Great white sharks? Tornados? Spook allies? Freddie Kruger? HA!! Those aren’t scary! I know what scary is. Scary is a little six-letter word that represents the disease of the century that is trying to kill me and it’s real. The threat of death is real – not just from the disease but from the supposed cures as well. The very mention of this word strikes terror in the hearts of its victims and their loved ones. I will never again see a fright movie (not that I was a big fan in the first place) But why would I subject myself to any more fright than knowing I have the “C” word. OK, I’ll just say it….Cancer. And I have it… So, no thank you to swimming in shark infested waters, chasing tornados, scary movies and you too, Freddie. None of you could ever scare me more than the “C” word.
You see, I know what it’s like to have the mother of all adrenalin rushes and tears appear instantly after hearing one little sentence delivered soberly by my sweet doctor (Dr. June I call her). I can still hear those words she felt she had to deliver herself; “I’m sorry you have a malignancy.” Actually, I had at least three scattered in my left breast and other “areas of suspect” that the biopsies didn’t get to.
Let me back up. This whole nightmare began when I noticed my breast turn swollen and thick. It happened at warp speed. I’ve had trouble with that breast before with some calcium cysts and a few breast infections (mastitis). This looked like the old pattern and I felt somewhat secure in knowing I had a thorough breast exam only nine months before and all was well then. Dr. June saw me and suggested a course of antibiotics since there were no obvious lumps or bumps. I took the antibiotics but the redness didn’t improve so a new mammogram was ordered which I rather confidently showed up for the following Friday morning.
I drove myself to the hospital and the mammogram progressed….into an ultrasound, after which the doctor called Dr. June and asked her to approve a biopsy. It was a terrifying experience. Needles were injected deep into my tissue to numb it before eight thin tubes were inserted that pinched tissue samples from selected areas that appeared on a monitor. The doctor and technician were very kind and gentle with me, but I still felt exhausted as I drove myself home with deep bruises and several stitches, knowing I would have to wait it out over the weekend for any results.
The longest weekend of my life was spent with my husband and I talking ourselves into the best possible outcome relying on the fact that all was well nine months ago and that I had trouble with this breast before. Calmness was restored – the price was denial of the worst-case scenario.
Monday passed without a word. Tuesday was another normal day. I was working in my studio with my two employees – My company can’t grow too big or I will have to stop telling Stephanie and Cari I love them (not politically correct, even though I have known them since they were girls). Still, I don’t have to worry because they are each the competent equivalent of 20 normal employees – OK five…Anyway we were having a great morning and I had put the whole health issue out of mind (what else could I do?) when the phone rang and “THE” sentence was delivered by Dr. June. Calm turned to terror on my face. “Oh no”, was all I could say. She said she would call me back later with a plan, make some calls and try to gather a list of recommendations (we do have the famed Huntsman Cancer Center right here in my town). I gave her the name of one of my other doctors to talk to and we hung up. Steph and Cari could read my face and I could read theirs…ashen. I accepted my first teary hugs filled with empathy, fear and support. I left to go home and call my husband. The fantasy was over and I wasn’t OK.
I called my husband, Monty. He left his office and came home. I had nothing to report except I had cancer. I didn’t know what kind. I didn’t know anything. We would just have to wait. We had so many questions, but no answers. We made some phone calls of our own and got a referral to a surgeon – step one we were told. The surgeon’s office recommended a Medial Oncologist and the Medical Oncologist’s office recommended an Oncology Radiologist. I talked to Dr. June again. She was supportive. Before the day was over the wheels were in motions for a new direction in my life. A direction I didn’t choose to go in, but certainly must.
© 2007 Juila Andrus