Family life, Paleo-ish eating and Coping with Chronic Illness

Disclaimer:  I want to tell you a story.  My story is a woman’s story.  From a woman’s perspective.  About stuff that can happen to a woman (mostly).  We’re gonna talk about breasts.

I know I was made for telling stories.  But, this story is more personal than most.  I’m comfortable telling this story, but you might be uncomfortable reading it. Now that I’ve made that clear, there’s no chance you’re turning back.  Right?  I get you.

I feel like it’s more responsible to tell you what’s ahead here.  You might be an upstanding man who doesn’t know if it’s okay to read about breasts that don’t belong to your wife.  I understand.  I feel like she might be okay with this kind of breast story, but it’s your call.  I feel better warning you.

I haven’t been blogging lately.  I’ve been preoccupied. A couple of weeks ago I had persistent pain in my breast.  After a couple of days of pain, I noticed the breast was red, warm to the touch and sort of inflamed.  I thought it felt like one of those breast infections you can get when you’re breastfeeding.  I hated those.  Except, my last child has been weaned for, oh, about 13 years now.  Women who aren’t breastfeeding shouldn’t be getting breast infections.  I learned that.

I talked to my Doctor, and scheduled a mammogram.  Mammograms aren’t terrible.  I don’t know what all the fuss is about.  I’d volunteer for ten mammograms before one trip to the dentist.  Now DENTIST visits are something to complain about.

But, about this mammogram.  I walked into the mammogram room, and was greeted by a friendly mammogram technician. We chatted about her daughter’s birthday party that night, and my manicure.  I barely realized she was taking pictures of the insides of my breasts.  When she was finished taking pictures, she left the room.  The technician came back and told me the radiologist said he wanted to do an ultra sound now.

We did an ultrasound.

In the ultra sound room, there was another very friendly technician.  She put some gel on my breast and rubbed that wand thing over the skin.  I didn’t know what we were looking at; I could see her measuring and labeling a variety of oddly shaped circles. When she was done labeling, she left the room..  She came back with the radiologist.  This time, the radiologist himself used the magic wand to see inside my breast.  The radiologist looked for a while; then he left the room.  (This story has a lot of leaving the room scenes).

I sat by myself.  Things got quiet..  The radiologist returned with the ultra sound technician by his side.  The radiologist used a  soft voice to tell me he wanted me to see the breast surgeon right away.  The radiologist said I had a tumor.  He said he wanted to  do a biopsy on the tumor himself.  But, he said, he also wanted the breast surgeon to do a biopsy on the red and inflamed part of my breast.  He said this area was cause for concern, and he wanted the breast surgeon to biopsy this inflamed area,  and determine the priority of their strategies.

How you doin?  You tracking with me here?  If you are to the part of the story where you think your hypochondriac friend, Miki, must have been feeling a little whoozy with fear, then you got it.  You understand me.

When it comes to health issues, I ALWAYS assume worst case scenario.  This usually works for me. You can’t even know all the scary diseases and diagnoses I’ve kept my family safe from by using reverse psychology.  I worry so hard, all those diseases and scary things don’t stand a chance.

Fact.  Malignant tumors respond to the jinx.  If you say you DO NOT have a malignant tumor, then, guess what?  You just jinxed yourself, my friend.  Everyone knows that  cancer cells replicate rapidly in a jinxed environment.   It’s called Biology.  Do your research.

Enough science.  Back to my story.

After the radiologist’s pronouncement, someone escorted me up to the breast surgeon’s office.  The surgeon’s nurse took my blood pressure and pulse.  Guess what?  High.   I was smiling and joking on the outside,  but heart rates don’t lie.   I was a little scared.

When the breast surgeon came in he said, “Hi.  How are you?”

I said, “Thanks. Me too.”

He pretended he didn’t notice my incoherence.  I’ll bet nervous, rambling women  are his daily drill.  To him, I made perfect sense.

I may have been imagining it, but I felt like the surgeon and the nurse were talking to me and looking at me in a way that made me uncomfortable.  They were’ being awfully sweet.  Ahhh!  Were they feeling sorry for me?  That is THE WORST!!! You NEVER want your health care professionals to be feeling sorry for you.  That is bad.  That’s worst than a jinx.

The surgeon did a biopsy right in his office.  He poked three ginormous needles right through this red, inflamed area.  I’m telling you the truth.  I went through three unmedicated child labors, and didn’t make a peep.  I am a “scream on the inside” type of person when it comes to pain.   But, when this needle went through this inflamed area, I yelled.  The pain was excruciating.  When the biopsy was over, I started to shake uncontrollably.  Maybe I was going in to shock?  Then.  The tears came.  Good grief.  I could have sworn I started this appointment with some dignity.  Well, I couldn’t find it now.   I felt silly for crying. I was afraid.

I wasn’t in the best state of mind driving home from that appointment.  But, I knew I needed to find a way to not be me.  Because “me” is the type of person who doesn’t hide anything.  I’m more than happy to share my misery.  Very generous that way.   But, was scaring my kids really wise?  Even I knew it wasn’t.

I made it through a good long weekend.   We told the kids that I had a biopsy, and we were waiting for the results.  No big deal.  They weren’t overly curious.  You don’t need to say more than the word “breast” to end any conversation with your teenage sons.  Works every time.  Olivia was a bit more persistent with questions, but I threw her off track easily enough by changing the subject.

Monday morning.  Homecoming week.  I was trying to compartmentalize my worry, and get in the homecoming zone.   I had spent the weekend doing me:  Using Google to scare the crap out of myself.  Inflammatory Breast Cancer was my diagnosis.  Inflammatory breast cancer isn’t common, and it isn’t very treatable.  Is that why the healthcare folks were acting all kid glove with me?

I spoke to the Doctor on Monday evening.  No results yet.   But we were frank with one another.  I requested honesty.  He respected my request.  He told me they didn’t know anything yet.  “But, Miki, you should prepare yourself for the worst.”  He said, “That way, if it’s good news you’ll be able to celebrate.  If it’s bad news, you’ll be prepared.”

Holy Mother.

I didn’t hear anything after, “Prepare yourself for the worst.”

I finished that conversation, and Olivia walked through the front door.  I don’t know how I did it, because Olivia and I are tight.  But, I did not tell that girl what was on my mind.  I kept myself in this foggy, smiley state, and drove Olivia to the hairdresser.  All the while, contemplating “the worst”.

Finally, everyone went to bed that night, and I could shut our bedroom door.  I needed privacy to express my worry and fear.  I needed to sob my eyeballs out for a while.  I was trying to figure out how these people were going to adjust to “the worst”.  There was so much to consider.  I cried it out, and then Scott and I climbed into bed.  He held me tightly, and he said this, “I don’t think you have breast cancer.  I don’t.  I really don’t.”

That might seem like a logical thing for a husband to tell a wife who is worrying about having breast cancer.  I know that.  But, there’s this thing about Scott. He rarely makes proclamations.  He’s loathe to mislead anyone, and he needs to tell the truth. So many things in life are subjective.  He rarely comes down firmly on one side or another.  And, the kid has GREAT instincts.  When Scott makes a bold statement in our house,   we always believe him.   Scott’s words delivered some relief, but not enough.

I laid in bed that night with fear induced adrenaline firing through my limbs.  What chance of sleep did I really have? I thought about what I’ve learned in 43 years.  Surely, there must be SOMETHING I’ve learned that I could use to approach this new scary thing.

I think I told you that when I miscarried last spring, God renewed me.  My faith in a living God was reborn.  I can’t remember a time I have not believed in a Savior named Jesus.  But, this new faith I was experiencing was something else.  God was talking to me.  He was just showing up.  He was in my morning cup of coffee, He was in the cold evening air, He was in the dark green leaves of summer, and He was even in Reggie’s soft fur.

I was in awe of God.  I trusted Him.

I laid in bed thinking about the way God had revealed himself to me over the past few months.  Why did He do that?  This awesome, timeless being, with the power to move the winds and the sea, wants this ordinary woman to know Him?  He spent the summer tutoring me on His power, giving me a new perspective on my significance and place in the scope of history and mankind.  This new perspective helped me loosen my grip on my self importance.  My idea that my happiness and well being are God’s chief concern.

Hear me now.  I think God DOES care about me, and my happiness.  That’s why he’s blessed me with coffee, and walks through cold, crisp air and by leafy green trees.  I’m living in abundance.  But, this latest knowledge I’ve received is also proof He cares.  I think I was receiving a message this summer.  God wanted me to know that I can live in confidence.  He rules the Universe.  I may not understand my circumstances, but I can trust He does. This fear that has ALWAYS plagued me in my life is optional.

I thought about all that, and then I told God, “Thank you.  I don’t know what ‘the worst’ is, but I thank you for it.  I thank you for this new opportunity, and the secret wisdom you’re hiding there for me to discover. Thank you for my life.  I trust you with it now.”

Then I fell asleep.

The next day I visited the surgeon again. He told me that he had been concerned that I did have inflammatory breast cancer, but that the results were negative.  He said he wanted me to have one more biopsy on the tumor to be completely certain.

The next biopsy was negative again.

I don’t have cancer.

I can’t believe the scripture that popped up in my automated email feed last week.  Please read this:

Ecclesiastes 7: verses 1,2, 3, 8 and 21

A Good reputation is better than expensive perfume; and the day you die is better than the day you are born.

it is better to go to a home where there is mourning than to one where there is a party, because the living should always remind themselves that death is waiting for us all.

Sorrow is better than laughter; it may sadden your face, but it sharpens your understanding.

The end of something is better than its beginning.

Do you think that is depressing scripture?  I really don’t.  I totally get it.

I’m a party girl.  I like nothin’ more than having a good time.  I’m not very serious.  Guess what happens when people you love die?  Guess what happens when you think you might have terminal cancer?  Guess.  Exactly. You think about death.  You remember that everyone is dying.  Every single one of us.  There is an end.  We are temporary.  Then, you ask yourself  why you weren’t making better use of your time.

Thoughts of death can bring a person into focus.  Thoughts of death can bring clarity, perspective and the understanding God promises us in Ecclesiastes.

When I found out I didn’t have cancer I was giddy.  I wanted to hug that gal at check out in the grocery store.  I wanted to do a song and dance number.   I wanted to tell everyone how much I loved them.  And, I mean EVERYONE.  Even if I’d never seen them before.

I’m still kinda there.  I’m just happy. Can we hug?

I know so many girlfriends who’ve had health scares.  My story is not new.  I’ve had girlfriends get Doctor phone calls delivering bad news.  I’ve had girlfriends who had to walk through “the worst”, and then they had to leave their families behind.

You just can’t know what life will bring you next.

I’m so glad I was given an opportunity to contemplate the end of me.  Thank you for this tumor, God!  Thank you.  Wisdom was hidden there.  I confidently embrace the future.  Knowing God is bringing me to a place where double jinxes and reverse psychology are no longer needed.   Keep showing me YOU, God.

family pic maureen


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