Things You Learn While Waiting For Test Results.
I really wanted to name this blog "Things You Learn While Waiting To Find Out If You Have Cancer" but I see how alarmist that can sound.... however, these are things I learned while waiting to find out if I have cancer.
if you're just here for the clickbait, I have a suspicious lymph node but it's most likely fine, will be monitored and considered benign after two years of keeping an eye on it.
Six months ago I'm in my shower and I'm washing my hair. I lift my arm and I think "... what is that...."
It took me five months to get up the guts to go to the doctor.
Lesson Number One:
I waited way, way, way, way too long to go to the doctor because I was scared.
I don't think it's unusual at this point to consider the fact that you, as a human, might get cancer. Anytime I ever let my mind wander to that corner of the brain I thought a lot about how I would handle it. I would (hypothetically) promptly see my doctor, get a second opinion, assemble a team and do whatever I had to do to keep going.
Absolutely not what happened at all, even a little. After my initial armpit lump discovery, I chose to ignore it for 5 months. When I did finally get to the doctor, I cried the entire time, to every nurse and practitioner who saw me that day. I apologized over and over and berated myself for not coming in sooner. I was sad and embarrassed but luckily everyone at my Drs office was kind and compassionate and could not have been more helpful.
Lesson Number Two:
Don't look at the ultrasound screen. Just don't do it.
You know what happens when you look at the screen and you have NO IDEA what you're looking at? Your mind goes to some real WEIRD places.
A reminder (mostly to myself): you don't know what you're looking at, you are not trained to see what the radiologist sees and watching what's happening on that small little black hole of a television is only going to send your mind into overdrive. LOOK. AWAY. EVERY TIME.
Lesson Number Three:
Don't Do This Alone
A mistake I made through this whole process was made most evident to me today while sitting in the Maggie Daley Center for Women's Cancer Care with dozens (and I mean dozens) of other women who were visibly being treated for miscellaneous cancers.
I went to all of these appointments alone. People offered, but I said no.
I said no because if I let someone sit there with me then it would be real. Then I would have to answer to someone else about why I'm sitting in a waiting room to see a specialist for CANCER. It's so weird to even type that word... cancer. If I went alone, I could process how I wanted to. If I went alone I could have time to compose my reply to those who were waiting on my news.
I've been waiting for this appointment for 3 weeks. During those 3 weeks I ignored the possibility of this being real... it even felt like a lie when telling people it was something I was going through. It's outer body because you n-e-v-e-r think it's going to be you. If people were involved then it was real and I wanted it to feel as unreal as possible for as long as possible.
Lesson Number Four:
You don't know until you know
Doctors really like to cover their own ass and by that I mean there are going to be one million tests if they're not sure, which I appreciate.
The long and short of it is after I found a lump and some pain in my arm pit, I was ordered a mammogram and an ultra sound. The ultrasound was completed twice and suggested I have a lymph node that is suspicious. Today, I saw a lovely doctor at Northwestern who assured me that right now I'm okay. Another radiologist has to read my report and from there she'll let me know if she would like to see another ultrasound or biopsy. If not, I will have to monitor the lymph node for the next 2 years to be sure there's no change or pre-cancer.
But throughout this whole process there has been no definitive answers for any questions.
And for someone who is always in control, this has been a lesson in learning how to cope with the unknown.
Lesson Number Five:
Hope for the best, plan for the worst, wind up somewhere in the middle*
I've seen a real change in myself over the last month. I don't want to be one of those 'everything has changed now that my health might be in jeopardy' kind of people but i'm about to be one of those people. I'm not getting any younger and the things I'm afraid of are becoming more stupid as the days go by. What a real wake up call it is to know that I'm not immortal and that one day (hopefully very far in the future) I'm going to meet my maker but with those days that I still have left, I'm going to make them count. And by make them count I mean I'm going to do whatever the fuck I want. I'm going to help people, I'm going to care about shit that really matters, I'm going to stop and think about the weight I give to things that are insignificant and I'm going to do w-h-a-t-e-v-e-r I need to do to take care of this chubby little temple of a bod because I have to.
So, right now I'm feeling relieved. And I'm feeling fine.
And I might be waiting on a call from a doctor every six months for the rest of my life.
But I'm going to be on top of it, I'm going to deal with it.
And in between those six months I'm going to keep making every day FULL.
There is so much more to come....
Thanks for growing with me.