In December 1996, I went in for my yearly physical and a mammogram. A few days later, my doctor called me and, when I heard his voice, I knew something was not right. He said the mammogram had shown some calcifications and they wanted to take another look.
I met with a surgeon who suggested removing the calcifications even though there was a very small chance that they were cancer. In February I had a biopsy. They inserted a needle into my right breast and then did a mammogram to make sure the needle was correctly marking the area to be removed. They had to try a couple of times to get the right spot and I passed out from the anxiety. Finally, they had the needle in the right place and I went into surgery.
Once I was back in my hospital room, the surgeon came in and told me that the needle had slipped and, as a result, he had removed tissue from the wrong area of the breast. He apologized and said he had done over 200 of these operations and the needle had never slipped. He said that, after I had healed for a month, they would repeat the procedure. I was devastated! Everything that could have gone wrong that day had and now I had to endure the surgery again.
Two days later, the surgeon called to tell me that they had found cancer in one of the samples they had taken. If the needle had not slipped, they would not have found the cancer! I had a lumpectomy the next month and there was no cancer in the calcifications. The doctor asked me once what I thought had happened and I told him I knew exactly what happened: "My guardian angel helped you find my cancer, you removed it and I won't have cancer again."
I have been cancer-free for seven and a half years now. In some ways, having cancer was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I have met so many wonderful people along this journey—women I have been able to help and women I couldn't help—and I'm stronger and healthier than I've ever been. My husband, children and grandson are reminders of all that I cherish and how thankful I am to be here. Sometimes I wonder why I'm still here and why others didn't make it and I thank God every day for blessing my life.
Natalie de la Varre