

“'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. '” ~ Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

Although I realized that my sister’s history was now my history and that her diagnosis had implications for me as well, it still didn’t change my mind about not doing the re-excision.

But that was then . . . .

That evening I received another telephone call; this time it was from our son, Josh, who is a 3rd year medical student at KU. Josh was inquiring about what decision I had made regarding the second surgery. I told him that I didn’t want to do it because I was looking at a three inch gash in my breast and the thought of having it cut back open again did not appeal to me in the least. I also explained that I felt comfortable with the 1 mm margin because the margin was clear and it was 50% of what they wanted to get. In my way of thinking, since the tissue closest to the involved area was clear, then chances are the tissue on the other side of it would be clear, too. Besides, DCIS is considered Stage 0 or pre-cancer. At that point in the conversation, Josh proceeded to give me an old fashioned “butt-chewing.” (The kind I used to give him when he left his wet towels on the floor.) He said, “You’re lying to yourself, Mom. You’re lying to yourself.” He said he just emailed me some information which showed that statistically the number one risk factor for recurrence was the failure to achieve a full 2 mm. margin, and anything less than that was “sub-par care.” By then I was crying because I just did not want to have to undergo another surgery. But Josh was unaffected. “Your tears mean nothing to me right now, Mom. I’ll hold your hand and cry with you later if you want me to, and there are medications they can give you to help ease your anxiety. But to allow those fears to keep you from making the right decision is just plain foolish!” He said that statistically 1 in 7 women will get breast cancer, but we have 4 women out of 7 who have developed it in our family. “That’s huge, Mom,” Josh exclaimed. “This is serious. It’s nothing to mess around with!” Finally I agreed to “think about it.” Josh replied, “Then I’ve failed. I’ve failed.” He simply would not take no for an answer. By the end of the conversation I was convinced. “I’ll probably do it,” I said through my tears.

Josh’s voice immediately softened. “Okay, Mom. I’m sorry I yelled at you. I love you, Mom.”

“I love you, too, Josh.”

To be continued . . . .

Josh & me on his 25th birthday, April 15, 2006