There is only one doctor I enjoy seeing, and that is the one I married.
The rest seem to only bring dark clouds and inconvenience, so I avoid them.
But last month I got a postcard from my doctor saying I was overdue for a physical, and the same week three other people said they thought I should go to the doctor. Maybe I looked tired….they did not say. But, thinking it was the Holy Spirit talking to me, I made an appointment for a physical.
At that appointment it seems that some of my answers to some of her questions were worrisome answers. I hate it when the doctor frowns at me. Like I failed.
I was scheduled for five follow-up imaging and blood draw type events, all of which I have dutifully attended.
A Pap smear, an abdominal ultrasound, fasting blood draw, EKG, mammo-torture.
Five days after The First of those listed events, I appeared at 7:45 am Oct 13 for events Two and Five.
I was told that the results for the Ultrasound (Procedure Two) would take a week, meaning I would hear something on Oct 20.
So, I went straight home, and made a cup of coffee, and as I poured it into my mug, the phone rang. (It was still Oct 13)
It was my doc saying that “the Pap was abnormal, with abnormal cells that did not indicate cervical cancer but something else,” and “the ultrasound was really weird, like I’ve never seen one like that.”
At that point, I was formulating several ways in which she might have conveyed her intended message with greater clarity and less freak factor, and I missed whatever she said next.
I did hear myself say to her “hang on, do you mean the ultrasound I just had an hour ago?” And she said “right…..I’m sorry, have you had more than one?” Well, No.
So then she said she wanted me to go for a biopsy and she gave me the number to call for that appointment. She said I should call her back with the date of that biopsy as soon as I got it. So I called and they gave me a slot on Friday, November 13. A month away.
I called my doctor back and she said “OH, that’s not good, I will call you right back.”
And indeed, she called me back 2o mins later with a biopsy appointment for “day after tomorrow.”
You can see that the lack of clarity in her language was more than compensated for by her actions.
And, although I was not feeling comforted by her attention, I was grateful for it.
On Friday, Oct 16, I reported dutifully for that biopsy, expecting to meet a more relaxed physician who would say, “Oh, there’s nothing to see here….”
But no. The biopsy doc was even more animated than the GP. She described those abnormal cells as being “goofy, crazy, hard to explain, and worrisome”
And then she said “The biopsy they recommend is not sufficient. We need two different tissue samples to start with, and that’s two separate procedures, one of which requires sedation as it is invasive. Are you ‘in’?”
It felt as though my head were suddenly filling with water, bubbles, and tiny colorful fish. I agreed to everything she had to say.
I was vaguely aware that during Biopsy Number One, which followed immediately after the fish arrived in my head, I was telling jokes and generally talking too much.
This is what middle children do. When we sense stress and danger, we do whatever it takes to re-establish harmony and peace.
That was almost three weeks ago.
Twelve days later, I donated more bits of myself for Biopsy Number Two.
I want to talk about the part of that second biopsy which happened before the sedation, since that’s all I remember.
I arrived at the hospital 45 minutes before I was supposed to. This was because I was trying to sneak out of my house without raising the suspicion of my worrying mother and my even more worrying 8 yr old. So I had to make it look like I was going out for breakfast with Jon.
And we pulled it off. Score one.
Unfortunately, the hospital did not inspire confidence. Just as I arrived, three fire trucks pulled up right behind our car, and the entire crew stampeded into the medical building in full rescue formation. Into the same building I hoped to depart later with my health and strength fully restored. Was the building on fire? That didn’t bode well.
And then it got more exciting. As I chatted with the check-in lady I learned that all the computers in the hospital, ALL of them, were down. All paperwork was being processed, and corrected where necessary, by hand, with red pens. Like in Second Grade.
Were surgical procedures being done with safety scissors?
And I began to wonder if, maybe, my paperwork might be switched with that of someone who might perhaps be in for an amputation.
Perhaps I would wake up without something I needed. Like a leg… or a kidney.
I was puzzling over whether I should talk to her about my concerns when I noticed they had the wrong birthdate on all three pages of my paperwork. It all seemed incredibly comical.
I asked myself if I was afraid, and oddly enough, I was not.
After we got my birthday straight and recorded (in red ink) on those pages, I was instructed to go to the 9th floor to report for my surgery. But when I arrived, the 9th floor turned out to be cardiology. Which was funny because my surgery was gynecologic. I did a quick U-turn and found the correct floor.
After that, it was nothing anyone would want to read about, except that you can rest assured….. they took the right stuff out of me.
My lovely, and very youthful, physician reassured me, before the memory erasing mask was strapped on, that I would hear results and lab reports by “Wednesday of next week. ”
And so, I celebrated my birthday and I endured Halloween, and I painted the sunroom, and I watched the continued construction of our new deck, I learned all the hard details of how one of my children is floundering in school, and I began to notice that my mother and I have the same conversation word for word, over and over, all day long, as I waited to hear what is growing, or NOT growing, in my abdomen.
And it has been, at times, like holding my breath.
Sometimes I would scare myself with the prospect of therapies and surgeries for me as I am caring for my Mom who is ever more repetitive, disinhibited, demanding, disoriented and forgetful. Like, really, how was that going to work? I was interested to see how God would work that out.
I dreamed about those fish in my head, and I was underwater with them, waiting to know, in silence. Waiting to breath. Either to take a deep breath and prepare to fight, or maybe just to exhale and go back to the life that was always sufficiently interesting and full before any irregular cells appeared on somebody’s slide.
Waiting well means paying good attention to the importance of keeping life normal. My entire household wants life (and me) to be normal. I am theirs, they are mine. They need for me to be OK, and I want to be OK for them.
It seems like the best way to walk through these days is to almost methodically add to my faith virtue, and the virtues to add are courage, trust, quiet and calm, industry and service, and honesty about exactly what I do know so I don’t add anything from fearful imaginings. Virtue meant answering those worried teachers who want to help my struggling child do well, cleaning out closets, staying on top of the laundry, playing with kids and dogs together, showing up for everything, telling everybody around me what I am thankful for, being extra kind to my husband, pushing those grammar lessons, making amazing dinners, and never ever complaining.
And on top of those virtues, I need to add knowledge. And that is knowledge of who God is, what He has done for me before this because that reminds me how He cares for me, how very very kind He is to me. Knowledge of the natures and needs of my family. Knowledge of good books and of the hearts of the people who fill my life.
And then to add self control….the self control of waiting patiently without allowing my imagination to carry me off. The self control of digging into scripture morning and evening. And the self control of staying in the room in which I have been placed, not peeking through the doors into spaces where I am not meant to go. And the self control of consulting scripture rather than Dr Google when I begin to worry.
And so today, this morning, I learned that all is well.
All is clear.
And that is as close as I ever hope to come to cancer.
Close enough to reorient my priorities a little. And no closer.
Close enough to almost touch it, and see that God would take me through it.
And then to turn and walk away, back to joyous mundane health.
I am so thankful for this normal day.