Routine. I’ve got to expel that word from my vocabulary. I went in Monday for what normal people would call a routine breast exam. Since the fall of 2016, below the belt took priority and I hadn’t taken the time to have a breast exam done. In August, during my last oncologist appointment, I asked about this and scheduled that day with a gynecologist they referred me to. I was finally accomplishing this task! I felt like superwoman or at least a woman who knows to make such a thing a priority.
When she detected a lump, my heart sank. It sank hard. In the realm of cancer, the survivor is always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Always. That shoe is forever suspended until it drops. I could almost visualize that shoe dropping in the air on Monday. My shoe, that other shoe, was crashing to the floor in slow motion.
She told me that it could be nothing. I cut her off. I asked her not to say that and I explained the last time a gynecologist said that to me I ended up with ovarian cancer. I didn’t need to be coddled. I’ve lived through the worst kind of gynecological cancer there is. My cancer band-aid had been ripped off in 2016. She didn’t need to slowly pull this one. The eeriness of her words transported me almost immediately back to 2016. I almost had visions that it was my old gynecologist talking to me, almost a parallel universe where the two went in and out. I wanted to vomit.
Immediately she began to tell me we’d be scheduling a mammogram right away and an ultrasound. I nodded. I asked some questions and about three questions in I was like, “well crap I didn’t bring my notebook and I wasted 75% of my battery between the waiting room and the sterile exam room waiting on the doctor to even remotely enter the room. Fantastic.” My next thought was, “I’ve spent the last 2 years becoming an expert on my type of ovarian cancer, not breast cancer, what flipping questions am I supposed to ask, great, just great.” I hate being unprepared. Like seriously HATE the feeling. Then I started free flowing with question after question of everything I knew to ask.
She handed me orders for the mammogram and the ultrasound, told me to go out the doors to check out and then downstairs to schedule the mammogram to the breast center. Here I was yet again, heading down a long hallway with a piece of paper in my hands just like 2016. I was holding it together. I checked out, made my way downstairs, opened the door to the breast center, and said hello to the woman who really didn’t want to acknowledge my existence. I held up my paper and said, “I need to schedule my mammogram.” She quickly snapped a business card into my fingers and told me to call the number on the card to schedule. “Excuse me, she told me to come down here and that you would get me scheduled,” I uttered back. “Yep, that’s the number on the card,” she swiftly answered. I was tempted to call the number on the card standing right there to see if she was the one who answered. I refrained because my battery was about to die.
I exited the breast center and outside of those doors, I saw the gift shop across the hallway. It’s always decked to the nines with breast cancer awareness stuff because let’s face it, the world really only knows of pink ribbons and pink cancer, Komen did one hell of a job raising that awareness. I was frozen. I don’t know how long I stood there. I don’t know if other people took notice of my lack of movement. In my head, all I could think of (on replay) is, “My cancer is not pink. That is not my cancer. I already have teal. I don’t want pink. One cancer is more than enough and it ain’t pink.” Tears were quickly starting to move their way to my eyes. I almost sprinted for the car. I sobbed. Hard, full-blown, ugly cry, sob fest.
I pulled myself together long enough to call my husband. He immediately answered the phone, “what’s wrong.” I likely only call in the middle of the day if something is wrong. We are busy adults with careers so we don’t often chat on the phone for no apparent reason. When he asked that question though, it was as if someone had punched me in the gut and I couldn’t speak. I eventually spit it out, “they found a lump, I have a mammogram scheduled, what do you have going on Thursday?” He quickly responded, “it doesn’t matter what’s on my schedule, it’s not there now.”
I started making my way through a list of people who I needed to reach out to. Family. Few close friends. Then exhaustion set. I really needed to stop talking about it. I didn’t want to speak. I went numb. Of course, when I go numb, I research and then I research some more. It’s my control. Research is also my coping mechanism.
I’m pretty sure I don’t deliver bad news well. In fact, I am sure I don’t. I used to gasp at the thought of people texting bad news until I become so tired of talking about it that texting becomes my format. I’m an ugly crier so, in order to not cry, I text bad news. Might not be terrific and you might be judging me. That’s really none of my business.
This lump could be nothing. In fact, I am praying so hard that THIS is my nothing. But this is someone’s SOMETHING. I cannot help but think of that. I am no longer innocent or naive. 1,735,350 people will be diagnosed with cancer in 2018. 266,120 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2018, along with 63,960 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer this year. For 1 in 8 women, this IS their something. In 2016, that this could be nothing was my something. 22,240 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2018 and 1 in 2 women won’t make it past the 5-year mark. Those somethings hit to my very core. It’s an open wound that NEVER closes.
I urge you with every single fiber in my body to schedule your annual exam. Make the time. You are not too busy. Early detection matters in every single cancer, not just pink ones. Make the appointment. You don’t need the month of October to roll around to remind you. Make this a priority. If I inspired one person to schedule their annual exam then this blog post was worth it.
Normally this is where I tell you to raise your cabernet glass as my signature closer to almost every blog post. Tonight I am not going to do that. Tonight, raise your cell phones and appointment books and schedule time with your doctor. Annual exams matter, make yours. I already scheduled mine for 2019.