My interruption

The Birmingham sky was postcard pretty on the Friday that I found out I have Stage 3 breast cancer. Brilliant brushstrokes of cerulean stretched from East Lake to West End and the sun pierced through the sky. It was like the setting of a dream, but the snap of cold in the air reminded me that it wasn’t.

It was lunchtime, and my team and I were interviewing for an opening in our department. The candidate, a woman, was in her early thirties. She had a messy ponytail, cheap mail-order tortoiseshell glasses and wore an ink blue pants suit that revealed her skinny legs. Five minutes into her talk, I wrote the words: “She’s a no.” She rambled and complained about her former employer and my mind drifted toward lunch.

I discreetly pulled out my phone underneath the table and scrolled through emails while she answered the questions from our prepared list. I saw that I had missed a call from an “801” number and my heart began to beat in my chest.

I clumsily excused myself from the room, walked over to a corner of the hallway and dialed my voicemail. The woman's message began with a sigh, and then, in a heavy African accent, said, “Mrs. Sutton, I have your results. Please call me.”

My knees began to buckle and I looked around for a place to go. I walked out onto the student center patio and tried to steady my fingers while calling back the number.

“Are you somewhere where you can talk?” the doctor said.

“Yes,” I said.

“Do you want me to call you back when you can talk?”

“No,” I said. My stomach was in knots and I felt I as if was going to throw up.

“Well...I am the doctor who did your biopsies. Do you remember me?”

“Yes,” I said, becoming annoyed. It had been less than 48 hours since she was pulling tissue from my right breast and lymph nodes. How could I forget?

“Well, we tested all three of the areas and all three came back cancer.”

Her words felt like a sledgehammer to the side of my head. Vibrations were coming from my skull and her words seeped in, in slow motion.  

With each word she spoke – “metastasized” and “mastectomy” – a part of me slowly deflated. I thought of my 10-year-old daughter who loves art and hangs on my every word and of my 9-year-old baby boy who wants to save all the animals and enjoys kissing my cheeks. I thought of the possibility of dying. I was just two weeks shy of my 44th birthday. 

After I hung up, her words were still sitting in my ear. I tried to get them out with my finger, but they were stuck.

I sat and stared for a moment. I spotted a man in the distance on the fifth floor of a parking deck. He was near the edge of the guardrail. “What is he doing,” I thought to myself. Was he going to jump?

Maybe I should jump.

I called my husband and without taking a breath, blurted out, “They said I have cancer.”

“I’m on my way,” he said and immediately came to my job. I walked toward the parking lot in a daze. I left my purse, my car, my keys, my coat. 

When I got into his gray Infiniti, he grabbed my hand and said, "I'm sorry." 

I didn’t speak, couldn’t speak. 

He held my hand the entire drive. I stared out the window and tried to find words to say.

When we got home, he and I prayed, ate sandwiches, and watched episodes of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” We didn't know what else to do, so we laughed and cried and braced ourselves for cancer. 


  1. A couple of years ago I had a scare, but my biopsy was negative. I asked a breast cancer survivor at church about advice she gives to other women. She said: "You have to fight that thang (cancer) like it's a man."
    That's what we're going to do. We are fighting with you Marie!

  2. My dear friend, I am praying for you and you already know what I know: This Battle is the Lord's and it's already WON! Victory! We do not claim what we do not believe. Knuckle up and hunker down--you got this! love you sis!

  3. Sending you prayers and love and support.

  4. Beautifully written, Marie, but so wishing it were about something else. Thinking of you and knowing that you can beat this thing. -- Alec

  5. I am not only praying for you but with you Marie, Life will at times throw us speed balls which requires us to be ready at all times and then there are those times that it throws us a curve ball. Something that we were not looking for at all, but in all things that life decided to throw at us , we will not face anything that is Too hard for the God we serve, he yet work Miracles in the 20th Century... You may have had Cancer but Cancer did not have you will be your Testimony to the world.... Strengthen your foundation and stand on him... Much Love Teshia Austin-Rogers

  6. You phrased that correctly. You have cancer but cancer does not have you! The one who made you and designed every cell, tissue and organ of your body loves you with an everlasting love and is with you as you navigate this journey. You are the seed of a prayer warrior and ripe for a miracle. you know the kind where the doctor says we thought we saw cancer cells but now we cant find it anywhere. I am standing with you as we solidify the weapons of our warfare that are not carnal. Stand strong my sister. I got your back as do so many others.

  7. I'm pulling for you and your family.

  8. Marie, I am praying for you and sending all my love. Please give your mom my love too and your family. Please let me know what I can do? Rides? Food? Books? Sending love love love xo

  9. Marie, I am grateful I know you as a woman of God and because of your faith in Him this "interruption" will add to your testimony of who lives within you - not take away.

    So, Keep Trusting.Keep Believing.Keep Praying.Keep Moving. Keep Laughing.Keep Giving.
    Keep Writing. Cry...less. Smile More. Love Stronger. Love Deeper.
    Keep Your Focus on God.

    -Jameka Brooks

  10. Marie, you are a strong, smart and tenacious woman. You are smack-dab in the middle of one of the greatest medical systems in the country. You are surrounded by people who will pray for you daily and with intense fervor. You are a child of God and He is present in all of this. When you need to cry, come to my office and I will cry with you. When you celebrate the victories (and there WILL be victories) share with us so that we can be thankful and happy for you. Let us help as we are able and do not be afraid to say, "Sisters, bring me a casserole and run carpool for me this week." Much love, many prayers, total confidence that you are more than a conqueror.


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