Starting with Surprise Upgrade, Blessings for Breast Cancer Checkup

Starting with Surprise Upgrade, Blessings for Breast Cancer Checkup

A Lump in the Road column

When I turned 27, I bought my first car.

When I turned 49, I experienced my first cancer diagnosis. (And I hope, my last).

The car I bought was a sensible choice, a used four door Sentra sedan with low mileage so entrenched in practicality that friends made fun of it. I drove it until I got married at 34, and yes, I was able to snag a man with my car’s exotic appeal.

I treated my introduction to cancer with equal pragmatism. The morning after I discovered my lump, hard as an almond and just beneath the skin of my right breast, I saw a doctor. Slowly and carefully, I worked my way through cancer’s complicated, terrifying treatment process.

For me, it took a Sentra sedan mentality to fight my breast cancer and beat it.

Since purchasing that down-to-earth Sentra, I’ve insisted on an equally prudent, no-nonsense approach to other vehicles in my life. I’m a low key girl, at least when it comes to cars. I want reliability. They need to start when I turn the key and go in the direction I point them, but they don’t have to look good doing it. I need tread on the tires, wipers that work, and airbags I hope never to use.

Our truck.

My husband and I bought a heavy duty truck and fitted it with a lumber rack, a vehicle that helps us do our work. It now has 280,000 miles and lots of evidence of hard labor.

And our SUV even tops our truck’s odometer. It reads 307,000 miles.

When I travel, I take practicality with me and ask for the cheapest rental car available. This week, I headed to San Francisco for my bi-annual cancer check up at UCSF Hospital and had my usual exchange at the car counter.

“I can upgrade you to the next level for just two dollars a day,” the salesman coos.

“No thanks,”  my unwavering reply.

“Would you like the specialized GPS?”


“How about an SUV for the price of a mid-size?”

“I’ll pass.”

So I hand over my credit card for the cheesiest car on the lot. It suits me fine.

But this week, when I went to the lot to get into my cheap-mobile, the attendant directed me to an unusual line up. “Pick one,” she said.

I didn’t understand. Three shiny vehicles gleamed in front of me, but none of them matched my frugal style. “Um,” I said, “are you sure this is right?”

She nodded her head. “These are the only three cars we have left.”

So I rolled my suitcase to the red Camaro convertible, sliding into its leather seat and feeling my “cool” factor escalating palpably. “God must be smiling at you today,” the attendant said when she saw my mystified face.

I’d been looking for evidence of God all month, looking but not feeling.

Every six months, I travel to San Francisco for my cancer check up, a day when I learn whether or not my deadly disease has returned. Statistically, I’m at the point in time when it is most likely to come back, and that thought has nagged at me for the better part of two weeks. I can feel tension in my neck, my jaws, my shoulders, my stomach. Though I pray for peace, take walks and practice deep breathing, that peace has been elusive lately. It feels like I’m just going through the motions of spirituality without really living it.

But in that moment, I focused on that lot attendant’s spontaneous observation, and I felt the benevolence of God. I willed that feeling to carry over into my upcoming appointment.

Then, I put the top down, timidly at first, until a thought occurred to me. “What the hell, why not me?”

With confidence, I drove that flashy red car to the hospital, where a smart, kind, dedicated nurse named Marina told me that I am still cancer free.

Smiles all around.

Note: Breast Cancer News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Breast Cancer News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to breast cancer.


  1. Gina Aponte says:

    Thank you for your candid journey, my friend. Your article invites us right into that car with you. Here’s to the red convertible, riding with the top down, and the smiles of God! ? So thankful for these six months!

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