Every time I drive on the flyover from I-35 to 183 North I remember the day I drove to the appointment that I had for a breast MRI and mammogram because of the lump in my breast that turned out to be cancer. I said a little prayer for survival as I rounded the two highways. I kept repeating to myself something like, whatever the result is, you have the wherewithal/the strength/the power to accept it/handle it/roll with it/whatever. It was a Friday afternoon in November.
….That mixture of fear and dread at the beginning of what you might one day think of as your journey to something. A calm that can only be known amidst shattering anxiety. The calm that allows you to remember second by second of what is about to happen, a series of events that might define you from here on out…..
I couldn’t find the building. I was running late for my appointment because of it. I called the receptionist and said ” I can’t for the life of me find the building.” That I said that makes me chuckle now. “I can’t for the life of me find the building” …..Calm. Relief at finally arriving at this appointment. A sliver of peace in knowing that a question that you have is close to being answered…..
I sat in the waiting room as I filled out the form. “Could you be pregnant?” “Yes”, I checked the box. And then I drew a picture of the lump that turned out to be my tumor on an outline of a body. “Are you experiencing pain?” “Yes”.
…..Im 33. Im too young for cancer. I might be pregnant. I just got married. I can have a normal life….
I was ushered into a tiny room where I changed out of my top into a gown. A sign on the wall told me to let the technician know if I could be pregnant. In my naivety, I did not let the technician know that I could be pregnant, because I assumed that by checking the box on the intake form “Yes, I could be pregnant”, that the technician was already informed of my possible pregnancy. I was ushered out of the little room into the mammogram room. I put a sticker on my boob where the lump was. I got my boobs squished into the machine and I was ushered into another room where I was to lie down for an ultrasound of my breast. It was a different lady. She seemed softer, less guarded, than her staunch and stoic predecessor from the Mammo room. I blurted out that I might be pregnant. She told me that I should have told the other technician that, because I was supposed to wear a special apron to protect the could be baby from the radiation.
….The anxiety sizzled about us, between us, above us and below us. It was electric. Angry and scared, In realizing what I had done, I cried silent hot stupid tears, turned my head to weep as she spread the jelly on my boob and went after every angle of it with the machine. Together we were recognizing the weight of the thing. The intertwined fate of a would be pregnancy and a lump in a boob that was probably cancer, and the woman who might be pregnant is condemning herself for fucking up, and the woman with the jelly and the machine who knows what she knows and can’t come out and say what she knows….
Usher into the room where the doctor talks. The word “biopsy”. The phrase “in the event that its not cancer”, followed by a run through on what we would do in the future with the metal pin that would, during the biopsy, be inserted into what was left of my tumor, in the event that it turned out not to be a tumor. And the rest of it was just about how the biopsy would go. An offer to go ahead and have the biopsy done right then and there, because it was the end of the business day. That way we can get the tests rolling and know something by Monday or Tuesday. And then another little room. Lying on my back. Someone to assist and someone else to guide the biopsy needle with the ultrasound machine. Locate the tumor, puncture the tumor, Click. Clack. Click. Clack. Biopsy done.
Driving Southbound on Mopac, especially during rush hour traffic, I think of driving home that day. That grim weekend of waiting. The thai food from a friend. Sitting in silence. Movie watching. Dogs cuddling. Waiting.
Late Monday morning I received the call that it was cancer. Negative pregnancy test followed on Thursday, to the relief of my friends and family but not to me. I was not surprised by either of the outcomes as I began to sort and reckon with these two pieces of information that became the theme of my life, crowding out all else. I was not surprised, and I felt validated in my speculation that I would not/could not bear children. That I would/could possibly have a disease, because on some level I had always known those two things to be true. Darkness in the denial. Grief in the loss. Dawn in the delight of watching what can unfold from the shit. Light and delight in discovering how you can emerge, scathed and scarred and beaten, yes, but malleable and open and expansive to something new, something other that what your stories told. Delight in watching the story unfold. That is the beginning of the story.