It’s a funny thing, that terror. It can sneak up on you when you least expect it, and strike at you from angles that you have never even considered, let alone girded yourself against.
As the child of a 2 time breast cancer survivor, I am perhaps a bit jumpier about my health than the average bear. I have been getting yearly mammograms since my early thirties, and try not to take my health for granted. In fact, to that end, I have just completed my annual gauntlet of medical appointments: dentist, family doctor, gynecologist, ophthalmologist, bloodwork and mammogram. Rinse and repeat. Having completed these, and received a clean bill of health, just in time for my 36th birthday, I smugly thought that I was in the clear for the next 360 or so days.
While at church services, I smoothed my dress, one of the many times that we stood up during worship. In the process of smoothing my dress, I noticed a lump, on my right hip, that I don’t remember ever having felt before. Attempting to be as inconspicuous as possible, I began quietly investigating it with my fingertips, and realized that it felt like a very large swollen lymph node or something along those lines. I immediately excused myself and headed to the rest room to investigate more thoroughly. There was no pain, no real discomfort and no real visual clue as to why I might have a lump there. The lump moved fairly freely, within a restricted area. Though there was no external bruising, now that I knew where to look, I realized I could faintly see the shape of it in the mirror.
I hustled back in to church, took communion and willed the rest of the time to pass, so that I could get home and talk to my husband about it.
At home I had him come upstairs and feel it himself. He looked calmly at me and said, “Call the doctor. It could be anything from…a cyst? A localized infection? An internal bruise? Call the doctor.” We looked at one another, both knowing that it wasn’t the “from” that was scary, it was the unspoken ground, on the other side of “to”. We also both knew that it was Sunday. Which meant no doctor available.
The rest of the day was spent immersed in busy work. Straightening the house, putting up the laundry, looking after the kids. On the surface, all was status quo. Internally, the terror had started to set in. It began as a dull anxiety, poking its head to the surface every once in a while, to remind me that all was not as typical on this Sunday as it would seem.
The next day was Labor Day. Still no doctor available, so it would have to keep. As the day progressed, the anxiety began to turn to momentary bouts of panic. As is my fashion, I launched into research mode, to try and assuage my preliminary fears. Bad idea. Seriously bad idea. And one that I should have known better than to indulge in. The internet…home of everything in the world is a portent of something fatal. Knowing this, I went back for a second helping. This time, rather than searching for ailments to cause my one, lone symptom, I picked a few slightly more palatable maladies to search, and see if my symptom would find kin there.
This morning, I drove myself to work, waited until the office was open and called the doctor. They were able to get me in straight away, so I turned about and went back home. As I drove home, I started thinking about the “what if’s”. All of the scoundrels that waited on the other side of “to” introduced themselves, and vigorously pumped my hand, up and down, thanking me for inviting them to the party. Fears of missed birthdays and mourning children gripped my heart with potent ferocity. I started to feel faint and nauseated, just from driving the car. I did the only thing I knew to do, and called my mom, and asked her to meet me at the doctor’s office. Having her there, having someone to hold my shit together in front of was a powerful salve, and just what I needed in order to beat back the terror.
The doctor says it is likely a lipoma, or cyst.
She wants to do a CAT scan, just to be sure, but in her educated opinion, it “doesn’t feel like cancer”.
Which makes me feel a little better.
The terror though, it is still in there, waiting.