Tuesday, May 6, 2008

benign

About a month ago I went for my annual mammogram. No woman likes to go for her mammogram. The waiting room is a sanctum not easily described, lying somewhere between hope and desolation. I felt courageous and pathetic at the same time as I sat there. I also felt an overwhelming connection to every other woman around me. A connection deep and sacred as we all sat there together with our worst fears.
My mammogram fear is unique. My mother had breast cancer when she was only a few years older than I am now. I was sixteen and becoming a woman, and my mother was on the edge of death. She was one of only a handful of women who survived her stage of breast cancer in those days. The cure almost killed her. I watched her hair and nails fall out. She was massacred through surgery and burned through radiation. She survived, but the tunnel was long and dark, and scared me beyond description.

When I received the call that my mammogram was irregular, living in this country that I do now made my first thought be how will I pay for a diagnostic mammogram? My insurance only covers a screening, then I start to pay a hellish deductible. I swallowed down my financial fears and went for the diagnostic. I knew my family history made me a red flag case. I knew that I was going to a cutting edge breast cancer center, where the new zillion dollar mammography machine could see down to the tiniest nothing. And as I sat in that waiting room with all the other women in our pink robes with our copies of Better Homes and Gardens, I knew when they called me I would be going home.

But it wasn't like that at all. I would be having a bilateral biopsy of micro calcifications found in both my breasts. I later found out that this condition is the earliest form of breast cancer that can be detected. It is nearly 100% curable. It is nearly always treated with a lumpectomy, or radiation, but almost never chemotherapy. It is this biopsy of these tiny cells that defines early detection. It is what saves women's lives.

But I didn't know that as I sat in that dark room while the doctor pointed to tiny flecks of white on the images that were apparently my breasts. These were the same breasts that had nourished my children not so many years ago and that I had spent most of my adult life try to camouflage in order to avoid whistles from construction workers. There was my body on the screen. And something was wrong. That was the moment everything changed. That was the moment that my world took on a different hue. That was the moment that I knew things like this happened all the time to people just like me.

I had my biopsy yesterday. It was painful and emotional. It is still beyond description, as are these last few weeks. I hope to have much to write about in the coming weeks- the waiting room, the women, the Susan G. Koman for the Cure Foundation, who provided the grant that made my $9000 high tech biopsy possible, the dreams and nightmares and fears and hope.

The call just came in after only a day from the compassionate, kind doctor who performed my biopsy.

In a word: benign.

11 comments:

Deirdré Straughan said...

I ran across your blog only recently, thanks to a link from someone else. Weird the parallels in our lives. I have recently moved (for the first time) to Colorado, after 17 years in Italy http://www.beginningwithi.com/italy/living/leavingitaly.html. And I had a breasts cancer scare last year http://www.beginningwithi.com/aboutme/difficultbreasts.html

Beatriz' suitcase contents said...

It is good to hear that you are ok, and that the tunnel is behind you now. Looking forward to your wonderful writing!

Goofball said...

Benign...what a fantastic word

jen said...

oh honey. yes.

yes. amen.

anno said...

A huge relief -- glad to hear it!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

That is one of the most beautiful words in the universe at times. I'm glad you got to hear it.

Jennifer said...

Exhale. I think I held my breath for that entire post, even though the title gave me hope. You poor thing. What a relief, but what a scare.

bleeding espresso said...

Tears of joy here cara. So happy you started with that title :)

Greg said...

To your enduring health and continued happiness!

Rebecca said...

wow - phew! SO good to hear!

Res said...

Benign and Beautiful both start with "B" - coincidence? I think not!

 

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