the first diagnostic tests: imaging

Feeling that lump…oh, I would say from that point, it felt like a train ride that started with a lurch and slowly departed from a quaint station where all things were lazy and beautiful. With each chug, the worry and concern grew. I knew in my bones the next stop would be somewhere dark and sinister.

Let’s pretend for a moment I didn’t end up getting the cancer diagnosis. The train ride between wondering and knowing is an actual experience. It’s physically and emotionally happening. If you or anyone you know, ever goes through a cancer scare, it’s actually a real thing. It’s ok to affirm that it’s really scary, that it really sucks. It would be appropriate to bring a meal or flowers. It’s a real thing to get the testing and and have to wait over the weekend wondering if this is your last trip to the farmers market as just you…how you knew yourself without cancer

   jenna at the farmers market 

It was the night before the first diagnostic tests that Brent and I fought until 2am with windows open on a beautiful spring night. We were yelling. I’m sure the late night dog walkers lingered to listen (I would have if I were out there.) I wanted to make sure he was the man I needed if I got cancer. I didn’t say it like that, but that’s what he heard. I screamed at him, swore at him, flipped him the bird when he was yelling at me. It was as if we hadn’t learned anything in 17 years of marriage.

He was like a child who couldn’t see the darkness about to descend on our home. He could only hear my judgement and harsh tones. I was like a captain trying to prepare my army for a battle. We were missing each other completely. Both frantic. We wore ourselves out, moved toward some modicum of tenderness and fell asleep.

Early next morning, cocooned in my big, cozy, orange sweatshirt, I headed over to the hospital. After a smashing time with the mammo tech, I headed in for my ultrasound. The radiologist walked in with a resident after viewing my first images. The first words out of his mouth were, “Do you have a history of breast cancer in your family?” “No.” They rolled over “the suspicious mass” and armpit for a quite some time.  As their eyes were on the screen, my eyes were on them, studying them for tells. Do they know already?  They must be very good poker players. I asked the doctor nothing. He explained that they wanted both a breast and lymph node biopsy. After he left, it occurred to me to ask the tech if my lymph nodes were enlarged. Her back to me as she entered the order, the key-tapping paused and then finally, “yes.” Oh.

I called Brent and told him that more testing was required. He said, “I’m so confused. What does this mean that you’re getting a biopsy? Is this normal?” That’s when my compassion grew triple fold. He didn’t see it coming. He’s always been too optimistic to expect something like this. I like that about him. But, I needed him to start feeling this with me. So he did. With the exception of my sister Neely, we were alone with our growing concerns. We started accepting the possibilities. Tears at night. Tears in the morning. Tears in the garden. Tears in the driveway before walking into a dinner party. It was before anyone else really knew; and so we quietly carried our burden. But it was okay—beautiful actually—because we carried it together.

11 thoughts on “the first diagnostic tests: imaging

  1. Jenna, You may not remember me from Covenant pres., but I remember you…your big beautiful smile and fun, outgoing and winning personality. Your posts are so helpful in directing my prayers not only for you but for several other friends who are also battling nasty cancers, brain, breast and pancreatic. You are a very clear and good writer ( you probably already know that) but thank you for sharing your heart and mind with us and helping us who are praying and walking with our friends through the fight.

    Praying and hoping with you, Sheila Norman

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing,I appreciare your candidness.Prayer is powerful, you are powerful,you will win this battle. LOVE YOU BOTH.


  3. Oh Jenna,
    I was in the same place last September. My heart is full for you and I will tell you that at the beginning, it is overwhelming, but it gets better. I promise. I went through chemo, then a double mastectomy, then, having expansion for reconstruction, and finally, radiation (although my pathology came back completely clear!) I am now winding down my Herceptin treatment and waiting for my tissue to heal enough to complete reconstruction. My husband’s name is also Brent, as a cI incidence.
    I have to say that I am learning so much through this experience and accepting so much about myself. I read all of your posts and send good energy your way.
    If you ever want to talk, just email me.


  4. “After a smashing time with the mammo tech”
    You make me laugh till I cry & cry while I laugh.
    You’re amazing. Not just now. I’ve always thought that about you. And it’s super immature of me that I even can admit I’ve done what you’ve done & said what you’ve said to my rock solid hubs. But I didn’t have cancer as a reason. My reason is much lamer. I’m immature & bratty & still being sanctified.
    It’s a privilege to see a window into your journey, to pray for you & to love you in whatever little, teeny ways that I can.


  5. Oh Jenna,
    You don’t know me but we probably have many mutual friends. I am a nursing supervisor and I am thinking of you as I make my rounds and greet so many patients just like you. You all remind me that no one is immune from suffering. Some seem to be but we never know what they struggle with when no one is watching. The most amazing part of traveling through these dark, scary places is that we are forced to reach out for the only light we know, the only one who is able to make something beautiful from it. When you reach for Him you are able to be light for all the other people who are groping for comfort! You are amazing and I was truly blessed to read your post!

    Michele Collett Maack


  6. Hi, Jenna,

    I’m sorry to hear of your lemons. We will be praying for you, Brent, and your family. Blessings,



  7. I know you about as well as I know that barista at caribou, who also vaguely remembers me and is patient with me while I take five times longer than the average person just to answer the ten cents off question, and equally patient when I decide I want to spice up my coffee drinking life and, triplet patient with me when I end up ordering my same old black coffee. It feels odd because I don’t do that thing that people do where they falsely attach their emotions to people they barely knows woeful tragedies. (you know that person at a funeral that cries and hugs a little too hard and come to find out they were their barista at caribou?) In fact people that do, do that piss me off. It’s conflicting because I feel a genuine connection to your stories and I mean, needless to say I’ve bee following your journey religiously so that could be it, but it feels deeper. I only realized this morning that you have become my favorite character. My favorite story character, and then that really pissed me off. It felt so insensitive and I couldn’t believe I had allowed my psychee to surface that thought. I don’t know where I’m going with this and god, I’m not looking for a response, but I think if I were you it would be comforting to know that there is a world beyond “your” world that reads, and thrives on you and your peace of mind.


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