Are You Dense?

Do you remember the last time you had to wait for something? I don’t mean like the service is bad at your favorite bistro and you revise your Yelp! to 3 stars from 5 or when you’re stuck in traffic and have to pee. Those both kind of suck in their own way, don’t get me wrong, but I mean wait. You sweat a bit more. Your spine is a bit colder. There’s a hollowness in your chest. You can’t do anything about it but wait. Tick tock on the clock. Wait.

Because you aren’t waiting on anything for yourself. In my universe, as crazy as it sounds, it isn’t all about me all of the time. I know! What the hell, right? Except that means that someone else has to wait, too. Someone else has to worry and think about the infinite possibilities and try to be normal, all while feeling slightly hollow, slightly cold, slightly askew.

Last week was filled with so many appointments it was the epitome of cancer being a full-time job. Each day I waited to be seen and to see. I thought at the time that Tuesday and Thursday would be the most important appointments, for CT and bone scans. See, my oncologist has put my chemotherapy on hold. I don’t have any answers yet, except that I have to continue to wait. What is continuing is the C-Diff infection I caught, and it may have been raging in my intestines for quite some time. Exhaustion is continuing, this time due, in part, to the infection and it’s treatment. My kids needing attention and the grocery shopping needing to be done never stops. Bills and chores and the minutia of daily life are what continue. Up till now I thought that was one of the hardest parts of this, I really did. I thought that the five amazing, infuriating, incredible people that I am raising, who daily and without fail demand attention and food and clothing and stuff, were the hardest part of cancer. The not being able to really participate in their lives, the worry, the mood swings because who doesn’t love raising teens, tweens, and the like while enduring chemotherapy and instant menopause, those seemed like the hard parts. Obviously the deadly intestinal viruses are part of the really unpleasant part. So is my almost-13 year old’s gas, for the record. He makes his late uncle proud. But maybe it’s all just the warm up.

Because I can whine and cry, I can beg to stop, I can worry about which of my children I will get to see graduate. I can go to treatments and appointments and process information and whatever else needs to be done. I can laugh most of the time when I ‘m not exasperated. But  what I can’t do is look at my daughter being told that she has a lump during a routine pediatric exam and continue to breathe.

And that is exactly what happened.

It turns out that Friday’s appointment was the most important, the one where #1 & #4 saw our amazing pediatrician (shout out to Dr. Pietroniro!) for routine checkups. Since #1 is firmly in her teens and since I have been gifted with the glory that is breast cancer, part of her exam (for which I am always present) included showing her how to perform a self exam and her doctor doing a basic breast exam. I stopped breathing when he looked worried and the cold crept up my spine when, with her permission, I felt the lump as well.

Today I took my fifteen year old for an ultrasound of her breast. We went in, she put on the cape they give you to wear, and with a grace and calm that amazed me, she fought her fear and her discomfort. Young breasts are dense breasts and that density makes mammograms difficult, necessitating an ultrasound .

In the same week that I took tests to see if my own cancer has spread, stayed the same, or shrunk, my daughter found a lump and we were told that she has what appear to be benign cysts. There will be checks every six months, but it means she did not get struck by lightning, and because of that I can breathe again.

As for what’s going on with me, hell, as long as I’m not in the hospital again or on death’s door due to diarrhea or hooked up to an iv with more poison pumping into me, then it’s ok. Right? Right.

In the meantime, I’m going to go yell at some squabbling kids.

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