Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Importance of Touching Yourself

I didn't think I would ever tell anyone this story (outside of close family) let alone write about it, but I feel this is something I need to get out. This isn't a nerdy story. This isn't my usual rambles about movies or video games. This is a story, my story.  I hope you don't mind me sharing.

About a month ago I went to the doctors for a routine physical. I've always hated going to the doctor but I was overdue for a check up. In all honestly I was gearing myself for the news that I have an overactive thyroid, as it's been a trend in my family's medical history.  That coupled with my worry about drawing blood (it was my first time) were the only health concerns I could imagine.  I went through the motions, they checked my weight and height, asked me a million questions, poked this and prodded that, all in the most routine on manners.

Then the doctor had me dress in a gown so she could check my breasts.  It was amidst a standard, small talk conversation that the doctor nonchalantly asked me "Did you know there is a lump in your breast?"  I almost didn't hear what she had said.  I was so stunned by this observation.  There is very little history of breast cancer in my family and I am only twenty-three years old.  I shouldn't be worrying about lumps in my breasts...I'm too young.

Trying to keep my calm I told the doctor I had not noticed.

And then she checked the other side.  I had a lump in my other breast.  To say I was worried would be a lie.  I wasn't worried.  I wasn't processing anything she said.  I knew this couldn't be true.  It was as if my brain had decided to disconnect from my body and watch some strange girl turn into a wreck about her health.  I wasn't that girl.  I couldn't be that girl.

In a relaxed tone the doctor mentioned I would need an ultrasound to look at both my breasts.  That was the last of the conversation and it wasn't until later that my next appointment to get an ultrasound was set up.

I went through the time between hearing that news and the time of my ultrasound putting my health as far into the back of my mind as I could.  I knew if I sat and thought about it for any length of time, I would lose my cool.  I would break down and be too scared to get back up. Of course the occasional freak out popped out form me...but I was handling this news far better than I could have ever dreamed.  So I continued to distracted myself with happy thoughts.

And then guy Alex proposed.  Guy Alex of course knew about my the lump.  I really feel the lump had  0% to do with his decision to ask me to marry him.  In fact, I'm pretty sure the cogs were in motion long before we had the news.  But I couldn't have asked for better timing.  He had asked me about a week before my appointment for the ultrasound and the distractions of overwhelmingly good news helped me get through everything with ease.  Not to mention, having that glittery ring on my finger helped remind me that no matter what happened, good news or bad, I had a permanent partner in crime.

The night before the ultrasound was really when I was at my worst.  Guy Alex and I laid in bed, just about to go to sleep, when I told him how frightened I was.  He held me close, snuggled our pup, Willie, between us, and told me it would be okay.  I had troubles sleeping, but if it wasn't for his kind words I wouldn't have slept at all that night.

The day of the ultrasound finally came.  My boss had been out of the office the entire week before so I only could give her notice the day of that I would be gone for the afternoon at the doctors and I didn't know if I would be back for the end of the day.  Unfortunately, she was visibly unhappy that I would miss the last 2 1/2 hours of the day and verbally chastised me for going over the allotted 2 hours employees got for doctors appointments. I honestly didn't care.  If I got bad news, I wasn't going to want to go back to work.  If I got good news, I would want to hold my loved ones near and celebrate.

It's funny how professional one can become when they are speaking to doctors.  I work in a job where I am on the phone 95% of my day so I know how to talk professionally.  I felt so adult explaining my story to the doctor and nurse while using my big girl voice.  My Mom thankfully went with me and I wanted nothing more to turn into a puddle and beg her for all the hugs and lollypops I could ever ask for, but I knew I needed to be strong, if not for myself than for her.  I mean, how scary would it be to be a parent, watch your babies grow up into real, breathing adults, and then watch them confront a serious medical problem head on?  If I were that parent I would be terrified.  So I shut up despite my desire to cry my eyes out and scream "WHY ME?!?!" and instead focused on showing my Mom the engagement ring guy Alex had got me and made small talk about what to expect in my appointment.

The nurse was close to my age, so I really felt like I had to be an adult.  I took off everything above my stomach (except my engagement ring, which really gave me comfort) and let the nurse do her job. I thought the gel they use for ultrasounds would be freezing cold.  It's not.  You almost don't feel it because of the of the soothingly neutral temperature. Next the nurse brought in the doctor and she too inspected my breasts and spoke in one of the most relaxed voices I have ever heard.  She showed me where my rib cage was and pointed out my heart beat.  I couldn't help myself and when she showed me the thump, thumping of my heart all I could say was, "I really need to relax!"  We all laughed.

The doctor finished up and smiled.

"I don't see anything of concern.  You have a small cyst, but that's it."

I smiled.  I breathed.  I was okay.  I could finally focus on planning our wedding.  I could talk to my Mom with out worrying I would scare her.  I was healthy.  I don't have breast cancer. 

The rest of that day focused on happy thoughts and smiles.  It isn't until something so frightening happens that you really start to see all your other worries are so damn small in the grand scheme of things. Even now, looking back on it I don't think I fully understand how lucky I am.  I had two lumps, one in each breast and I got out of this situation, healthy and okay.  I try not to fathom the many of woman who don't get so lucky because that could easily have been me.

I'm not going to nag you to check yourself.  I'm not going to nag you to get routine physicals.  I'm just going to leave you with this, life is scary, but it is also beautiful.  You can get the worst news and the next day have the happiest moment of your life.  The bad will happen and it might not be for a reason or grand plan in the universe, but it can have an impact on you.  You decide the impact bad moments have on your life.  You can ignore them and stay the same.  You can let them push you down until you crumble.  Or maybe, just maybe, you can keep your smiling going and use it to make you stronger and happier.  I have often crumbled from tragedies but after a while you get tired of letting yourself fall down.  Even though you may be crushed a thousand times by life, if you stand up you will be surprised what waits for you.  I am standing now and I am happy. I can see everything waiting for me, waiting for my life and I can't wait to keep going.

I love you guys.  I will try to get back to my writing schedule.  For now, just do me a favor....and smile!

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Tootles xoxo

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