Biopsy. What a cute little fucked up word. Recently, I had one. Super fun. Such good times.
In early December, I went in for my yearly mammogram. All went “smashingly” well. See what I did there? In the interest of full disclosure, and because I like to “blame myself,” I must confess that I “skipped” my appointment last year. I just didn’t go. A day later they told me I “needed to come back for some more images of my right breast” to “double check.” With minor, but building trepidation, I dutifully obliged. This “second look” thing is fairly common, but you know…cancer happens. Cancer “happens” every damn day to people near and far all over the world. Because cancer doesn’t care about people.
After the second round of images, I waited for the Radiologist to read the results, and I thought I’d be told, as usual, that all looked “fine” and I could be on my merry way. Instead I was ushered into a little room with the medical professional who did the testing, as well as a Physician who wasn’t the Radiologist. The Physician informed me that I had a cluster of tumors that were not present during the last screening, two years ago. He showed them to me, and said he wanted to perform a biopsy. To be sure.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” he said, as I cried. “We are just making sure,” he said, and I cried some more. “This is fairly common,” he said, and “I just don’t like the looks of it.” “There is cause for concern, but let’s just get the biopsy done and go from there,” he said. “Sorry about your mascara.”
Not one of his smooth doctor phrases mattered to me. Nothing anyone said, things like “don’t worry,” and “you’ll be fine,” mattered at all. I’ve had too many friends and acquaintances go through this. Because cancer happens.
I scheduled the biopsy (6 different phone calls to get to the right person – that alone was ridiculous), and dutifully made a fresh “medical folder” because my insurance papers starting coming in the mail from the two mammogram appointments. Organized women do this. We make folders.
The biopsy proved to be a “no joke” situation that was uncomfortable on every level, emotionally and physically. I was bawling before I even took off my dress. I was bawling when they put my breast into the vice. “Your breast will go numb,” the nurse mentioned, but she held my hand and rubbed my back and she was honestly an absolute angel sent from the heavens the whole time. I was bawling and nodding my head as the doctor was explaining and performing the procedure. He kept asking me if I was okay, and I kept replying “yes, I’m so sorry.” I kept apologizing to him. For crying. I apologized for crying and being in pain. He was sticking needles into my body and pulling tissue out, and I was apologizing to him for crying. Let that sink in.
It wasn’t a fairly quick process (they couldn’t quite get to it). It wasn’t a painless procedure (incisions and scopes don’t feel good). But, here’s the thing: my “cluster of abnormalities” are benign.
BENIGN. What a fucking awesome word. F-bombs are warranted here, in this specific case of sweet relief, so please just let my potty mouth slide.
To date, I’ve been “cut open” five times. That’s a lot of knives and fear and tears and healing. Women endure.
Most of the time, we women have to fake being strong. Strong for all others in our lives, and strong for ourselves. While this health “concern” was unfolding, I had to make it through work and Christmas and New Year’s Eve with a clown smile plastered to my face. I had to function without adding a pile of steaming “drama” to the table. I had to hide what I was feeling. We women are good at this. I had three very long weeks to digest the information and basically sit by myself in the dark.
What did it feel like? For me, the “cancer scare” and biopsy felt like a shoe dropping. It felt like people crying and giving poignant speeches at my funeral. It felt like preliminary battle preparations, when the wagons circle up and you begin to think about all the literal and figurative stuff you really don’t need, (and yes, all the stuff you do). My wheels were turning from the moment I was pulled into that little room to discuss the “next step.” That’s just how I roll. I get “ahead of myself.” Sorry, doc.
I know that millions of others have valiantly gone through cancer and cancer treatment. It is not lost on me that many are dealt an unfair hand and do not make it through. I also know that confirmed cases of cancer in general, and breast cancer specifically are not automatic death sentences. I know it’s an all too common occurrence, one so many of us face, unfortunately. The cliche of course, is that you never think it’s going to happen to you.
It has made me think about my life and what makes me happy. At 50, I’ve overcome some soul-sapping obstacles, and I was “strong enough” to plod through this one too, this little blip on my timeline. Granted, I cried a lot, but I will no longer apologize for that, to anyone, ever again. I have wonderful new interests, hobbies, and people in my life, and I plan to start living it to the fullest. No more waiting.
I’ve often felt as though I’m climbing perpetual rungs on a ladder – but where am I climbing to, exactly? Have I always been climbing to this place? This hopeful place, where reality meets clarity and I begin to see things differently? Where thoughts of my own fragile mortality push me to stop taking my blessed days, all my “given,” seconds and minutes and hours for granted? Yes, I think so.
Ladies, you know the drill. Get ’em checked.