January 23–A Harbinger and the First Sign

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


10 responses to “January 23–A Harbinger and the First Sign

  1. Jinni Turkelson

    Jude, you are an inspriation! Thanks for sharing this story. Sending good thoughts your way.

  2. Judy, obviously you came through in good shape or we wouldn’t be reading this story. I love that you recognized the harbinger, at just the right time, and that you ask for signs. Well told!

    • I’m doing well Sharon. I now look for those Save the Tatas bumper stickers and take each sighting as a reminder to thank all the gutsy women who traveled this path before me and to offer a prayer for those on the journey. Since I have long followed your work in life writing I appreciate the compliment!

  3. Carolyn Blankenship

    Judy, sending lots of loving thoughts y0ur way. So glad we got to write together in Red River! Leilani just had a quintuple bypass done a few days ago and is doing wonderfully well. Spending time each morning loving on my recovering gal-friends.

    • How delightful to hear from you Carolyn! Your Red River Retreat was a game changer for me, truly inspirational. Will you send Leilani’s address to my personal email? I’d like to send her a card.

  4. OK, Judy, is the fact that this post appeared twice a sign? LOL

    I’m sure it is, I just don’t know of what as yet. I believe in signs, too, and I’m glad you got the messages you needed when you needed them. I think the important thing is that you were open to the possibility of signs and that’s why you saw them. I’m sure this bodes well for your continued health. Thanks for posting this (these?) just when I needed a sign – of something. Sam

  5. Sam, you always make me smile! Even when something is troublesome you always have a sense of humor about it. Laughter is a great healer!

  6. Judy,
    Thank you so much for these posts! It is amazing what we find when we open ourselves up to the signs that are always there for us, lighting and guiding us along our path…
    I am grateful for your courage and strength, all the signs that pulled you along and brought you to this point…I look forward to reading/hearing more from you!

  7. You are most welcome Laurinda. I think One Woman’s Day is an incredible step forward in blogging and I am pleased to have even a small role here. The variety and sincerity of the posts thus far makes me look forward to hearing from many more women. My thanks go to Linda, Susan, and you for nurturing this new SCN venture..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s