Denise Day Spencer

March 28, 2006

Like the night my house was burning (epilogue)

Filed under: Personal reflections — denisedayspencer @ 4:38 am

Here's the fourth–and final–essay about what I've been experiencing the past five weeks. Immediately after the surgery, while the nurses and Young Doctor were transporting me to recovery, the Good Surgeon met with Michael and told him he was confident just by looking at the tumor that it was, indeed, a benign fibroadenoma. And this is a surgical oncologist who specializes in breast cancer. The man knows his tumors.

So I was 99% convinced that I was really O.K. But there was still one post-op checkup to come, at which time we would officially be given the pathology report. It was a happy week as we told people our good news. Yet there were still those moments when I would wonder, "But what if he's wrong? What if I'm the first patient he's ever had in all these years whose tumor looks like a fibroadenoma…but turns out to be some really rare form of cancer?"

I was much less anxious on my second visit to the U.K. Comprehensive Breast Care Center. No X-rays this time; I was ushered right into the exam room. My Good Surgeon's eyes were smiling as he gazed over his spectacles and said the most beautiful word in the English language: "fibroadenoma." The pathology report made it real. I was free.

He checked my incision and we said our goodbyes. You know, having a surgeon you really like is kind of a bittersweet thing. As far as my health is concerned, I hope I never have to see him again. But he was an important part of my life for those three weeks. I'm rather going to miss him.

The full impact of my good report hit me as soon as we stepped into the elevator, and I began to cry. "What on earth is wrong?" Michael asked.  "You heard him say it a week ago," I blubbered. "But I needed to hear him say it for myself."  Michael hugged me. He understood.

At times throughout my ordeal, I have felt almost silly at how worried I was, how I couldn't help but think the worst. But as a friend has reminded me more than once, "It doesn't mean we don't have faith in God. We do. But we're still human, and sometimes we just get scared." Amen.

So now as I gaze up at the stars at night or cherish the afternoon breeze on my face, I feel a bit of "survivor guilt." Some people ask, "Why me?" when faced with a tragedy. I ask, "Why me?" when given back my life, my health. Why am I handed a "Get out of jail free" card when so many others face surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, even death? I ask the question and get no answer. But I am grateful.

I want my gratitude to lead to more maturity on my part. I don't want to just say, "Whew! Glad that's finally over!" and go on my merry way. I want to learn whatever it is God wants to teach me. I've already mentioned the sovereignty of God. Another thing that has been prevalent in all this has been a renewed focus on what's really important–and what isn't. It's amazing how petty I can be…until I think I may be dying.

I've been very thankful for the recent writings of Dr. John Piper as he has dealt with his own cancer scare–which became reality. Who else would write an essay entitled, "Don't Waste Your Cancer?"  Piper says, "God’s design is clear from 2 Corinthians 1:9, 'We felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.' The aim of God in your cancer (among a thousand other good things) is to knock props out from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on him."

My sentence of death was commuted for now. No matter what the future holds, may I rely utterly on Him.

I want to thank my nurse practitioner, Karen Cheek, ARNP and Dr. Neeraj Mahboob, our  family doctor. They were willing to take no chances with my life and health. I'm grateful to all at the University of Kentucky Comprehensive Breast Care Center for doing in a few hours what I thought would take days or even weeks. And many thanks to my nurses at the U.K. Center for Advanced Surgery for turning a terrifying experience into a cakewalk.

My unending gratitude to Dr. Patrick McGrath, voted by me in 2006 as The Best Surgical Oncologist in the Universe and Beyond. And eternal best wishes to my guardian angel, Dr. Jeremy Wells, a highly skilled physician who is, I'm sure, much older than he looks.


  1. […] 1 Like The Night My House Was Burning Part 2 Like The Night My House Was Burning Part 3 Epilogue Link to this entry| […]

    Pingback by » Blog Archive » Like The Night My House Was Burning by Denise Day Spencer — March 28, 2006 @ 4:48 am | Reply

  2. I came to this series of stories from the links off
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Michael Spencer is correct in saying that you are a gifted writer. I was almost in tears reading anguish and the joy of your ordeal. I wish I had had something like this to give to my Mother-In-Law when she went through breast cancer. Thankfully she’s been a survivor for 6 years now and still going strong.
    I pray that others may find your story and find the inspiration to lose control and let God take over.

    Comment by Rong — March 28, 2006 @ 5:42 pm | Reply

  3. Denise…simply put..your writings are beyond awesome. Especially since Pam and I have been where you have been.


    Comment by Steve — March 29, 2006 @ 12:55 am | Reply

  4. Beautiful.
    Your writings and YOU.


    Comment by Tracy Day — March 30, 2006 @ 5:54 pm | Reply

  5. There was a night I’ll never forget when God revealed to my heart that He was and will continue to be Sovereign. It was the night before we started bombing Iraq commencing Desert Shield/ Desert Storm. I walked the flightline contemplating disobeying orders to take this medicine for the possible Scud missle that might have a chemical warhead. Now that I look back I too can see the hand of God and wonder why me, when so many others did not come home. Denise you are, and have always have amazed me. Peace my sister, love ya.

    Comment by Theo Wayne Prince — April 4, 2006 @ 2:17 am | Reply

  6. I read all four installments today. Although I do not know you and often lurk on BHT, I deeply appreciate your authenticity. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    Comment by Ted — April 14, 2006 @ 10:59 pm | Reply

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