The fact that I am 44 pisses me off. I might look 44, but I rarely feel it and even less than rarely act like it. It is only when I have to dig my readers out of my bag so I can read a menu or someone asks me my age and hearing myself verbalize the truth always sounds strange; that age belongs to someone else—someone old. Then I have to get real with my aging self. There are signs all around me that I am no spring chicken. I don’t dare jump on the trampoline without completely emptying my bladder first. I have to pluck more areas on my face than just my eyebrows and if that isn’t bad enough, I turn down the radio in the car when I want to talk. WHO AM I?
It may be part of my internal denial and my hopes to cling to the youth I once had, but often I don’t take time to ensure that my ‘old lady’ medical checks are done routinely and regularly. If my body was an automobile, it would not get the routine maintenance, fluid checks and changes, or the occasional diagnostic checks. Nope. I just kick the tires and turn up the radio to drown out any clanks or knocks. This is exactly how I ended up way behind on my annual health checks (and when I say way behind, I mean several years, not months).
A couple of weeks ago I was rarely not traveling for work and folded under the intense pressure by my husband (who is also not as young as he used to be) to get my wellness exams caught up. I showed up to complete the well-woman’s circle of life maintenance check. They looked in my throat and under the hood and checked the pipes and that all went fabulous. I ended the fun-filled day with a mammogram relieved to finally have all of it completed. What I wasn’t expecting was the call I received shortly thereafter—We need you to come back in for an additional test. There was something suspicious on your mammogram. And just like that, things just got real.
I spent the next week out of town with work and tried to tamp down the word “suspicious” that kept slipping out of my subconscious and tap dancing all over my conscious. It is really hard to focus on work when you have an ambiguous word tap dancing in your brain. I arrived home and went for boob-smash ‘take two’, which led to yet a THIRD boob smash a couple days later. Boob smash number three was the equivalent to having someone fold my right titty into an Origami swan and then secure it firmly into a vice grip. The whole thing gave “titty twister” a completely new meaning, with the end result being that it wasn’t the end at all.
I was scheduled for a needle-guided surgical biopsy the next morning. The good news is that I was asleep for the “surgical biopsy” part. The bad news is I was wide-ass awake for the “needle guided” portion. Holy God, a little GHB or chloroform next time, please! I should mention this included mammogram number FOUR, and a big needle, and a Styrofoam cup taped over a wire hanging out of my boob? It was all kinds of glamorous. In addition, I had my husband, and Mom and Stepdad with me, which would have been appropriate if I was having a heart transplant, but holy cow it does feel good to be loved.
And then we waited. Waiting was difficult enough, but I was scheduled to fly out of town for work and so I had to wait 700 miles away from home. I do try and plan ahead for these situations. Unbeknownst to her, I had put on my initial paperwork that any and all health information could be shared with my sister, Kim. She called me early in the week to ask if I had heard from the doctor.
Kim: Have you heard from the tests?
Me: I am not calling.
Kim: Yes you are. We have to know.
Me: Yes, we have to know, but I am not calling. You are.
Kim: What the hell? They won’t tell me anything.
Me: I already signed a consent saying they could tell you anything.
Kim: You are shitting me.
Me: I shit you not. I can’t hear bad news from the doctor. If it is bad I need you to tell me.
Kim: I hate you.
Me: I know.
Kim: I love you.
Me: I know.
She called and we had to wait a few more days before the results were finalized. In the interim, I didn’t sleep much. I prayed a lot. God always knows when I am in trouble. I am so predictable. I also inventoried my life and the way I live it. My life is a continuous battle to keep what is important at the forefront. My little priority ducks are a bunch of bastards that I can never seem to keep in a row. I consistently fail at being present in the moment and I had to have a suspicious something show up on a mammogram to remind me that I don’t have an infinite amount of moments. I still have so many damn ducks to wrangle. At some point in my existence I want to present my wily-ass little ducks to the world in a complete and unified row.
Later in the week:
Kim: Hey! How are things in Texas?
Me: Mostly sunny with a slight chance of cancer.
Me: The results are negative, aren’t they?
Kim: (sobbing) Yes!! And now I can breathe again. (I knew if it had been bad news, she would never had let me hear her cry. She, too, is predictable).
Me: Thank you!
Kim: I hate you. Don’t ever do this to me again.
Me: I love you.
Kim: I know.
Cancer is a beast and I have seen mighty warriors fall to its ruthlessness. I will not pretend that I was not scared shitless. I am NOT a warrior. Hell, I can’t even keep my ducks in a row. My days of kicking the tires and running on empty are behind me. I came away with a heck of a scare and a right boob that looks like it might belong to the Bride of Frankenstein. But those are two outcomes for which I have boundless immense gratitude. Life’s forecast can change without warning and I am blessed beyond belief with family and friends with whom I can find shelter, when there is even a mere threat of a storm. The truth is, I probably won’t ever get my shit completely together, but I will bet my right boobie that I won’t miss another mammogram!