Friday night at the women’s retreat, Barbara Crafton urged us that “now is the time to erect a spiritual life – don’t’ wait until tragedy strikes, because it strikes us all”. As I heard these words, my Monday annual mammogram popped into my head. Would this be the year that they find ‘something’? Could this be the ‘tragedy that strikes’? Are these words intended to prepare me?
With each passing year, the annual ‘mammo’ has become more extended and more panic-inducing. In the beginning it was a basic set of pictures, then quick release and off to joke about being smashed by a refrigerator. Later on there were re-do scans, followed by new magnification scans. Then at some point these no longer sufficed, and yet another waiting period and additional ultrasounds became standard procedure. I hope for the best and brace for the worst. There have been some dodged bullets along the way: benign, albeit not ideal biopsies and pathology reports. I feel like a ticking bomb.
Monday morning did indeed turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The final step was “get dressed and we’ll talk about this”. Before I had time to think, I was receiving instructions on how/when a biopsy would be scheduled. I thought again about Barbara’s words “tragedy strikes us all” and wondered if this was it?
I took a nose-dive into quiet paralysis, not able to properly hear or respond. Eventually, the spiritual life I have gradually been layering day-by-day did carry me out of the clinic and calmly guide me back into the traffic of my life.
It was going to be another 10 days before the biopsy and several days thereafter before I would know the results. How was I going to function for t-w-o whole, excruciatingly long drawn-out weeks, suspended in this not-knowing funk??? How? I felt trapped. I ran wild what-if scenarios that shut me down.
As each day passed, I told one friend, and then another friend, and then another. Each one said they would pray for me. At some point along the way I was overcome with a sense of “peace that surpasses all understanding”. It was crazy. I was sleeping deep and long. The fear subsided. I was peaceful. It made no sense.
I had a picture in my mind of all these prayers forming a web like a steel mesh. It was strong. It shone. It was indestructible. It could bend a little and morph into whatever shape was required. It was protecting me from falling into a dark abyss of fear and panic. It was so real, it was almost palpable. I even smiled and laughed again. The what-if scenarios fizzled out. Life carried on. Life was good. The web of prayer gave me strength to stare down those biopsy monsters. They were no longer completely controlling my state of mind.
Ten days later, on the day of the procedure, prepped and ready for the incision, I noticed the Muzak tape was playing “Amazing Grace”. How sweet that sound was. Again, peace. Again, the invincible steel mesh of prayer holding me up.
Five days after the biopsy, I was in the middle of a meeting when I got the phone call from the Dr. with the results. I was ready for anything. Again, that peace. Again the web of prayers wrapped around me as I answered the call: Benign. Praise God!
The biopsy monsters had came pounding on my door. I was forced to stand and stare at them for 15 days. They weren’t shooed away in a few hours, or couple of days, as I so desperately wanted them to be. The longer I stared at them, the weaker their hold over me. The more I felt the presence of the prayer web, the less scary they appeared.
The two-week wait from hell turned into a gift from heaven.
A new fear barrier has been broken. I feel changed by this. The web of prayer was truly powerful. There is another way forward. Next year, the mammogram won’t be as scary. Wrapped in that blanket of prayer, I stared down those mammo monsters. They are still scary, but they can’t eat up my spirit!