December

8

2011

A Christmas Carol in the Radiology Department

Filed under: Christmas, Health, Melodramatic Posts

On Monday I wrote a letter to Santa asking him for things, but after the events of the last two days I’m revising my wish list:

All I want for Christmas is to stay alive.
…So I can be there for my children as they grow up.

Yesterday I went in for my annual mammogram. I had to force myself to go. Not only that, this whole mammogram thing has in the last two days conjured up the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. I had my own version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol…in the radiology department.

I do not like medical buildings, the hospital smell of sickness and disinfectant and doom. It all scares me. I don’t like how in the waiting room the only magazines they have to distract you from your mortality are a Paleolithic copy of Boating and a 2004 issue of Good Housekeeping. In the waiting room, my Inner Hypochondriac (IH) had already convinced me that I was riddled with cancer, and was probably certainly going to die. I kept reminding myself of the saying: “Your mind is a dangerous neighborhood. Don’t go in alone.” —> but I couldn’t stop myself. I went.

The technician squished my boob into the machine. Everything was routine. But when she paused while looking at the screen, my IH was on High Alert and had entered the very worst of neighborhoods.

I wanted to ask the technician, Has the tumor gone metastatic and spread to my brain? but got ahold of myself and asked her if there was anything wrong.

She didn’t answer me and instead asked cryptically if I had ever a biopsy on my left breast. I told her I had, a few years ago. She stared at the screen some more. I detected an iota of something being wrong. Then she told me I could go. I fled.

At home I had four voice mails – two from the radiology dept., and two from my doctor. Of course, I mentally planned my funeral before I even listened to them. They told me had “seen something” on the mammogram. They wanted to know if I could come back “immediately” for a second one.

Well, that really fucked me up.

I went all Chicken Little. No – I went so much further than Chicken Little ever did. Also, my husband is out of the country, this man is always out of the country when something bad happens, so as usual I had to hang around the bad hood all by myself.

After hanging up the phone with my doctor it took me just two minutes to experience a tectonic, psychic shift in my entire outlook on life  - a cooking down of all that matters. I understood immediately:

  1. I’m not afraid of death.
  2. I’m scared to death of dying and leaving my children motherless.

I called a friend in California, who said, “Of course, I’m sure your mind has turned to Stephanie and is remembering the terrible way she died.”

Stephanie was one of my best friends who died of ovarian cancer four years ago.

I wanted to tell this friend no, actually, I hadn’t thought of Stephanie but thank you very much for reminding me. Jeez.

When I picked my kids up from school I bear-hugged them and spoiled them with affection and a nice home-cooked dinner listening to A Christmas Carol in front of the fire, you name it – the whole nine yards.

I “got” it.

What matters.

I sat with them, astonished at how I’ve taken all of it for granted. I stared at them and thought, poor little orphans!

So this morning I went back to the radiologist. I was Chicken Little on Acid. Totally. Freaked. Out. I tweeted all of you admitting that I was afraid and so many people tweeted back that they were there with me, virtually. (Thank you.)

I went back down the antiseptic hallway…

…and back to the fossilized magazines in the waiting room.

The worst part of it was they were playing Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives – a musical oxymoron that, in this particular situation, verged on being pornographic. I mean, really.

The technician told me that this time it was really going to hurt because they had to flatten it even more, and it did hurt. Afterwards she looked at the screen a little too long, and I knew in my bones that something was wrong.

“I can’t tell you anything now, but it looks like we’re also going to need to do an ultrasound.”

She led me into a room with an ultrasound machine in it and had me lay down and wait on the table (like a corpse! —> how melodramatic am I??).

She left me alone with myself and an ultrasound machine that should be used to measure fetuses, not tumors.

Alone with the hoodlums in my bad neighborhood, who were rioting now.

Those minutes were very hard. I said the Serenity Prayer but the hoodlums wanted to know if my life insurance was up to date. They wanted to know what would become of my children if they didn’t have me around to mother them? I fretted over the idea of my husband not being able to get the importance of brushing and grooming our daughters’ hair. I imagined them appearing at school unkempt. I thought about options – if I had to have a double-mastectomy, did I care? (Nope.) All I wanted was to live to be an old, doddering granny.

I pulled out my iPhone, scanned my palm, and used my PalmReader app to kill time and make myself feel better. It said:

  • Your Luna mount is indicative of someone who is superficial.
  • Your life line indicates you are going to experience a significant change.
  • The shape of your fingertips shows that you will experience some setbacks in life.

I turned off my iPhone and returned to the comfort of my bad neighborhood.

The next technician came in and she reminded me of Mrs. Claus. During the ultrasound she took measurements of what I imagined was The Tumor. I said another Serenity Prayer and wondered why I only ever say this prayer when I need something.

She left the room for about 15 minutes to confer with the doctor.

I returned to the bad neighborhood.

I chastised myself for taking everything for granted. Maybe I was superficial and doomed. I hadn’t gone to church as much as I should. I’ve shouted too much at my kids. I hadn’t done enough for charities. And now they were going to cut off my boobs and pump me with chemo and then I would die bald, leaving my children motherless, abandoning them.

The door opened and Mrs. Claus came in.

“I have some very, very good news for you,” she said. “You’re fine! It’s only scar tissue from your biopsy!”

I am embarrassed to say that I cried. I did. Mrs. Claus opened her arms and hugged me. She said, “I could tell you were really nervous. Giving people good news like this is the best part of my job…Merry Christmas!”

I left the building just like Ebenezer Scrooge did after all the ghosts left, when he went running out to find Tiny Tim so he could hug him. I had just gotten the biggest gift since having my children – real perspective, and true gratitude for what I have, who I am, who I have around me, and all that lies ahead for us in the future.

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Comments

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  1. What an awful scare you had! But what a relief that all is well! Wishing you and your family bright, happy and healthy holidays!
    Twitter: IzaTrapani

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  2. Oh Ado! I didn’t know you were going through that. I’m so relieved. I was on edge as I read this post. I am on the way now to the doc to remove a benign mass on my leg…and to schedule a mammogram.
    Twitter: lifebycynthia

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    • Cynthia – what a coincidence we both had medical scares on the same day. I am so glad everything turned out ok for you too —> now we can celebrate the holidays early and often. (-:
      Twitter: Adothemomalog

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  3. Holy moly. I was scrolling to get to the news, but then I didn’t want to miss a word, so I was scrolling back up. Took like forever, but I finally got to the good news. I’m so relieved for you.

    1. I’d better not ever tweet out a typo to you.
    2. I found a small discoloration on the baby’s big toe this morning that I’m convinced is skin cancer. We have no insurance. Hold me.
    Twitter: freefringes

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    • Sorry you had to do all that scrolling Erica – I am more of a novelist than a blogger, still working on the “keep it under 500 words” rule.
      Twitter: Adothemomalog

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      • 500 words? Is that a rule? Uh Oh! I break that one ALL the time. :(
        Twitter: katefineske

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  4. Sometimes we all need something to open our eyes to what we have. A year and a 1/2 ago my nephew was diagnosed with a Brain Tumor. Today he is recovering, having done his final chemo treatment just a month ago and currently with a “clean bill of health” from his Doctor. But the memory of the day we found out will forever haunt me and has changed the way I live my life.

    So happy for your test results.
    Twitter: katefineske

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    • Kate – wow, that is just so amazing about your nephew. It sounds like you got a similar gift to the one I got – and it’s stayed with you, and changed how you look at things. Hopefully I will be able to hang onto this clear perspective I’ve gotten from this experience!
      Twitter: Adothemomalog

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  5. I’m so glad you’re okay! And you’re right, we have to focus on what matters.
    Twitter: MamaWantsThis

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  6. Oh my goodness, I’m so glad you’re okay!
    Twitter: TheBareMidriff

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  7. Oh, Ado! What a relief! I’m SO glad it’s only scar tissue and I’m glad you didn’t talk yourself out of going in the first place…Hugs to you….
    Twitter: AnnHolly

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    • Thanks Ann…a good reminder for us all to get our yearly mammogram.
      Twitter: Adothemomalog

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  8. So good to hear all is well. may it be so forever. In the mean time, NO MORE SCARY APPS on your iPhone. Only twitter and instagram allowed.
    Twitter: NorthWestMommy

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    • I’ve just figured out that the PalmReader app can switch from the “Serious Mode” – which I had it on – to a “Silly Mode.” Wish I had known that before my appointment!
      Twitter: Adothemomalog

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  9. I want an I phone this Christmas..I want to visit some other places also..Thanks for sharing this inspiring post to us..

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  10. Wow. First, I’m happy for the happy ending. Second, I share that same fear of dying and leaving my children motherless…something I shouldn’t really get into at this time of night/morning when I must think good thoughts before bed.
    Twitter: theaumsmama

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    • Nothing like a good old fashioned DEATH SCARE to remind us to stay in the positive, and LIVE! (-:
      Twitter: Adothemomalog

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  11. So glad you’re OK!!!
    Twitter: SusannaLHill

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  12. My heart was beating fast as I was reading your post as I wanted to know soon about the results of the test. Thank God that you are alright and we will be able to read your posts. This reminds me to count my blessings and live each moment with joy.

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  13. I’m so happy for your good news! I’ve been reading posts that have been pulling on my heartstrings all morning! I just came from my GYN yesterday and have to call today to schedule my mammogram. I admit that I every time I go for one, I dip my toes in that dangerous neighborhood in my mind while I wait for them to tell me that the calcifications they see are still the same and haven’t changed since they first saw them 7 years ago.

    I really can’t tell you how relieved I am to read the end of this post. And what a sweet, sweet Mrs. Claus! :)
    Twitter: normalmomally

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    • Thanks Ally, that Mrs. Claus was a miracle worker with her kindness and the hug she delivered when it was most needed (and I’m not really the huggy type, either – so she sure knew when a hug was needed!) (-:
      Next mammo appointment just don’t bring a pocket palm reader – bring a good tabloid magazine instead! (-:
      Twitter: Adothemomalog

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  14. Oh my, Ado, to think you were going through all that! And without the husband around! Pulverize that Palm Reader, pronto. So glad that all’s well with you.

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  15. What a relief. My last mammo went similarly…same phone calls. Ultrasound ‘required’. I had told the people that I was still nursing but they had insisted on doing the mammo anyway. When all was said and done, they concluded that what they were finding was what they would expect to find in a lactating breast. I was in that bad neighborhood too. So glad you are a-okay :)
    Twitter: xlmic

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  16. I’m so glad that everything turned out well. If I lived closer to you I would have volunteered to come hold your hand in real life!
    Twitter: BethKeklak

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  17. I am so glad you’re fine. I was totally “in your bad neighborhood” throughout this piece…you scared me too!

    It’s wonderful news for your babies, but I’m glad you’ll be around for me to read :)
    Twitter: MissMarinaStar

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  18. scary
    scary
    scary

    I just went through all of this with my sister. She was terrified, like you. I made sure to make jokes, make fun of her huge nipples, and tried my best to lighten the mood. She got the best of the worst news. Yes to the cancer. But also, caught it early. She is on week 6 of radiation.
    Moments like these put everything in order pretty quickly, don’t they?
    What matters becomes so obviously clear immediately.
    It’s a blessing, really…knowing what matters, that is.

    Merry Merry Christmas to you and your healthy breast!!!!!!

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    • Oh I’m so glad to hear your sister has gotten a mammogram and caught it early and will be ok. You have a merry christmas too and same to your sister.
      Twitter: Adothemomalog

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  19. Been through cancer myself – know the waiting, but unlike you also the bad news. BUT, got it all with surgery and recovered fast. So glad you had a happy outcome!

    When you go through something like this – even the waiting to find out – all you want is “normal”. Nothing special in life – just dinner with your family, taking walks, going to the gym…NORMAL. We don’t give it enough credit!

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  20. It is possible to undoubtedly view your comprehension of a work you’re posting. The arena desires of even more passionate freelancers as if you which will not be reluctant to cover that they think. At all times focus on your own soul.

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