Following Up

“This is either the very first detection we can see of very early breast cancer, or, if these spots layer under the magnification, they are completely benign.” I stared at the petite, dark-haired tech who just spent the past twenty minutes smashing my right breast into the thinnest pancake I’ve ever laid eyes on. My mouth went completely dry. I nodded and said the only word I could say which was, “Okay.”

 

I looked across at my friend, Jess, who was nodding, looking at me, trying to stay strong for me. The tech walked out of the waiting room and I think the reality of it hit me. Oh my gosh! This could be the moment where my life radically changes, for the worse. Everything will change if I have breast cancer. The tears began to well up and I just decided, screw it. Let them all out. Let this weight just hit the floor and feel it, Adge. Cry, because one way or another, the emotions of this moment aren’t going to be corralled into a safety zone where you don’t feel anything. We’re talking about your life here! Jess teared up and we both just sat in the waiting room, crying together, not knowing what would happen next.

 

Weeks earlier I had a mammogram because I have a strong family history of breast cancer and I was trying to be a proactive and responsible woman who takes care of her health—or something like that. They called me for a follow-up appointment so they could take a closer look at some cysts and some calcification spots. Awesome. Can’t wait to go through another experience of feeling like my breast was run over by a semi-truck that next decided to park right on top of my boob. Can’t wait to be afraid every time I feel a twinge in that breast. After what felt like an eternity sitting there with Jess, I was asked to go into the ultrasound room for another look at something mysterious. I was terrified. At my invitation, Jess followed me into the room. I was lying half-naked on a table as a different tech, one who showed no emotion at all, took a series of pictures. She gave no hint of what she was seeing. And then, straight-faced, she turned to me and said, “Okay, I’ll show these to the doctor and she will come talk to you.”

 

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I let a few more hot tears roll down my cheeks. God, seriously? What is going on? This can’t be happening. I have so many plans. This isn’t real. But it is real. I’m really sitting here in a thin hospital gown with my bikini bottoms on (because I feel slightly less naked wearing them instead of regular underwear). I had spent the morning watching my kids go down a water slide at our pool, drinking a tangerine La Croix and taking in the sunshine. Now I’m in a dimly lit, cold ultrasound room with my friend, taking in the darkness.

 

The doctor came in and said, “Adrienne, it is very rare that I can look someone in the eye and tell her that everything we see is completely benign, but I can say that to you right now. All of your calcifications layered and they are all normal. The cysts are as well.” More tears. Relief. Joy. In that moment, my future was full of hope. Free. No cancer. I hugged the doctor and when she left, I hugged Jess and smiled and cried some more.

 

She was willing to sit with me at a place I had never been before. A place that was suffocating and scary and ugly. A place where I was laid bare in so many ways. She chose to be there with me.

I look back at those two hours of my life and see many things, but what sticks out the most is my friend Jess following up with me. Yes, she came to a follow-up appointment for my scary-ass breast cancer scare. She came and followed up with so much more though: she followed up with ME, she followed up with my heart, she followed up with our friendship. It was her idea to come to my appointment. She was willing to sit with me at a place I had never been before. A place that was suffocating and scary and ugly. A place where I was laid bare in so many ways. She chose to be there with me. She chose to face the good news with me (and she chose to sit with me if the bad news would have come). She would have seen me in a life-altering moment. She would have seen my face and my reaction if the news had been a nightmare. I cannot express what it meant to me to have a friend in my life that would stand at the bottom of a canyon of fear with me.

 

Between the imaging sessions that day, I felt like walls were shooting up higher and higher around me, closing me in, and telling me what my fate would be. The walls formed by the Enemy were shouting, “See Adge? God’s not really there for you. He’s going to tease you and give you this incredible life, family, friends and these incredible dreams then say, "Psych!!!" You’re going to get really sick and you have no future.” The loudest voices were from the biggest liars, and then Jesus gently said, “Adge, when you can’t hear me, you can see me. I’m here by your side, always. I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I looked at my friend sitting in the corner of the room and said to the Lord, Yes I know you are here Jesus, because I see you in Jess right now who is in this with me. I see that you are here.

 

There is something incredible about the way God has designed us. He knows we need each other, for the days where we will receive incredible news and for the days where we will receive the unimaginable worst report. We need community and Truth-tellers in our life, for whatever circumstance we find ourselves in. Jess told me all the truth I needed to know that day by sitting there with me. She brought Jesus and His constant hope and His faithful comfort to me throughout that appointment. She was willing to see a part of me that only the Lord sees…the part that is raw and out of control. What you don’t know about my precious friend is that she has sat where I was sitting that day several times before…and the times she has sat there, she probably felt a million times more than what I felt because she has watched her two sisters battle the terrible disease.

 

...what it means to stand next to someone in her war zone when you are still not out of the battle yourself!

I am completely humbled and honored by knowing this about her…I don’t have the words to begin to describe the courage my friend has but I do know that her courage covered me like a blanket that afternoon. She is the bravest woman I know right now, though I don’t know that she would see herself that way. I see it, though! I want her to know that, so I’m writing it here so she can reread this and reread this and let it sink deep down into her bones—Jess is SO full of courage and honor. Thank you, Jess, for showing me what it means to stand next to someone in her war zone when you are still not out of the battle yourself! Thank you for following up with me.

Colorado Springs, CO

Adge is an adventurer by heart, climbing 14ers (mountains over 14,000 ft high) and simply being in the wilderness refills her cup. She married a man who shares that passion with her, Erin, and together they have three children, Everleigh, Finnley, and Bodie. Adge has a huge heart for women. She works as a labor & delivery nurse, loves one-on-one conversations, and lattes with intricate foam designs!