I was holding it together pretty well until the radiologist told me he was sorry. Twice.
And I know he was saying he was sorry meaning sorry that I had to
deal with this and not, like, sorry this means you're about to die. But
the very kind sorry was what did it.
Like when you're not OK but
pretending to be fine and then someone really sees you and asks you really, how are you,
and you just lose it.
Although I didn't lose it with him. I smiled and
thanked him and squoze my body very tightly together so I wouldn't fall
But I'm starting in the middle, sort of.
On New Year's Day, India asked me if I had any plans for the year. And the truth was, until that appointment on December 30th, I did.
I want to take the kids to Colombia. I want to do yoga teacher training. I want to learn to do a handstand, and peacock, and finally, finally, my absolute nemesis: side plank with my leg straight up in the air.
I want to get back to writing. I want to write something deep and real. Or maybe frivolous and hilarious. But still very real.
However, right now I feel like I can't plan anything until I know what I might have to plan around.
I had a mammogram in early December, and then I got a call saying I needed to schedule further scans. My doctor said at least 30% of her patients wind up having to have more scans, so not to be worried. Better to be cautious.
So being me, I wasn't not concerned, but I wasn't climbing the walls.
A friend offered to go with me last minute, and I happily accepted. We'd go, she said, find out it was nothing, and go have coffee.
It was right before New Year's. Things were quiet. That sounded great.
So I had the scans and then got escorted down to chat with the radiologist.
And this very kind, personable radiologist told me that there are things that are very clearly cancer, and things that are clearly nothing to worry about, and my scans were in the middle. I have a suspicious little grouping of calcifications.
He said it was very small, seven millimeters. He had a ruler. He showed me the measurement.
Since then I've been thinking about this.
Like, if we were talking about cake, seven millimeters would be an unsatisfyingly small slice. But I'm a not very big person with not very big boobs.
I have had slices of cake bigger than one of my boobs.
Seven millimeters is almost a centimeter which is almost half an inch. I mean, even a quarter inch is pretty big.
Don't you think?
So this nice radiologist patiently answered my questions, and drew me a little picture, and told me that in the worst case scenario, this is ductal carcinoma in situ, which is actually a pretty good situation, in that it's all contained in a milk duct.
DCIS. It has an acronym.
He said I needed to get a biopsy to see what it was. And sometimes the biopsy even takes it out, so when they go in for further treatment, it's not there any longer.
So I have to have a biopsy. The soonest I could schedule one in the metropolitan area was January 18.
(Although, good news! I spent the morning calling around, and everyone said sorry, but I told them even if they got a last minute cancellation, I'd drop everything and be there in an hour. And I just got a call about a cancellation Thursday morning!)
So I stood at the desk for a while as the receptionist looked at various office's schedules to get me in soonest. She then explained the biopsy procedure to me.
It sounds like they put your boob in a similar kind of vise to the one they use for mammograms, and use the imagery to guide them as they put a big needle in to take out a sample.
She said, "Don't worry. They numb the whole area. It's kind of uncomfortable but you won't feel the pain. You can drive yourself. You don't need to be sedated. You can, but you don't need to."
And I said, "Sedated like Xanax?"
"Oh, I will absolutely be sedating myself!"
I'm not concerned about physical pain. I mean, I don't enjoy it, but I think I have a high pain tolerance. The nurses forgot to connect my pain drip after my C-section. I complained and they were all, press the button. And after a while I was like, um, I keep pressing the button but it actually still really hurts. Like, really hurts.
Because it fucking hurts when they cut all your abdominal muscles, take a baby out, and stitch and crazy glue you back together.
So pain, fine.
But the anxiety?
She said, "Then you need arrive half an hour early so you can sign the papers beforehand. And someone will need to drive you."
We left, and I burst into tears, and my friend hugged me. And then two other women walked out of the office and stood waiting for the elevator with us.
And one of them said, "I love your boots! They look like they have space in the toe box! Who makes them?"
So I told her, and said they do indeed have good space in the toe box, and that I got them at Nordstrom Rack...
(You know I could happily be the old lady who lives in a shoe...except for all the children.)
And then the elevator stopped and the other woman was about to get out when my friend turned to her and said that she couldn't help overhearing her talking about her treatment, and would she mind talking to us?
So we followed this absolute stranger out of the elevator on a floor we weren't even going to so I could talk to her. Of course I started to cry again, and she gave me a big hug.
She said it was exactly what had happened to her. That she'd had DCIS. She gave me the name of her surgeon, who she loved.
That was 2014. She's been fine since.
And she said, "Not knowing is what's scary. Not doing anything is scary. Now you know, so you can take care of it. You're going to get a biopsy. If you need to do more, you'll do it. And it will be fine."
We hugged two more times in the course of the conversation.
I thanked her for sharing her experience, and said I was so happy to meet her. And she said she was so glad to talk, and that one day I might be exactly who someone needs to talk to.
She could've been a different kind of person, one who felt eavesdropped on, one who was like, no, strangers, don't follow me out of the elevator. But she was lovely and kind and open.
Which was a true blessing. I was so very grateful. For my friend, for generous strangers, for the way the world can be unexpectedly kind.
And now, because another woman canceled, Nick will be driving me out to Virginia on Thursday morning, and I should know one way or the other by the end of next week.
At which point I can make plans, one way or the other.
Oh, and Happy New Year! I mean this sincerely.
Gosh, that last one went fast.
Also: because of Grantchurch I am now resolved to include "What the Dickens?" in my repertoire.
Also also: For those of you who don't know, the left photo is me as the bitterest Mary a preschool Christmas pageant in Dhaka, Bangladesh ever did see, because I had to wear my PJs and the afghan my great-aunt crocheted rather than having a fabulous costume like an angel. Right side, same afghan, fake bitterness.
Furthermore: I still have stuff to say about ADHD and how interesting it is and also insurance companies who are assholes who don't want to pay for expensive medication.