Stories and thoughts about family and life

Tough Times

on February 19, 2016

I had a little health scare a few months ago.  It wasn’t anything too serious, thankfully, but in the moment it wasn’t anything I was interested in dealing with.  I woke up in the middle of the night one night with a very painful lump in my breast and when my husband woke the next morning and I asked him his opinion, I think it was his reaction which really heightened my concern.  He wanted me to make an appointment immediately.

Not that his reaction wasn’t absolutely valid–my grandmother died of breast cancer, and I’ve honestly been a little too lax at my own wellness the past couple of years.  I didn’t end up having a physical at all in 2015, which would have included the likes of such exams.  Add to that my now being 40-something and it was definitely something which needed some attention.

I called the Breast Center where I usually go, and they could get me in once my PCP made a referral.  I’m blessed with a fantastic physician and an equally fantastic nurse, who wasted no time getting everything worked out for me.   My sister-in-law insisted on going with me to my appointment, just in case the news I received wasn’t so good, and while I hated to think I was wasting her time I was exceptionally appreciative of the company.   A mammogram and an ultrasound later and the radiologist was visiting with me about stress and too much caffeine.  Then I was on my way, feeling relieved and putting the whole thing in the back of my mind.

Isn’t that what we do?  Those little health scares which pop up, you deal with them in the moment and when they turn out to be nothing you just shove it aside and go back to life as “normal.”  Oh, I did make some changes.  I hadn’t honestly realized how much caffeine I was taking in, and I took the opportunity to cut my sugar back too.  But my approach probably wasn’t nearly as dramatic as it should have been, and definitely not what it could have been.  At any rate, I’m fine and that’s all in the past.  Right?

A couple of weeks ago I received a text from a friend of mine asking me to pray for her.   When I started asking questions, she had found a lump.  There had been some evaluation, and now needed a needle biopsy.  I already felt sick for her.  Hadn’t I just been here?    We talked about how important mammograms are and how we take little things like that for granted, and how this was hopefully all just a necessary approach to eliminate concern.  I followed up with her the day of her procedure, and checked in with her repeatedly afterward waiting on some news.  I wanted so badly for this to be just a step worse than my situation–she wasn’t going to have walked out of the office reassured with one visit, but maybe just this biopsy and she’d be clear.

Her course of treatment is still being decided, but it’s not the news I had hoped for her.  She’s still grasping what all that means, and  I’m so thankful that she’s asked for my prayers and shared her thoughts with me.  I realize how blessed I am with our friendship.  The day she texted me the current plans of her doctor, I sat and thought about all those things I’ve read in magazines and on Facebook about having friends with cancer.  “What not to say.”  “How to comfort” and the like.  I must have started to text her about 10 different times with varying responses before I settled on “how can I help?”

I honestly didn’t know what else to say.  “I’m sorry” didn’t feel right and “are you okay?” seemed like the most absurd thing ever.  Of course she’s not okay.  Even if she’s “okay” she’s not okay–this is serious and it’s important and it’s just not okay.   She responded with something I could actually do to help her, and even though I can’t cure her I feel I can do something real to help her cope.

I reached out to an oncology nurse I know (also a dear friend) and she has answered a myriad of questions I’m not prepared to ask my friend about her situation.  We talked for a long time about how our perspectives change from when we’re 20-something and boobs are something to be proud of and, frankly, flaunted, to being mid-40s and realizing that the older we get the scarier those things are.  I realized talking to her that in my own situation, had it gone the other way, I would maybe choose a completely different path than I would have chosen in my youth.

I’ve thought a lot about Komen and the Race for the Cure over this past week or so.   I hope I don’t offend anyone here, but I’m not a big fan of Komen.  Especially in Little Rock, I know so many people who go to the race just to GO.  I participated in the first Komen Race in Little Rock when a coworker was diagnosed quite a few years ago, and there were just a few of us on the street, and we were all so proud to walk with her and FOR her.  Now it’s just a sea of people and there’s every imaginable Komen this or Komen that event, and it just seems that the reason for it all has been lost in the marketing of it all.  Everybody has tried to figure out how to put their own unique Komen spin on things in October.  I quit going probably 10 years ago and I actually make a point of avoiding downtown altogether on race weekend.  This week, however, has reminded me that with a good reason to participate, I would feel motivated to get involved again.

It’s funny how those little things left in the back of your mind just become forgotten.  It takes something intensely serious or strong to bring it into focus again and help you see the value of something you had previously dismissed.  It’s easy to get sucked into your daily drama of kids, and work, and school and all the other little things going on and those things which you shoved to the back gradually come creeping back up.

I know my friend has a frustrating road ahead for her, no matter what choices she makes. It’s scary when you don’t feel like you’re in control and you’ve just got to figure it out the best you can.  I hope that she feels all the love and prayers and wishes for her being made by all those around her, and that they give her the strength she needs especially on the not-so-good days.  It also makes me more grateful for the little blessings which I sometimes forget to count, and how those things become increasingly important when times are tough.



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