Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Doubling down on crazy

Sunday is the most insanely long day in creation, and I wind up catching up on emails at 2AM because I can’t sleep. Then finally, Monday! Yay! I head downtown and park on my usual Tammy “Stand By Your Man” Wynette floor, and thank god there are no lollygaggers today as usual, because otherwise there might have been a death or two. Not mine.

The small waiting room after you’ve gone in and changed into the flimsy hospital gown

First it’s just me, and then more women troop in, until there are about 6 of us, a regular caffeeklatsch. I think about asking one of them if they brought a bundt cake. Then the older, frazzled-looking woman next to me starts talking.

OFLW: Blah blah blah waiting blah blah blah keep a close eye on me blah blah something in situ.

Me: Oh, you had DCIS?

OFLW: Yes, I think that’s it. Something tiny that they found but it’s been ten years and I haven’t had any problems or anything since then. Thankfully, because that would be the worst thing to have to go through!

Woman 2: DCIS, that’s what I had.

Woman 3: Oh, me too.

Woman 4: So did I.

Woman 5: Me too.

What the hell kind of crap is this? How in the world did I wind up with my appointment on “lucky older women who had what most call pre-cancer” Day, while I’m the token representative of the Huge Honking Tumor group? OFLW is still yammering about “God looking out for (her)” and “being too stubborn to get cancer”, and I start looking around the little room for a frying pan, preferably cast-iron. Surely they have such things on hand?

Talking to the mammo tech while she’s setting up the machine

Me: At least it’s nice and warm in this room – the waiting room is kind of chilly.

Nice tech lady: They do try to keep it warm in here, though they have to be careful so the machines don’t overheat.

Me: Oh great, what happens then, do they start smoking?

NTL: Ha ha! They……umm, I don’t know. I think we just need to wait until they cool off.

Me: That’s good, because I tend to have bad luck with such things. My friends call me Schleprock.

NTL: No, really? Mine too! They always tell me that if I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.

Me: Me too!

NTL: I did have good luck once for a while…

Me: Lucky you!

NTL:….but it didn’t last.

Me: We’re a great pair here then.

NTL: Well, maybe our bad luck will cancel itself out.

Me: Ah, good point, like matter and anti-matter. I like that. Yes, let’s go with that theory.

I then get the little stickers that they give you to put on scars and such to protect them from the evil death rays from the mammogram machine. Okay, I don’t know what they’re for exactly, but they come from these rolls of stickers and have flowers and hearts and balloons on them, which I always find amusing. But NTL informs me, after I ask, that no, they do not in fact come from the craft store or the dollar store, that they really are special stickers. Who knew?

When I get out, I go back to the little waiting room, where thankfully OFLW is not in attendance. I wait, and wait, and wait, imagining all sorts of dire scenarios, whereby my films are so shocking and scary that Dr. Jeruss is trying to muster up the courage to tell me that I’m doomed. Because I’m sure that’s what she’d say, too: “Tasha, I hate to tell you this, but you’re doomed.” Right.

As I ponder an escape downstairs to get a tea latte, I’m then bustled into another room for an ultrasound. The lump is apparently nothing to worry about, though they’re not sure exactly what it is, but then the tech calls in the radiologist.

Nice radiologist woman: Okay, so this lump that you’re feeling, I don’t see anything there, and….hmm….

Hmm? I look over at the screen where she’s focusing on one little area under my armpit. You know, where those pesky lymph nodes are.

NRW: Hmm….

“Hmm” again??? What the hell?

NRW: There’s this lymph node….I’m sure it’s nothing, but….hmm……maybe…you know, you just sit tight, I’ll be right back.

Great, the lump was a red herring, and now I have a pesky lymph node to worry about. Just super.

NRW, coming back: Okay, you know what, we’ll just keep an eye on this node, so instead of having you come back in a year like we normally would from now on, we’ll see you in sixth months. But really, it’s nothing to worry about!

I decide to just go with this. They’re not worried, I’m not worried. I eventually see Dr. Jeruss, and she’s her usual chipper wonderful self, not worried at all. Which is great – except for one tiny thing. And that’s that I often think that our doctors – those of mine and all my CancerChick friends – have little understanding of why we tend to freak out at every little bump or ache or weirdness or just whatever’s going on that’s new and unfamiliar. To them, the chances that any of this is the cancer coming back is remote.

This is the problem with that thinking: some would look at us and say oh, you shouldn’t have gotten cancer in the first place, so the chances of it coming back are infinitesimal.

We look at that same info and say yes, we shouldn’t have gotten cancer in the first place, but since we did in fact win the shit-luck lottery, that means we’re not very fortunate people in the first place. And it means that cancer cells know how to grow in our bodies. For whatever reason, they do, and that means they’re more likely to come back. Because whatever reason we got cancer in the first place, that hasn’t changed, if it’s something in our genetic makeup or bodies or environment, nothing’s changed. I’ve read studies that show a clear linkage between secondhand smoke exposure growing up and BC in pre-menopausal women. I’ve never smoked myself, but that doesn’t change the fact that my dad smoked like a fucking chimney my entire life. Which I’m actually not bitter about – there’s no point to that, since it’s unchangeable.

But the fact remains that we’re younger women with aggressive fast-growing cancers, not 65-year-olds with 3mms of DCIS.

And there is no cure for breast cancer.

We’ll never be able to “get over it.”

We see our friends die on a regular basis, these lovely beautiful smart funny women who leave a gaping hole in the world when they leave. And we rage about the unfairness of it all.

So no, we’re not paranoid or hysterical or overreacting – we’re fierce about protecting our health and being diligent about anything that could be something. And we don’t really care if you think we’re being ridiculous. We’ll continue to be ridiculous until we die of something else – hopefully many decades into the future.

Monday evening

Stan comes and gets me, and we go to Moody’s Pub, for celebratory onion rings and sloppy joes and hot-cider-with-rum. As we clink glasses, I bask in the joy of being alive. Because yes, my life is rather sucky at the moment, but no matter how sucky things get, it’s still great to be alive. This is something I’ll never stop appreciating, especially after an all-too-frequent cancer scare. I may want more out of life, and feel I deserve more, but for tonight, just being alive and cancer-free-ish is good enough. I’ll take it.

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