When Jamie LaPointe called to schedule her annual mammogram and Pap smear in 2019, her regular gynecologist was on hiatus. Her initial thought was, “Nobody else is doing my Pap smear,” and she was on the verge of hanging up the phone.
But a nagging hunch told her not to.
“Before I hung up, I said, ‘You know what? Just schedule my appointment. This is silly.’”
So she had her Pap smear, then as she’d done many times before, walked directly to get her mammogram with Sherry, a cancer survivor and technician who had performed LaPointe’s mammograms for years. But this time was different.
“When we were done, she said, ‘I want to take another image.’ That had never happened before. She said, ‘I think there was a little shadow,’ and I said, ‘Stop it. I don’t have enough to cast a shadow!’”
In the hours and days that followed, LaPointe remembers a lingering “weird” feeling. A second mammogram and an ultrasound followed. Because the disease was “sneaky,” attempts to place a marker were challenging. But finally, after mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy, accompanied by family members, LaPointe heard the words: invasive lobular carcinoma. It was not the most evil cancer, but it was a sneaky, elusive one that hides well.
Her first reaction wasn’t fear – that came later.
“That didn’t startle me. I think I was just prepared. I’m like, God, this is your will,” LaPointe said.
Tears and fears mixed with strength and peace followed: Her biggest fear was that a predisposition to the disease may have been passed on to her daughter or granddaughters. She recalls one day soon after her diagnosis sobbing for hours, then being unable to sleep with emotions swirling, only to feel a palpable embrace that she believes was God. And after that – assurance that whatever might happen, she would be alright.
“Not everybody has the same faith, but I think everybody has something to believe in. For me, it was my faith in God. I felt his presence always to take care of me,” she said.
Despite the chemotherapy, LaPointe kept working as the Outreach Coordinator at Lutheran Services Florida-Currie House where she’s been for 34 years.
There were defining moments like losing her first tuft of hair when boating with friends. But through it all, she assumed a victor’s stance.
“That day my first chemo ended, Heather, my daughter, said, ‘Are you riding home with me?’ I said, ‘I’ll ride with you but we’re not going home. We’re going to eat.’ She said, ‘You can’t go to lunch, what if you get sick?’ I said, ‘What if I wasn’t a cancer patient and I got sick?’ She said, ‘Well, we would go home.’ ‘Well we’re going to do the same thing,’ I said. ‘I’m not going to go home and sit and wait to get sick. I’m just not going to do it.”’
And she didn’t!
She prayed, she juiced, she tapped, she listened to hope-inspiring music, she traded supplement tips with others dealing with cancer. She felt guilty that others were so sick while she was rocking chemo.
And she leaned on friends and family. Like many cancer patients, LaPointe says they were an integral part of her healing.
Many moments with her support team are emblazoned in her memory, like the day she came home after her mastectomy to homemade chicken and dumplings and welcoming friends.
“They come by and they bring it, hang out for a bit. And then they notice if you’re tired.”
When she was especially weak, one friend climbed into bed with her and they watched television together. Others kept friends updated on her progress.
Tapping into the wisdom of others who have walked the path is crucial, advised LaPointe, who remembers mentioning a natural supplement to a friend dealing with chemo-induced neuropathy. It was a game-changer for her.
“If I had a testimony from it, reach out to others who have gone through it.”
Now cancer-free for more than three years, LaPointe no longer has to check in with her surgeon and only has 14 months remaining to take the chemo pill.
Despite her good prognosis, she reflects on the season as spiritual, tough and growth-inducing. Yet still “just a chapter.”
Her fierce spirit earned her the title of “poster child” with her oncologist. But to LaPointe, believing the best was the only option.
“I tell our kids in shelter all the time, there are some things you can’t change. If you can’t change it, live in the moment. Enjoy it right now. And if things don’t come out the way you want, at least you have some good memories.
“It wasn’t all a party by any means. It was a soul-searching time. You’re reevaluating everything. Wherever you are, you have to embrace every moment for that part of your life whatever it may be.”