Luck and Happenstance

Chair on HighlineFour years ago today I found a lump. A “perfect storm” of happenstance saved my life. My sister, using a hint of guilt, had me agree to say the rosary every day for Lent. It was a Sunday and I was tired so I lay down to “finger the beads”. There was a chill in the air so I moved my wrists up next to my breasts for warmth as I said the rosary. I was wearing a thin sweater and wrapped myself in a wool throw for warmth. I found the cadence of prayer soothing but between Hail Mary’s, my wrist bone felt something weird and a chill went up my spine.

A lump.

The lump was undetectable in mammograms, sonograms and could only be felt when I lay on my back and pressed in that exact spot. There was no history of Breast Cancer in my family. My mother and sister had benign lumps which gave all of us a false sense of security. Every doctor I met with was surprised by the results and in the end a 3.5 inch DCIS tumor was removed along with a 1.2 mm cluster of cancer. Basically, my lump could only be found on a cold day with my wrist positioned in a particular way that is perfect for saying the rosary.

I still get chills when I think of the details.

That was the beginning of a two year roller coaster ride of surgeries.  Four years later, I relish my days filled with good health.

This entry was posted in Cancer, Essay, mastectomy, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Luck and Happenstance

  1. Greg says:

    It’s so good you knew about the cancer at such an early stage, you must have had so many “what ifs” running through your mind when you found the lump.
    Do you relate this experience at all to the religious aspect of saying the rosary?

    • maesprose says:

      When I found the lump, I had no idea the two year journey that lay ahead of me. If I had, I don’t think I would have gotten off the bed.

      I know the entire experience should have made me more religious. It didn’t. I remain the same as when it all began. It’s in reflection that the “what ifs” circle in my head. My Lenten deed for that year was to do 40 sit-ups a day until my sister convinced me I should do more.

  2. elroyjones says:

    The way you discovered the lump is compelling, Mae. I don’t believe but experiences like yours make me want to.

  3. LB says:

    Your words gave ME a chill down my spine and the way you write let’s us all feel that moment in time. Here’s to your health!! I’d raise a glass to you, but I’m in my office right now … later, I promise :-)

  4. Gary Holmes says:

    Thanks for sharing. So glad you decided to celebrate Lent that year!

  5. dear Mae,

    thank you for sharing this part of your story, the one that shows we must be our own best caretakers of our bodies, and that even though you found that lump by happenstance, maybe other’s will be motivated to do more than what our doctors advise in self-examining for anything suspicious – like lay down flat on our backs, even turn onto both our sides. one woman I know found a lump while bending forward blow-drying her hair. she could feel no sign of it when standing, and it, too, was missed in a mammogram deemed clean just one week prior.

    I am so grateful you found your lump, but so terribly sorry for the clusterfuck of what you suffered with treatment. I celebrate your return to good health and thank you for rocking our world with your incredible writing and your beautiful heart. keep writing! keep taking pictures! I love it all!

    much love and light, dear Friend,

    Karen xoxo

    • maesprose says:

      Karen, I agree that you are your own guardian and that intuition should be listened to. I can’t believe your friend found hers while blow drying her hair. Oy!

      My treatment actually went well. There was that problem of lumpectomy then a mastectomy two months after that. The thing was, my mother was dying as I was going through all of this. I remember days when I had to focus on breathing in and then out. The doctors were so supportive and plastics put me on the slow track to give me time to mourn the loss of my mother. They were really amazing.

  6. tw says:

    And long may your good health continue Mae, with happiness and no more happenstance

  7. John says:

    A toast: to four years, and to rosary beads.

    • maesprose says:

      LOL – wouldn’t be here without the beads!

      • John says:

        When I think of rosary beads, I think of the pair that my uncle (the priest) sent us from one of the mission trips he went on. I think they are from somewhere in South America.

        Anyway … remember in the 1970s, the big salad fork and spoon that people hung on their dining room walls? The big huge wooden ones? The beads were like that. It was a full rosary — the full number of beads — and a cross (not a crucifix though) — and, each bead is just a little bigger than a golf ball.

        My mom had them hanging on the wall in the hall for many years … and, she’d get mad at me when I referred to them as The Serious Sin Beads. It was the rosary one used when you did something really bad. :-)

      • maesprose says:

        My first grade teacher (a nun) used to wear a HUGE rosary around her waist.. the cross would get lost in the folds of her long skirt. It was before Vatican II when they wore the old habits. I love the term – Serious Sin Beads. Wouldn’t want to have to revert to them!

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