Butterfly Sparks Designs

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Please make that appointment and show up!

Over the past couple of weeks a few women have said something to me about going ahead and scheduling their mammogram because of me. They are “thanking me” for prompting them to do this thing they knew they needed to do, but had not yet done. I’m praying that if there is any hesitation in you, that what I am about to share will also move you to action.

In 2005 I had a mammogram. It came back with some suspicious looking areas. I had to return for additional scans. Fortunately, the surgeon felt that my suspicious areas were simply calcifications and nothing to worry about. I left his office greatly relieved and with his direction ringing in my ears, “Be sure to get your annual exam.”

Over the next four years I scheduled a mammogram on three separate occasions and cancelled every single time. I even made it to my regular doctor for an annual check up and my ob/gyn for one annual appointment. Everything looked great. All my blood work was lovely. "Don’t forget to get your mammogram…"

Most women in their mid years are dealing with a lot of life transitions. Jobs, homes, parents, kids – it’s just part of the season we must learn to cope with. But one of the side effects of the season for me is that I failed to prioritize some basic maintenance in my life. I knew I needed to stop and get a mammogram. but I reasoned away my appointments. Yes, I was busy, but there were some other things going on inside my head that deceived me into behaving in an apathetic way.

Here’s a few of the major ones…

I was afraid. I knew the face of breast cancer pretty well and frankly, I didn't want to deal with it. What I have found is that breast cancer knew me before I knew it. No amount of my fear kept it away. As a matter of fact, if I had faced my fear and it had been a bad report – that report would have been much less devastating than the one I finally got.

Sickness is weakness. All my life I’ve had a bad attitude about illness. I’m not very compassionate and I pretty much want you and me to be well. If I feel bad, I rest as little as possible and as soon as I can, I’m up and going. Anything more than that and in my mind I'm giving into weakness. Oh my! I have been so arrogant. My heart was both ignorant and judgmental. No exertion of my will, lack of compassion, or inner strength kept illness away.

I am well. I thought I was well because I had been well. I’ve been blessed with a lifetime of health. I don’t expect a bad report and I don’t look for symptoms in every little situation. During the first week of my diagnosis as I was answering health history quizzes – one after another – I’d check all the other boxes with a no and say to the technician, I am well. There’s a fine line between believing for divine health and walking in ignorance. I was ignorant.

I can’t deal with it right now. For about a year before my diagnosis, I’ve been having some strange physical issues. I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping. I had a strange rash that no doctor could figure out! I would wake up in the middle of the night with intense itching. I remember saying to my sister in law not too long before all this started, “After xyz, I’m going to have to stop and check this out. I can’t do it right now because I’m afraid it could lead to something extensive and I just can’t manage it.” I visited the doctor a few times. They’d test my blood, talk to me about managing stress, give me around of steroids and back I’d go. Even when in my gut I felt like something might be going on, I didn’t suspect breast cancer, but I suspected it might require more of me, at the very least tests and time, and I just didn’t feel I could stop.

It’s too expensive and I don’t have a doctor. For years, Mark and I only had a major expense insurance policy that had huge deductible and big co-pay. We were in the insurance business for years and we know how important proper insurance can be and that you do not want to do anything that will make you uninsurable. I knew that any amount of diagnostic testing was going to be expensive and potentially change my insurability. (I was right about that!) In addition, we moved to a new city and I didn’t have a doctor. I kept putting it off until it was more financially feasible. I thought I was doing appropriate risk management.

I assure you that in the moment each of those “excuses” seemed legitimate. But as I look at them now, they seem ridiculous. By delaying attending to basic preventative procedures, I have allowed the disease to be much more advanced. As a consequence, every impact in my life is multiplied.

What I was afraid of, I am now forced to face and fight. It could have been a little fight, but now it’s a big one. I find that the sickness I despised, I must now learn to operate with on a daily basis. There is no putting off until after this or that to receive treatment or visit the doctor. My calendar is now based around treatment. The few minutes it would have costs me for the mammogram have become months of doctor visits, scans, procedures, treatments and tests. Cancer came into my "right now" and demanded my attention. Illness is expensive – there’s no doubt about and no way around it. However, I have added substantially to the length and breadth of the treatment I will require. I have made the financial impact more devastating for our family, not less.

Now finally – here’s the real costs! It’s the costs to my husband, my children, my family, my co-workers and my friends. I thought I was prioritizing all those people when I was taking care of everybody and everything except for me. But the truth is, my lack of self care has costs them the most. They will never be the same. Illness is not something you experience in isolation. It reverberates through every relationship and responsibility and has an impact on every other person in your life. Of all the consequences of my disobedience, this makes me most sad.

Obviously, I failed to do what I knew to do – and the consequences are pretty substantial. I know this sounds heavy – but I believe there’s grace for me. I trust Him in this season, but my trust is now mixed with a new level of obedience. God is redeeming my mistakes and turning them into something wonderful. I’d be honored if one of the wonderful things came in the package of a comment from you that said “thanks for reminding me to take care of myself.”

Please stop and make that appointment. Then go one step further and show up! Even if the results are less than what you hope they will be – it will be better for you and the ones you love than waiting until your body demands your attention. You are the only you your loved ones have and nobody can take your place or carry your load.

Please take care of yourself first! Make that appointment! Then show up!

With love,



sacha said...

Oh WOW, Jan! How amazingly beautiful that you embrace such selfless humility to help others make wise choices!! I NEVER take care of myself! I have been guilty of doing the bare minimum for that my whole life! I think I've thought I was being super woman or it makes me feel weak to do anything else! I don't want to be weak my dad died when I was little and he dealt with a lot of unrelated illness before that! My mom then took us to all kinds of doctors for everthing!! I think I thought, " I think I am well, therefore I am!" Thank you, Jesus, that my loving mom & sweet husband care enough to basically force me, but I really admire you and realize the err of my ignorant ways!! Jan, I am blown away and strengthened by your strong gift of Love for others & desire to follow Him & dream big!!! I am so thankful I had a chance to get to know you a little!!:) Love, Sacha

Marci Elliott said...

Jan - I need that reminder! In the last 5 years, I've had 2 annual gyn exams, 1 mammogram, and 1 physical. I keep forgetting to make my mammogram appt. Or maybe I just put it off because of the discomfort. But you've so eloquently pointed out that the temporary discomfort of a mammogram is far better than the lengthy discomfort and ultimate cost of not getting one.

Thank you beautiful lady - I will be calling tomorrow to make my appointment!

Love you, Marci

Melissa Terry said...

Jan, thank you for being so open and honest! This is so powerful and I copied and emailed it to my mother and mother-in-law. While its not time for mammograms yet, I have a few other appointments that need to be prioritized. Thank you for the reminder that its not "selfish" do the things that NEED to be done.

Love you,


Dianne Bennett said...

Thank you Jan. Your warnings are heeded. One thing that you said really makes me think. You said you went to the Dr. when you were experiencing these problems and they diagnosed wrongly...it makes me see the responsibility to press in to get the right diagnosis and don't let those doctors pass you by when you know somethings up. My own body has been full of stange and different and not fun things as I've experienced premenopausal symptoms. I'll listen very carefully and ask questions to see if it's really the menopause or something more.
But please stop beating yourself up. You are so full of faith and I think somewhere inside your head you were thinking.."You are the LORD who heals me" and "you wouldn't let me get sick". But we live in a fallen world and we need to learn to trust with all our strength and exercise wisdom as well. There is a line there. I've not yet attained it. But I submit all my aches and pains to God and go to him first before I go to the Doctor. In this Western world we live in that is not normal, I know,...but I want to have a more Eastern way of thinking so that I can truly get into what God wants to do for me. You are awesome..I am so sorry for this, your season of suffering. I love you so. blessings, Dianne B

Unknown said...

Jan, I have my doctors orders here right beside me as I type this. Sadly, I haven't taken the time to make an apt. to have that dreaded mammo. I will make the apt. tomorrow. And your Sickness is weakness bullet is me all over. I've even had a biopsy in the past. You'd think I'd learn. Thanks for the gentle nudge to do the right thing.

Rebecca Wilson said...

I will say with much heart, "Thanks for reminding me to take care of myself!" I've put off that mammogram too. But for me it's much bigger than just this. Several other things came to mind as I read your awesome blog. Things I'm probably afraid of, in denial about, ignoring, don't have time for and yes, am arrogant about. Yuck. It's really about hearing the Lord and obeying isn't it? Thanks for being my mirror today. I'll continue to pray for your complete healing.
Thanks, Jan.

Michelle Benami said...

I am in such admiration of your honesty. In the midst of your journey, you have the courage to encourage others. He is proud of you!!
Prior to my leave of absence, I worked in the mammography field, as a technologist and as a care coordinator for ladies facing a possible breast cancer diagnosis. It has been my profession of choice for 16 years and it has also been one for which I have a great passion. I promise you that more than one woman's life will be impacted by your story and your honest revelation. I have seen it many times in my career. And it is such an encouragement to the woman who was originally diagnosed to know that she helped a friend, sister, or mother to be diagnosed early. He WILL honor your testimony, Jan, and your devotion to His daughters!

Thank you for reminding all of us of the importance of taking care of ourselves so that we CAN take care of our families. Thank you for also reminding us that fearing what is unknown does not change what is unknown. This went straight to my heart. He has not given us a spirit of fear! I love that you are embracing a new level of obedience. God is so good to turn what is difficult into victory!!

P.S. one more thing I might add to all my sisters....PLEASE go to a reputable, dedicated breast center for your mammogram. The staff are more experienced, the doctors read only breast imaging exams, and it has been proven that more cancers are detected earlier at specialty centers than at general diagnostic facilities!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jan. I know I have used every one of the excuses you listed! My Mother struggled with strange symptoms over the last year of her life, including a rash that no one could diagnose! She to put off some appointments and suggested tests due to fear. When finally diagnosed with acute leukemia it was too late for her. She died the next day. I listen much more closely to what my body tells me know, but not close enough. I am still making excuses. I've cancelled my annual exam twice in the last 3 months. I'm making that appointment today and I'm going to keep it!!! Thank you so much for your candid honesty. I love you and I'm praying, as always.


The Durham's said...

This is so good and so wise! Thank you for saying what needs to be said and being so transparent. I'm proud of you, friend, and appreciate every word:) I desperately needed this reminder. Love you!

Anonymous said...


One thing that came to my mind as I was reading your letter and it was "beating yourself up over it" was all through your letter. LOL

I probably wouldn't have gone either because of the costs and would have just trusted God that he would take care of my needs and keep me healthy.

I don't think you should look back at your past and try to figure out what you did wrong or if you were the cause of it.

Just like that mammogram technician lady commented above about some doctors office's miss the diagnosis and get it wrong.

And I am sure going to a specialty center like she said is also very costly.

It almost sounds like it's a 50/50 chance if some doctors can't even detect the cancer.

My point is that we can't live in fear. I have noticed a lot lately in life that everyone wants your money.

The Pest Control guy says we need him to come Quartely to spray for bugs.(It's $70 each time to spray)

The A/C guy for our house says it's good to get your A/C inspected yearly even though you aren't having problems(That's $70 bucks right there)

The lawn experts tell you you should have your yard professionally fertilized quartely also.

The hairstlyist tells you you need to get your hair trimmed every 4 weeks even if you wan't your hair to grow out. My hair doesn't grow that fast. Don't you think they just want your $40 to keep them in business.

The dentist says you need to come twice a year. Now that one I do listen to because I eat a lot of sweets.

I am just saying there is nothing you did wrong to bring this upon yourself.

We can't live in constant fear every day of our lives.

Plus, sounds like the doctors can't discover the disease a lot of the times anyway.

I know most of the ladies commented that that is wise go get checked.

But still, we can't live in fear.

Does this mean I need to go get checked everytime I get some cramp or pain in my body?? By all means NO!!

If I ran to the doctor each time something was strange happening to me I would be broke.

It's all about trusting God.

Jan, don't beat yourself up. There was nothing you did wrong.

God Bless You.

I hope I helped. That's just how I see it.

Have faith in every area of your life.

Job's friends told him it was his fault for the disease and calamity that struck him.

Eliphaz accuses Job of Folly.
Eliphaz: Job has sinned
Eliphaz: Job is Chastened by God
Bildad: Job Should Repent
Zophar Urges Job to Repent


Love You!!

Jennifer Martin

Anonymous said...

Hello sweet friend, thank you for sharing your true self with us and not candy coating it...we need to be told to wake up!!! After you were diagnosed I was doing a self exam and found an unusual lump. I was about a month early on getting my mammo but I went in immediately and got it done. It came back fine...thank you Lord. You inspire me and I love you!!! Lisa M

Anonymous said...

There is a difference in living in fear and being wise about your health. Jan knows that this is not her fault, but I believe what she is saying is that there ARE times when the Sweet Holy Spirit nudges us to do things that we don't do and the disobedience can be very costly.

Thanks Jan, you amaze me! Got my first mammogram this spring, just a few weeks before we found out from Mark.

Lovin' you from the Carolinas,
Crista Schronk

Anonymous said...

In regards to my previous comment(comment 10).

Another example of people telling you "You have to"

is the Toyota car dealership.

I am sure all car dealerships tell you this--You "have to" get your car checked every 30,000 miles and they charge you $300-400 even if there is nothing wrong with your car.

Another example is the Veternarian's office. They wanted to do a $400 work-up on our then 6 month old puppy. Maybe he was smaller. It's been awhile. He had explosive diarrhea and him being our first dog we were concerned it didn't know about "common sense" practices. They told us to not feed him for the night and bring him in for a follow up X-ray. We cancelled our follow up X-ray which would've costed us $100 more dollars. His stool was solid the next day.

Why didn't the vet give us the common sense stuff first instead of jumping full force with the $400 workup? It's because they want your money. They are more interested in making their buck. They wouldn't get any money if they told us to go take up his food bowl or try a different brand of food. He was a puppy. Puppies can't handle certain types of food.

Also on hair products. You don't have to buy the lie that you "have to" buy the expensive shampoo/conditioner to have healthy hair.

Is $20 really worth it for a bottle of shampoo? There are shampoos that hurt your hair and your budget.

How can we give to the poor if we are spending $50 on shampoo/conditioner?

If Jesus were here, don't you think he would use VO5?

My point is just because someone says you "have to" do this once year year doesn't mean you "have to"

Why don't we pray about these things and if Holy Spirit prompts us then we should if not, then don't worry about it.

Have you ever thought that maybe the doctors are trying to instill fear into women? It's more money in their pocket books. I am sure those mammograms aren't cheap.

Of course they tell all those baby boomer women out there to come get checked once a year.

I think they want your money!!

Just because the dentist tells you to come twice a year and you don't doesn't mean your teeth are going to rot.

My former vetinarian said to brush our dogs teeth once a day.

My husband can barely to remember to brush his once a day.

They also tell us to have the dog's teeth cleaned(meaning under anesthesia type cleaning) once a year.

That's $100 in their pocket book.

The doctor's don't always detect the disease anyway.

Don't beat yourself up because you didn't get their lousy mammograms done.

Don't buy into people's lie that if you don't get such and such checked you'll be sorry!.

Jennifer Martin

Anonymous said...

I am not saying you shouldn't have a check up.

I am saying don't condemn yourself and beat yourself up if it slips your mind to get your teeth examined twice a year, or A/C inspected, house sprayed quartely, mammogram, yearly physical, brushing your dog's teeth once a day, etc.

Living for the Lord is all about faith and trust.

I don't get in my car each day and say I better go get my tires checked so they won't fall of the rims. I hope my tires will make it today, unless you really feel the Lord prompting you to do it.

But don't beat yourself up over forgetting to do something.

Jennifer Martin

Those things cost money and they aren't always helpful in detecting a disease or problem anyway.

marsia said...

Dear friend~ thanks again for confirming to me that we/I try to be superhuman! I learned last week that supernatural is not the spectacular-just the natural accelerated. Likewise, when I try to be "super-mom/wife/friend/supervisor/daughter/sister/cook/anything"- I am living not spectacularly, but accelerated--and not always a good thing. It's in the slow moments that we can hear and think clearly. I have taken heed of your heart and will follow accordingly. I love you~m

Leigh Ann said...

My Dear Jan,
I hear your compassionate heart speaking WISDOM to those you love... "Be wise, trust God AND be wise". We all have regrets. I know your heart is crying out to keep those you love from experiencing what we may not have to. Thank you for being the woman strong enough to share your own regrets that we may not have to experience them ourselves. What a sacrifice of love! I love you dearly! Leigh Ann

Michelle W said...

I've never had one and have put it off ... but was already thinking I should due to your circumstances. I will go ahead and schedule one. Thanks for encouraging us to take care of ourselves. Love you bunches!

Leigh Ann said...

Jan, I shared your message with several friends. Two of them are scheduling their mammogram appointments today. Thank you again for your "Trust and Obey" message. Continually praying... Love you!

Anonymous said...

Hey Jan!
I had my first mammogram at 35, baseline... then at 40, I had my mammogram, at 41, I thought, I'm too busy, I'll get to it... During my year from 41-42 not only you, but our friend J and another friend of mine were all battleing breast cancer. All my age with no apparent reason for having the desease... Let me assure that on my 42 birthday I had my mammogram!
The tech even said I said something she had never heard before... "Squeeze as tight as you have too! Rip it off if you have too, but I want a good picture!"... LOL... you are changing lives, and God is using you! Keep fighting and winning!
Love you much.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your "gentle" reminder of just how important those dreaded appointments can be . . .I forwarded this post to one of my dearest friends on facebook and guess what? We both have made appointments & have made a pact to keep them. Thanks, Jan! You and the entire Greenwood Family are in my thoughts and prayers as you continue your Journey.