*DING!* Another Phone alert. Doctors appt tomorrow at 8am.
*DING!* Doctors appt in 3 days at 9am
*DING!* Doctors appt today at 2pm
This was my life almost every morning for the last 6 months. I didn’t tell too many people what was happening. Especially not my family. Over the years I’ve learned not to tell them things unless it was serious. Breast cancer wasn’t serious, right? It’s just so trendy now a days. The Hoffman Center pretty much rolled out the Pink Carpet, handed me a martini and a certificate to congratulate me for my nomination to the club.
I’m no stranger to cancer scares, neither are my friends. It’s so laizee faire now a days (or it seems like it).
“How was your weekend?”
“Oh it was great! Took the kids to the lake, tried that new tapas bar downtown, started my chemo, booked my flights for the holidays, started reading the 3rd Game of Thrones book. You?”
Perhaps I’m a bit jaded, perhaps I’ve been to too many funerals, perhaps I still feel like I’m invincible. Either way, you weren’t about to get a Facebook invite to my pity party. Brave Face is my specialty and only my roommate knows how many boxes of tissues I went through. I’m good at Brave Face, because I have to be. Having others worry about me stresses me out to no end. I feel guilty. I’m the one they come to when they’re sick and hurt, not the other way around. But these last 6 months taught me a very valuable lesson about myself (and my pride). It’s that pride is a useless emotion. And I would much rather have someone worry about me and deal with the faux-guilt, than have no one who cares and deal with it alone.
It started around December, when I felt a lump that made me flinch. Ladies, if you aren’t doing your own breast exams you are missing out on some serious quality shower time. Oh, and you really are the ones that detect things first. Didn’t think much of it until I went for my check up and my doctor hit the same spot and it made me jump. I had to see him again for something unrelated and he would check on it again.
Following month, same flinching. He felt the lump again. And sent me for an ultrasound at the Breast Cancer Center downstairs a few weeks later. I went and the test came back as nothing.
Went back to original doctor, he still felt it, it was still painful and was convinced I needed a 3rd opinion. It’s harder to detect in younger women because of the density of the tissue (is this turning you on yet?), so the magic xray couldn’t find anything but something was there. So he sent me to a specialist. A Breast Surgeon / Oncologist.
Ok…. now it’s time to freak out. It echoed in my mind every morning. All day. And it was the loudest at night. I really didn’t want to do anything else except silently freak out in my room and try to lie to my friends and family about just how freaked out I was. “I’m busy!” “I have practice!” “I’m dead!” “I have plans!” “I’m working late!” Most of the time, I was usually just working late so I wouldn’t have to sit on my bed and stare at the walls. I was not nice to be around. I was just always tired, all the time. Stress can do a number on your energy levels. There were good days, no doubt. But those were few and far between.
But mostly, it was everyone else’s crap that made my “secret” even heavier. No one knew what was happening, so how could they sympathize and not bother me with mundane things and asking me for favors? I couldn’t help but get angry at them, how dare they ask me to check on their cats while I’m dealing with something like this!? Why are you calling me at midnight because you broke up with your boyfriend, I gotta get blood work done in the morning!
This piss poor attitude didn’t last long. My best friend suggested I start telling close friends, this way it wouldn’t feel like they weren’t being insensitive, it’s because they have no idea what was going on. So I did. I was nervous because while I love to feel that I am loved and cared for, I hate being reminded on a daily basis that it is possible I have something that is trying to eat me from the inside out. The reminders are “so when is your next appointment? what did the doctor say? what time are you coming home? what’s your plan?“. Sometimes, I just want to forget. I got my alarm to remind me every day. When I’m out for drinks, the last thing I want to talk about is my breasts, unless it’s about how fabulous they look in my new dress.
I go to my Oncologist appointment. I am greeted by the nurse who asks if I was supposed to have this appointment. I was confused, I already sent in the referral, this is now my 4th doctor and I’m here on my day off for what seems like an endless amount time. If these were dates with a guy, I would have already been comfortable enough to fart in front of him.
She tells me usually the doctor sees very serious cases and not usually such young patients. Yes, you should definitely give me a panic attack before I see the doctor.
I meet her, we have the whole polite conversation while I’m naked from the waist up. I’ve gone to second base with so many strangers by now it was like I was back in my sophomore year of college.
She feels it. I flinch. She suggests a mammogram and an MRI. She says she’s been doing this long enough to know it might not be cancer, but it is certainly something. I beg her to give me some insight.
“Is it a cyst? Is it a benign tumor? Is it a f***ing puppy? What is it?!”
She shakes her head and says no, sorry. Its not a cyst, its too hard. I really can’t tell what it is without the tests. All I know, is it’s not supposed to be there.
What sucks about having to get a mammogram when you’re 28, is your health insurance not wanting to pay for it because you’re too young. Thus the month long battle to have it approved. Twice. Along with the MRI. I’m stuck in this weird phase in my life. Similar to when I was 19. Rediscovering myself because my life is inevitably changing whether I’m ready or not. I don’t feel young. I am constantly reminded how just not-young I am. You ever stroll through the city after 9pm? Every tight body with tans, extensions and tube dresses will undoubtedly remind you that you are old and to pick up some beef jerky before you go home and watch 6 episodes of Top Chef. But I don’t exactly feel “old” (whatever that means). I just feel…..here. Too young for a mammogram but old enough for cancer.
I get a voicemail a month later. Everything has been approved and I have 5… FIVE appointments already booked for me. First up, the mammy which is scheduled just two days after my birthday.
August 20th, I go in early for my test. Everyone is so nice and sweet and I’m exhausted because I stayed up half the night getting my drink on for my birthday dinner (which spilled over when I came home and killed that bottle of Moscato). Stressed? Sure. So I made sure I watched depressing movies all night while drunk, because I mean hell, if I had to get up in a couple hours and be told I got the C-word, it’s best to try to ride this buzz out.
The test was painless-ish. The imaging is just fascinating. I saw the inside of my boobies on a 30″ screen! Alas, things looked normal except for the black mass where the lump was. The doctor came in and told me all is well for now, lets do one more ultrasound. I shuffled over to a new room in the EVER so stylish Johnnies. And the good news came.
“Well, it’s definitely not cancer. It’s totally benign.” And she gave me a piece of paper to confirm. So I asked what this black spot was all about and she told me she wasn’t too sure but my MRI is in a few weeks so then we can figure out the size and another surgery consult to remove it.
So, Happy Birthday to Me! Not cancer. And if I have to have a tiny day surgery to rip that sucker out and that’s it, count me lucky. The doctors think it might just be hard tissue, mixed with nerves (hence the flinching and pain). Could be calcified something somethings. The point is, I’m giving myself a chance to relax and stop worrying about it. It won’t kill me, it’s just bothersome. I personally like to make things up and pretend it might be a baby unicorn. My Dad, from where my sense of twisted humor was born, thinks it might be my OTHER twin that didn’t make it. Some friends appease my humor and hope I’ll end up on Discovery Health with something totally awesome like an Egyptian artifact that was lodged in my boob.
Before you read the next part. It’s kind of heavy. So here’s a cute picture of a loris to ease the blow…
Something happened. Something changed.
Maybe it was the release of pressure, or the awareness of my support group, or perhaps just self awareness. I lost control of my ‘sane’ side for just a moment and started doing things I should have done a long time ago. It wasn’t one of those ‘I see death in front of me, I must change my life’. I didn’t see death, I knew I wasn’t dying.
I saw life. And I saw how I spent it the last few months. I felt stuck, I was afraid to confront a lot of things. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to afford all these doctors visits, or all these weddings or rent or shit, even food. But I did. I learned I don’t always have to do things alone. I can still ask my parents for help (thank you). I have friends who can read me like a book. I have a handful of people I can call at 2am to talk about my feelings. More importantly, I saw what was weighing me down. And as much as I want to change the things I have no control over, I can’t. So I let it go. With so much help from everyone. Even you. Yes…. you.
I’m lucky. I have my ‘blame the world’ moments. But being able to have a constant reevaluation of your life as often as I have, is a good thing. It hurts and it sucks, but it’s worth it. Maybe that’s the curse of 29. Maybe we all go through it. Maybe this will teach me to accept change and stop looking for answers.
In other news, I read this article from one of my favorite sites, XOJane.com. About a woman who has always wanted to get a hairstyle that wasn’t well received by others. She finally had the opportunity (or MADE the opportunity) to do it. And I think she is just the bee’s knees. How Shaving Part of Head Helped Me Reboot. I’m in love with the style. There have been mixed reviews about it. I hope it’s work friendly!
I waste so much time looking for answers. Maybe the doctors can’t tell me what that black mass is… I just know it won’t kill me.
The other day I sat in the subway to listen to a man playing covers, one of which was Tom Petty’s Free Falling. I just sat next to him and listened as my train came and went 4 times. This was a good acoustic version (and don’t get caught up on the John Mayer part. You’re a big kid, just enjoy the music you pansy.) Also, it wraps up this post nicely.