• Rhonda Layton

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Was Different in 2021

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

I never expected it to happen to me.

In the years past, Breast Cancer Awareness month to me meant football players wearing pink shoes or my friends and I walking in a Race for the Cure 5K. Honestly, that's really it. I never have had a close connection to it and I'm grateful I have no family history of this cancer that affects so many women and men.

But that all changed a few weeks ago.

While lying in bed, with my body in an awkward position, and my hand over my chest, I felt a weird and rather large lump on the side of my right breast. I'd never felt anything like it before, and so I did what is probably the worst thing to do after I had a mini panic attack...I went straight to Google. Surprisingly, based on the articles I read, I felt like this large lump would be okay, but I needed a doctor’s exam and word to settle my fears. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday so I couldn't call until the next day. I immediately called the doctor’s office at 7:00 a.m. Monday morning and was told I couldn't get in for another week. That simply wasn’t going to work for my worrisome thoughts. After a few more calls, and some advice from friends, I was able to get in for an appointment the next morning.

I will be very honest. My mind initially went to the all the dark places. I felt fear. Some real. Some irrational. And vain as it may be, I imagined myself losing all my hair, having to go through treatment, and trying to understand what I, a healthy and fit almost 47-year old, did wrong. Why me?

Or wait, God...are you trying to get my attention?

I chose to be very select with the people I told. I needed love and prayers to combat the fears I was facing. And I've learned that when we go through trials like this, we must surround ourselves with these types of people. The types of friends that encourage you, uplift you, listen, cry, and sit with you during your most tender and fragile moments.

The first appointment was encouraging. My doctor felt like it was a large cyst, but scheduled a sonogram the next day to be sure. I was also encouraged that I have been proactive in getting a yearly mammogram and my last one in January came back normal. All signs that everything was going to be ok. Right?? But, I kept thinking about the women I've seen my age go through treatment for breast cancer. How strong they appeared and what an inspiration they were to so many other women facing similar battles and I wondered if I was going to have to be that fighter too. I started to reflect A LOT on the past few years. I had defined "healthy" as eating well and exercising daily. I had that part down, but I began to realize these things are just a small part of living a WHOLE life. My stress and anxiety the past year has not been great. Blame it on the pandemic, moving, getting older, faced with being an empty nester, not having my family close to us, uncertainty, uncertainty, and uncertainty...all the things and changes that have caused disruption with my peace.

Please God, whatever the outcome, I trust you, but please just give me peace.

The next couple weeks were filled with a lot of prayers, and a lot of waiting. A sonogram in a cold and dark room, that left me lying in deep anticipation as I surveyed my entire life, past and future before me. Then waiting on a doctor’s analysis and recommendation.

She said it appears to not be “dangerous”, but a biopsy was needed in order to be sure.

Dangerous? As opposed to…oh thank you for not saying that word.

Then a biopsy a week later, followed by more waiting. A standard procedure for them. For me…loneliness. I needed to hear that “not dangerous” phrase again…but she said nothing. Did she see something different this time?

Patience and uncertainty are the two things in life that leave my heart unsettled and my mind wandering. Was the plan for the next couple years of my life going to get completely overhauled? How would this impact my family? They need their mother...they can't be without their mother! Would I be treated quickly? Would I get really sick? The hair...I just couldn't stop thinking about my HAIR! WHY IS THE DOCTOR NOT SAYING ANYTHING TO ME? Does she see something that looks bad? Why do I feel so lonely? NO....there is no possible way for me to pretend I feel comfortable with my shirt off and my body contorted while you smash my boobs, knowing there is something there that is NOT NORMAL. And every single time I turn on the radio, I have to hear another commercial about breast health! THIS is not helping my peace. I just want to cry!

So I let it all out there…in that exam room. All of it.

"Do you need a Kleenex?" That's what one of the mammography techs said to me after the biopsy while trying her best to keep me comfortable. It seems silly, but that really comforted me. She made me feel human and when I was finished, she looked me in the eye, mask to mask and told me she hopes I'll be ok.

I cried all the way home. I knew I'd be ok...regardless of the outcome.

God, what are you teaching me?

I'm teaching you to let go, Rhonda. I'm teaching you to take care of yourself. Your mental health, your physical health, your spiritual health. All of it.

I'm asking you to trust me in all things.

I'm using so that other women are also proactive. So share this message, not for you, for them.

Five days after the biopsy, and two weeks after the initial appointment, I got the news I had hoped for...benign!

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And to all the women that have gone before me and didn't have this result, I thank you for your courage. This is not an easy battle you are fighting or have fought, but you have taught me to face my fears and I hope that my story will help other women not only face theirs, but to take care of every part of themselves. We owe that to ourselves and those that love us.

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