Greetings, friends. Many friends, family, supporters, and just lots of people have heard
that I underwent surgery on Monday, 25th August, to remove a lump that a mammogram showed. As recently as 13th August, life was going as usual – packing for our flight back to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Then one doctor’s appointment turned things around. When the doctor reading the mammogram told me to sit down, I thought he was being hierarchical. Turns out you give bad news to people only once they’ve sat down. Fair enough.
Eric was already in Malaysia at that point. One of our favorite songs, “What About Everything” by Carbonleaf, has the line “what about that midnight phone call – the one that wakes you from your peace?” It was 2 a.m. his time when the phone rang, and it was a gift to be on the same page in making decisions. Where would I want a biopsy, surgery, radiation? Even having only a mammogram, our USA doctor said it was 90% likely to be malignant and told me to deal with it in “days, not weeks.”
In that conversation with Eric (which ended up on Skype because his phone battery ran out! terrible timing!), we both realized how much Malaysia is home to us. Our boys’ school is fabulous; the seminary is a wonderful place to live and work; we have friends and churches here. Sudden news can throw things into stark relief; For us it became clear that Malaysia is where I needed to be. I just had to survive a 14- and 6- hour flight with 2 young boys to get there!
In Malaysia, it’s hard to call a doctor’s office. The model is “show up and we’ll take care of you.” On Sunday, friends emailed me the name of a surgeon. On Monday, I showed up and got an appointment with this Dr. Law. On Tuesday, Dr. Law arranged an appointment with a breast surgeoun, Dr. Siti, who I saw in the afternoon. She arranged surgery for the next Tuesday, and then was able to move the surgery up to Monday. This is phenomenal to me – a bad mammogram on 13th August in the USA, and surgery on 24th August in Malaysia. Kudos to these doctors!!!!
I am home from the hospital now and recovering. The hospital was fine; they had me check in Sunday morning and rest all day Sunday. Church, friends, and the seminary chaplain came to visit. I met a million medical students. The doctors and nurses gave me all the time I needed. The doctors spoke English but the nurses mainly spoke Malay – they were delighted (as was I) that my ability to speak Bahasa Malaysia came back in force.
In all of this, I’ve surprised myself time and again. Normally I joke about being “Anxiety Girl – able to leap to the worst possible conclusion in a single bound!” Yet since that mammogram, I’ve been able to see the positive. Early detection – because a) my employer required a clean bill of health, b) my doctor found a lump I’d missed and wrote on my paperwork “mammo required”, and c) my mom, who had breast cancer at age 55, was willing to make an appointment for me (I was avoiding it, for no good reason). Maybe it was my mom’s cancer, so long ago (to me), that led to this early detection. I wouldn’t put that past the hand of God – providence. And so now, in lieu of my usual “worst case scenario” attitude, I see positives all around. Kindnesses, people with the right skills & connections, people following through, science finding things…. all kinds of things working out for good.
I have a long wait now – 2-3 weeks – for lab results to come back. But in these weeks we celebrate the boys’ first day of school, of getting them new uniforms because they outgrew their old ones, of seeing folks we haven’t seen in 2 months. We are happy to be back – the fruits, the bicycles, our apartment, and hey – working internet! We’re in a good place.
Your prayers are, of course, appreciated. And if you are in Rockville, you can check on my mom, though apparently my brothers are smothering her with love. (She’s used to love, just not daily visits!) And, because I needed the reminder: if you’re female and have any risk factors, go get a mammogram. If you want to do something, go exercise for 10 minutes, chop yourself some fresh fruit, or send a letter to your congressional reps reminding them to fund early detection programs like Planned Parenthood. Helping you helps me, because in this web of caring, every good action matters.
Thanks for your love, all!