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Walking the road not chosen

Editor's note: This is another installment in a series by former staff writer Barb Kromphardt.

After failing two mammograms, I was told I would need a needle biopsy, and because of the nature of my condition, it would mean a surgical biopsy. The nurse at the mammogram center checked with the surgical practice just across the street and came back with a date just more than two weeks later.

The long wait was my fault. We had a family vacation planned for many months for the following week, and they told me there was no reason to cancel it. Whatever was wrong with my breast – if anything – wasn’t going to get any worse in a couple of weeks.

So, we went on vacation, and oddly, I had a pretty good time. As I’ve said before, I’m a bit of a hypochondriac and can work myself into a frenzy over very little. But now, facing the possibility of cancer, I was strangely calm. I still didn’t think I really could have breast cancer and that this was all a mistake.

I’m sure the prayers of my friends and family were holding me up, as well.

After returning from vacation, I had my meeting with the surgeon. The examination room was filled with posters of diseases I didn’t want to think about. My angel – the nurse from the mammogram center – was there with me. She told me she would be there for me as long as I needed her. I told her with a shaky smile I hoped I didn’t have to see her again for a very long time.

The surgeon came in, gave me a brief exam, and then explained what he was going to do. My breast would be numbed, a needle would be inserted into the site of the suspicious sparkles on the mammogram, and then the cells would be removed.

The only good news was that I would be given conscious sedation rather than general anesthesia. In other words, I’d still be out during the procedure but breathing on my own.

The surgeon was optimistic, and he said the odds were very good the “sparkles” were only calcium deposits and not cancer, and if they were, well, we had caught it nice and early.

He was pretty thorough, and I didn’t have too many questions, but I did have one thing I wanted to tell him. You see, I’m adopted, so I don’t know what my genetic history is regarding breast cancer.

But my emotional history was something different. They had found the same sparkles in my adopted mother’s breast many times. In her case, they were just calcium deposits until the last time, when they found she had breast cancer.

About 10 years later, long after her mastectomy scars had healed, the breast cancer came back, Stage 4 this time. Within a month, she was dead.

So, choking back tears, I told the doctor, “So I know how this whole process can go, and how this can end.”

When I went out to schedule the biopsy, I told the clerk I was eager to get it done as soon as possible. We set up a tentative time for early the following week.

The next day the phone rang. It was the surgeon’s office.There had been an opening, and I was set for two days later, on Friday morning.

I was glad to have the procedure moved up. I wasn’t looking forward to it, and this way I wouldn’t have to worry about it over the weekend.

I notified my family and faithful friends, and sent up a few desperate prayers of my own. I prayed for peace and calmness, for steadiness in the surgeon’s hands, oh, and for some positive results, if it wasn’t too much to ask.

Barb Kromphardt, currently of Columbus, Ind., was a reporter for the Bureau County Republican and interim managing editor of the Tonica News and the Putnam County Record. She can be reached at

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