I had a bad mammogram. Then a bad ultrasound. Then a biopsy that showed my lump is benign. These things are not great for anyone (well, the first two things in that list—the news of not having cancer was pretty great), but if you’re me, an anxiety disorder in a human suit, they’re really not great.
I turned 40, had a physical, had a mammogram, and while driving to work a few days later got a call informing me that the mammogram showed “an abnormality.” I was able to get in a week later for an ultrasound.
The woman doing my ultrasound left the room and came back three times. “The doctor wants to see a spot better… oh, there it is.” It. Something. She sees it. IT. After the third time back, she said that the doctor wanted to come do the ultrasound. A very friendly woman comes in and says, “Are you okay with me taking a look, too?” And I say, “Well, since I’m already here and half-naked, sure,” because I am incapable of not being weird.
I had about 8 total minutes alone in the exam room between all the rounds of imaging. Here was my thought process:
I wish I had a book. This is boring. At least she’s not making small talk. The little lamp and the soothing music, who are they kidding? Like I might forget I’m at a place called the Breast Center and think this is a spa? (After she leaves and reappears) Okay. A closer look. Fine. Ugh. I’m so bored. I really do want to read. (After she leaves for the second time) Look at this art. An empty canoe on an empty beach. That just makes me think about death. Who left that canoe? Where are they? And that dock going out into a lake? All I see is a path that ends. More death. Good god. This isn’t helping. (She reappears for a try to look just a bit closer, says “oh, I see it.”) Okay. She sees something. Well, I’m dying. Obviously. I bet they’ll be irritated with me at work–I just started there and now I’m dying. Will Matthew get remarried? He’d better. He and Callum on their own is unsustainable. No one will ever clean the house or pay bills or buy food. Jesus, do I really do everything at home? Well, if I’m dying, I bet I’ll get to be in bed a lot and maybe make some progress on my TBR pile (Rational brain: Good lord. That’s pretty offensive. Being sick or having cancer wouldn’t be some lucky chance to catch up on reading. It’s not a vacation. Irrational brain: LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR RATIONAL THOUGHTS RIGHT NOW.) I’ll lose my hair. My one beauty!
Then I had 13 days to wait for the biopsy. 13! I became totally convinced the lump could not possibly be anything but cancerous. Not only that, but obviously it’s already super advanced and I will probably die really soon. I’ve gotten SUCH terrible colds this year. I can’t fight them off and they last forever. Clearly that’s because I have cancer. (Rational brain: Pssst–you work in an elementary school with 850 germy children! Irrational brain: Shhh! You’re interrupting my thoughts about dying.)
Matthew took me for the biopsy the day after Christmas. He took my coat and purse and sat in the waiting room with all the other men holding coats and purses. I went back and put on a robe and sat with all the other women wearing robes (where I was easily 20 years younger than everyone). The biopsy was fine, though I still look like someone threw a baseball at my boob at 90 mph. To say I bruise easily is an understatement. I was hoping I’d know the results before leaving, but nope, I had to wait another day. So they did the biopsy, stuck a tiny titanium marker in the spot, sent me for a mammogram (because why not make this even MORE fun?), taped an ice pack to my boob, and sent me home.
Thankfully, 24 hours later they called to tell me the lump was benign. I was hardly able to hear her through the blood pounding in my ears. Answering the phone gave me an immediate panic attack. Even after I hung up, irrational brain was going strong. Even though you confirmed your name and birth date, I bet they got your files mixed up and I bet you do still have cancer. They’ll call back soon to correct that mistake (they didn’t). Or you’ll get a letter and the bad news will be in that (it wasn’t). Or it’s not cancer YET, but I bet by the next mammogram it will be (time will tell. Rational brain: STOP THAT. YOU’RE FINE. JUST BE FINE. Irrational brain: SHUT UP—I’m winning here!)
This meant I could sleep again. I could stop thinking about death. I could read that memoir in my TBR that’s about a woman dying young from breast cancer. I could go back to worrying about all of the other many terrible things that could befall me and/or everyone I love rather than fixate on this one specific thing. I spend my entire life envisioning and preparing for scary things, but when a scary thing arrives, I don’t feel prepared at all. Just scared. Glad this boob drama is over. In the words of my husband, “Boobs are great until they try to kill you.”