Yes We Can, Sir.

What came first, the cancer or the mammogram?  For me, it was just like the movies -though real life rarely ever is.  I found a lump on Sunday, March 11th, as I was getting ready for bed.  Normally the embodiment of anxiety, I felt relatively calm because over the course of my 32 years, I’ve learned that things rarely turn out like they do in the movies.

“Probably a cyst of some kind,” I remarked to my husband, “I’ll call the doctor in the morning.”  And I did.  I was scheduled for Thursday to come in for an exam, and I waited without much anticipation.  It wasn’t cancer, it couldn’t be.  I have no family history of it and buhsides, I have spent so much of my life living in ways that steer me clear of The Cancer Path.  No smoking ever, no drinking ever, no drug use ever.  I cut out gluten and significantly reduced the amount of inflammation in my body.  I meditate daily and was smack dab in the middle of a yoga program.  I hadn’t worn deodorant in 3 years -I’m very fortunate to either not have a huge sweat problem or to have family too polite to mention it.  I eat good food.  I breathe a lot of solid country air.  I laugh.  I’m not lonely.  I have a good attitude and a huge support circle.  Everything points to NOT CANCER.

Everything, that is, except the medical tests.

The doctor confirmed my lump and sent me in for my first mammogram.

“And a follow-up ultrasound, just in case. They might kick you loose after the mammogram, but we always block out time for an ultrasound, again, just in case.”  The mammogram was surprisingly more fascinating than painful.  The images that lit up the screen were mesmerizing, a glowing web of perfectly positioned ducts and nodes: my own personal galaxy.  I waited for the radiologist to look over my images and answered a timely text from my best friend.  Danny sat in the waiting room, not able to come back on account of the privacy of other patients.  I waited for them to kick me loose, like the doctor said.


“Alicia, we’re going to need you back for an ultrasound,” Maggie said.  Maggie is the ultrasound tech and a very lovely person.  I struck up conversation with her, hoping to ease my anxiety and increase my curiosity over the whole situation.

“Is that my lump?” I gazed at the screen.

“Here, at the 9 o’clock position,” she pointed.  We talked about kids and the origin of our names, and then the radiologist came in for a peek.  He nudged the ultrasound wand around my chest and took a deep breath.

“This lump looks suspicious,” he said, “So we’d like to order a biopsy.”

“How soon can I get that?” my voice squeaked out, anxiety again overtaking curiosity.

“Next week sometime,” he washed his hands, “They’re real quick about getting people in.”  Maggie put her wand away but watched me carefully.  She led me back to my dressing room to change and gently called through the accordian dividing door.

“You come tomorrow.  I blocked off my 10 o’clock time slot.  Tell them at the desk.”

The front desk wasn’t thrilled about the scheduling, but they powered through and 24 hours later I was back in the waiting room.  I’d cried most of the drive over and asked God what I was supposed to learn from all of this.

Endurance was the quick and clear response.

Well, damn.

This time, Danny was able to go back with me.  It all felt surreal.  Didn’t OTHER people get biopsies?  Older people who ate more gluten and had a lifetime of sporting aluminum-laced deodorant behind them?

The doctor put a needle into my lump and punched a loud button that released a sort of claw at the end.  It scooped up some of the lump and he brought it out and put it into a prepared cup.  After six rounds of this, I was bandaged up and released back into the wild.  My lump sample was carried carefully to pathology while I tried to wrap my mind around what had just happened.  After my mammogram, Danny and I had gone out for sushi -something we’d planned on as a sort of celebration after enduring my first mammogram.  But as we sat close together in a corner booth with Asian-themed pillows cushioning our backs, we neither of us felt like celebrating or even talking.  Our arms touched -he’s handily left-handed, so this has been working in our favor for 14 years.  I sit on the right, he sits on the left.  We had our phones out and stared blankly at them while absorbing the comforting warmth of each other.  Our menus sat untouched in front of us.

“Made any decisions yet?” Our waiter appeared at the table.  We both slowly lifted our heads and stared at him as if he’d spoken to us in perfect Japanese though he was obviously of Northern European descent.  And just a poor college kid.  We shook our heads.  As he walked away, I thought of all the times I’d judged folks for zoning out on their phones instead of looking at each other and connecting.  But all that washed away in that moment as I realized maybe some people aren’t capable of connecting because maybe a doctor had just said nasty words to them like, “suspicious” and “biopsy.”

“Can I possibly get a menu that doesn’t just say ‘suspicious’ all over it?” I sighed over my menu.  Danny chuckled and between the both of us, we mustered just enough focus to order our lunch.


“So silly,” I shook my head, “It’s not like it’s actually cancer.”

The internet confirmed my opinion -70% of all breast biopsies are not cancer.  So I went cautiously, merrily on my way and did my best to focus on the Easter weekend ahead of me, praising Maggie the Ultrasound Goddess all-the-while for getting me in as fast as possible and relieving me of that burden at least.

Now all we had to do was wait.





  1. I am so so very grateful that you are writing about this.
    I love your voice and have missed having it in my life.

  2. Emily Ruth says:

    You. Thank you for getting these words down. ❤️

  3. I know the feeling somewhat. After my son was diagnosed my husband and I went to get sushi a few months later. We did just sit there, holding hands, not sure what to even talk about.

    • I was just checking out your website, and I’m so sorry about your little man! The only thing that would make going through cancer worse is if it was one of my KIDS going through it :(

  4. Ohh Alicia the true storyteller that you are!! Capturing me from the first word and sucking me in only to leave me on the edge of my seat waiting for the next edition. I am truly sorry for this trial in your life and would wish it away if I could. You however, have put on such a brave face and are helping and inspiring so many others to laugh and push through their own struggles right along with you. Me included and can I just say that Danny is truly an AMAZING Man! My love and admiration for the 2 of you is only growing more. Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life. We love you guys

  5. I feel like we talked and talked throughout this week and we kept casually saying, “it’s not cancer”. Ugh.

    But Alicia, I’m so glad you are writing.

    • Let’s just say you’re a fortune teller and this time next year, we’ll be saying, “It’s NOT CANCER!”

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