Saturday, July 12, 2008

It's Always Something

(or, Whereupon Things Take a Sudden Turn for the Worse)

So I’m up in WI last Friday getting ready to go to the pig roast, taking a shower, when suddenly........I discover a lump in my breast. That’s weird. I’m a little freaked out, but coincidentally, I have the annual appointment on Monday and once you’re old as dirt, they automatically schedule a mammogram. I tell the girls, they reassure me that it’s almost certainly nothing, and off we go to ooh and ahh at the Delavan fireworks, which we assume consumed a huge chunk of Delavan’s municipal budget since very few streetlights around the channel seem to be working anymore. I guess there are priorities.

The weekend passes. The girls leave Saturday, I stay until Sunday to get more riding in, and wind up in the usual 30 mph winds. WTH, has all of the Midwest suddenly turned into Kansas? I don’t get it. As an aside, have we noticed that guy cyclists are much more friendly than female ones? This seems to be the rule – people on an organized ride are generally very friendly and wave and say hi. Men alone or in pairs – sometimes yes, sometimes no. Women in groups will wave – women alone never wave. I am of course the exception to this rule, since I wave at fellow cyclists, farmers, horses, ostriches, etc. And I get very annoyed when people don’t wave, especially since with most of the riding I do, we’re the only people out there for miles around. So if you’re not a wavy type and while we’re out there the world suddenly tilts off its axis and we’re the only people left on this continent, you and me and my Bento box full of’re not getting any. Snacks that is. So there.

Monday I have my doctor’s appointment, and I don’t necessarily take it as a good sign that they all seem rather alarmed, add an ultrasound to my appointments, and the guy who looks at that rather unceremoniously tells me that there’s a “suspicious mass” with “ragged edges,” which is clearly not good. And then while they schedule me for a biopsy for July 24th – “just to have something on the books” – the next morning they call to tell me they squeezed me in for Thursday, since I’m an “emergency case.” Trust me, these are not things one wants to hear.

Of course, as most people would do, when I’m home I obsessively search for info on breast cancer, and am somewhat comforted by the fact that I have no risk factors, no family history. Hell, with the no-drinking, no-smoking, exercise-a-lot existence I have, I’m approaching nun-like. And everyone reassures me that it’s probably nothing – that 85% of these things are benign. Plus I’m young. Or old. I’m still not sure if it’s better to be young or old, since you’re more likely to get BC when you’re old, but it’s generally more aggressive and malignant if you’re young and harder to treat. I decide I’m old.

Thursday, I go in for the biopsy. While this isn’t a particularly pleasant procedure, the bright side to it is that I’m told I’m not allowed to swim for 7-10 days. Now, at this point Deanna is thinking – “How is that any different? You don’t swim anyway.” BUT, the key difference here is that now I don’t need to feel GUILTY about my lack of swimming. And while normally they wait for the lab results to make any weighty pronouncements, this doctor, who I like, tells me rather gravely that he’s basically sure it’s cancer, and that I need to start thinking about how to handle this.

A measure of my shock at this is the fact that I somehow did NOT ask him the most important question, namely: “How will this affect my triathlon career? I’m known far and wide as Tasha the Triathlon Goddess, the little people expect a lot from me. They expect greatness.” No, I think my mouth gaped open like a beached carp initially, and then I don’t really recall what I said. But then I got to sit, crying, in the little waiting room for them to do another mammogram because apparently they put some kind of marker in the lump so that they knew where it was (umm, hello, kind of obvious?), and they had to make sure said marker was in the right place. Then I was free to go off and contemplate my mortality. Which I did. In spades.

Now, normally this is the point in the narrative at which one would say ha, but then I got the lab results, and lookie, it was all just nothing! A cyst! A fibrous mass of nothingness! False alarm! But no, dear reader, this is not what happened. In fact, my life has now suddenly become a bad cliché of sorts – because here I am with my whole schtick of wearing my bad luck around me like a veil, whaa, whaa, I’m Schleprock with the perpetual stormcloud, one bout of garden-variety bad luck after another...... and now I come along and say oh yeah, and I have cancer too.

Yes, it was confirmed by the doctor this morning, with all the talk of chemo, surgery, etc. In a bit of typical Tasha "luck," he actually called Friday night, and the girls had convinced me to go out so I wasn't home until somewhat late. And I get home and there's a message from him, but since I'm a dumbass and don't delete my phone messages as quickly as I should, what I get from him is "I have your test results, Tasha, so please call me this evening at 847.." - and it cuts off. SHIT!!!! I find his office number to call, leave a message with a nice sympathetic lady, twiddle my thumbs for a while, figure he's probably not going to call at 11:20PM, take a sleeping pill and go to bed. And this morning while I'm waiting for the call, I realize that he sounded rather somber, no jocularity in his tone that might indicate good news, so I kind of know what's coming. So really, cancer, WTF? Since when does that actually happen?? It’s hardly even believable, for god’s sake - I’m still a little shell-shocked myself. And pissed off. I mean, what’s the point of living a healthy life, all this clean living bullshit, if then this comes along?

So just out of spite, I now vow to make every effort to suck in as many fluorocarbons as possible, to have that big porterhouse at every meal, to start making cocktails that consist of nothing but maraschino cherries, vodka from Chernobyl, and Tab. I’ll do my stair-climbing in asbestos-laden abandoned factories, swim near Gary, IN. Red dye #15? Hell, I’ll be pouring that shit in my morning coffee, thank you very much. Along with heavy doses of saccharine. And though I’m loath to give up any training, if I’m in a parking lot looking for a spot and I have to wait 10 minutes for some little old lady to give up a spot that’s incrementally closer than another one, even though I’ll be blocking everyone and causing a big traffic jam, I’ll do it, dammit. As for the earwigs in my garden, look out, because the DDT is on its way. Or Agent Orange. Why not? What difference can it make?

At least in the midst of all this, some people remain true to themselves. Deanna and I are planning on doing the Heatstroke 100 ride in WI tomorrow, and she felt compelled to tell me that she had read the website, and they note that the 74/100 mile routes are for “assertive, well conditioned riders.” Her comment: “Are you sure you will be ok?” I coolly inform her that I am “all about the journey” and all that crap, so if I have to stick to the shorter routes, that’s fine. They DO have a 12-mile route or something too, right? According to Deanna, the shortest is an 18-miler, which she thinks I can handle “if you pace yourself and stop a lot.”

I relay this here because if any of you are driving along in the counties of Racine or Walworth in WI tomorrow and happen to see a big blue barrel tumbling along the side of the road, and little Deanna-esque squeaks coming from within, just keep driving. Really. Nothing to see there, nothing at all.


Sherri said...

Not Tab! Oh my gawd, do they still make that stuff? Hang in there Tasha. Love that you are able to maintain your sense of humour. Sending all the good thoughts and karma that I can.

Kristin F said...

tasha - i could send along some sappy platitude or best wishes... but that's not me and certainly not you.... go out there and kick the big C's ass!

Oldman said...

OK it is not a saying... I do know how you feel! I was told I had cancer by the Nurse while driving 70 mph on the interstate. But the good news is you can beat this and continue to train. Now 4 surgeries later, and inoperable brain tumor, I'm cancer free for 7 months and still training.

Hang in there! When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on!

D said...

So that means I can play the cancer card...
Someone: "How was your race?"
Me: "It was shit, but I'm gonna play the cancer card on it."
Someone: "You have cancer?!?!?!?!"
Me: "No, my teammate does. What? That doesn't count?"

Tasha the Triathlon Goddess said...

Yes, I give everyone I know permission to use the cancer as an excuse for a bad race. Why not share the love? And, oldman, I'm very glad that you're doing so well - that's definitely encouraging! Though I think we should all form a posse and kick that Nurse's ass - aren't there rules about things like that? Sheesh.....

Drinking a toast to you all with an icy cold Tab... ;-)