Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Year

October 30, 2009 I spent the evening in the emergency room with heart attack symptoms. This year I couldn't help but be grateful for that night. I was set on the path to finding my stage 3 aggressive breast cancer and today I am living and better than I was a year ago.

Chest pain started part way through the day on Friday. I took a pain pill to be able to make it through the day. I was the Parent Organization President (like PTA President) and we had fall class parties to pull off. I felt a big responsibility to stay at school despite how I was feeling. As the last hour of the day neared and the parties began, I made my way around the school to check on each class and how things were going. The pain I was feeling had spread through my chest, down my left arm...all the typical heart attack symptoms. I tried to rationalize the pain, but was getting more and more scared. What added to the fear was that my father had died a year younger than I was at that time of a heart aneurysm. I thought I might be headed for the same thing.

After talking with Jared he decided we were going in, first to the insta-care and then to the emergency room. I had multiple EKG's, X-rays, blood tests... and nothing, no reason for the chest pain. I was released from the hospital to follow-up with my family doctor. My family doctor canceled three appointments on me while I was still having my chest pain! I was so frustrated by the last cancellation phone call that I called my gynecologist in tears not knowing what else to do. She told me to get into her office and she could at least start looking into the problem and figure out what I needed to do. As we talked, I remembered a spot on my right breast I had found. It didn't seem like what I understood cancer to feel like, but since we were looking into everything, I had her check it. She thought the same thing, that it wasn't really a concern, but she had me. For a couple of years she had been suggesting I go in for a baseline mammogram, now she could get me to do it. Because she could send it in as a diagnostic, I got an appointment right away rather than the typical 6 weeks. (Interesting enough, the chest pain subsided once the mammogram was scheduled. My first miracle).

I had a 7:00 am mammogram appointment. I didn't have to be at work until 8:30, so I didn't bother to get a sub. I figured I would be done in time and would get to school on time with no problem. I remember feeling very nervous, but the mammogram center was so calm and peaceful I relaxed and even enjoyed the experience, at least at first. The initial films were made and the radiologist left the room to check with the doctor. She came back in and said the doctor requested a few more films. I like be thorough, this was good. Then the films turned to needing an ultrasound and then a long wait. By this time I was going to be late for work and my cell phone had died. (What a day to have forgotten to charge my phone). Soon I was called back to meet with the doctor.

I walked in to a long narrow office. The room was dark. Large computer monitors lined the desk that spanned the length of the room and provided the only light. The doctor sat with his back to me at first as he looked at all the films of my breast before him. He introduced himself as Dr Mortensen and invited me to sit down in a chair facing the monitors. I sat looking at the images, dark with brilliant star like spots. They were pretty, just like star gazing on dark clear night. I was told that those "stars" were breast cancer, 5 tumors.

Just like that. I had cancer. I was stunned and not sure how to react. Then just as quickly as I heard the word C A N C E R, I felt at peace. The peace that only comes from One who has felt the pain of all the world and overcome. I felt instantly held by my Savior, Jesus Christ and I decided right then that this was in His hands and I would submit myself to His will.

I then needed to have a biopsy performed to be sure. There was a biopsy appointment cancellation so I was able to get in later that same day and with Dr. Mortensen performing the biopsy. It was nice to be able to have the same team work with me through the whole day's process.

I left the women's center and walked to the van. By that time I was numb. I somehow made my way home and called Jared at work. He came home right away and spent the rest of the day with me, taking me to the biopsy, holding my hand and hugging me close.

It was soon time to pick up the kids at school. We brought them home and called them to the living room, a room where we have read scriptures, prayed and gain strength from each others testimonies. Now it was time to put that faith to work. We talked about cancer and we cried and cried some more. Then we decided we would laugh. We would cry when we needed to, but we would laugh.

A bit later the phone rang. Jared answered it and then handed it to me to talk. As he did so, he said that the phone was going to die (the battery was low). Tia, without skipping a beat, said... "Dad, did you say the phone was going to die, or Mom was going to die?" Everyone paused and looked at me to see how I would react. I began laughing and told Tia that her joke was exactly what we needed. That set the tone. Nothing was off limits to joke about. We told our children everything along the way and gave them power to help us get through this together as a family.

A year ago I had chest pain. It led to a diagnosis I never would have asked for, but am so grateful for now. Heavenly Father is very aware of each of us and knows just what we need. It is up to us as to how we will handle it and what we will allow Him to make of or lives. It's amazing what a year can do...


  1. Beautiful story Jennifer that shows the Lord is in all the details of our life and clearly was right there in this process. You are an amazing testimony of living by faith! Much love, Christine Jackman

  2. I love the fact that you see tender mercies along the way, while many of us have our hearts set on only one thing and nothing else seems to qualify as an answer to prayers. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.


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