If you’re reading this, I’ve waited a few days to post it. I couldn’t bear the thought of worrying my mother, or my dad, or Tom without knowing more. So I’m holding on to this by myself until I get through a few more tests.
About two weeks ago a felt a lump on my rib. It was a strange little bump that is immobile and hurts when depressed. It doesn’t feel muscular, or like a cyst. It is harder than a lipoma. It’s just there. I let it go though, thinking that I had strained myself somehow and it would get better. Then I start to get tired. Like, tired, tired. Ten days later, I discover another hard bump on another rib. Suddenly I can’t think or breathe or walk forward. I just stand in the aisle of TJ Maxx trying to figure out what to do next.
Part of the challenge with cancer is that you acutely appreciate the difference between big deal medical stuff and routine medical stuff. The other part of that challenge is that after the major medical stuff, you never know if you are in the routine, benign category or the ohmygodit’sback category.
I am trying not to let fear wrap me up and squeeze me tight and push the air out of me. But that’s exactly what happens. I had to go have an ultrasound (where all good imaging begins) and immediately had to exert effort to pull in a breath as I walked into the same waiting room where I stood all those months ago. Back then, I knew I was going to walk out of there a different person. These days, I wonder how much of me is left to break. At a certain point, these things aren’t fixible and I’ve spent up a lot of my second chance chips already.
As I put on yet another flimsy hospital gown, I ridiculously tried to reassure myself. I repeated, out loud, “You’re okay. You’re okay. You’re okay.” Using the same pressured tone I use with my kids, ever the insistent mother promising safety and security that I may not be able to actually deliver. I kept saying it even though it wasn’t true. Funny how we sometimes lie to ourselves to find the courage and bravery to take the next necessary step.
The lumps evaded the ultrasound but an CT is in order to get to the bottom of things. “Ultrasounds don’t give us a lot of information on bones,” they say. They are trying to reassure me, but they haven’t sat in as many hospital beds as I have. They haven’t been in that special group, a fraction of a fraction of the population diagnosed with cancer at a young age. I can read between the lines. You can’t rule out disease in my bones at this point, and you don’t see the lumps on the flesh or soft tissues of my ribs. That means we can all feel them, but we can’t find them. Great. Let’s go look at those bones then.
After the imaging, I walked, an absent minded hollow person, to the hospital cafeteria. A doctor bumps in to me. Maybe I bump in to her? That seems more likely. She sneaks infront of me in line and pays for my lunch. I’m not even crying but the disorientation must be all over my face. I stare at my sandwich for half an hour then I get up and toss it in the trash.
I call Tom to hear his voice on the other end of the line. He is driving across country with the girls. They are on their way home to me after over two weeks away. I don’t tell him what’s going on. I don’t want to distract his driving. The only things worse than something happening to me is something happening to anyone in that car. I lie to him and cover my abbreviated responses by telling him I’m just busy at work. He knows me too well to buy this for long, though, so I hustle and get off the phone.
I don’t remember driving to the office after that, but work helps. Not thinking about what could be coming is my best defense. When I get a break in the work flow at the office, a heaviness comes over me. Getting up from my chair becomes a monumental task. By the next day, I sit and cry after the sun goes down. I’m not sure if I’m more afraid of what could be, or more traumatized by what was.
You know, it’s hard to carry on this way. It’s hard to work. It’s hard to have energy for my kids. It’s hard to be close and vulnerable to my husband. It’s just hard. Worse, it’s not a hard I was expecting at this moment. (Are we ever expecting it?) I was looking forward to getting back to living. So let’s see what the next few days bring. Hopefully it’s good news at the very least, and please lord let me avoid the worst.
Give ‘Em Hell