Last month I went in for an ultra sound to throughly check my lymph nodes, scar tissue and chest area to make sure the surgeries, chemo and radiation obliterated any and all cancer cells. I had set up the appointment without much thought and mentioned it in passing to Darrin. He asked me if I wanted him at the appointment. I told him, “No, it’s fine. I can just go.” A little while later I came back and said, “On second thought, yes, I would like you there.”
This was the same office that performed the diagnostic mammogram, ultra sound and core biopsy back in December 2008 and two days before Christmas called with the devastating news. I hadn’t been back in over a year and found it disturbing but familiar to see the cancer magazines, informational flyers, and wig and hat pamphlets. The regular screening mammogram office was on the floor below so I knew that every woman sitting in the waiting room had a higher percentage of having their lives radically altered. I was so thankful to not be alone like that first time–thankful that Darrin had the wherewithal to know that I still needed his support.
The appointment was pretty uneventful, but I was in the same room, lying on the same table, with the same machine, same smells, same sounds. It was profoundly comforting to know that Darrin was out there in the waiting room. The ultrasound tech was also a breast cancer survivor about a year ahead of me through all the same cancer treatments and it was helpful to ask her questions about crazy curly chemo hair and various aches and pains. I finally asked her what I had wondered. “I’m curious. If my cancer was slow-growing, how come it wasn’t found in the other two mammograms I had done when I was 38 and 40?” She answered, “Funny you should ask. I was just in the hallway with your most recent mammogram and I asked one of the techs to find the cancer. The tech looked and looked and then I told her that it was a 4 cm by 6 cm mass and she still couldn’t find it until I pointed it out to her.” I guess denser tissue makes mammograms less reliable or unreliable.
As she finished up the appointment she handed me a yellow paper with my exam results. She had checked off the box Normal: No evidence of cancer. Woo-hoo! NED stands for No Evidence of Disease. I’ve kept that yellow paper folded up in my notebook that I take to all my doctor’s appointments. Each test result that comes back clear helps me to exhale a little more. My confidence is coming back slowly. But I have dealt with feelings of being lost, unsure and confused for much of this summer.
Do you remember being little and swinging for hours on a swing or playing in the ocean all day or riding amusement park rides and then trying to fall asleep at night and having those sensations from the day still so close even though you are lying still? That is what it feels like for me.
I’m thankful for this new place to continue to process and ponder and to share.