Wednesday, May 01, 2013

It's Ok in the End

The exam was on the 17th, and I got the call-back about a problem on the 18th.  I had not anticipated that.

I tried to tell myself it was nothing to worry about. But I had a long wait - 13 days. I could not get in for retesting until yesterday.

Most of the time I tried not to think about it. Maybe it was nothing serious. A shadow. But try as I might I could not shake the worry.

My home is full of clocks, because I love clocks. My office resonates with a steady  tick, tick, tick. So sometimes when I wasn't expecting it, the noise turned into a chant of sick, sick, sick - which I quickly turned into no, no, no, when I realized what I was hearing.

I spent a little time thinking about my life. Had it all been a waste, these last 49 soon-to-be 50 years? And how would I react if I received the most devastating of news? I remembered my mother on the day she learned she would die, and her subsequent reactions - not all of them good. Everyone takes it in in her own way, I suppose.

I wondered who, if anyone, would stand by me. Would someone be with me at the end? Would someone hold my hand when I needed it, or would I cry alone in the night? Would I be strong enough to dispose of the things I cherish - my journals, my books, my photos, my personal property - or would I have to leave it for some unknown someone to dig through someday?

So many coulda, shoulda, woulda's - too many, really. Too many to count, to pass on, to act on. I thought about how I would like to live another 30 years - and is that too much to ask?

A line from Melissa Etheridge's song Come to My Window kept running through my brain: Nothing fills the blackness that has seeped into my chest. I remember reading an interview where she wondered if, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, had she called it to her by singing that song. I wondered if I had called it to me, somehow, maybe with bad poetry. I didn't think so, but you never know.

My time filled with things to keep me preoccupied - a little writing, a little reading, cleaning the house, my physical therapy, unnecessary trips to Kroger. More video game hours than normal, because that's a time-sucker if there ever was one. I thought maybe I should start putting my life in order, but I did not. I listened to the clocks instead, hearing them grow louder, tick, tick, tick.

I made no bargains with God. My thought was that I already had so many things wrong with me - enough to fill a Thursday 13 of its own, it's such a long list - that maybe one more wouldn't matter. But maybe one more would break me completely. Or maybe I had met my quota of aches and pains, and the universe would skip over me this once. I think I yearned for the last one, a reprieve.

Bad news has followed me around for years. I've been stoic each time I've heard the doctors make their pronouncements: you have asthma, you have endometriosis, you need surgery, you may die. This time, with my 50th birthday just six weeks away, and with my body aging and my most recent disease diagnosis literally and figuratively riding hard on my back, I felt the expectation of this new test failure in my gut. It was like the second-hand of the clock constantly pricking me, quietly determined to split me open. Sick, sick, sick.

My husband listened to me wonder what would happen. How would he cope? He dismissed my concerns. "You will be all right," he said. Time and again. Convincing himself as much as me.

Monday was especially bad. I was afraid and too tough to tell anyone how scared I was. I moved through the day as if I were buried in sand, already at the bottom of the hourglass. But I woke yesterday morning full of energy, raring to go and eager for the hours to pass. To get it over with. To know.

And when the nurse came in before the tests began anew and said the doctor thought it was a cyst, not cancer, I was relieved, then angry. How dare they call me like that? For all they had said was that the mammogram had a problem, there was a spot, something was wrong, I needed to do it again. They used the word "density" and I conjured up dire, despair, and darkness.

The new tests confirmed the doctor's suspicion. Nothing to worry about, this time. I could move along, go ahead with my life. But it is tough to get back to the routine now. I think about women who are not so lucky, who have to face every day with a brave, strong heart. I remember my mother and how cancer took her, and how hard she fought, failing, in the end.

There really are no words. There is not a sound I could make that would bring comfort and hope. There is only the silence, the ticking of that clock. That interminable, never-ending noise.

**I understand that great strides have been made in the care and treatment of breast cancer. It is imperative that all women keep up with their self-exams and scheduled mammograms. These days the prognosis is good even if the news is not. Do not be afraid. Easy for me to say, I know.**


  1. I remember the time I was told that my mammogram showed a problem, but I had to wait in an exam room at Lewis Gale for a couple of hours until someone qualified could read the X-ray. At any rate, I was determined to have the cyst removed, so I wouldn't have to worry about it again. I had surgery a few weeks later.

  2. How scary for you. If only they would think for a minute about what we think on our end. I used to get cysts ALL THE TIME. Until finally a NURSE told me to take evening primrose oil capsules. No more cysts. They sell them at Walmart in the vitamin area. I wish someone had told me multiple ultasound and aspirations ago.

  3. I'm happy it turned out well! I know that tick, tick, tick only too well. Breast, uterus, chest, face, liver. I no longer fear one day it will be the big C because whatever it's gonna be, it's gonna be and there's no point in me worrying about it until I know for sure. Then I'll probably freak out...until then I will continue to dance like nobody's watching :)

  4. I'm so glad this story had a good ending! I've never been good at waiting for bad news, even when there's a chance it could be good news. My mind somehow only focuses on the what-if's.
    Even if we are surrounded by encouraging loved ones and friends, that wait is still very singularly our own.

  5. oh anita...what a scary happy it turned out to be nothing in the end...but still, every second you waited must have been agonizing...hugs :(

  6. you'd think that health care people would learn psychology better.

    the sick sick sick of the clocks is hard. being assured everything is okay doesn't help, I know.


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