Dear Friends,

Over the past few weeks we have been looking for answers to a suspicious spot found on my most recent mammogram. The pathology report came through the patient portal yesterday. The lump is not benign like we had hoped. We don’t know the next step but below you will find my thoughts on how I plan to approach cancer, specifically breast cancer.

Mama Jem’s Cancer Manifesto

First things first, I’m not doing pink. No pink ribbons, hats, t-shirts or anything cancer industry related. I understand this is a blessing for some but to me, it doesn’t speak life. I’m not in denial, I know it’s there but it’s not part of my battle cry. It doesn’t matter where the intruder is or what kind, all cancer needs to go.

Cancer is something I have, not who I am.  My plan is to get rid of it as soon as possible. It is not now and never will be my identity. I plan on being a fighter and survivor which may be accurate labels but not ever my identity. My identity is in Christ. No matter what happens, I am his daughter and he is my Savior. If he decides to heal me physically, I’ll shout it loud. If he uses medicine to heal me, I’ll rejoice then too. Know this, whatever happens, my God is good. He is here with me. He is always present.

If you see me at the store and ask, “How are you?” My plan is to answer, “Fine thanks and you?” The store is not the place for me to chat about my health or personal life. There will be plenty of moments where my privacy won’t exist. I would much rather set up a time for you to come over for coffee or tacos. Feel free to say “I’m praying for you, here is a taco.” You can even hug me (not too hard) or just give a knowing nod. I’ll feel perfectly loved if I don’t need to answer questions in the aisle between tortillas and hot sauce. I don’t want to hide. I am not going to pretend but picture me with my arms full, trying not to drop anything and someone hands me the leash to their unruly dog. Something will hit the ground and shatter.

I have a friend going through this at the same time. We’ve talked about keeping a tally on how many folks approach us and offer cure or some sort of treatment they have for sale. If we did, I would be ahead by two. I’m taking Nancy Reagan’s advice on this one, no offense Brenda but Nancy told me to “Just say no”.

I know people mean well but when you say, “Call me if you need something.” but it’s ambiguous. Say something like, “Can I stop by the store and pick up some groceries?” or even “Can I bring you a taco?” Please don’t put it on the family to decide what to ask for during this journey. This will be a marathon, not a sprint. When the shock wears off, we will still be here fighting the battle. Having people still checking in later will be a blessing. If you get weary of us fighting this battle, imagine how we feel.

At this point, my sense of humor remains intact, it’s just less sophisticated at this time. Please pray for those who are in charge of my tests and treatment. I don’t always give a straight answer to their questions but it isn’t the first time in my life that someone wasn’t sure what to do with me. Sometimes my jokes aren’t funny but that’s ok, I still crack myself up. Side Note: I do find it sad that I can no longer quote Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop. “IT’S NOT A TUMOR” because goshdarnitalltoheck, it is a tumor.

Speaking of cancer lingo. We’ve made a decision to name the thing because all the words associated with it are too grim. We can now refer to it by name and are working on the eviction notice at this time. You’ve heard stories about squatters, they aren’t easy to eradicate but Mr. Walrath will be forced to leave.

Please remember my family and those close to me. Allison may not cognitively understand but her heart knows when things are not right. We are still taking her to Disneyland in December and she knows it.  Both of my children deal with trauma differently. Please let them process in their own way. Offer support, not advice. I’m grateful that my husband adores me but it’s an understatement to say that this is difficult for him. (That’s what he gets for loving me so well!) Russ also has his own way of processing things so giving him space to be himself will be one of the biggest gifts you can give to me. He still needs to laugh and enjoy life. He still needs to spend time with his little friends and a true listening ear when he is ready to talk. He also needs space to say no. My pastor/husband is really a husband/dad/pastor.

I have been on a sabbatical since July. My plan was to become more active in January. Apparently, my definition of active will change. I’m still going to mentor and I have a speaking engagement in February that I plan to keep. I may dial back some of the plans because I understand that this travel package comes with appointments, tests, poking, prodding and most likely extra mileage on the car. (Thank goodness I’ve been shopping for a new-to-me car!) I also plan to laugh, cry silly tears and make morbid jokes, not everything about me will change. I’ll still wear my lounging pants around the house because I want to look slick not sick. (I should copyright that…it’s good!)

Ladies, get your mammograms! Do it regularly. If you haven’t had one recently, call your doctor now and get scheduled. Know your body and don’t ignore the signs. Men, you have things that need to get checked too. Don’t wait because apparently, if they do find something there will be plenty of time to wait. (I’m currently waiting for two doctors to call me back. Whichever one reaches me first, wins.) We don’t know what stage or the involvement just yet. There are more questions than I have answers to and I cherish my privacy.

Today it’s not the worst news but I still wish it was better. Thank you to those who have already reached out. I appreciate my army of praying people and those who have beautiful words of compassion. The fact that you hung in here this long and read this far makes me believe that you deserve a taco. It’s Taco Tuesday for goodness sake. We all deserve a one today. (I will probably eat two.)

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