Friday, September 30, 2011

"I Can No Other Answer Make"

Today I taught my last Friday Nia class at the YMCA. I've been teaching this particular class for eight years. Eight years! But I didn't have the numbers anymore, and it didn't make good business sense for them to keep it going. I get that. When I was younger, I got a bit more freaked out about things ending. Now, I just try to be impressed that whatever it is lasted as long as it did. Because eight years is a pretty long time to do anything.

I only had two students. I've known both of them for many years, since I started doing Nia, so it was fitting that they should be there. They're very good followers, and dance with a lot of joy, so they made it fun for me, too. I really put my all into each cue and movement, since it might be a while before I do it again.

And I danced with awareness today, since only hours earlier I got the news I've been waiting on for nearly a month. Well, it wasn't quite the news I'd been looking for then--back then I just wanted a cure for my intermittently throbbing belly. I asked about this throbbing at my annual exam, and my doctor said he'd send me for some tests because he "wanted to make me happy." Well, of course. Doesn't everybody?

The next day I had some blood drawn. Over a week went by and I didn't hear anything about the exam or the blood. But he also sent me for an abdominal ultrasound, to check out that belly pain, and I had to wait a few days for that appointment.

I was pretty nervous about that one. I mean, it was at the hospital, but even more alarming, they said "Ninety minutes before, we need you to drink 32 oz. of water." Wait. What? I said I could never do that in a million years. Eight ounces, maybe. And, like, 10 minutes before. They said I had to do it anyway.

I did my best. I guzzled in the car, in the waiting room. The tech was a sweetheart. I was on the table a long time (she did let me run and pee after the first five minutes) but there was no discomfort. The gel on my skin was hot. I hadn't expected that, after seeing it in movies. It seemed like she was taking pictures for an hour. That's because she was. When I got home, I cried a little. At the time, I thought it was from relief that it was over, but now I realize it was dread of what was to come. Because I knew something was to come.

Two days later I was pulling into the parking lot at the mall when I saw my doctor's number light up my phone. I called from the dark parking garage. The woman on the phone was cold and clinical; she said three sentences: "You have a complex ovarian cyst. It's protocol to have an OVA-1 in these cases. Which lab would you like?"

I couldn't even hear her after that. I got off the phone but I don't remember how. All I heard ringing in my ears was "complex" and "OVA-1." I didn't know what either meant but neither sounded any good. I called David. He Googled OVA-1. That was not good, either. It's a cancer test. I freaked. I mean, I FREAKED. Hyperventilating, sobbing, panic attack, in the parking lot. This was it. This was how I was going to go.

I asked David to come home. He did, immediately. He met me in the park and hugged me while I talked to my Dad on the phone. (If you don't know, my dad is an OB/Gyn.) My Dad was awesome, as always, in these situations. He's not warm and fuzzy, but his combination of pragmatism, experience and vast knowledge go a long way towards calming a girl down. He assured me that the bloodwork would put all my fears to rest. I talked to my doctor. It was actually TWO cysts, one on each side. Smallish, both of them, but not tiny. David picked up Jarrah while I drove myself to yet another hospital building for the blood draw. I didn't have to wait; there was no one else there. The tech said "How are you?" and I opened my mouth to say "Fine," I really did. Instead, I sobbed my head off while she held me. That's right, I was hugged by a phlebotomist. I doubt many people can say the same.

I went home. I was numb. I stayed that way--at least during business hours--for the next two days. Friday after 5:00 I relaxed a little, since nothing horrible could happen to me if the doctor's office was closed. Meanwhile, I was relying on my own version of Mother's Little Helper to sleep at night. Thank goodness for that. Because you know what? Life goes marching on. There's still laundry, and dishes, making lunches, reading stories, calling plumbers.

Ah, yes. The plumber. Not only did I lose my job in the middle of all this, but our brand-new, beautiful bathroom sprouted a blooming field of water stains on the wall near the shower. After one month. Yikes. I was so numb I could barely muster any indignation. And that is a strange day in Mudville for me, as many of you well know.

Then it was Monday, and it came and went without a call. My dad was checking on me (along with certain amazing, dear friends--thank you, thank you) a lot and by now had decided my results were lying on someone's desk somewhere. He urged me to contact them. His clarion call was taken up by nearly everyone else in my life. Call them. Call them. I received a number of texts saying that and only that: CALL THEM.

Readers, I couldn't. I. Could. Not. Why, you ask? Don't bother. I don't really know, but it was about as visceral as my loathing of cottage cheese. As long as I didn't call them, none of this was really happening, since no one was there to say it out loud.

Tuesday I could tell it was getting ridiculous. Lab tests take two days, three tops, right? We were now going on six days. I called. And the nurse told me "Oh, we don't have that back--we have to send it out of state. It takes 7-10 days to get results." Um...did no one imagine that was relevant information to share with ME? I must have sounded pretty something-or-other because a half-hour later my doctor called.

"These results are borderline," I heard him say. Borderline? Borderline? Keep on pushing my love over the borderline? I couldn't even hear him now. Where was the all-clear, the no-worries, that everyone and everyone kept promising? This was not it. My doctor was now ordering an MRI. Someone would call me.

I called my dad. I was sobbing and hiccuping so much it's amazing he could hear me. My dad--did I mention?--is awesome in these situations. He said he would research the issue. And he did. Turns out there is not much real-world data for this test, as it's very new. Know this if anyone ever wants you to take it. Various other factors I'll exclude for the sake of ethical discretion suggested that my "score" might not mean that much. But within the parameters of the people who made the test, it meant something: I hadn't passed. Now we needed more information.

If I'd been worried before, I was now...what was I? I went almost robotic. I would get through each day, doing what I needed to do, hyper-conscious of loving who I wanted to love and being who I wanted to be. This might be my only chance to do those two things. I put my head down and focused. I still erupted in tears occasionally, but only at moments when I felt really safe.

That same afternoon, Jarrah and I were in Target, shopping for her Halloween costume and getting supplies for an art project I was going to assist with in her class the next day. (See? Loving. Being. Head down.) The MRI center called, and weirdly--I thought--had appointments available the next day, and that very night--like in two hours. I grabbed the latter without hesitating. Why? Because I was totally, absolutely, freakin' tired of anticipating stuff. Whatever it was, no matter no horrible, I wanted it done and over.

My friend Grace--bless her--picked up Jarrah so David could take me. It was all very interesting. The two techs may actually be some sort of angels sent to earth to make sad, worried people feel uplifted. Because I was with them for over an hour and they were the kindest, gentlest guides to a bizarre new experience I've ever had.

Have you ever had a MRI? I hadn't known about the shot part. They need to squirt contrast in you, to get a better look. Or about how insanely loud it is. I had headphones with some sort of ghastly soft jazz, but I could barely hear it over the jackhammer-like din. But the weirdest part of all? The heat. I actually thought the machine was burning me up. Turns out I was burning myself up, or at least my protons were. Weird. The most surprising thing is that I didn't get claustrophobic (this from the girl who has sworn off all caves for life.) I'm sure the Xanax and the washcloth over my face helped with that. And speaking of angels? My husband stood touching my shoulder for nearly an hour while I was in there. He later told me that was the only part of me he could reach in the tunnel. I'm glad I only knew that after.

Afterward, I felt strangely brave. I had been crying and getting bad news most of the day, and I'd still volunteered to go to the hospital that same night and lie in a hot tunnel for nearly an hour. I was proud of myself. For the first time in weeks, I had a lull in the terror. I ate an obscene amount of dinner and slept like a baby.

Starting the next day, I jumped like a gazelle every time my phone made a sound. I waited through two days--nothing. It was Rosh Hashanah. Maybe my doctor was busy praying? But I knew one thing for sure: I was not, not, NOT going to go all weekend again with no news.

I didn't have to. This morning (Friday) my doctor called. I missed that call. I sat there with my heart leaping out of my chest and called him back. He was busy--could he call me later? I whispered "okay" and then sat there staring. If my phone hadn't chosen yesterday to die and I didn't have a new "refurbished" phone, I might have noticed there was a voice mail. But instead, it took me nearly a half-hour. I listened to it. My doctor said he wanted to go over my MRI. Right, right. "But no bad news. Everything's perfect." I had no idea what that meant. What was perfect about my ovaries having growths on them? But I put down the phone. And Readers, I sobbed. Suddenly, totally, luxuriously. No bad news.

I called David. I was crying so hard he probably thought the worst. Eventually, I called my doctor again. I was sick of waiting. I'm SO OVER waiting. Now I wanted the news, all of it, NOW. So, the cysts are the ordinary kind. Nothing to see; move it along. We will repeat the MRI in three months to make sure they've gone away.

Oh. Only one problem. Remember my pain? The reason I came in? It's still there. It's even a bit worse. Oh...well. There was some talk of surgery, but why do I want surgery for something that can resolve on its own? Some mention of hormones, which may or may not help. Ugh. That was that. Both my doctor and my dad were eager to get back to their busy days. As my dad put it, I'd "ceased to be an interesting patient."

My tummy hurts. I'd like to get that sorted out. But I took a shower (in our brand new bathroom now sporting a massive hole in the wall) that felt like a million bucks, got dressed, and went to meet my friend Phoebe for lunch. She treated, to celebrate my good news. It was a beautiful day. My lunch was delicious. She made me laugh. Everything seemed a little sunnier, a little breezier, a little bluer and greener and golder. I gave my gorgeous girl a big kiss when I picked her up at school. Danced my heart out in my last Friday Nia class. Smiled at everyone. Said thank you and meant it.

Loving. Being. Head up.


Jen said...

Oh, my dear, what an ordeal!!!! I am so sorry! But so very, VERY relieved that the hellish uncertainty is behind you and that you got good news. Also so happy that you had David, your dad, your friends, and your beautiful daughter there by your side. Sending you lots of celebratory hugs and kisses from here. xo

DrSpouse said...

I did see a little about this on FB but glad you feel able to write the whole story - how horrible for you. But I'm pleased it's OK (except for the pain).

I have had an MRI (joint injury - no contrast) and it was really loud but I guess I wasn't anxious because I nearly fell asleep!

Tina said...

So sorry you had to go through this. I had a bit of a breast cancer scare last summer and I definitely can relate to your fear and anxiety.

Ask your doctor about testing you for gall stones. I had been in pain for about 18 months and had been to see my doctor several times, all along being told I had acid reflux and to stay away from coffee (!) and spicy food (!).

Then on my second trip to the ER, Doogie Houser's younger brother finally suggested some testing for gall stones. Two months later I had my gall bladder removed.

I was Fat, Fair, Forty, Female and Flatulent (the five Fs that can make one a good candidate for gall stones) and in horrible pain. But in the two months before my surgery I ate a completely fat-free diet and felt better than I had in nearly two years. You could always give that a try to see if your symptoms improve.

Whatever is ailing you, I'll keep you in my prayers for a speedy recovery!

Sarah Swedberg said...

Thank goodness the news is (relatively) good.

I've never had an MRI,but recently had several ultrasounds. That wand is _long_ isn't it?

I'm glad you had caring medical professionals, supportive family, and friends. David and Dad are champs.

Kelly said...

Oh, my dear - keep on loving being heads UP. You're a brave, strong woman. So glad the hot tunnels and contrasts and sticks are behind you!

Lion's Cub said...

Oh, Sam! I'm so sorry that you had to deal with this! How frightening. Though I am so glad that you have returned to "uninteresting patient" status.

I had a very similar experience when I was 21, and I had surgery to have the cyst removed. My doctor explained that all women gets these growths and that they usually go away with no incidence or even awareness. The ones that cause pain should be removed, just because if it's causing pain it's probably grown too large to correct itself (to be fair this was 22 years ago, so who knows what conventional wisdom is nowadays!)

Whatever the doctors suggest (and I know you are in good hands there) and whatever you choose, I hope you continue to be well and that the pain goes away soon.

And I hope you find a new home for your NIA class :-)