When I was a young girl, our home was broken in to while we were away. I was too young to understand what had happened or even what was taken from our family, but it had a lifelong impact on my dad. He never answered the front door while I was growing up without first grabbing his handgun off the tall bookshelf in the hallway and placing it in his back pocket. He has a concealed weapons license now. When I think of his response to a home invasion, I can’t help but think about the cancer invasion that took over my body 3 years ago.
In many ways, something was taken from me that cannot be replaced. Valuables were stolen. Innocence was lost. And I am forever changed.
It is as if after the “break in”, I have built a fortress with the help of a system wide alarm which alerts me when even the slightest breech seems to have occurred. Every pain, ache, odd sensation, lump, bump and trigger sets off this extreme panic and need to investigate. Over the last 3 years I have made countless trips to have this or that checked out only to find that it was nothing to be worried about. There was always a logical explanation, well, almost always, and I was expected to go on my merry way.
Yet, somehow, merry
is not what I feel like on most days, and dread and worry seem my constant companion. It’s a sense as though the “other shoe” will drop at any moment, unexpectedly. That must be what my dad has felt his whole life!
Three months ago while on vacation, I felt a tender spot above my surgical scar. It was a palpable area about the size of an M & M. Thinking it was maybe hormonal, or perhaps scar tissue, I thought I would wait to have it looked at a few weeks later. After all, the holidays were approaching, and I had vowed to have a doctor-free December. I managed to put it out of mind during the Christmas season, but then January came along. Three weeks I finally got up the courage to call the breast surgeon’s office.
My palms got sweaty just dialing the phone. Deja Vu set in—-that feeling like you’ve been in that same place and moment before, so real you could actually taste it! When I look back to summer of 2008, a phone call is what started everything. So that phone call made me realize that once again a breech must be investigated and I DO NOT LIKE IT!
They got me in to see the doctor the very next day. I must say that after you’ve had a cancer diagnosis, they don’t waste any time having something looked at, and for that I am grateful. The doctor took a look and said she could feel it too. Her words were, “but there shouldn’t be anything there now”. Let’s have it ultrasounded. So a few days later I found myself at the mammography ultrasound center and they did the test. A fuzzy blackish area appeared on the screen right at the palpable area of concern. The radiologist called his supervisor in and together they agreed it is NOT a cyst. It does not have distinct borders, yet it is not whitish like scar tissue. In short, they did not know what it is but decided a breast MRI would reveal more.
This waiting and worrying is a killer. It’s probably the worst part anticipating bad news or good news or any news that will take the immediate fear away. In the meantime I stayed busy as a bee, hoping to take my mind off things, but about a hundred times a day I would check to see if the lump might have magically disappeared. Silly, I know, but a girl can hope.
Finally MRI day came 2 days ago, an hour and fifteen minutes of laying still in the scanner with contrast agent pulsing through my veins. And today the result.
“Likely post surgical scar tissue; re-evaluate in 6 months”. A sigh of relief. A tear of gratitude. A realization that this is my life now….constant surveillance. Being on guard at all times. Knowing that the invader could strike again without notice, injecting that terror all over again. But today the terror has subsided and maybe for a little while I can feel merry once again.