of the starfish that wasn’t supposed to be there.

I had a physical January 11, 2023 and had a round of imaging on Jan 16th. This was the first time I was able to see my starfish on the screen. The radiologist walked in, said the spot looked suspicious and he was going to do a biopsy. I thought he meant he was going to do it right there and then, but he barreled on with ALL the words and by the time he came up for air – I realized he meant I’d come back for a biopsy. Whew!

He said it wouldn’t hurt, and the bruising would only last a few weeks – and it seemed impolite to laugh in his face, so I checked myself. I don’t give consent without comprehension and consideration. I checked out a few YouTube videos from doctors who perform this procedure, so knew what to expect. And although I tried to squirm my way out of it and to head straight for a lumpectomy, I did end up having the biopsy.

The biopsy wasn’t nearly as painful as I expected, and though he didn’t get the area entirely numbed and I DID feel the punctures, it wasn’t what I would call a big pain, thank God! That was followed by another mammogram, and then we headed home. Interestingly, there wasn’t much pain at all until about 24 hours later, and then I suppose the combination of the pain and the stress hit pretty hard. It was difficult to medicate for the pain since it wasn’t steady but came in rare bursts that were a little like grief: brief but intense. Honestly though, watching the whole thing on the screen was my favorite part! And I asked to see the core samples. They were 3 of them, quite long and just shy of 2mm wide in a veil of clear liquid, looking like something you’d bait a hook with. That was so cool! We are amazing creatures and the body is an amazing ecosystem! Watching the movements of the needle was really quite interesting, especially being able to see precisely the movement of the numbing medication through my body. Fascinating!

The wait between the biopsy on the 19th and the results on the 23rd – was a long one. Monday I got the news that my starfish is a malignant carcinoma. I’ll leave off all the impossible-to-spell medical specifics at this time. There are a lot of ways they study and score the cancer, and it’s actually really been quite interesting to see what they learned from those little core samples they took out of my starfish.

I met with the pink ribbon surgeon Monday the 30th for quite some time. This was probably the most challenging part so far because she was nervous, spoke super fast and super loud, (speaking overly loud is always a trigger for me) and there’s a ton of medical terminology. Thankfully, my Austrian was at my side taking detailed notes, so if I need to remember something I can refer back to his notes. My Austrian and I stopped for lunch and talked about the journey, and then headed back home to get back to work.

I’m scheduled for an MRI Friday the 3rd, and an appointment with an Oncologist on Monday. A dear friend has made an additional appointment for me with an Oncologist at Mary Washington as well, so we will also be scurrying over there next week for another opinion. I’ll also be back at the Funkhouser Women’s Center soon for them to install a marker in the starfish so that when it shrinks, it can still be found by the surgeon. That will be much like the biopsy, only probably in and out quicker.

At this point the proposed course of treatment is chemo x2, imaging, chemo x4, surgery, radiation, and then hormone therapy. I say proposed, because I have said a lot of “I will never” in my life, and chemo and radiation are on that list, so I suppose we shall see how this plays out.

I have an appointment with a consultant at Hope4Cancer Thursday, February 2nd to discuss a wholistic non-toxic alternative cancer treatment based in Mexico. If money were no issue, this is the route I would go, but of course we do live in a material world. What insurance will and won’t cover is very much a part of the conversations along the way.

I’ve purchased a tacky t-shirt with a pink ribbon and the word “survivor” across the chest. I may wear it from time to time as a declaration of who I am – no matter where I am in the journey. I think the fact that I am only 10 days into a cancer diagnosis with a long road of treatment ahead… well, that is making my head spin a little. My Austrian used the word “avalanche” and I’ve been thinking of a run away train. I expect that full-speed-ahead is warranted, but it’s thrown us quite rudely into liminal space once again.

Before I my physical I was having dizzy spells and I am having other symptoms that feel like I’ve been eating something on my food allergy list. I suspect Celiac Disease and so I intend to retest for food allergies. Maybe there is something new to add to the list and something else to take off. I hope that sorting that out will also be a part of this healing journey.

Strangely, my vision changed recently – probably as a result of Covid. I went to a new eye doctor and came out with a brand new prescription. Strangely, I have had some other weird vision fluctuations that seem to have settled into me seeing better than ever. Wow, I’ll take it. I only use my colorful collection of reading glasses when I’m doing super fine color work. This is just the beginning of additional clarity in my healing journey.

I’m much too sedentary, my vit D levels were way too low, and I was dehydrated when I went to see my doc, and so I am working at all of those things. I’m also working with a counselor on some trauma, and I’m visiting a Grief Share group each week as I walk through the death of my Mom. I’m dedicated to 2023 being a year of healing, and saying goodbye to my starfish is a part of my healing journey. I heard someone say that cancer is often viewed as an event, but it’s not. It’s a journey. I’m here for it.

I welcome your prayers. Some of you know much better than I do what this journey is like. So many of you have such a gift of hospitality that I’m sure you will ask what we need, and at this point – we don’t know. I intend to keep up this blog as we go along, but please know that I’ll be working at healing before I will be working at blogging. This is my little effort at having a way to communicate what is going on without having to remember who I’ve told what, what emails and text messages I need to return. I’ve already been flooded with messages and every time I try to figure out whose name goes in the BCC spot – I am drawing a blank. So hopefully putting the details here will make it simpler for all of us, and I apologize in advance for the impersonal quality of it.

Sending each of you so much love on your own healing journey. I have been helped so many times by hearing the stories of other folks, realizing that I’m not alone, and I’m just not as weird as I am sometimes tempted to think. So hopefully this process will help me articulate what we are going through, and maybe it will help someone else on their own healing journey as well.

All my love,


Bookmark of this blog page (Shenk.blog) and check back at the times of your choosing for the latest details.

11 responses to “Welcome to the story (Start Here)”

  1. Vanessa Ellen Baird Avatar
    Vanessa Ellen Baird

    I’m deeply saddened to learn of your cancer diagnosis, Carmen. My best friend is a breast cancer survivor and I remember vividly her phone call and following her journey of healing. I did a lot of worrying. She is alive and well while continuing to work and put her 2 boys through college.

    I am on my own journey of healing ….now, I am learning to turn worry into prayer. It is my honor to pray for you, and your Austrian. May God Bless You.

    Much love, Vanessa


    1. Carmen Shenk Avatar

      Thank you Vanessa, grateful for you! 💕


  2. Claudette Obenschain Avatar
    Claudette Obenschain

    Carmen, So sorry to hear about your cancer. I am a breast cancer survivor of 35 years. I walked this road again last year with our 41 yr old daughter. Your faith is strong ( I pray that our daughter will embrace that faith) and you are actively involved in your treatment choices which is very important. I will be praying for strength and wisdom as you deal with this disease. Claudette Obenschain


    1. Carmen Shenk Avatar

      Bless you both! We were just talking about Richard the other day because of some of the cars Xaver is working on these days. Please pass our love along to him. Please let me know how your daughter is doing. Sending love!


  3. Cindy Avatar

    Thank you for sharing your journey of healing. It is helpful to me! I am praying for you each day.


    1. Carmen Shenk Avatar

      Thanks Cindy. ❤


  4. melissa Avatar

    Carmen – sending you love and strength on your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carmen Shenk Avatar

      Thanks Melissa! 💚💜💙


  5. Celah Avatar

    Thank you for putting this site together so we can know how you are. Love to you, cousin.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carmen Shenk Avatar

      Love right back atcha! 💜💙💚


  6. Carmen Shenk Avatar

    My love to you and yours! 💕


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