Sunday, February 12, 2012

Kathy's Brush with Cancer

It was almost 15 years ago that Kathy was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Prior to that, whenever I heard that a woman had been diagnosed with breast cancer my first thought was, "Well, she will be dead soon."  So you can imagine how I felt when Kathy received her diagnosis.  The pathology report on the tumor was not very comforting.  It said that there was already evidence that cancer cells had broken into the lymph vessels.  The deadly thing about cancer is that it spreads through the lymph vessels to other parts of the body where new tumors can start.  The accumulation of many tumors gradually sucks the life out of the healthy cells in the body.  I went to the medical library at the university where I worked and checked out two thick books about breast cancer.  I took them home and devoured them.  I was looking for something in the books that would tell me Kathy would be okay.  Unfortunately, the books didn't give me much comfort.  The best news that I found was that Kathy's tumor was fairly small in size and smaller tumors where correlated with better survival.  I also found that whether or not cancer cells could be found in the lymph nodes under the arm was important for prognosis.  If no cancer was found in the lymph nodes, that was good.  The more lymph nodes that had cancer, the worse the outlook for survival.  One day in church, I had a thought that went something like this, "You are looking in the wrong books for comfort.  You should be looking in the scriptures."  This helped me realize that the true comfort I was seeking would come from the Holy Ghost, not from reading medical books.

I remember feeling a sense of complete peace on the morning of Kathy's surgery.  I had gotten up early and had gotten ready so Kathy and her mother could get ready.  While I waited for them downstairs in the kitchen, I realized that all of the fears and worries that I had been experiencing for the past three weeks (since the diagnosis) were gone.  Instead, I felt nothing but peace.  That feeling stayed with me all morning throughout the 4 and a half hours of Kathy's surgery.  I wasn't sure what the peace meant, but have since come to realize that it was the Holy Ghost letting me know that all would be well.

The first good news we got in this whole affair came early in the morning two days after Kathy had the surgery to remove her right breast.  She was in the hospital and I was at home with the kids.  She called me about 6:00 AM.  One of the residents that worked in the oncology unit had seen the pathology report from the lymph nodes (taken from under Kathy's right arm).  He literally ran into Kathy's room to tell her that no cancer had been found in any of the 22 lymph nodes that were examined.  Kathy immediately called me and relayed the good news.  I was so relieved.  I had had two nights of nightmares about the pathology report coming back really bad.

This was not the end of the story.  Kathy had a long recovery from the surgery and still had to have chemotherapy.  Maybe I'll blog about that another day.  But she did gradually recover.  The hair she lost during chemotherapy gradually came back.  She gradually regained her strength.  Though I would never wish this experience on anybody, I learned a lot of lessons from this ordeal.  And I know Kathy did too.  This whole account has been from my view point.  Maybe someday Kathy will write about it from her viewpoint.  The two most important lessons I learned was 1) how important Kathy is to me, and 2) that Heavenly Father is aware of us individually.


  1. How ironic that you blogged about this? I was just thinking about this last week. I know that Heavenly Father knows our individual needs too! I am grateful for you both!

  2. Okay, now you have me crying like mad. I'm so incredibly grateful that her life was spared. I can't even imagine how hard that experience must have been for both of you. The comfort of the spirit is such a priceless gift. I love you both so much.