One year ago today . . .

14 Feb

Last year, on Friday the 13th no less, I received a phone call, instead of a letter, from my doctor’s office about my last mammogram results. When I had the mammogram, my doctor told me that I would either get a letter in a couple of weeks or, if anything showed up, then they would call me. He conducted a physical exam first, told me he didn’t feel anything abnormal in either of my breasts (and neither did I, by the way) and that most likely I would hear in a couple of weeks by mail – meaning nothing to worry about.

Instead, I got a phone call late in the day on Friday, February 13th. I was feverishly grading exams that had to be returned to my students by our final class to be held that Sunday. So, since I didn’t recognize the number, I let it go to voice mail and kept grading.

I checked my voice mail the next day, it was a vague message (naturally), but, I had a pretty good idea of what it meant. The doctor’s assistant actually gave me her cell phone to call her back. So, the next day, on Valentine’s day, I called her. We played phone tag until she finally reached me back (I was on the phone with my brother Steve at the time, telling him that I didn’t get the letter, that instead I got a phone call and that I was worried and so on and then she called). I spoke with her and she told me that the mammogram showed a mass and that I had to have a biopsy.

As much as I hoped that it would be one of those things that turned out benign, I knew that it wouldn’t. I just felt it, I can’t explain it really. I just knew it.

So, I went back to work, finished grading my exams, taught the last class of the course the next day and then on Monday scheduled my biopsy.  They wanted me to do it as soon as possible and so to speed things up, I was told I could pick up the mammogram films and deliver them to the facility where I would have the biopsy.

I of course did this. I remember walking down a long, cold corridor, looking for the room to pick up my films. I remember signing for them. I remember the woman at the counter sealing up the oversize envelope that contained the pictures of my breasts and telling me I was not supposed to look inside, that the information was for the doctor.

I remember walking back through that cold corridor and feeling the weight of the films growing heavier and heavier in my hand, and, as I left the building and walked through the parking lot to my car . . . heavier and heavier still.

I of course opened up the envelope as soon as I got back to my car. I didn’t look at the films, I didn’t want to touch them, as if in doing so, somehow it might spread. I know that sounds weird, but really, I was terrified to even touch or look at the films. But, I did look at the one white piece of paper and I read the typed letters: ” . . . biopsy ordered to confirm malignancy . . . ”

I put the paper back in the envelope, sealed it up and drove it to the facility where I would come back a few days later for a biopsy.

I never shared those words with anyone then. Why should I have? What for? No doctor was going to tell me that it couldn’t be benign. No radiologist, no person, no one was going to take away the hope that I would carry for the next weeks that the biopsy would show that the mass was just a benign cyst. And so I went about my business, albeit in a little bit of a fog, but truly hoping for some miracle. For some OTHER explanation than cancer for why I had been so tired the past many months, nearly a year now – for why I just didn’t seem to rebound the way I used to after a long day or week of work.

I promised myself, whatever the outcome, that next year’s Valentine’s Day would be a better one. And I know it will be. I did not get the news that I wanted last year. But, I have learned a lot about life in the past 12 months. I have learned a lot about myself, about regrets, about not having regrets in the future, and about how to live. I have learned how wonderful and beautiful people can be, how near strangers can become some of your most steadfast supporters and cheerleaders and I have gained so much strength from all of you, my family and friends and . . . I am here.

I watched a movie a couple of days ago called “Crazy, Sexy Cancer” (got it from the library). It was supposed to be an upbeat film/documentary about a woman who was diagnosed with cancer. It was, I enjoyed it. But, here is how it started: “Happy Valentine’s Day, you have cancer.” Apparently that was the day that the woman, whom the documentary was about, found out she had cancer.

My Mom and I were watching it together and I turned to her and said THAT was the day, last year, last Valentine’s Day, when I knew I had cancer. Bizarre. Anyway, it’s been a year now. And, assuming all is going well, I am nearly done with treatment (at least all of the IV type of treatment). There are still some medications to take or at least one to take – but, that is to be worked out still. I will have a bunch of tests in May to see where I am at and will have tests forever I guess (since I plan on being around a very long time).

Well, another ramble during another sleepless night – but the night isn’t quite over yet, so maybe I will go get some sleep now 🙂

Please continue to keep me in your prayers and send positive thoughts my way, I still very much need it. And, Happy Valentine’s Day.

Much love,

L.

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