Get It Off My Chest

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I’m don’t mince words often and I’m rarely out of them. If I have something to say I get it off my chest right. But, I was swamped at work when the results of my breast ultrasound came in. I glanced down at my iPhone 7 while the message from my Ob/GYN was being transcribed. It said, “your results are in. The radiologist wants to see you again in six months. I’m preparing your referral. Thank you.” Immediately, all words escaped me.

I saw the four hypoechoic nodules with my own eyes during my scan. They were the dark circles the technician paused over, measured, snapped images of then refused to discuss with me. Yet, I kept hoping I was wrong; that they were so insignificant they didn’t warrant being mentioned in a report.

I immediately signed on to the Lenox Hill Radiology portal and pulled up my report. It described each lump by height and width, as well distance from my nipple. There were two in the left breast and two in the right. On the bottom of the report, the radiologist said they were likely benign but recommended monitoring.

“Likely? What the hell does that mean? I’m supposed to wait six months to find out if some of kind of cancer is present? It may be okay with the doctor to watch and wait, but can I live with that? At least when Lymphoma was suspected I had the six surgical biopsies and I knew what I was facing. I may need a second option or a biopsy just to be sure,” I mumbled to myself. “I’ve spent most of my life since puberty trying to hide my double chest. Now, if the images change they could be gone. I don’t have much of a figure without them. I think I’d actually be sad to see my breasts go.”

I grabbed my cane, subtly rose from my chair and walked over to the printer to collect a copy of the radiology report. I didn’t tell anyone around me what was bugging me. I couldn’t figure out what to say so I said nothing other to answer questions about the stories we were writing for 5:30 and 6 pm newscasts. I completed my work and I laughed just like everyone instead of crying. And, on the way I home I wrote down my feeling to get them out.

#ultrasound #mammogram #chronicillness #chronicpain #disability #lymphoma #tvnews #radiology

Eating My Feelings

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I tossed and turned worrying about the reason my doctor required a 3D mammogram in addition to a traditional one. She said it was impossible to see through my dense tissue to clearly make whether I actually had a lump or not. I’d never had that type of imaging before but I was assured that this was the one of the latest technologies that would help me avoid something more invasive.

I took a cab over to the imaging center at lunch and I was immediately called in. I put on nipple markers that looked like pasties and stepped into a machine. I was pulled, pushed and then smashed before my scan was over. Then, the technician asked me to stop by the admitting desk to schedule an appointment for an ultrasound.

Wtf? I thought. What else do they red to do to tell me I’m okay.

I booked an appointment for the following Thursday and headed out into the rain.

Even God is crying, I thought as I bowed my head. He knows how much I’ve gone through and continue to every day. I guess He never said the road would be easy.

As soon as I looked up I saw a Dunkin Donuts/ Baskin Robbins. I took it as a sign. I cautiously made my way over there as my cane slid in the puddles and I picked out a carton of my favorite ice cream: Gold Medal Ribbon. Tonight, I will pray then eat this, I thought. I’ll fall asleep and tomorrow will be a new day.

I was smiling until I realized I had no way to get the ice cream back to New Jersey without it melting. When I returned to work I mentioned my problem to my friend Sixto. He took his dirty Tupperware out of his lunch bag and handed the bag to me.

“This ice should keep it cold,” he said.

He’s helped me lot of times over the years but this time he may have saved my sanity.

#food #nyc #breastcancer #cane #disability #autoimmunedisease #chronicillness #chronicpain #igg4 #baskinrobbins #dunkindonuts #eatmyfeelings

Sick Body, Well Mind

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I arrived in the waiting area of West Side Radiology ten minutes after my scheduled appointment time. Of course, that’s not surprising if you know me.  I am always late.  Still, I made it with my forms in hand and a belly filled with 24 ounces of creamy vanilla flavored barium.  I had chilled two bottles of the thick liquid meant to illuminate my insides over night then stuck a straw in of them at about 9:15.  I managed it down before hoping the shower but I knew the second one would be a challenged because I was no longer under the delusion that it was going to truly taste like a frothy milkshake.

Once outside, I started the car, glanced down at the dashboard clock and then pulled out my space headed towards Manhattan.  Finally, fifteen minutes after I should’ve started the second bottle, I stuck the straw in it and started taking slow sips.  I knew delaying wasn’t going to make it taste better or negate the fact that I had to drink the stuff but I got it down the only way I could; very, very, very slowly. Nonetheless, I got all of the barium in me before a queasy feeling set in. No matter, I knew I had to shake it off so I could stroll over the radiologist office from the parking garage.

With my plastic bag tucked under my arm and my hair flopping in the refreshing spring breeze, I looked like everyone else on the street.  Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder where they were going and if it was to as depressing a place as I was headed.  I noticed people smiling, laughing, and chatting carelessly on the phone. Amazingly, I couldn’t think of one person to call on my five block jaunt. Not because I have no friends or family that would care that I was going to get two CAT scans but I couldn’t take hearing the fear, pity or sadness in their voice. Just as a wave of depression came over me, a man looked at me in a longing way. He smiled then waved and waited for my reaction.  I said a quick hello and kept walking but his gesture stuck with me.  For those few moments, I felt like a normal, desirable women again and not some sickly person on their way to find out how twisted her insides are and what the surgeon needs to do to set it right.

Like I said, I got to the radiologist office ten minutes off pace which turned out to be fine since I was one of only three patients.  There was a woman with no legs; it appeared that they had been amputated. An elderly man with a horrible cough sat to my right and a black woman, who looked maybe ten years older than me, sat across the way from me with her husband with a frown on her face.  The only person in the room who looked like he was there by mistake was this 6 foot tall white man, dressed in a button down shirt, jeans and some casual black shoes.  He was smiling as if he didn’t have a care in the world.  But let’s face it, without saying a world, we all knew that if were in this office each of us had something wrong with us.

The waiting room was silent until the roll call of names began.  I was called second.  I followed the parade of people into the back so we could all change into those backless gowns that demoralize you by forcing you to stand naked in front of strangers, stripping away you last bit of privacy and normalcy. Once we were wearing the uniform of the infirmed, each of us was hauled off to a room containing a machine that would peer inside of us.

The hum of the CAT scan machine was actually soothing. It distracted me from the warm liquid from the IV in my arm that was racing through my veins, causing a scratching in the back of my throat, itching underneath my skin and my stomach to feel as if it were doing summersaults.  The only thing that interrupted the noise was the voice of the technician instructing me to breathe in and out, hold my breath, and let it go on cue. Never in another other area of my life would I take guidance from a stranger, but in there I did what I was told so the time would fly pass and the technician could get the images he needed.  Twenty minutes later I was free to get dressed and rejoin the world.

That black woman who was sitting across from me in waiting room wasn’t so lucky.  Her world had been turned upside down in the time I lay in the CAT scan machine. She was out in the hall when I emerged from my room shouting.  At first I couldn’t tell about what, but as I approached I heard her say she came in for just one biopsy.  She’d been told she had Cancer.  I guess prior to today, she thought it was only in one breast but when she went into the exam room she learned they wanted a sample from both.  She refused and was screaming she wanted her clothes so she could leave.  The nurse called her husband to the back to calm her down and try to convince her to have the procedure and another MRI.  When I walked out ten minutes later she was dressed in her street clothes like I was so I would gather she was not doing anything at all.

At 37 years old, I never could’ve predicted that I would spend more time in a hospital than my parents and grandparents combined, that all of them would be worried about my mortality rather than the other way around, or that I would spend nearly every day off I have from work shuttling from doctor, to hospital, to radiologist, to pharmacy instead of kicking back and relaxing.  No matter what I thought prior to this age, this has become my reality and living with Cancer is that woman’s new truth.

I’m not complaining about what ails me.  As I like to say, it is what it is, but it is still very disconcerting not to be “normal;” whatever that really means.  I mean, after all, I appear to be just like my friends, family and co-workers.  I go to work, maintain a household and have regular social interactions but all of the aforementioned always depend on how I am feeling on a given day.  I could wake up today feeling spry but be unable to get off the sofa tomorrow.

It’s hard when you’re mind is well but the body isn’t able.  I know that probably part of the anger that black woman from the radiology center was feeling. It’s frightening when your body betrays you and begins failing despite your best efforts to keep it well.  It’s debilitating to think that your time maybe up sooner than you would want or worse yet, that you will be trapped here on Earth in a shell of a body that no longer looks or behaves normally.  I choose not to give in.  I choose to fight and I hope that woman, whoever she is, doesn’t give in to fear and anger and battle back to beat her disease.