I have never been a big fan of going to the Doctor. In fact I have managed to evade the whole process for more than 13 years other than an occasional drop in for antibiotics for a bout of the flu. But as I saw another year in my 40’s coming around, I decided that it was time to get a clean bill of health or find out if something was wrong and get an early notice of life expectancy. It didn’t happen right away but I finally made the appointments and subjected myself to “the annual physical.”
Did I mention I don’t think much of Doctors? They have waiting rooms full of sick people flipping through outdated magazines and transmitting their unknown diseases to the pages of last season’s interior design fashions. They have tests you can’t study for and results you can’t understand. They have invasive tools and unflattering gowns. And they inevitably can’t finish anything in a single visit…you have to keep going elsewhere for reasons not fully explained. At the end of the day they recommend a pill or a surgical procedure that is sure to have some unspeakable side effect or an unreasonable extended recovery period. And to accompany all of that mish mash of disagreeable experience, they generally have no sense of humor and they are always running late.
My initial trepidation was relieved with a very flattering blood panel score that left me boasting to any one who would listen of my cholesterol and triglyceride panels and an unexpectedly ideal blood sugar level. Who knew that someone with – shall we say – my weight fluctuation history – and less-than-perfect diet regimen would get such a glowing report? And a thirteen year gap in that special “female” exam rendered an equally unexpectedly pleasing result.
It was the much dreaded mammogram sequence of events that brought me to my knees and left me reeling from the possibility that I might not be invincible. A wise friend recommended that I not go alone but I felt I was up to it and initially waived through.
But I got the “call back”.
Some of you know what I’m talking about. They try to lighten their voice and act like it happens to everyone once in a while, but that call is a real show stopper. Their insistence that I take the next available appointment didn’t make me feel any more positive. And when the second appointment was completed I was gently and sensitively informed that I had a 12 centimeter mass in one breast and a 9 centimeter mass in the other – both with “malignant characteristics” – whatever that is. The next step was to biopsy the masses and determine whether they were indeed – malignant. My appointment was scheduled within days and I left the Radiology Center numb with fear.
How could I have missed a lump that size? They were respectively the size of a softball and a baseball and I never felt a thing! What an idiot I was for not getting checked sooner!
And then I went home and started the internet research process. And I called everyone I knew who was ever in, of or near the medical field. Even though I tried to keep the conversations light, I got just enough information to spend the next 48 hours researching every available resource of types, treatments and reconstruction options for breast cancer patients. And I set my mind to be in control of my treatment like I had never micro managed anything before. I would be my own advocate and I would tell them exactly how I would be treated before during and after surgery and treatment and recovery.
I was armed with a three ring notebook containing all my research, all available insurance coverage information and just enough legal ammunition to make one of them want to sedate me with something that would take out a rhino in one of those National Geographic documentaries.
And then they called again. My doctor’s office was unable to sign the necessary forms authorizing the Radiology Center to perform this necessary procedure because she was on vacation and the receptionist hadn’t brought any of it to her attention before she left for Maui. They would have to reschedule until the following week. And they were so so sorry. They just couldn’t believe a doctor’s office could miss this.
Are you kidding me?
My sister in law was kind enough to verbally peel me off of the emotional ceiling and share my insult and then I did what any neurotic control freak would do and I spent my extra week of torture furthering my internet research with a fervor usually reserved for lunatic fringe Al Qaeda terrorists.
Yeah – you didn’t want to be the next medical professional I had an appointment with.
And then the big day came. I put my withering fearful psyche into a tight bra and a bullet proof vest and armored myself with my ever thickening binder of R&D and headed to the Radiology Clinic. Alone of course. And not because no one could stand to be with me at this point either. I just didn’t want anyone to see me cry.
Signed in and dressed for biopsy combat, the technician came in to give me an overview of what they were going to do and as she found my computer generated sonogram and started to point out my offending “masses”.
And then I heard it. The most wonderful word I had ever heard.
Not baseball size. More like pinkie nail size.
And I started to laugh. Not that it is any less serious, but that it was just like me to not to recognize the difference between centimeters and millimeters. I got the tail end of the metric system in high school and I was barely paying attention to much of anything then anyway. I have never been much of a measurer – I sew and I cook and I eyeball what I think would be the right amount and then get a little extra because if a little is good, than more is better.
So I knew right then that they wouldn’t be scooping out my chest cavity with a backhoe and I took the rest with tears of happiness and relief. They called with my fibrocystic results the next day and life returned to my normal chaos.
But I didn’t take all of the experience lightly and I didn’t fail to recognize that I have once again been blessed and put on notice that God has his eye on me. He must have a sense of humor and he must enjoy occasionally pulling the rug out from under my carefully pedicured feet so that I can lie on my butt and remember who’s in charge.
I want to thank everyone who prayed for me – not only that I would experience the healing of my body and a quick recovery, but for those who prayed for my sanity and that I would be able to hold onto the shreds that I have left as it is. I am especially appreciative of those who listened to my “worst case scenarios” and my extended reconstruction and recovery plan. I appreciate the tears shed on my behalf and the love and care I felt from every email I received letting me know I was being thought of and prayed for.
And I can’t leave out a special recognition to my long suffering husband, Michael, who did everything he could to “fix it” including locating, acquiring and installing an expensive adjustable bed so that I could recover in the ultimate comfort. I am sure he never expected to have the pleasure of my unfettered panic mode in full display – everything he loves about me exposed in a very unflattering light and some of my less attractive traits surfacing so loudly and lastingly. I am sure if he thinks about it long enough he will give serious consideration to taking a vacation alone during my next real or imagined health crisis.
I am very grateful to be in such good health physically and I am recovering from my completely self inflicted emotional and psychological trauma and I intend to live each new day to the fullest with a special thanks to God for giving our scientific community a metric centric tool that few of us in the non-medical field that are “of a certain age” understand. I would like to also suggest that they start to use more understandable terms – like “pea sized”, or “marble sized”, or “golf ball sized”. Perhaps even have a couple of cans of Playdough to demonstrate what they are talking about.
Am I asking too much?