Friday, March 23, 2012

A reminder, not a lesson

In a subject for another post, I've basically spent most of my adult life ignoring anything having to do with my own personal health. Regular check ups for my children, yes. Regular check ups for mom, no, not so much.

As part of my journey of waking up from a 10 year fog and haze of anti-depressants, I realized it had been a long time since I had had a mammogram. A very long time. Like 15 years.

(Don't start....I know)

Last Friday, I went for the supposedly annual peek at what lies beneath the skin. It wasn't as bad as I've heard. Kind of odd to have the girls handled in such a matter of fact way, but I can roll.

Tuesday, things changed.

The radiologist called with a request to have another peek.

I got scared and I called on friends. In their own way, and in a different way, they all helped.

Underneath my lovely blooming cherry tree, Denise sat with me and we discussed calming thoughts and how to handle news with equal levels of acceptance.  I thought I had control. This was all going to be fine. I prayed and asked God to make this a reminder of all the good I had, not a lesson to teach me about all the wonderful things I have. Please.

Then Wednesday came.

This time the radiologist used words that no one wants to hear. "This fits the profile of ductile cancer." "We did multiple looks to verify." "You need a biopsy, and probably a lumpectomy." "Now."

I cried.

A lot.

With the support and guidance of my sister Tammy and my friend Kathy, and the shoulder of Erin, I made it to Thursday morning. Then, everything sped up.  Phone calls, appointments on 3/26, 3/30, 4/2, forms, films, insurance, canceled appointments, "Can you be here at 11:30?" "Can you do the biopsy on Friday?"

In Lanelle's office I just sat kind of numbly as she printed forms, made phone calls, and prodded me to get through the next few minutes.

Soon, the dust settled and the biopsy was set for Friday morning at 9:30. Lanelle made me a nifty folder with all my paperwork, Erin agreed to go with me, Don, my long-suffering husband, agreed to be at home fresh to pick up any pieces left after the biopsy.

I sat at my desk in an empty room and realized that this  had just gotten too real for me. This was too much, too fast, so not equipped to handle this. Time to get out. I went into my Principal's office with a leave slip and said, "I need to go, and I will be out tomorrow. I'll be having a biopsy." She nodded. The solidarity of women. We all seem to know and understand.

On the way home, something snapped. Pulling over to the side of the road, I screamed, cried, shook, sobbed, until I was wrung out. I drove on. The feelings hit me again. I needed to get control somehow
Hit the door of the house, gym clothes on, at the gym in 5 minutes,
Machine of choice? Elliptical. Non-impact. Smooth motion. Nothing required but raw endurance. How long can I go before something in my mind breaks or something in my body? Either way, it's now, right freaking now.

85 minutes later......I started crying again, then, I stopped and thought, "No. Just no. I can be had, but not by this. I've worked too hard to get where I need to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually to go down this easily. No, just no."

A bit of push back from the part of me that still wanted to fight, but largely, the fight was gone.

95 minutes later (and 1115 calories later btw),  I was off. Barely able to make conscious thoughts, barely able to walk, but at peace.

Friday morning Erin and I sit in the hospital mammography suite. I'm scared, but in an accepting place. Whatever happens, will happen. It's all good.

New radiologist has a new plan. She'd like to have another peek but from a different angle. Everything is so close to the skin, it's POSSIBLE that the spots they are seeing are not actually in the breast tissue. Maybe.

I should have known up front this was going to be quite the mammography from Hell when it took two techs to handle the machine and me. They warned this was going to be intense. They didn't lie.

The goal was to see if the BB on the skin could cast a shadow under the spots. If there was a shadow, then the spots were in the deepest layer of the skin, not in the breast tissue. But to get these shots, the machine would have apply an unusually high amount of pressure and take multiple pics with no breaks in between.

After the seventh x-ray, I lost count. The pain was overwhelming, excrutiating, it was my whole world. From somewhere inside, I remembered my alternate nostril breathing from yoga class. Can I remain calm enough to do this?

Challenge accepted.

I breathed, held one nostril down, in, out. Other nostril, in out. Repeat, breath, repeat, breath. Over and over. Ride the pain, feel the breath. Again, and again, and again. Until the bottom plate moved away. Sit and fold over, thankful the pain was gone.

15 minutes later, I was out of the room. 25 minutes later, the radiologist was with Erin and me. She had looked at the films with another radiologist. The now 'magic BB' absolutely cast a shadow under the spots. They were in the skin layer, not the breast layer.

Benign....clearly benign

She said the words, "You do not have breast cancer." Twice.... Erin and I hugged and I was so grateful she was with me at that moment.

Next step? None really. These might show up on another mammogram, they might absorb into the skin, they might grow, but they are not in the breast tissue, they cannot be cancer.

Calm, peace, gratitude

To my friends mentioned here. You may never read this post, but it doesn't matter. I love you so very dearly. Each one of you brought me something and you all freely gave of yourselves.

I was not strong enough to do this, until.....

Denise who helped me find calm in breathing...
Tammy gave me the strength of family and shared history....
Kathy made me laugh at myself....
Lanelle let me fall apart and then put me back together...
Erin let me be vulnerable; she did not ask me to be strong. She told me I was beautiful as the tears rolled down my face (although we both admitted the nose blowing was decidely unladylike)...

And Don, my wonderful husband, held me and loved me.

"Thank you" seems to be such an inadequate phrase in this case, but in the English language, it's all I have.

So, thank you my friends.

Thoughts to take with me today  Thank you God for the reminder of how blessed I am, every day, in every way.


  1. Thanks for sharing, you are a very brave woman to go through this. I'm glad that the results were how you'd hoped. It was also nice to see that you kept on exercising, that would probably be the least of my thoughts.

    1. I cannot claim an iota of bravery. I merely claim to have strong friends who gave me what I needed. However, exercising keeps me stable. It's another friend that I cannot do without.

      Be well....

  2. Wow, this is just so scary. So glad you are OK!!

    1. Thank you...we went out celebrating tonight. The headache tomorrow will be worth it!

  3. Things like this give us a new perspective don't they? No wonder we haven't heard from you in a while. So glad you got good news. Thank God for His mercy. Take care.

  4. Oh, do I know what you were going through. I have had two biopsies, one needle and one open (surgical) and both times was numb with terror while waiting for results. Thanks for sharing so honestly about your fears as well as the reminders you used for coping. After the two biopsies (and several other 'scares') I have gotten to the point where the weeks/months leading to my annual mammogram are fraught with anxiety and fear. I'll try to remember some of this when I go this year. Thanks.

    1. Oh Caroline...two? I'd be a basket case! You are so strong! The next time you have a mammo, let me know and I'll hook you up with how to do alternate nostril breathing. I promise you it will help!

  5. I'm sitting here with tears of joy rolling down my cheeks! (Hubby thinks I'm nuts!) Recently went through cancer scare with my young daughter. Can relate to pulling over in car and *%6)! Our news too was benign. Perspective change is amazing-sometimes I ask God not to give me so much though! LOL
    You're a stronger more beautiful person!

    1. So scary, but so enlighting. Your news was good - what a relief!!

  6. I wish real hugs could go through the computer. I am SO GLAD that everything turned out to benign. I can only imagine the fear.

    You are very blessed to be surrounded by people who love you and were there to help keep you upright through it all.

    You're stronger than you think you are. Everyone can see that from this post.


    1. Oh Sam sweetheart, we are all as strong as the people we surround ourselves with... You are on your own amazing journey and i have to imagine you surprise yourself with where you draw strength... Be well.

    2. And real hugs DID just come through the computer :)