2008, it wasn’t all that long ago, and yet most days it feels like a lifetime. Whether it’s from my upbringing, or from something deep within my genes, it’s taken me years to not look at the past. How can one go forward if they are looking at the past? A lesson I learned in 2008.
I suppose there was always a tiny bit of fear somewhere deep in my subconscious, but I kept it buried. I refused to let that fear bubble to the top. The first mammogram after my mastectomy was probably the hardest. From there, with each year a more confident, stronger, cancer survivor grew within me. Thinking cancer could show it’s ugly head again was something that I stuffed into a small box, closed the lid, and refused to open. That kind of thinking could only bring ruin.
I know this from experience. Years ago, my mother had one of her kidneys removed, and the doctors told her she probably would live ten more years. I watched my mother give up, as in her mind she thought why to bother with my life ticking away. Twenty years after she just couldn’t get it through her head they were wrong. She kept waiting for the hammer to drop. Mom lived thirty years afterward, and her death had nothing to do with her missing kidney. Life lesson learned. Tomorrow is not promised. Make the most of every day.
With each passing year, the yearly mammogram became just a routine exam, just like it was before 2008. With a roll of the eyes, “It’s that time of the year again. Got to get the boob squashed.”
This year was just like every other year. “Oh boy, time to get the book squashed.” Off I go. No big deal. I look at the films just like I always do because I have seen what cancer tumors look like in my breasts. Nothing solid white staring back at me, I smile. The technician tells me I will hear back from them after the doctor reads the films. I happily leave thinking, “See ya next year.”
The next day I receive a message stating the “your breast imaging shows the need for further evaluation.”
It’s true that time can stand still. One can feel their stomach turning. One’s breath really does catch. I read the words again. I regain my composure. I fall back on my old saying, “don’t worry until it’s time to worry.” Or so I tell myself. I tell myself this could be anything. I looked at the films. I pull my copy of the mammogram out of the medical file folder at my desk, push the disc into my computer, and look again. I see nothing but who am I to think I can read the image? I know nothing.
It’s then I realize, the lid had popped off the small box and fear of cancer returning was bouncing around in my head. I hear my husband walking down the hallway. I must get these thoughts back into the box and get the lid back on and quickly. Just as I stuff the last, ‘what if’ back into the box and get the lid on, Kev steps into my office. After a quick kiss and a good morning greeting, I explain to him I need to go back for further imaging. I can read the concern on his face with just a quick glance.
We talk about the situation several times over then next two days but always leaving the subject on a positive note. I know no other way to deal with cancer. Even as I walk into the imaging place two days later, I still have the lid back on the box, and I keep telling myself it’s nothing, and even if it is, I can beat the big C again.
As positive as one can be, the relief can hardly be measured when the doctor looks at you and tells you everything is fine, that it’s just a small cyst. No Cancer.
I understand now the difference between cancer survivors. There are those that deal with cancer coming back by constantly thinking that it might. Making plans just in case. There others like myself that deal with cancer coming back by not dwelling on the subject. Whatever will be will be.
Whatever works for you, is the best thing for you. Likewise for myself.
As for me, the box is stuffed away, and hopefully, it will not be pulled back out, and the lid pops off. I have places to go and people to meet.