Kara’s Collection: A Year Ago Today—Time to Touch Yourself

From an article originally posted July 12, 2013…

Today was the day that forever changed the landscape of my life. It is a day I will never forget, though I only remember it in snapshots. I remember cleaning the house after the fire. I remember taking a shower when I usually take a bath.

I decided to switch it up, and because I was doing something different, I decided it was time to do my breast exam. My left breast was always lumpy as I nursed so I decided to start on the right. I found my lump before I passed over the threshold of the shower. Immediately, I could not believe what I felt. I spent the rest of the shower crying. Something in me just knew. Though as the weekend progressed, I was convinced otherwise.

I left the shower and called Jason broken. He was with our pastor Mark and two elders, EJ and David, enjoying a day talking about church planting. Well, until I called. We had a date planned for that night. We had a babysitter lined up, but he was coming in much later than we expected. I kept getting ready. I kept the sitter, because I couldn’t stop crying. I called my Thea, she prayed. She put her friend Nanette on the phone to pray. I kept crying. I texted my doctors wife. I knew he was on vacation. I didn’t want to disturb him. She insisted I disturb him. So I did. He kindly directed me where to go the next day. He helped me calm down. He would soon be home.

Babysitter came and I ran away. Jason planned to meet me as soon as he could. Sweet Anna immediately met me at a local brewery. We ordered a flight of beer and talked about her Andrew and which beer he would like. We talked about how I just knew it was cancer. And the service was so extremely slow. Everything felt raw and in slow motion. I remember seeing Jason pulling into the restaurant. Time seemed to have stopped. We felt weirdly suspended in the unknown. We tried to keep Anna with us, but she quietly snuck away. The food still hadn’t come. When it finally came, it wasn’t good. Our sadness made it taste bad.

I would talk to other women later. They assured me they thought it was a cyst. I decided I wanted one of those. But, sadly, it didn’t come out that way. I had no risk factors, I had no family history, I was healthy, I was very young...But I had two things: a right breast and a left breast.

Today, I get to celebrate a beautiful woman getting married. I will not be wallowing in these hard memories. But I will challenge y’all. Please, oh please, check yourself regularly. The more often and regularly you do it the more you will notice changes. My friend Tracey once bought me a glove that helps you in detection. I thought it was silly, because I wasn’t going to get breast cancer. I used it a few times and then it was abandoned to my nightstand junk drawer.

Here is my tip. If you are a shower person, when you switch it up and take a bath: check then. If you are a bath person, check when you take a shower. The change up will remind you. I remember stepping into that shower thinking, let me be different in here. This is what I will start doing when I shower. Sadly, I only needed to do that one time. Your girls need you to pay close attention. And I know new standards say first mammogram at 40. I disagree. Get a baseline at 35, if everything is fine, then listen to the suggestion of your doctors. Use my story to be proactive. I was 36, my friend was 34. This disease knows no boundaries that I have seen.

The woman in this picture has just had her life unbelievably turned upside down. But there was still laughter. But the grief was heavy, heavy. But we made it. One year later, we are weary, tired, but oh so thankful to have made it here. When you are first diagnosed you don’t know the end of your story. At the point of this picture, we weren’t sure if I was filled with cancer or if it was only in my right breast. We knew it looked bad, but we didn’t know much else.

Day by day we are making it. I saw a picture of myself from last year. I looked so very different than I do now. In one picture, I had a verse written on my hand. I don’t remember getting it, I don’t remember reading it, but I looked it up and I love it. People are reminding me of conversations we had, meetings, dinners during this time. It’s all very cloudy with grief. We only remember snapshots. We only vaguely remember events. We distinctly remember the tears.

Look at this verse, isn’t it beautiful?!

Even to your old age I am he, and to your gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and I will save.
— Isaiah 46:4

I love that! I hope to one day be an old lady, God willing! I will rejoice in each passing year. I AM THANKFUL! I am so very thankful. The suffering was not a mistake. I was never alone for a moment in it.