Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Serious Stuff - Cancer Patient For A Day

Every once in awhile I'll digress into more serious topics.

We have a mammogram truck that comes and parks outside of our office, right outside my window.  It makes it really easy to get your mammogram.

I got mine a week ago Friday.  No biggie.  They also do a physical breast exam.  Fine.  I'm not overly embarrassed or prudish about any of that.

I took the following Monday off, nursing a cold.  Oops, forgot to check my voice mail.

On Tuesday, there was a message from "Sue from the mammogram truck. Please call back."

When I returned her call, she said they saw something on my mammogram which wasn't there last year.  "An enlarged node." She couldn't tell me much more than that.  "We need you to come to ____ (the special cancer hospital in town) for an additional mammogram and possibly an ultrasound.  If they see something you will need a biopsy.  We can see you this week."  So I scheduled the appointment for Thursday.  And then I deliberated who to tell.

I knew my husband would be very upset.  I am supposedly the rational one; he is the emotional one.  But  I had to tell him.  I tried to tell him not to be upset until we had something to be upset about.  He said he would come with me to the appointment.  I was relieved.

I didn't tell anyone else.  I am very close to my mom.  However, my dad has been ill, my sister just had a baby, and she was dealing with a lot.  I decided I would't tell her about this appointment, but if it turned out to be something, I would tell her then.

Then the agony began.  I tried to remind myself that it was probably nothing. But I couldn't help but think about what would happen if it wasn't.  I knew that being of European Jewish descent put me into a high risk group for breast cancer, even though no one in my family has even had breast cancer (thank G-d).

There's nothing like a possibility of cancer, even a remote one, to make you think about your life.  I told myself that breast cancer is no longer a death sentence.  I thought about what it would feel like to have my breast removed.  If I had to do it I would.  I thought most about my little boy and my husband, wondering how they would make it in this world without me.   I thought about my step sons and my impact on their lives.  But I especially thought about my son, who is such a joy.  What would losing his mother, the person who he loves the most in the world (as he glowingly tells me every day), do to him? How would it change the person he would ultimately be? Would he persevere through the adversity or would he become a bitter, sad person?  If it was cancer, how would I make the most of my time with him, and why wasn't I already doing that?  I had the same thoughts about my husband.  We are constantly juggling, rushing around, trying to meet all of our work and home commitments.  We feel like we're working all the time.  We vow to make more time for  each other, but somehow we can never manage to do it.  I thought of all the petty things I waste time focusing on.  And I was mad at myself for not consistently making good choices for my overall health, especially my diet.

Long story short, we went to the appointment, they took another mammogram (this time with much more compression, ouch) and everything was fine.  They told me they call back a lot of people for a second look and often the angle or compression of the first Xray is off a bit and that's all there is to it.  They showed me the first Xray, and the area they saw barely looked like anything - just the white part of the Xray was a bit whiter than the rest.  I was impressed they caught that.

So we walked out, I kissed my husband goodbye, and I drove back to work.  I vowed that all of that thinking about life and such would not go to waste.  That I wouldn't take my life and my family for granted.  That I would make the effort to focus on the important things and let go of the trivial ones.  That I would be more attentive to my existing health concerns.

That I would try to live every day as if I had cancer.

Shouldn't we all?

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry to hear that you had to go through such a frightening ordeal, but so happy that everything turned out ok in the end. I do believe that we should live everyday as if it is our last, but find it hard to remember when caught up in life on a day to day basis. I'm going to make a better effort at it though. Thank you for sharing your story!