Written on January 6, 2011 - it has a happy ending...
I'm writing because I have to. In one hour I will be in the car, on my way yet again to the Comprehensive Breast Center and I won't be able to write. I won't be able to think. I'll function on auto pilot, letting the valet park our car, checking in like everybody else does and sitting in the crowded waiting room trying to keep my husband calm as we both wait for them to call my name.
Then I'll go back into the little room resembling a locker room, except with really ugly "shirts" that all patients wear. They look like the material on the couch of a really old RV, with teal ties to secure them shut. I'd like to have a few words with whoever chose this pattern and thought, "Hey, what a wonderful thing for a woman to sit around in while waiting for her mammogram."
I'd rather be naked.
Ok, maybe not.
Last time I was there 2 weeks ago, a woman paced like an angry cat waiting to be called back for her ultrasound after they "found something" on her mammogram. I sat there, with my locker key springing up and down from my wrist, pretending to read Coastal Living as I tried with all my might to will good thoughts in her direction as she walked back and forth, back and forth. They finally called her name and I forced a smile in her direction, although I know she never saw it, as she exited the room.
I so don't want to be that woman today.
Obviously, I have to go back. Obviously, I'm petrified. I've been fighting with myself all week since getting the call that there had "been changes" in my left breast and I needed to come back in for "further testing."
I resisted the urge to google, for about a day. Dense breast tissue. Abnormal mammogram following a hysterectomy. What causes dense breast tissue? Mom had breast cancer, should I be worried? Abnormal mammogram at age 38.
I highly recommend not googling anything more intense than how to bake a mayonnaise chocolate cake or how to remove grass stains from baseball pants.
I go back and forth in my mind between telling myself that everything is fine, only a few abnormal mammograms actually end up being cancer and I have no reason to worry. I figure that positive thoughts are they only way to occupy the days between getting the call and getting more information. I mean, why waste all of my time worrying and stressing out, right? But then I start worrying even more because if I don't worry, I'll surely have cancer and then what will I do?
Does it have to be like this everytime I get an abnormal mammogram? Is it going to be like this for the rest of my life?
I had a few minor breast issues before, but they never ever have called me back for MORE TESTING.
And that is exactly what I'm so freaked out about. The more. The call. The lack of an envelope in my mailbox telling me "all tests were normal, please come back and see us in a year." That is what is making this week of waiting hard. That is what is causing the fear and the crushing feeling that my time could and may very well be limited. I can't help myself. What else am I supposed to do?
In the past year and a half, my mother and THREE friends have all been diagnosed with breast cancer. My mom finished radiation and has been doing great following her lumpectomy in July 2010. My friends have all had double mastectomies. They are all under 45.
Will I be as strong as they have been? Will I need to be? Am I making no sense at all and worrying over absolutely nothing?
I have no idea.
But I'd like to be surprised with the news that my worrying was for nothing.
Because I'm not sure I could fight like they did. I'm not sure I could do what they're doing. Every month I stand up in front of the Relay For Life crowd here in my hometown and encourage our teams to fundraise and educate themselves about cancer prevention. How am I going to do that if I have cancer too? And if I don't have cancer, how come I got off this time while so many others don't?
It could drive a person crazy, this type of thinking.
I just want to be wrong.
I want to have warded off cancer. I don't want it to be my turn. I don't want to be 1 in 8. I want to be brave enough to face each future mammogram thinking only about the fact that Aflac will give me a check for getting this necessary test done and not one little bit about the fact that it could be me. I could have cancer. And then I hate myself because I feel like I'm asking too much, I'm being selfish.
So for today, for right now, since I have to leave here in 20 minutes (yes, it took me a long time to get this out via my keyboard), I'd like to have worried for nothing, selfish as that may be.
And some crazy part of me thinks that by writing this, I will have accomplished that.
*Turns out, hysterectomies (even if they DO leave your ovaries) can cause some pretty major hormone fluctuations (which I kind of assumed, given oh, the HOT FLASHES, MOODINESS, IRRITABILITY, INSOMNIA and WEIGHT GAIN) that can also cause breast changes as well, which is exactly what landed me back at the Comprehensive Breast Center.
While I now understand why they needed to take a closer look at my breast, I also received a very stark reminder of why it is so, so, so important to have these tests done regularly and early, especially if you have a family history.
And I also know that next year, when they keep me longer to take a closer look, I won't be so scared because this is me. This is my normal, and that's nothing to be afraid of.