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Good news! (I think.) The dreaded lump has been pronounced a cyst! Guess I wasted a hell of a good worry, huh? Guess we all did. I still need my doctor to tell me what to do next, as E-Bro and Mr. GF both say that you just shouldn’t listen to the radiologist about anything other than the basic facts. My doctor had a death in the family and won’t be back until Monday, but at this point, I can wait.
The mammogram process was as pleasant as could be expected. There’s not much that’s fun about having your breast squeezed between two metal plates, especially when your orders are “Now, let me know when this is as tight as you can possibly stand it.” To be a wimp? Or to grit your teeth and bare (I mean bear) it? I chose the teeth-gritting stance, so they could get the best image possible.
The ultrasound was painless, and she let me see what she was seeing. She did mark me up with a Sharpie, but at least she didn’t draw a face or a mouse with whiskers or anything goofy. But her advice was not overly helpful. “What should I do now?” I asked. “Go through menopause and don’t take hormones,” she said. Gee. Thanks. I’ll get right on that.
The radiologist didn’t come to talk to me – just told the ultrasound tech what to tell me – and everyone kept saying that they’d looked at this before, which they hadn’t, which rather shook my confidence in them. Exactly who did they think they were looking at? But seeing the dark, vacant space on the ultrasound that represents fluid, not solid, was a certain relief.
So now, it goes away by itself, I suppose. I wait.
I wonder what I would have felt around me energetically if things hadn’t been okay? I was pretty sure things were okay, even though I was tearful and worried on Monday night, mostly because I couldn’t feel any clustering of comforting souls, and I am certain that I would have had I needed them.
Time to turn to, as the Captain would say, and focus on the next things…getting my back put back into place, since it went out on Sunday, finalizing the divorce thingamajiggys, and what to do with my work life for the next few years.
There’s hope in the air again.
I don’t like to whine. Truly I don’t. It gets you nowhere and actually makes you feel worse. I hope it seems more like I’ve been documenting my feelings around the divorce rather than whining about it. So my writings about my feelings about the lump are to be of a similar tone. As I say, I hope it doesn’t come across as whining. Let’s call it emotional journalism, shall we?
I gathered my cojones and called the surgeon yesterday. Of course, I got his appointment desk recording, and they said to allow them 24 hours to call back if I was requesting an appointment. We’re at 24 hours now and not a peep. Is it the approaching holiday that accounts for the delay? Or do they just not want me? Am I being rejected by the medical community? I understand that offices can be closed. But do THEY understand what it takes to reach out to a surgeon? I somehow don’t think they do.
It seems with medical “stuff”, you have to make your own arrangements for everything. Call for a mammogram So if I have a mammogram, when do I hear something? And from who? Does that mean I have to schedule something else with the mammogram people? Something else I have to wait for? Didn’t the doctor mention an ultrasound as she was leaving? Call the doctor to confirm. Call for an ultrasound appointment. What were those surgeons names she blithely mentioned as she walked out the door? Call to get the surgeons’ names. Call for a surgical consult – or something - wait, what am I asking the surgeon for? Here’s the name of an oncologist, just in case. When do I call them? And what for? And the name of a breast reconstruction surgeon. Huh? The other surgeon doesn’ t do that? When am I supposed to think about THAT?
And you know what? I’m doing all this and I’m scared. And there’s nothing anyone can do about that. This sort of thing just lingers in your mind. It’s hard to keep from feeling for the lump. Is it bigger? Is it gone?
I am chewing my fingers out of stress, so Denise just gave me a squeezy stress hot dog. That helps. Am I overreacting? I am tired, headachey, exhausted — is it stress? Or am I “sick”?
Pat has taken Kelsea for lunch at the hospital cafeteria – strange, I know, but it’s good, inexpensive vegetarian food. Is it a portent of things to come?
I’m so tired of thinking about this. Where’s the mind eraser when you need it?
Ah, yes. The icing on the cake – or perhaps it is better characterized as between the layers?
What better device to take my mind off the reality of my divorce and my impending unemployment than a lump in my breast? No, wait – I’ve got it — two lumps in my breast! One found by me, the other found by my doctor.
Let me preface the remainder of this post by saying it may be TMI for some, but perhaps it can be an educational experience for others. For me, it’s a journal.
Every breast is different, just as every woman is different. Now, I haven’t felt a lot of breasts in my time (with the exception of that group grope in the catering kitchen of Lionsgate after Mary got hers done). It’s not something we women really discuss. Men have, of course, felt more than I have, assuming they are lucky men, but they are not going around feeling breasts with the same focus as women such as myself.
I’ve got nice breasts, even now. Back in my teens and twenties, they were small and practical. Now they’re not small anymore – I would best describe them as “lush”. I’m really quite fond of them. From a breast tissue standpoint, they’ve always been lumpy, to use the technical term. I’ve never felt comfortable doing breast self-exams because of their lumpiness. I was never sure what I was feeling, and I was always a little queasy doing self-exams, probably because I was uncertain and afraid I would find something, because of my Mother. And so I, like millions of other women, just wouldn’t do self-exams, unless it happened to cross my mind when I was in just the right headspace. On the positive side, I have been religiously good about getting mammograms since my very early thirties, also because of my Mother.
So two months ago, when I was in the right headspace, I noticed a sort of thickening in my left breast. Since I’m naturally lumpy (that really doesn’t sound attractive, does it?) and it was just after my period, I didn’t think much about it. But three weeks ago, it came to my attention again, and it felt like there might be something unusual there. Then I promptly forgot about it. Until about ten days ago. And I really felt it. That was a Friday. I called my doctor on Monday. She saw me on Tuesday, and confirmed that not only did I have the lump I’d been feeling, but I had another one as well.
When she confirmed my suspicions, she told me we needed to schedule a mammogram and an ultrasound, and a biopsy. Biopsy? That’s the word that makes your hands tingle and your head suddenly feel all light and spinny. That’s the word that suggests that the dark things that have lived in the corners of my mind for years may be creeping out into the center of the room. Doctors seem to toss the word out there so casually – do they know how it makes their patient (oops, almost said victim) feel?
The CNP proceeded to ask me more about my Mother’s medical history with her countless cancers, and asked if I had considered genetic testing. My response was essentially, “Duh..uh..uh..i dunno?” She said she knew how I felt and that her own mother had died of breast cancer when she (the CNP, not her mother) was eight years old, and she didn’t want the testing and they hadn’t told her that her mother died of cancer until she was “in the ground.” You know, somehow, this story wasn’t making me feel any better.
On her way out the door, she tossed out the statement that I should talk to a surgeon (which generated a new round of feeling like a dog left on the side of a highway) and gave me a few names. My parting words to her were, “I think you may have to write those down for me later.” She laughed.
How surreal the whole thing was. Is.
That was Tuesday. I called for my mammogram and they can’t see me until December 1. Kelsea’s birthday. How special. I remember my Mother telling me on my 18th birthday, when she came in to kiss me goodnight, that she had cancer and was going in for surgery the next day. She kept waiting to find the right time to tell me, and it somehow never came. I remember lying in my bed that night, silently crying, tears flowing into my ears, thinking that THIS is what it’s like to be a grown-up. Great. I don’t want to tell Kelsea on her 13th birthday if my results are less than positive.
I told Kathy and Denise, told Pat, told Mr. GF, told Issy, told E-Bro, told my boss Ivan. That sounds like a lot of people to tell, now that I think about it. I told people to feel less alone, but it didn’t seem to really help. All last week, when I went to bed at night, I felt alone. Very alone. The hamsters that appear in the wee small hours have added a new team member – Cancer. A little fuzzy hamster in a black cloak with a scythe.
Everyone has been a great comfort – Denise and Issy have offered to take me to the mammo appointment, Ivan provided me with some referrals for a good surgeon and oncologist (that one set me spinning again). E-Bro and Bubba Sue are as supportive as they can be and make me feel loved. Mr. GF offered the security of his arms and dedication regardless of how many breasts I have.
I told Kelsea yesterday. I am not good at hiding things from her – she knew something was up. It was hard – not as hard as telling her about the divorce, but hard. We both shed a few tears and spent the rest of the day snuggling and laughing. She is certain everything will be all right. She offered to sleep with me, to keep me company. It was enough just having her in her own room down the hall.
80% of breast lumps turn out to be non-cancerous. There are many reasons that they appear, and they can disappear with no treatment at all. But when you find a lump, cancer is the first thing that comes to mind. If you watched your Mother die of cancer less than three years ago, after she’d lost one breast to it, and had a lumpectomy years before that, cancer is at the forefront of your thoughts. Perhaps it’s alarmist, but it simply can’t be helped. I have to ask myself, “Am I the 1 in 8 who will get breast cancer?” I am one of ten women in my department at work. Is it going to be one of us? Is it going to be me?
Is it already me?
Today’s guest poet – Author Unknown
What Cancer Cannot Do
Cancer is so limited…..
It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot eat away peace.
It cannot destroy confidence.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot shut out memories.
It cannot silence courage.
It cannot reduce eternal life.
It cannot quench the Spirit.