For many of you who have been reading here for a while, you know about my struggle with anxiety, especially in terms of my health. Well, I had my first cancer scare recently and it threw me into a pretty bad place in terms of my anxiety.
Here’s the story…
It was a lovely night. The boys were asleep. McRuger and I had just finished having some very wonderful “adult time”. I was relaxing and felt an itch in my lower, right armpit…and then I felt it…a lump. It didn’t feel small, about the size of a garbanzo bean or a little bigger. My mind flashed one word: cancer.
I instantly had a panic attack. For over an hour, I fought the panic attack. I took some of my medication and I called my mom, McRuger talked to me and rubbed my back, and nothing helped. In my mind I had cancer and that was it. I started playing out all the eventualities in my mind…going to some very dark places. My body was shaking uncontrollably, my body dumped all the contents from my bowels and stomach, and I couldn’t breathe normally. It was the worst attack I have ever had.
McRuger messaged my doctor and within an hour, she had messaged back with an appointment time for the next day.
That night, I barely slept. My dreams were dark and twisted. My anxiety was always there.
The next morning, our new babysitter arrived (more on her later), and McRuger, Pumpkin, and I headed of to my doctor’s office. We took Pumpkin because the sitter can’t watch both kids effectively for more than an hour or so…and I didn’t know how long we’d be gone.
They checked me in at the office. My BP was sky-high…and that was on my meds! My doctor came in and proceeded to check me out. We did the typical question/answer session of a typical physical. And then she examined me. Eyes, ears, mouth, heart, lungs, abdomen, breasts…then she tried to find the lump. At first she couldn’t find it…and for a heady moment I thought it had disappeared overnight. I felt the area, found it instantly…and then she felt around.
One thing I really appreciate about my doctor is her absolute candor and her upbeat nature. I also appreciate that her husband is an oncologist…and she knows a bit more about cancer than other GPs. She felt the lump, took a measurement, marked it with a surgical pen and said it probably wasn’t cancer, but she couldn’t be sure. She wanted me to get an ultrasound immediately so we could alleviate my concerns. She and McRuger talked candidly about what the next steps would be if the lump proved to be cancerous. And my doctor told me how good it was that I had taken care of this quickly.
Within 5 minutes, she had me set up with an ultrasound for later that afternoon. The appointment was for the same time as an appointment I had set up for Pumpkin to check his ears for an infection (he’d been rubbing at them quite a bit). My doctor said that she’d look at his ears and that way I could stop stressing about that. Turns out, Pumpkin has a ton of wax in his ears, but no infection…so that was great news.
I left the office feeling a bit more reassured, but not worry-free. I knew the ultrasound was going to be stressful, and I didn’t want Pumpkin to be there for it (he doesn’t need that in his little life!). The sitter could take care of Cadet. So, I called a dear friend, Rose (Hello!!!) and she (without hesitation) told me she’d be at my house in an hour to watch Pumpkin. I cannot tell you what a relief and sense of peace that brought me. It’s wonderful to have friends like her!
We came home, nerves still jangled. I had a bit of lunch, and called my parents. With my aunt currently battling Stage 4 ovarian cancer, my parents know how this part goes…if the ultrasound showed a growth, we made a plan for them to come down to go through the next steps with us. If not…we’d be celebrating my mother’s 65th birthday in a few weekends…worry-free.
Rose arrived, gave me a big hug…and put my mind at ease about Pumpkin. She knows my kids very well, and they know her. So, when we left…I just put the boys out of my mind and focused on not vomiting.
The ultrasound went well. We were called in almost immediately and everything went very fast. The tech took about 10 minutes to get all the images, and then excused herself to talk to the head radiologist. This was unexpected, but she explained that she wanted to make sure she had taken all the images that would be needed.
For about 5 minutes, McRuger and I sat in that dark little room. He was online chatting to a few of my nurse friends…filling them in on what was happening. When the tech came back in she said that the head radiologist was fairly confident that it wasn’t cancer, but he’d need to review all the images and consult with an oncologist. We’d get a call from my GP before the end of the day.
I put my dress back on, worry slowly easing away…the shakiness still with me. In the room, I had a little time to cry. It wasn’t from worry, but more from a sense of how much my life could be changing. I flashed through all the scenarios of who would take care of the boys if I were to die…or how would McRuger handle my death. McRuger rubbed my back, helped gather my things, and we walked out of the room.
Before we exited the facility, we took 5 minutes to sit in their Zen garden. We talked about the weekend, the trip we have planned for Easter, and the weather. McRuger joked that this was our first date since Pumpkin arrived…and he was right. We had a good laugh over that. I was so in awe of his steadfastness and humor. McRuger had never once wavered in his belief that I would be okay, and even when we discussed what would happen if it was cancer…he still managed to have a sense of humor. It really made me realize how much he steadies me and keeps me balanced.
We drove home, he dropped me off so I could let the sitter go home…while he picked a prescription for valium (in case I had another panic attack). Rose and I sat on the front yard after the sitter left. We discussed the ordinary things in our life. It was so good to have her calm presence. Each moment, I felt myself coming back into my body and soul. Plus, getting hugs from Cadet always helps!
McRuger called about 15 minutes later, he had news. My doctor had called him (on my previous instructions) and said “it’s nothing”. Apparently, as I would learn later, the lump is probably is fluid filled cyst…perhaps from a ingrown hair. I’m supposed to put a warm compress on it a few times a day and call if things get worse. How pedestrian! But…not cancer!
We ordered pizza and Rose and I made a simple salad from the greens from my little garden…Rose, Cadet, McRuger, Pumpkin, and I had dinner and chatted. It was normal and it was so wonderful. My body, still processing the massive adrenaline dump from the night before, was exhausted….but my soul was light and alive.
I slept wonderfully well…with no medication. I had fuzzy dreams of going on trips and seeing people I loved.
Someday, I may have cancer or some other serious ailment. But this scare taught me that I have what I need to battle anything: a loving partner, good friends, a caring family, and a very good doctor.
Stay well, my friends.