"I don't believe I have cancer," I said several times. "After all, I'm healthy. And I'm only thirty-five."
I'm sure that Deb has heard every possible response from women as they wait for their results. She continued her explanations in a calm and professional manner, educating me about breast cancer and telling me what to expect if my biopsy revealed malignant cells. She was completely, blessedly neutral—I didn't get the feeling I had cancer, but neither did she give me false assurance.
Before the day ended, I had talked to a radiation oncologist, a plastic surgeon, and an entire cancer treatment team. Whenever I began to feel a little nervous and ask, "Do you think I might have—," someone always replied, "We certainly hope not."
Brett called my cell phone every hour, wanting to know if I knew anything. When he called around three or four in the afternoon, I told him they were doing the biopsy, but I was sure it'd be fine, no big deal. I could tell he was concerned that I was spending all day at the cancer clinic. He'd been thinking I'd be in and out in an hour or two.
Sue and I drove back to Green Bay and tried to behave as if the day had been completely ordinary. I made dinner, loaded the dishwasher, watched a little television, and went to bed. I kept telling myself that I had just lost my brother a few days ago, so there was no way I would have cancer, too. The odds were simply too great.
Just a cyst. That's surely all I had. Just a stubborn cyst.
The next morning, Brett went to work, Breleigh went to school, and I went to exercise. After I showered and dressed, I didn't want to be nervously pacing around the house and waiting for the doctor's call, so I drove to my friend Toni's house and kept my cell phone within reach.
Every time the phone rang, my heart lurched in my chest. But every time the phone rang that morning, it was Brett on the other end of the line. No matter how many times I told him I didn't expect to hear anything until after noon, he kept calling. Finally, I told him to hang up and go run some laps or something. "Study your playbook, sign some autographs, throw a few footballs. Just don't call me again until after twelve-thirty."
At five minutes past twelve, my phone rang again. I answered, half-expecting to hear Brett's voice again, but Dr. Henry was on the line.
I heard my answer in his first word: "Dear . . ."
"The biopsy shows that you do, in fact, have breast cancer."
A trembling rose from somewhere in the marrow of my bones, chilling my blood and shivering my skin. I felt as if I were standing naked in twenty-degree weather.
My mind filled with images of bald women—thin-armed, pale-faced mothers in hospital beds with their husbands and children gathered around.
A buzzing filled my ears, a sound so loud I could barely hear the man on the other end of the line. I had to force myself to concentrate on the phone against my ear.
"We'll get you an appointment for tomorrow," Dr. Henry was saying. "What time can you get here?"
I said I would be there first thing in the morning. I wanted to get this over with ASAP.
"Fine. Any questions?"
I blinked, unable to find the words to answer him. What could I say? Deb Theine had explained all the facts, but none of them had applied to me, because yesterday I didn't have cancer.
At least I didn't know I did. But hearing Dr. Henry's voice brought the truth home with stunning force. I had a loving husband, two daughters, a wonderful life. And breast cancer.
Unavoidable. True. Deadly.
Brett didn't wait until twelve-thirty. I had barely disconnected the doctor's call when my phone rang again. Without even saying hello, Brett asked, "Did you hear anything?"
When I didn't—couldn't—answer, he exhaled a jagged breath. "Oh, God."
His spontaneous prayer would have to suffice; I was too numb to pray.
"Don't Bet Against Me!: Beating the Odds Against Breast Cancer and in Life" Copyright 2007 by Deanna Favre. All rights reserved.