Aaaaand Cancer – Part 1

I mentioned in a recent blog that some things went down this past summer that changed me. There were a lot of positive changes, but some others that knocked me completely off my grid.

Contrary to most gynecologists, mine is amazing. She sits down and has normal conversations with me despite my wearing only paper, and while she’s examining me she asks about my son and my family and how writing is going. It’s more like going to see a friend who just happens to own and operate a speculum and stirrups…

I was specifically excited to see her this time because after Bear started his own business, I freaked the heck out. Not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from after getting married several weeks prior only leaves room for stress-eating and chronic bathroom cabinet reorganization. My gyno is always willing to offer me advice on supplements and even Big Pharma, as I’ve been through depression enough times to know when I’m in trouble and I need to head it off at the pass.
We had a nice conversation about it and she suggested some options outside of pharma to start with since we were catching this bought early, but assured me that if I needed an anti-depressant she would gladly prescribe one. She went on with my exam, telling me everything appeared normal and healthy (as it always has). Before she left, she did a quick breast exam, and while she did I told her that my ribs always tripped me up on self-exams. “This side especially…I always feel my rib and think it’s a lump.”
“Where?” she asked me.
“Right here,” I chuckled. “It’s nothing, it’s my rib, but I always freak myself out.”
“Right here?” she asked again. She pushed and poked a few times in the same spot.
No. Not right there.
“Actually, no it’s further back than that…”
“Well, I feel something right here…”
And suddenly, depression became far less of an issue. The room’s corners and edges got all rounded and dark; my gynecologist’s words began streaming at me in a straight line, right between my eyes. My brain repeated, “Lumplumplumplumplump…”
“It’s not an immediate concern, but I do want you to get a mammogram sooner than later.”
A mammogram. I’ve never had one of those. I had an ultrasound once, but never a mammogram. How do I do that where do I do that why do I have to do that.
“I’ll get you a prescription for an ultrasound and once your insurance approves it, you can come back in and they’ll do it in this same building.”
“Same building…”
“It’ll only take about 45 minutes start to finish…”
“Start to finish…”
“I’m not real worried about this, Erin, but I don’t want to miss something…”

I began by telling her my husband started his own business and how worried I was about paying our mortgage and I ended the appointment collecting insurance paperwork and appointment documents to check and see if I had cancer.
From new business to cancer.
Who cares if I can’t pay my mortgage when I’m dead…

Get it?

Get it?

I immediately drove to our local bar and grille where I’d celebrated my best friend’s cancer-free diagnosis almost three years prior (after her own surgery and radiation treatment). We ran around the bar screaming, “Cancer-freeeeee!” and tons of people bought us shots in honor of those they’d lost to cancer. It was the greatest night.
I couldn’t think of where else to go. I ordered a beer and sat outside and texted both her and another friend.
They came running. And I mean literally…running.
One of them immediately raised up my arm in the middle of the bar to feel the lump while the other one looked at me with kind eyes and told me I was going to be ok. (No matter what.) Ironically another girlfriend saw us sitting outside from her car ride home and stopped over, only to have me start weeping while explaining why we were there. She sympathized. More than that, she empathized.
There I sat. Surrounded by people who loved me thinking about how sad it would be to leave them. I couldn’t bare to have a conversation with my husband about it…

Bear texted and I told him I decided to meet friends for a drink. I shared with him what was really going on a few beers in, and then completely fell apart on the bed when I came home at about 9:00 that Monday night. I howled. I screamed. I though of my baby. I thought of my dogs. I thought of my step-son who had JUST gotten used to the idea of me being his mom. I thought of my mom. I thought of my prayer group, my high school friends… I thought a lot in between gulping for air and choking on fear.

Of course, being a Virgo, I began calling the hospital, insurance company, and mammogram office first thing the next morning until someone could assure me that I wouldn’t be waiting a week to come in. I’ve found that kindness and persistence works 100% of the time when in a situation like this, and it worked again. I had an appointment that very afternoon at 1:30pm.

Bear, sick with the flu, insisted that he come with me. This is a man who shows up, every time, everywhere, no matter what. He does what he says he will do. He never leaves me without a partner. I gathered up all my paperwork and prior hospitalization documents and health forms and put them all in a manilla folder. I didn’t label it because…I didn’t know what to write. I held it in my lap and together we drove to the appointment.

The waiting room was full. We arrived nearly an hour early because…well, I don’t know why. I sat next to women in their 80s, black women, asian women, young healthy women, middle-aged women who looked like they’d smoked and drank for the last 40 years. Some of them had husbands or partners. Some of them were there alone. Some were worried. Some were completely calm. And some of us…some of us were going to find out we had cancer that day. And none of us knew which was which yet.

That was maybe the scariest part…

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