This year-of-turning-forty is not without its rites of passage.
The latest, being my very own breast cancer scare.
[Usher me past the velvet ropes of womanhood.]
Probably half of the women I know that are my age or older have had at least one lump, bump, cyst or funky mammogram result that sent them into that multi-day tailspin until... dah dah dummm... RESULTS.
Yesterday, during a routine physical, my doctor felt something.
Now, my doctor is a chatterbox and what she felt caused a reaction I'd never seen in her. She stopped talking. Mid-sentence even! We went immediately from sharing our lack of plans for the holiday to her shoving my left boob in the same spot repeatedly while her chatty smile turned into an instant look of dread.
I didn't immediately catch on to the severity of the issue, so when I tried to continue the conversation, she finally blurted out that I have a lump.
I was stunned.
I had came in for a routine physical. I went from the high of being told we could skip the pelvic exam this year due to my previous year's shining results. We'd already covered the state of my family history, my GERD, my bum knee and I received new praise for upping my exercise routine this year.
All that was left was the easy part. Lay back, don't make eye contact and have a breezy conversation while my doctor feels me up.
She ended up taking my own hand and shoving it into my left side-boob, as if to wake me up to the fact that we were no longer talking about barbecuing on the Fourth of July. "Do you feel that?" she asked me. "Oh... yeah.. kinda," I lied. "I'm sending you for an ultrasound."
Her easiest appointment of the day suddenly turned into hushed conversations with the nurse as they scribbled in my file and crazily hurried together paperwork to get me into the lab as quickly as possible, while the nurse kept turning around to assure me how pretty I looked that day. (Ah, the sisterhood of women. Always able to deflect panic with a compliment, God bless us.)
The soonest the lab could take me for an ultrasound was to be this afternoon. All I had to do was stave off my imagination for one shortened workday before I could have answers and feel some relief.
Well, an office worker from lab called me first thing this morning with some news that she was obviously hesitant to share. The ultrasound tech had called in sick. I blurted out an, "OH NO!" Which she echoed in sympathy, "Oh no is right..."
She then tip-toed through the rest of the conversation. I could practically sense her cringing on the other end, as if I had the power to reach through the phone line and choke her out. "I understand it's not your fault," I assured her, "but when is the soonest you can get me in? I don't care what day, how early, how late..." I found a moment to sympathize with her for being the messenger and promised myself that would not bark at her in the manner that today's other patients must have verbally manhandled her with.
Next week. Thursday. Stupid "sick" lab tech. Stupid holiday.
My six hour wait for peace in a moment's notice had multiplied into a one-week-plus-one-day one.
Boy is my imagination is going to be testing me!
I realize this isn't usually the stage in which you share this kind of medical news. In fact, I wasn't going to share any of this publicly until I had happy results that I could turn into a hilarious blog post, typed with fingers that had been bathed in utter relief.
But, then I figured that God doesn't test us so we can keep secrets about it.
Maybe not all women will experience cancer. The unfortunate ones don't have a choice. The brave of those ones build up the courage to share their journeys.
But, there's also the rest of womankind. The "at least half of the ones I know" that can relate to the waiting. Good news, bad news, just hoping for the all clear. Most of them won't even end up being sick and needing treatment... but, oh, the crazy places your mind will go when you're caught up in the day-long and night-long distraction of not knowing yet.
Why should we be ashamed to talk about it? It's one of the neediest times to open up our mouths and vent.
So, for your entertainment (and maybe to pass Phase One of my "test") here is an overshare of some random thoughts that have passed through my scattered brain these last two days:
- Geesh, the first year I didn't bother with a self exam!
- I thought only big breasts got lumps.
- Why'd I go and pick the cheaper insurance plan at work?
- I'm house-hunting! I can't afford cancer right now!
- After the lab lady asked me if the lump hurts, I answered "no." After I obsessively poke myself in the breast all evening, "Ow! It hurts so bad!"
- Lumpectomy or mastectomy?
- With a mastectomy I could inherit an insurance-paid-for perfectly-shaped pair.
- Why does the medically bad boob have to be the physically cuter one?
- Should I start giving out free second-baseys so my real breasts can have one last thrill before they're severed and tossed in the garbage.
- Do they put the amputated breasts in the garbage can?!
- Should I photograph them before they're gone?
- Why do I immediately think I will be breastless in the near future?
- I'm sorry to my boobs, for always calling you small. You are not inadequate in any way, shape or form.
- This really isn't helping my mid-life crisis.
- Is someone going to make me do a three-day walk now? I really don't think I want to walk that far.
- Do I have to start wearing pink? I hate pink!
- I can't believe I was tempted to cancel my annual physical.
- Don't ever cancel your annual physical.
- I love my doctor.
- Why now?
- Why me?
- Am I dreaming?
- Should I really blog all this?
Well, too late now. I just did.
I'd love to end this post with "IT WAS JUST A CYST!", but I jumped the gun on this news and now we'll all just have to wait on the test and its results together. (Don't you love how I tangled you into my anxiety web?)
You don't have to act weird if you see me in real life. I'll accept all encouraging hugs. I welcome your own stories if you never had a chance to vent your own scare. I'll even understand if you avoid me altogether because this news made things awkward and you'd rather pretend you never read this. Fine, you never read this. You know nothing about my boobs. I can play along! When I'm in an awkward moment I overshare. I can definitely feel for those who don't.
Of course, I'm accepting all offered prayers. But, I'm not quite ready for unsolicited advice, so don't go there yet.
And, please, don't bother my family with questions they don't have answers to. I told you everything I know so far and they're alot more private than I am. (Do you really think the men in my family want to acknowledge the existence of my breasts?) If you must talk about it, bring it to me only.
My doctor tried very hard to convince me that I should think this is just a cyst. (But, she also whispered too much with the nurse in a panicked fury too closely to the exam room door...) I'm choosing to be encouraged by her hopeful prognosis. And, in my heart-of-hearts, I know she's probably right. She is the expert, after all.
Worst case scenario: I'm dying. But, aren't we all dying of something?
Bad case scenario: It's something and I'll need treatment. But, treatment exists. Praise the Lord!
Best case (and most likely) scenario: My doctor's hope was right and the worst that happened was that I entertained you all with my honest paranoia.
Most bizarre of the benign scenarios: God just gave my breasts speed-bumps to deter fast men.
Don't skip your self exam this year. And be sure to make that yearly appointment!