What’s really important? I’ve been asking myself that question since the moment I found myself lying in a dimly lit room looking at a computer screen displaying a 2 cm mass in my right breast. My mind only half hears the doctor talking to the technician, and occasionally to me. 11:00 left quadrant. Mark that. I think we need to biopsy this. Well, the borders are smooth, that’s a good sign.
I am staring at the screen, in disbelief really. This isn’t happening to me. I’m the youngest. I’m the baby. My mind is racing down a street I don’t want to be on as I think of my daughters and my husband. Suddenly I am bombarded with random thoughts. I wish I had laid down with Olivia last night when she asked me to. How am I going to keep this from Elizabeth so she isn’t afraid? They have both endured so much in their short little lives. I shouldn’t have been so hard on my mom. I thought about the fear my mom must have had. I thought about my friend, Marcelle who died of breast cancer and Mrs B. The fear in my throat made it hard to breathe so I stared blankly at the green blinking dot of the machine next to me. On off. On off. On off. The quick rhythm mimicked the speed with which life had went from normal to this all in a split second.
I laid there alone, consciously focused on biting my lip determined not to cry. I felt like my lip was a dam and biting it somehow kept tears from bursting out. But the dam couldn’t seem to stop the involuntary trembling of my left arm and leg exposed from beneath my gown . I focused all my energy on trying to stop the shaking while they prepped me for the biopsy. I hated having a visible sign of the fear I was feeling inside. My body felt like a traitor, betraying the denial my brain was trying so hard to maintain. The shaking made the terror real. I finally gave up fighting it. Maybe if the shaking stopped the tears would explode out. I was more determined not to cry. So fear and I made nice on the table. I numbly watched and involuntarily trembled as if I were 10 years old again as they prepped needles and scalpels and other instruments they would soon be using on my body.
The procedure was painful and included placing a titanium marker on the mass so even in the best case scenario if it weren’t cancerous, it would be something they would need to follow from now on. That was one of the hardest parts for me. I could live with waiting a few days for the results of the test. But I didn’t want to live with a foreign object in my body and a question mark in my brain indefinitely. I like things clear. I like knowing. Yes you have cancer. No you don’t. I like definitive answers. I have a very hard time with ambiguity, waiting, and imperfection. Patience is not a virtue I possess.
After the biopsy and a fourth or fifth mammogram, I had lost count at that point, I was able to leave. I walked out to my car and the sun was shining. My legs felt weak and my eyes suddenly filled with the tears I had been holding in. I couldn’t get to my car quick enough and I sat there and cried before calling Josh. Josh, I thought to myself. In the end he is always there when I am alone and really need someone. I felt a wave of anxiety wash over me.
The drive home felt like it would never end. I started thinking about my life and the choices that I had made up to this point. I was finally getting healthy. At 40 years old I was finally in the best shape of my life. How could this be happening to me now? I was listening to music and having a pity party as I drove down I90. I was all alone. I had so many questions swirling in my head. I wondered why this had to happen today? Why did the appointment have to be rescheduled from last Thursday? I wouldn’t have had to be as alone last Thursday. People were thinking of me. But it was Monday and life had went on making the ever growing distance even greater. I had to rely on myself.
I came home and got into bed with my sadness and fear. As I laid there I suddenly remembered I had told my new trainer at the gym I would be there tonight. But I couldn’t lift weights with the stitches. Then I started thinking about a couple quotes he shared with me the last time we talked and how motivated he made me feel. Even though I couldn’t lift weights tonight I decided I would find a way to run tomorrow.
So the next day rather than waiting and wallowing I did a 6 mile run. It started out awful. My breathing was wildly out of control much in the same way my brain felt. I couldn’t focus. I started approaching the turn and third portion of my run and I questioned why the heck I had chosen this route. The right turn on Andrews Rd was long and in the middle of nowhere but the only way to get back to route 21. As soon as I made the turn the wind direction was pounding at me and I could feel anger swell up inside. Cars were getting too close because the road was so narrow. I felt profoundly alone and like I would never get back to Rt 21. Rt 21 meant I was on the last leg. Straight ahead and I would be back on a familiar path. I felt like I would never get there because I was barely moving forward. The wind was fighting every step forward I took. It was grueling.
When I finally got to Rt 21 and turned right I felt like a weight had lifted off my shoulders. My pace picked up and I realized I had made it to the home stretch. I could do this. I knew the route like the back of my hand. My confidence started to soar and I put all thoughts of Andrews Rd, my sadness, my anger and my fear behind me. I got this, I thought to myself. I will be okay no matter what happens. And to quote a new friend, “All will be well.”
I turned the corner to my street and came to our house greeted by my blonde haired beauty running up to me and my handsome husband waiting for me on the porch. I sat down on my mom’s glider proud of the strength I had just found even in the middle of things being so imperfect. The rocking on the glider in the sun soothed me as I remembered sitting silently on that very piece of furniture with my mom in the sunshine. The breeze was cool but the warmth of the sun on my body made it feel like she was right there with me hugging me. My phone rang minutes later as I sat rocking with my family. The doctor called and shared the news that the tumor was benign but they would have to follow it closely for 2 years. In that moment I felt a sense of relief and gratitude I cannot even describe. I focused on being okay today, right now. It didn’t matter as much as I had thought it would that I had to be followed. It wasn’t perfect but I had learned I could still be okay and happy and grateful with imperfect. In my heart I held on tightly to my new mantra, all will be well.