Although I believe the odds have gotten worse, we were taught in elementary school that 1 out of every 4 people would get cancer. I knew I was safe, because I counted off Michelle, Nancy B., Danny, NANCY T., Michael, Ronnie W., Mary, CLAUDI…, no wait, Mary had just switched seats, temporarily… Claudia, RONNIE V.
The reason I knew I’d never be the 1 out of 2 marriages that ends in divorce is because I wasn’t the type to get divorced. Whoops– in North Carolina you can get divorced FROM for no reason, and my ex was indeed the type, since I’m his Ex #2. I just never feel like the 1 out of anything type—even with good things. I contribute nothing to keep the AC running in the AC casinos, and I did nothing to help the North Carolina lottery. Once I learned about “factorial” in math, any potential gambling was wiped from my future.
Sometimes I’m a stickler about things. I’m not talking about the fact that I’m paying almost $500 a month for COBRA health insurance. Not having health insurance would never be considered an option by me, although I know there are many people who aren’t lucky enough to have options. But I could have easily said, “My mammogram is due in June, but it’s always OK and I have so much on my plate right now I can wait a month or two.” No, the week before last, The Stickler got a pap smear on Monday and a mammogram on Tuesday.
The following week, I got a letter from the Radiology Department that they needed me to come in for another mammogram. From the letter, it seemed that it was some type of technical glitch– a bad Kodak moment for one of my tits. But when I called, it was more along the lines of MY breast density causing poor visibility. So I made an appointment for the following Tuesday. I got two reminder calls in a row—it was either one for each breast of they were nagging me that this was important.
So this Tuesday, I went back in. The mammogram of the right breast found something that needed to be checked by ultrasound. I had a feeling that she was finding something—the ultrasound was taking a long time.
The results were evaluated right away, and she came back in with a doctor. He said she had picked up something so tiny that it was amazing. He said I should shake her hand, because she may well have saved my life. At this point, I hugged her, but was grateful and confused at the same time, because I always heard that if you find a lump it’s usually benign. So I asked him what the odds were that the lump is malignant. I thought if he said 20% it would be serious. He said 50%!
I spent yesterday afternoon getting good referrals for breast surgeons. The conversation will be whether to simply get a biopsy or to go ahead and have the lump removed. Of course I had to check two conflicting insurance provider websites and follow with many phone calls to the insurance company to see who was really in network, once finding that a listed provider said they stopped accepting my insurance in 2011. Finally, a surgeon that the head of Radiology told me she would send her own mother to was on the provider list. Trusting she gets along well with her mom, I’m feeling positive about the outcome of this. If I do have cancer, I’m lucky it was found so early. If not, I’m lucky my lump is benign.
What’s weird is that we spend our lives learning not to overreact. I can remember getting heartburn for a couple of days when I was in my early thirties. Oh my God, I never have heartburn! Now I’m going to have to worry about what I eat for the rest of my life! I’m 59 and have had virtually no heartburn since. I can eat any type of food whenever I want. A pain in a spot below my right shoulder may flare up for a few days, but then I realize three years have gone by without it. A pain in my left foot wearing certain shoes has gone underground for the past couple of months. What have I learned? All these things go away eventually?
Maybe some do, but guess what? Health is a game you play where you lose in the end. It’s about quality of life, because quantities are limited. And that’s not being morbid. Would you want to live forever? If you say yes, think about it.
I’m not worried, because I’m making the best decisions as they’re needed. I know it’s more important to travel to see this recommended doctor on the day before the holiday to a town I’ve never been to than to go to a more convenient place. I’m optimistic my lump is benign. I’m grateful the technician was skilled enough to find it.
But if that was Mary’s new assigned seat, I trust myself to make good choices in dealing with that situation, too.