by Judy Whelley
In 2009, on my way to the dermatologist’s office to have a stitch removed from my nipple after a biopsy of some irritated skin, I saw one of those pink ribbon bumper stickers. The print under this one looked a bit different and I could not quite read the words. Avid word lover and reader that I am, I maneuvered my car till I was in position to read the bumper sticker and laughed out loud, “Save the Ta Tas!” I thought there goes a gutsy woman with a great sense of self and a great sense of humor.
At the office, I asked the nurse who had just removed the stitch about biopsy results. She said it was odd that they were not in the folder but she would check on them.
She returned, with the doctor, who pulled up a chair and said, “We have to have a little talk.” My heart sank. I wondered what kind of skin problem I had on my nipple and what the treatment might be. I was stunned when she told me that I have breast cancer, a rare type called Paget’s Disease. It accounts for less than five percent of breast cancers. At that moment I realized that the bumper sticker had been a harbinger, a preparation for what was ahead, a reminder to stay positive, maintain a sense of humor, and that being a gutsy woman is a good, good thing.
I have a dear friend who, whenever she is troubled, asks for signs from the universe to let her know things are unfolding as they should. She always promises that she will recognize the signs when she sees them.
After the doctor gave me the news and that the first line of treatment is surgery, she left to make an appointment for me with a breast cancer surgeon at the University Hospital at the state capital. She felt strongly that because of the rarity of this kind of cancer I needed to go to a major medical center. I just nodded. Do you know how, when you have just heard something truly astounding, for a while it is the only thing you can hear? I just kept hearing, over and over, breast cancer. Then, through that roar, I realized music was playing in the room. Despite my anxiety, a smile crept over my face. It was Louis Armstrong singing Wonderful World. I had helped found a charter school and that was our theme song. I was immediately soothed by the memory of several hundred children touching their foreheads and then outstretching their arms as they sang “and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.” The peace and hope of those children centered me. I took a deep breath, relaxed into the music and the memory, and acknowledged the sign.
Judy Whelley lives and writes in Dayton, Ohio. Visit her blog at http://www.sensuouslysixty.blogspot.com