I had something show up on my recent mammogram, and if this has ever happened to you, you know it hits you hard in your gut. It is a feeling you don’t forget, the thought of cancer, the worry and wait for the next appointment. The appointment with the surgeon.

I had ample time to think, to remember how my life is a vapor, a small blip in the universe, a speck in the fabric of time. It was a similar speck that had been seen in my left breast that started these unwanted ruminations. This existential crisis brought a need to just be in the present moment, because that was all I could handle and all I could control.

The sense of control is such a faux-ami on so many levels, a false friend. We have very little under our own control when examining our lives. A circle of influence, perhaps, a decision to react in one way or another to the surprises of the day, but so much is thrust upon us haphazardly.

But I digress…my mammography results were scary to me. My impatience gnawed at me. The biopsy was fully out of my comfort zone, my sphere of influence, and a full three weeks away. All I could do was pray and ask for prayer from others.

There had been so much stress in my life. Family problems, issues with adult kids, empty nesting blues, fender benders, wind storms, insurance claims, work deadlines, and it piled on incessantly, all to culmination in the wait for a dreaded biopsy.

When the morning finally arrived, I was calmer than I expected, just wanting to get it over with. I felt prayed up, but prayed out. My energy level was low, and apprehension was high. I hoped God was still there, though I was not feeling him just then.

A beautiful, dark-haired woman called my name and led me down a sterilized corridor, my husband following quietly. She showed us into a small exam room and instructed me to take everything off from the waist up and don a short gown, which was more like a wrinkled cotton cape, with two snaps barely keeping it together in front.

Then, we waited. An hour passed, and no doctor or nurse stopped in. I began to wonder if anyone would relieve our solitude. My husband, being the itchy kind of nonconformist that he is, said he was going to start opening cabinets and drawers, because that was the sure way to get someone to appear, to risk getting caught rifling through the cupboards. And lo, once he had looked through all those nooks and crannies, a medical student appeared.

He began asking questions after his introduction. He was a little unsure of himself but asked all those proper things about medical history. After his short exam, he left. Ten minutes passed, and footfalls in the hall heralded the arrival of my surgeon. A tall, lanky form entered the room. This was not at all what I expected. Though he towered over everyone and commanded the room, his nature turned out to be more fraternal.

Dr. Cowboy appeared casually, wearing a brown plaid button-up shirt with collar and a pair of brown dress pants held up by a simple brown leather belt. His hair was shorn short, he had kind brown eyes and an intelligent smile surrounded by the most Western mustache I had ever seen in a hospital setting. This mustache was well-trimmed, going all the way down toward the chin on both sides of his mouth, like a goatee but without the beard. It accentuated his cowboyness. So did the scuffed and beaten up boots on his feet.

He took my hand and shook it carefully, then did the same with my husband, and explained we would listen to the history I had discussed with the intern to be sure all was accurate, and to build confidence and competence.

When the intern mentioned we had been married 31 years, our three professionals erupted in applause and gave congratulations. (A third person, a nurse, had also come into the room wearing a pink breast cancer awareness shirt and shorn locks. Was she a cancer patient? I never got to ask.)

The exam began, and Dr. Cowboy showed a meticulousness, a great attention to detail, and mentioned there were no concerning details in the physical exam. Then, he swiftly brought a computer to the side of the bed, asked me to sit there with him, and we looked at all the mammogram pictures together, side by side, with my spouse looking on behind us.

Dr. Cowboy had an easiness about him that helped me to be calmer. He treated me like a long-lost neighbor that he admired but maybe hadn’t seen in a while. I sat with him as an equal, and we discussed the pictures like school chums perusing an old yearbook, and he pointed out the most important bits.

We talked about the reasoning for the biopsy and what that procedure entailed. He turned to me, sitting as close as a brother would be, and he offered his hand, saying, “I always like to ask God’s favor, but I can easily ask Him on my own if you don’t want to.” This shocked me, and the words did not compute. What was he asking? My husband replied assuredly from behind me, “oh, yes! We do want to!”

And that is how he prayed for me in that little exam room full of five people. I put my hand in the cowboy’s own, and he prayed for me just as he would have prayed for his sister. I saw that everyone was reverent, and I grasped that bubble of trust around me, heard the cowboy’s voice, and felt God’s unmistakeable presence there. Nothing else existed.

The next phase was the imaging and operating room. The dark-haired woman was there again, smiling, and as the encouraging technologists helped me into position, she came to the side of the table and asked if I had been a teacher, because I looked familiar to her. Through discussion, we learned that, indeed, she was a former student of mine from many years ago, and that brought her into the special circle of people God had built around me on this difficult day. She brought another layer and level of comfort to me as she held my hand through the whole procedure, allowing me to squeeze her during the pain. She talked me through the whole ordeal and became an unexpected anchor of friendship.

At the end of the poking and prodding, Dr. Cowboy exclaimed that it had gone extremely well, that all the targeted samples had been captured, and he gave a shout, “yes!” with a fist in the air. He gave praise to the team in the room and let me know he would be calling soon with the findings.

My tech ladies bandaged me gently, and my dark-haired friend tucked me into the recovery bed with a warm blanket and an ice pack.

I am shocked and amazed at the care God put in orchestrating my day today. I know these professionals were put in my path because God listened to my prayers and to those prayers of my friends and family. This brings to light the true meaning of the verse that declares God knows the number of hairs on our head.

How can the God of the universe care about little me? And yet, I know He does. He gave me a praying physician and a child from my past to comfort me when I felt vulnerable, exposed, and scared. Thank You, God, for reminding me that You hold us all in the palm of your hand.


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