Relief

The verdict is in:  there is no cancer!

Relief is immediate.  I find myself breathing easier.  I feel lighter.

So, what was that about?   Months of uncertainty, unknowing, like a cloud hovering over each day.  Dare we plan….?  What if…..?  What about…..?  The questions were there, but unanswerable.  Just as quickly as it arrived, the cloud is gone.  The sky is clear again; life is back to normal.

But I am not the same.  I am more aware.  I more aware of how important my love ones are to me, and that I let them know.  I am more aware of how fortunate I am to be working at a job I love, but that my health and well-being comes first.  I must look after myself.  I am more aware that as I grow older my body is less forgiving, and it needs my care.  Health is not a given, nor a promise; it requires work and commitment.

I was lucky.  Not everyone is.  I have been given another chance.  I’ve got some personal work to do.

 

Adjusting Focus

At thirty-one, I suffered from acute anxiety depression.  Translation:  the amount of stress in my life overloaded my ability to function.  My mind snapped, and I was reduced to a blathering blob of human jelly – trembling uncontrollably and  unable to perform even the simplest of tasks.  I lost all sense of self.

While incredibly frightening at the time, in retrospect this a time of breakthrough.  The black abyss into which I had fallen was a wake up call to re-examine my life.  Obviously, the way I had been progressing was not working for me.  I needed to regain equilibrium.

In desperation, I sought inspiration.  I found it in one particular quote, whose author I have long since forgotten:

I turned to God when my foundation was shaking, only to discover that God was shaking my foundation.

Prior to losing my grip on reality, my life had been externally focused.

My oldest sister was dying of cancer, and opted to die at home, which resulted in my mother and I becoming her primary caregivers. At the same time, I had returned to work full-time in order to allow my then husband the luxury of finding himself career-wise.   Ideally, the plan involved swapping roles, but his search led him to uncover an insatiable love for racing, and I found myself juggling work, childcare, and homemaking.

In response to the unhappiness I was feeling, I strove to better myself by enrolling in a fourth year French course at the university, and pushing myself to become more physically active.

In short, I had taken on way too much.  I like to think God pulled the plug.

Alone in the bottom of my black hole, I discovered something miraculous – my faith.   I hadn’t given it much thought before, yet, there is was, like a faint beacon of hope, drawing me out of my darkness.  I realized that I did believe in God, and more than that, that God believed in me.   My doctor offered long term drug therapy, but I preferred to take God’s challenge, and build a new foundation from within.  A spiritual dialogue began.

Twenty-three years later, with the threat of the c-word over my head, I find my equilibrium challenged once more.  I have not forgotten that God uses nudges as reminders.  I need to find balance again.  The dialogue continues.

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The Beginning

An image from my dreams has been haunting me for some time, mostly due to its oddity.  The image is of my chest, with nipples akimbo.  Why would I dream such a thing?  I could not fathom the answer, but I did become self conscious afterwards, always checking myself before going out.  I saw a woman once who had nipples so misaligned that it was hard not to notice.  I was afraid to ask, but judging by her general physique and character, I assumed it was a breast enhancement that went terribly wrong.  That would not apply to me.  I have no cosmetic surgery in my past, present, or future.

Then last night, after waking out a deep sleep with heart pounding and a burning thirst, I caught sight of myself in the mirror, and what should I see, but one nipple pointing north west and the other lost in orbit  – my dream image!  So was my dream a premonition?  If so, what was the message?

December 13th I had a lumpectomy.  In late June, my doctor sent me for a mammogram, after noticing it had been many years since the last one.  Not long after the routine examination,  I received a recall notice.

“Don’t worry”, the message said, “in 9 out of 10 women, it is nothing.”

I assumed it was related to the length of time since my last one.  No real borderline for comparison.  Re-examination day came.  They wanted to do two procedures: a spot screening and an ultrasound.  Unlike my first visit, which was in and out in a surprisingly short period of time, I found myself waiting and waiting after the initial procedure.

I asked if they had forgotten me.  A nurse assured me they had not.  Instead, she invited me into a private room and handed me a pamphlet.

“We would like to do a biopsy.”

There was something about calcification, but it was unexpected and so I didn’t ask any questions.  Never a fan of needles, the thought of having my breast punctured overwhelmed me.

One of my professed philosophies is don’t worry until there is something to worry about.   The threat of a sharp object invading my delicate area was real and immediate.   I worried about that.   The appointment was scheduled for two weeks down the road.

My daughter was due to give birth any moment.  I worried about not being there for her.

A cancellation four days later, saw me headed for biopsy without the time to fret.

“Your doctor will have the results in 10 days” I was told.

Two days later, my doctor advised me I needed to see a surgeon.  She said the finding were “suspicious” and the area needed to come out. I would be seeing the surgeon on October 31st.  Trick or treat.

I ran into a close friend who had been going through the same thing.  Her doctor said they would just monitor her more closely.  I liked that solution.  I decided I would be a “wait and see” also.

In the meantime, I had a beautiful new granddaughter to occupy my thoughts, and I had just started a new job, at a new school.

Then in mid October, my beloved mother-in-law suffered another in a long line of health setbacks, and did not recover.  She passed away on the 23rd of October, and we held a memorial “cocktail” party in her honour the following weekend.

By the time October 31st came along, I was physically exhausted, and emotionally spent.

My ‘wait and see’ approach was met with a chorus of “Absolutely not!” from both the surgeon and her resident.  Nor was I to be allowed to put it off till summer vacation.  December it would be.

“Any questions?”

I couldn’t think of one.  My mind was flooded with concerns for work, Christmas, and our annual trip to Mexico.  What would happen to all of those?

Try as I might, anxiety got the best of me.  I threw myself into planning for Christmas, finishing up work, and cooking for post-surgery.  I found myself becoming irrationally temperamental, losing patience easily, and tearing up without warning.

“It’s not like having a toothache,” my husband reassured me.  “With a toothache, you call the dentist, and know what will happen.  There is no certain outcome here.  It is fear of the unknown.”

I wear a sports bra now, 24/7.  It supports the area and helps with the healing.   Without adjustment, it also pushes my breasts into awkward positions and creates an image similar to my dream.

So what was that all about?  Did some part of me, with some warped sense of humour, try to warn me in advance?  Was the intended message that this would be the worse to fear?  Or that there are worse things to worry about than whether or not your breasts line up?