TODAY was my follow-up appointment. I was scared. No other word. Scared says it all so well, so succinctly, so true. Scaredy pants might have said it better but it just doesn’t feel right since my bottom had nothing to do with anything. But my top sure did.
This Friday will be two weeks since my breast biopsy surgery.
As she’d predicted, I didn’t remember speaking to the surgeon after I woke up and was floating around and round the recovery room. I did remember the OR nurse coming in carrying my ‘specimen’ in the glass jar and I remember being confused. Like in a Kubrick movie kind of confused. She wanted to show me the sample they were sending to pathology and she kept talking about what they, meaning pathology, would do next and how that would affect me, but the minute I saw the ‘thing’ I was mesmerized. I actually had to try hard to shake off some of the anesthetic so I could clearly see the alien she was holding in the jelly jar as her voice just became the ‘wah-wah-wah’ of the Charlie Brown teacher blurred in the background.
I guess I was so surprised because I was sure we were only talking about a small infection causing all this big trouble, and, ultimately, this breast cancer biopsy. I kept telling everyone that I felt like the infection was probably smaller than one of those Reese’s peanut butter cups bitty bites things, you know the ones - they come in the big box stores bags of Halloween candy, the ones the Trick or Treat-ers scowl at you for giving them.
Turns out I just couldn’t keep my focus while that nurse spoke and so just kept nodding at her as if I understood everything … but counted on getting the deets and the skinny from one of bffs - Mary - who came with and stayed the whole time too! She even took the day of of work to make sure that I was fully covered. You just don’t find friends like that. I treasure her. More now that she showed such love and compassion during a very tense and terrible time. But that’s how it goes sometimes right? The people you think are going to show up take a powder and the ones you never expected fill your heart with gratitude and love.
So Mary told me that the surgeon knew I probably wouldn’t remember our conversation (GOD ONLY KNOWS what was said, since, and I SWEAR this is true - the ONLY conversation, besides the one with Sigorney Weaver’s older OR sister that I remember - was the one I had with ARCHANGEL MICHAEL when I was telling him that he should write a book as he stood by the side of my bed! NO SHIT!) But Mary got the DL and told me that basically the bottom line, until the pathology results came through, was that the infection was much more massive than the surgeon had ever expected. But that they got it all.
But was it cancer? Did anyone say anything about cancer? That’s all I could think about and was all I’d BEEN thinking about for months. Which brings us back to the beginning and I swear I’ll make this quick although the months I’m talking about have seemed like an eternity to me - -
Although, really, we’re only talking about going back to end-June. When I woke up one morning with a HUGE swollen something on my even more HUGE right breast. I wasn’t concerned. It hurt but I wasn’t concerned. Of course whenever something weird and swollen shows up I always think of that urban legend about the spider who crawled under the girl’s skin and had babies and when the doctor opened the infection tons of small spiders crawled out, but, oddly, I was okay with Charlotte calling my right boob home.
But after a few days I couldn’t even touch the area and it started to streak and, well, time to go see someone right? So I went first to my gyno. She wanted me to “march right across the street to the ER and get hooked up to an antibiotic IV” but I had deadlines to meet and work to do and, c’mon, just give me something to swallow that will spit the spiders out already.
So she did.
But it didn’t do much good.
The infection wasn’t getting any bigger but it wasn’t getting any better either.
So after two weeks on Keflex with no discernible resolution it was decided that I would go on a BIG GUN biotic and see her boss, the head of the practice, every day. Yes, every day at 7:30 AM I had to be at their office to see the head of the practice before the first patient showed. I did this for three weeks before I asked for a paycheck. After week three I was told not to worry anymore - everything looked like it was getting better - slowly.
I didn’t think so.
After the allopathic meds ran out I decided to try alternative. Accupuncture. Laser. Holistic therapies. Still - no real progress but no real deterioration either. Until I decided to take matters into my own hands.
Did you just say ‘uh oh’????? Don’t lie! I HEARD you! See that’s what happens when God takes away one sense - in this case my common one - He makes all the others more acute - don’t lie - I HEARD YOU!
Anyway, by this time it was the end of July and I was posting a fever every night while my immune system tried to fight the invader and I decided it was time to open this sucker so that whatever was in there (spiders!) could drain. I won’t tell you how I did it because that would be irresponsible of me but I used an oil that I KNEW would open the mini-mountain growing on my teet. And it did exactly that.
So now I had an open wound that kept draining and draining and draining. Sometimes draining ‘stuff’ (no spiders!) and sometimes blood, but, it was draining and that’s all I wanted. Until it wouldn’t stop.
I then went to see a highly recommended naturopath who talked me into having a hair/mineral analysis done and then cost me a small fortune MORE to buy her supplements to fight - wait for it - cancer.
I kept asking her if she thought this was breast cancer. She just kept maintaining her expertise and credentials before charging my credit card for supplements that eventually arrived in the mail and apparently fights HEART AILMENTS!
And, then, one weekend in September I woke up and couldn’t move my neck. Apparently the infection had invaded my lymph nodes.
Tammy took me to another doc I love and he took one look and asked me when my last mammogram was? Before injecting me with a horse syringe filled with penicillin and taking a culture of the wound. He thought is was MRSA and also thought that if it was and if it had traveled to my lymph that I might be in ‘real trouble’ here.
He INSISTED I call a breast cancer surgeon and go to see her immediately.
For the first time since this had all started some four months before, I started to panic.
Mostly about what would happen to my son if I died. THAT pain was inconceivable and debilitating. I was longing for spiders.
I called and made an appointment with the surgeon. And my friend Debi told me that she would gladly take my son should something terrible happen. Both events brought tears and relief.
I saw the surgeon in October. She wasn’t sure. About anything. Except that I had to get a mammogram stat.
I bit the bullet and had the diagnostic test and was reassured by an angel of mercy at the Sentara Virginia Beach Breast Center that there wasn’t a smidge of cancer to be found on those xrays anywhere.
Yet, I still couldn’t even imagine how much my sister would freakin’ kill me if I died and she had to come and clean out my house. So I started doing it myself. Cleaning out the bathroom cabinets and linen closets too. By now I was obsessing.
The surgery was scheduled for two weeks ago.
My understanding was that my doc was going to go in and clean out the infection and then “run a routine cancer biospy - just to be sure.”
But when we got to the hospital and were in the registration process, both Mary and I saw that the paperwork detailing my surgery instructed that I was to have a ‘cancerous duct removed from right breast.’
No, no, someone got that wrong right? I was just there to get all those stupid spiders to come out of hiding? RIGHT????
And, so, now we’re back to the TOP of this story.
I was told that if there were cancer present, pathology would tell the story. And if pathology did start speaking up that I would get a call before today’s follow-up appointment. So, I didn’t hear anything before today but wondered if the holiday happening right in the middle of everything could have possibly postponed any bad news?
So, off I went today. Shaking and scared but somehow KNOWING that no matter what, I could call in healing on so many levels that I would be completely fine. Maybe without the big blonde mane, and without two big boobs, but, fine nonetheless.
So there I was today. By myself and sitting and waiting. Andwaitingandwaitingandwaiting. And wait and wait and wait. And wait more.
Until I heard her footsteps coming down the hallway. And stopping outside the door of the sterile room I was waiting in. And, then, I heard her flipping through the pages of my chart. Outside the door. Then - nothing.
Probably only thirty seconds but it felt like eons.
Until she opened the door and came over and hugged me - hard- before saying -
"This was the BEST possible outcome we could have ever have hoped or prayed for. THE ABSOLUTE BEST. NO CANCER ANYWHERE!"
No cancer anywhere.
Not in my boob or my body or in my psyche either. NOT ANYWHERE.
Because, as we all now know, it was probably spiders!
I’m just waiting for pathology to come back with those arachnid results.
But, in the mean, I’m on my knees grateful for the results, for the friends and family who stood by and called and cared and for the fact that the job I do isn’t a job at all but, rather, is my passion and my calling. Because while that energy is engaging you can’t help but make sure that anything that threatens to keep you from it will be history.
Even cancerous spiders.
Now, next blog, I am going to talk about those same creepy crawlies and how one particular one kept me protected from another threat all this fall as well. Yes, yes, apparently my karmic cleansing decided to do a really fucking thorough job.
But, for today, the BEST possible outcome is my raison d’etre so etre I shall!