Three years ago my friend Jane* went to our mutually beloved OBGYN for her annual check-up. She asked Dr. A why she was spending so much time on her left breast. Dr. A said she “felt something” but that it was “probably nothing.” She sent her straight over to the women’s imaging center for a mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy. Jane had cancer. She went through it all – the chemo, the mastectomies, the rebuilding of her body inside out while juggling two young children and a career. And now she is fine.
It would take me all the fingers on both hands to count just the friends under 45 who have gone through cancer. And that’s not counting the acquaintences. Just the actual real life friends. One was diagnosed with cancer while she was trying to get pregnant. One was diagnosed while she was pregnant. One had breast cancer and THEN sepsis.
All of them are OK now – relatively speaking. There is always the fear of recurrence. Some have lost the ability to have children. Some have damaged immune systems from the chemo. Some just have hair that has grown back inexplicably curly. But they are “OK,” going to the beach with their children, working out at the gym, traveling for business, smiling at baseball games…and meeting me at the hospital after Dr. A feels “something” on my left breast.
“It’s probably nothing.”
“You told Jane it was probably nothing.”
“I lied to Jane.”
If you follow my blog or know me in real life, you know that I just recovered from a very weird life-threatening case of Sepsis that put me in the ICU for four days. I am not trying to have cancer right now. This is simply not happening.
I text Jane, “Meet me at the hospital NOW.” I walk the two blocks in a daze and arrive at the doors covered in paper pink ribbons. “Oh for God’s sake. I’m going to have breast cancer during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. People are gonna buy toxic perfume and fried chicken with pink ribbons on them in my honor. Perfect.”
“I’m sorry, miss. We can’t see you until 2:30. We need to take our lunch now.”
It’s 11 a.m. “The hell you are taking lunch! Where is the mammogram machine? I’ll work the damn thing myself!”
“Um, OK miss. We can take you now. Please fill out these forms.”
“Please put on a gown and wait here.”
“I might be able to survive this, but my parents won’t. And if I have to tell the kids I’m sick AGAIN they are gonna need so much therapy.”
“Maybe I’ll just write a book about it. No, that won’t work. I’ve just released a book that could have been titled ‘How To Try to Avoid Getting Cancer.’ I’ll be like a joke. Everyone who read it will just go back to eating fast food and using dryer sheets.”
“Ma’am, you’ll need to wipe off any deodorant before getting the mammogram.”
“This isn’t even real deodorant! It’s special ‘anti-breast cancer deodorant! Great, now all the people who switched to this will just go back to using Secret.”
“Please place your breast in this vice.”
OK, this is no big deal. Dental X-rays are far worse. This is cake.
Now, wait for the doctor and the ultrasound.
“I don’t think a wig is going to work for me. Maybe I’ll just get a really beautiful scarf.”
“Jane, can I use my laptop during chemo? Do they have WIFI there?”
“The doctor will see you now.”
“Your mammogram is fine. You just have weird breast tissue. This can happen with age. You don’t have cancer.”
“Are you sure?”
“Jane, what do you want for lunch?”
So here are the takeaways from this very brief brush with a cancer scare:
*Name changed to protect my friend who has no desire to share her cancer story with the world. But loves me for sharing everything.