It happened to me, exactly 3 years ago this week.

After a series of tests, the radiologist said those few words that would change my life for the next 18 months.

“You need a biopsy.”

I wrote about it before, but I only discussed the details. I never addressed how it affected me, in both negative and positive ways.

The women in my family have died young, mostly in their 50’s, some in their 40’s, all by the early 60’s. I was 60 when I got the news.

I was sure. This would be the end for me. Breast cancer.

The surgery went well, he removed all of the questionable tissue, about the size of a clove.

And then, because it was a Friday, I had to wait for results a few more days.

Benign. Best word ever.

I was told it was harmless fatty tissue, but they continued to x ray and ultrasound the area for a suspicious shadow that would not go away.

It took a year and a half.

I don’t remember much of that time, only the constant worry.

They finally released me to “regular checkups”, and I could breathe easier.

It changed the way I looked at medicine. It was a business, and I had become a great consumer.

There was fear, uncertainty, caution, relief. There was also cynicism, doubt, resentment.


Photo by my son, at age 12.

When all was said and done, I stopped believing that I was meant to die at age 60.

I was not living the life of the women who preceded me.

I take better care of myself.

And I’m grateful for every day.

“I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all.”

Joni Mitchell

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44 Responses to Biopsy

  1. Love this Van!! So glad it all went well. It does make us look at things differently having these challenges! I love that song and the picture!! Much love!:)

  2. markbialczak says:

    I’m so glad the relief came at last, Van. The worry, though, oh, the worry. Putting your life’s ease of mind on hold like that is torture.

    What a perfect spot for Joni’s gorgeous verse, my friend.

    Here’s to your anniversary of reclamation.

  3. Jim says:

    wonderful post. glad you’re still around.

  4. Happy for you, good luck and be well.

  5. Why do we just assume that we will develop whatever condition killed our parents? Sure, I understand a genetic disposition to a particular disease, and I understand worrying about that. I’m not being callous here – my Dad died at the age of 56 of a heart attack. I drove myself crazy as soon as I reached my 50s because I was absolutely certain that I would die at 56 just like he did. The worry caused heartburn, which of course I thought was cardiac pain. I’m still here, of course, so my worries were needless. (And it had never occurred to me that my dad died of a heart attack because he was an alcoholic who literally drank himself to death).)

    So glad your biopsy turned out to be just fatty tissue and that there were no further problems. I understand the stress you went through.

    • Thanks, CM, your words resonate. I was always told how much I was like my mother. In my heart, I know they meant her personality, but she was a raging, untreated manic-depressive. So…what about me ? I accepted the depressive episodes, that were mostly circumstantial, and it led to an inevitable diagnosis that I gave myself. I should have doubted a bit of the genetics. Still… Thanks for your thoughts here…so appreciated. 💕

  6. I’m glad to hear things have worked out. I may have mentioned this before, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer Last year and had to have a mastectomy. She is free and clear now. I was never so grateful for living in Canada and having access to the medical system and technology we have here. Not to mention the fantastic Dr.’s and nurses.

    • Kudos to Canada for taking care of your wife, John. So glad she is free and clear…such a relief, no doubt. Thanks for the share….I didn’t know. 💕 We spent a good deal of time in Toronto back awhile. I felt so at home, like I’d lived there before. If a transfer had come up to Canada, we’d have jumped on board.

  7. Nurse Kelly says:

    Sure am glad you’re alright and glad to hear you are taking good care of yourself. Wish you all the very best, always xoxo

  8. C.E.Robinson says:

    Van, keep your good thoughts about life! Stay healthy! Even though the past never goes away, it can be pushed further back in your mind. Live for today, just as you are! 💕 Chryssa

    • Yep, it’s part of the past now. I’m always reminded when October comes up, with breast cancer awareness. I was one of the lucky ones. I understand that. Moving on. Thanks, Chryssa. xox

  9. olganm says:

    Fabulous news! Yes, things have changed so much… So pleased for you, and may the good news keep coming in

  10. I’m glad good news came to you at last. Waiting for medical results is a wretched kind of limbo.

  11. George says:

    Waiting is just so difficult but thankfully you are healthy and enjoying life. For that, we are all grateful…:)

  12. Fiona says:

    So glad this worked out well for you. I know too many women who have had breast cancer. Two in the village – one who went through the most awful chemo last year, and then a double mastectomy; another who’s had the chemo and now going through radiation.

    I so get you about medicine being a business. There is such a fine line between being pragmatic and taking things to the extreme. I’ll stop now, except to say that I came to that conclusion 15 years ago when my mother died. All that money for pointless treatment and the doctors knew that she was going to die and they were just prolonging it. Not what she would have wanted.

    And good on you, breaking the cycle!!

    • I’m so sorry for your mother, Fiona, and what your family went through in the process. My mom had inoperable bladder cancer with a 6 month prognosis that dragged on for 2 years. She allowed them to experiment with new drugs and treatments, just extending her misery. It was so hard to watch. Thanks for your thoughts and comments.

  13. nancyruth says:

    Been there, done that. It’s easier to not think about the feelings during the uncertain period. Glad all is well.

  14. lbeth1950 says:

    I am so glad you got a second chance. I know lots of wonderful things have happened since then.

  15. Those are stressful times. Even waiting days is hard, let alone living with a shadow for years. Medicine is an evolving art and industry, isn’t it? A blessing overall, but with so much further to go. I’m certainly glad it turned out well. Better safe than sorry.

    • I think that if I were to do it over again, Diana, I’d have stopped the constant radiation a lot sooner.I think they were just milking my insurance. Even the surgeon thought it ridiculous to do the biopsy…but he did it anyway, for a huge fee. I guess I still have an attitude…sorry.

      • Oh, no sorry needed Van. I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. Cancer is still such a mystery and treatment seems like guesswork. If you are healthy, that’s all that matters. 🙂

  16. writerinsoul says:

    Beautiful. I like your balanced view, Van. I understand exactly the feeling that we’ll “get” whatever our parents & family “got.” Waiting on birthdays to see if we’ll be dead too. Even when we catch ourselves and realize it’s not entirely rational. But you know what I think it is? We just want to KNOW. It’s that uncertainty. What will happen to me?

    The medical system scares the blank outta me too. You want to believe people who hold your life in their hands, have your best interest, but it’s not entirely true. Your tinge of cynicism is not misplaced.

    And here you are. What you went through kicked open the door to this blog. In all its candor and skill.

  17. That must have been terrifying! I had a weird lump on my leg awhile ago when I was living in Thailand, and ended up freaking out enough that I had it removed. Arriving at the hospital on the fly, I was taken to surgery immediately and the lump was removed and I was told it was just a swollen sweat gland- absolutely no hassle and the bill was under $50!!!

  18. Van, I’m glad you’ve been granted the peace to live your own life, and not that of your relatives. Cancer, and the fear it causes, is so debilitating to folks who receive what is often perceived as a death sentence. It’s also nice to know that’s not always the case. :O)

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