Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Lump…

I will begin this post by saying that I am fine. But the last week was a tad more exciting that I had hoped. Amongst all of the Thanksgiving angst…I guess the universe decided to add one more log to the already sizable fire I have going. No…scratch that. It is not just a fire. It is a damn pyre at this point.

Last Tuesday night I found a lump at the base of my neck…just below my skull. I was sitting there working on the computer, resting my hand on my head. And with my mounting exhaustion and tension…I absentmindedly rubbed the back of my neck. Well, lo and behold…my head was at such an angle that my hand ran over a lump. At first I thought maybe it was just tension, but as I continued to poke and prod the damn thing. No way in hell it was a muscle. It felt extremely foreign. It was round, hard and about the size of a marble. Well, you can guess the multitude of emotions that went through my head. And yes, I did panic. Because the leap to thoughts of Cancer is small. Really a hop at best. I freaked out. But of course it was Tuesday night, so there was not much else I could do.

The next day I phoned my primary and she saw me immediately. I love my primary doctor. She was David’s and continues to be mine. Although I admit, the office has many painful memories. And whenever I walk in, I am flooded by the countless appointments and subsequent hospitalizations that occurred during the C-dif period and the numerous other crazy things that occurred during the course of treatments. But it is worth it. Because I have a doctor who is not only proactive, kind and knowledgable. She knows my history. She knows what I went through and she knew David. And that, I would not be able to find any place else. She watched the slow progression of the tumor and the hell it put David’s body through. And she also watched me. Made sure I was taking care of myself, the forgotten caregiver. And after David passed, she continued to check up on me. We developed a mutual respect... I for her experience and compassion and she for the path I walked with what she called “strength.” So, when I showed up in her office, she knew how very terrifying this experience was. She knew that everything was so raw right now and that I was so fragile. And she looked at it and said, “If I had to bet money, I would say this is nothing. Probably an inflamed node.” But she also knew how very concerned I was and she said we could wait to see if it grew…and then testing would obviously be done. But due to my history with David, being so understandably scared, and now being Alec’s sole parent, she felt I should have a CT scan done. And then she looked me in the eyes and said, "This is probably nothing, but if it isn’t, we will figure out a treatment and you will get through this! I know you will. You have always been strong and we’ll get through this." Shit. I do not want to get through anything else. I am done getting through stuff. I still have a mound of stuff both physically and emotionally I must get through. I do not need any more life lessons at the moment. I am all full.

But unfortunately, as we have all painfully learned. We do not get to choose our life lessons. They just happen. Our only choice is how we face them. They got me in for the following Monday and I had the weekend to think long and hard about this new curve ball. And as I sat there at night, fingering that maddening lump. I came to many realizations. One being that although there are many days I do not always want to be sitting on this rock orbiting the sun, I am here. And although I may not always want to be...I am alive. And yet, faced with the possibility of Cancer and even my own mortality. I came to the realization that no matter how very much I miss David and how much I want to be with him basically every waking second. My time here is not done. For whatever reason, hell if I know right now, I am alive and I believe I have much left to do in this life. And I also realized that I not only wanted to live for Alec, which lately has been the solitary reason. But I wanted to live for myself as well. And as I sat there I began steeling myself for the next battle. I could feel the tension and adrenaline building ever so slowly. And although it would be so much easier and less painful to just curl up into a ball and fade away, there was no way in hell I was going to do that. It goes against everything I am and have become. And I pictured myself getting into a fighting stance, fists clenched. And as I stood there in my mind, I flicked my fingers as if egging the universe on and screamed, “Bring it on bitch.” Because this was one battle I was not giving up. I watched David battle to the very end. He was a warrior and I learned from the best. And if she wanted to tango, I would take her ass down! Mind you, these were my better moments. There were also moments in the following four days where I let my fear best me and I worried about my future, Cancer and the irreparable damage it would do to Alec to see yet another parent go through treatments.

But Monday came and I walked the halls of Froedtert once more. Only this time as a patient. That sucked. Everything is just too damn fresh and raw. I sat in the Radiology waiting room for my CT Scan. The same waiting room I had sat a billion times before with David. Only this time, they were coming for me. And even more painfully, David was not there to hold my hand. That was the crux of it. David was not there. I was alone and fearing the possibility of going through treatments without my husband, my pillar of strength.

And as I walked into that room, the fear took me. I looked at that machine, wondering if this was one of the rooms David had been in. One of the machines he had been scanned by. Odds are he had to have been in it at least once. We were there almost every month. And as they laid me down on the table I lost it...I began crying and just could not stop. The ladies thought I was fearful about the scan and somehow I sobbed out something about David, scans, brain tumors and that my husband just died of one. The look of discomfort on their faces was clear and the tension in the room went up about 1200 notches. As they left to begin the initial scan, I closed my eyes and began a mental dialog with David. And as I was conveyed into the machine, a calm came over me. The infernal machine began to spin and clank around my head, but I was able to lay completely still, as I needed to be to get the pictures taken properly. The fear was washed away in an instant, to be replaced by a stillness. Peace. Mere seconds before I was a mess and then this? But, I felt David there so close. His presence always had such a calming affect on me, and I guess although he may different now his presence still has the power to heal me and sooth my aching soul.

I walked out of there and met up with a dear friend who, due to snow complications, met me in the waiting room after the scan was over. We decided to get out of there, go and get a cup of coffee and begin the waiting game. Thankfully I only had to wait two days. This Wednesday I received the results. It is some sort of subcutaneous filled node thing. An inflamed node that may take forever to go away and I will need to keep an eye on it in case it does something funny or gets larger. But it is not a tumor. It does not even need to be biopsied. And most importantly of all…I do not have Cancer.

So. Here we are once again. Yet another unsolicited life lesson. But at least through all of this I discovered that no matter how much pain and loss I may feel everyday. It still has not broken me. I am not going to curl up into a ball…no matter how appealing it may be some days. I am here to do something and someday I will figure out what that is. And that I will continue to live for not only Alec and David. But for myself…


At December 05, 2008 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Skye I am sorry you had to go through this scare, but am happy it made you realize you truly want to be here. You are a very strong person even when you think your not you are, and you are here for a reason. Keep strong and thank you for sharing your life. (an old co-worker of Davids)

At December 06, 2008 1:27 PM, Blogger Satine said...

What a frightening experience, and yet you were actually able to step into David's shoes and know exactly where he was at some point--because for an instant it was almost as if you were him. I am glad to hear the nodule is not malignant.

2 Septembers ago I felt a hard nodule under my jaw in my neck, and I was getting sick all the time. Eventually my primary physician referred me to a Specialist who also did surgery. They decided after many other medications and treatments failed that I'd need surgery. What it was for me was a "rare internal staph infection" that could not remedy itself with the help of antibiotics or anything else. It also was somehow deformed, but I'm glad it turned out to NOT be malignant either. 2 years prior to that experience I had another nodule removed, that was considered a "tumor" but nonmalignant. I've been lucky too.

My sister was not so lucky. 2 months after I had my neck surgery, Steph found a lump behind her neck, almost in the same place I found mine. Hers did not hurt. My mom urged her to go to the doctor. She did some research online too... long story short, she had many lumps and was unaware of it. She was diagnosed in early January that year with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. She's had many chemo treatments, and for love of God is in remission still... I pray for her nightly.

My color theory teacher in Beauty School passed on from cancer while she was my teacher only 3 years ago. My American grandfather and German grandmother died of cancer, and so did several aunts close to me. More recently, my friend Will died of cancer. Only 1 month later Dave died of cancer. And this week my co-worker/friend Denise died of cancer... currently my friend David O. is battling cancer too, whom I've known since I was about 7 or 8. And another teacher from MHSA is currently battling cancer, whom both my sister, Steph, my boyfriend, John, and I all know. It's terrible out there right now with cancer raging on... and I've heard various opinions on why. I have my own thoughts on this too.

I know you are worried, and this fear won't entirely leave you, but accept it eventually as a more intense awareness than raw fear as time goes on if you can... I have had to do just that. After I had my surgery and Steph got cancer, suddenly I felt as though our whole family had been contaminated via immune system and blood... NHL is a blood-borne cancer caused by a "toxin." Which, we are not sure... which is why I sometimes can't make myself eat something if it's not organic now--it's as if my brain is convinced it was a pesticide or something. It could have been from the ground, the air, the water, the lawn, who knows...

Know that I have some of the same anxieties walking every next step in my life as you do in yours. But, it helps that we can share these things. I really appreciate your BLOG here, and I'm so glad you're o.k.

At December 08, 2008 1:11 AM, Blogger Sara said...

How scary, but I am glad to hear that it turned out to be nothing serious.

The hopsital I work at was where a good portions of my Mom's treatments were at and when I "tried" to return to work, it was hard and I truly thought I was ready.

Driving to work, I felt woozy and kept having anxiety attacks. I got to work, parked and started to walk into the hospital and the memories flooded in.

The steps I sat on while my Mom was having a mammorgram and CT scan and I called my best friend to kill some time while I waited.

Walking in through the front doors, the cafe I got her coffee from, to the right was the lab she had blood work done. Down the hall is the pharmacy she had me get her some poligrip, when I arrived to the elevators, right across is the MRI clinic and Art and I arrived with the kids, we were sitting in the waiting room, she came out in her gown and went to the front desk, didn't even notice us and started telling the receptionist to call me..I snuck up behind her and asked her to call me what? She did a double take it was hilarious. :P

But all those memories were too much and I could feel myself breaking down as I waited for the elevators, when the doors opened, I jumped on and when they closed to start accelerating to the upper floors, I finally breathed.

I arrived to my floor, which is postpartum, ready to work, ready to hold some babies and let them help me forget my troubles.

To make a long story short, the girl that I was taking over for, was still working. So I went home without working, but could not bring myself to go thru all that all over again. Maybe I am a wuss, but how many people actually have to associate their job with a loved ones passing? But I truly believe this has a silver lining, being as I am working from home and selling on Ebay. So far so good, but we'll see. If it starts t fizzle out, I'll join the work force again.

At December 08, 2008 4:44 AM, Anonymous Roads said...

How frightening for you that must have been, Skye. My heart was in my mouth as I read through to the bottom of the post, hoping against hope for a happy outcome. Phew!

It's bound to shake you up, more than a bit. But as you say, it's good to realise that you have so much more to do and to hang on to down here.

Kind of an extreme way to go through that reasoning, though, I have to admit.

Best wishes to you from London.

At December 10, 2008 12:31 AM, Anonymous TGLB said...

I understand this scare, having lived it for the last 11 months. I'm still sore from the surgery removing my ovary, and the scary cyst on it, but at least I know it's benign. I know what a relief that is to hear, officially. I'm sorry you had to walk this bit of the path, too. We become so hyperaware of how precarious life is; you can't go backwards once you know that, however much you want to.


At December 10, 2008 9:36 AM, Blogger Skye said...

Thank you everyone for reminding me of my strengths, because some days I need those reassurances! And also, I am glad you guys are out there willing to hear about my life. Sometimes I feel like my blogging is such utter insanity and so insanely personal, but it is the most cathartic thing I do. And having you guys out there listening (or reading…) means the world to me. It also gives me insights into my life and understanding of what everyone else has gone through or is continuing to survive. There are so many of us out there…we warriors!

I can imagine the painful experience it must have been to return back to the hospital that was brimming with such recent and difficult memories. I am glad you carry happy memories along with all of the others though.

You are definitely NOT a wuss. This is painful stuff and you have to give yourself time. I have met a few nurses in my support groups who have recently lost their husbands…many of whom are considering a job change. So, this is completely normal.

Thanks for checking in…
Yeah, it was an extreme way to learn that little gem of a lesson….but it was a valuable one. And sometimes, for the more difficult lessons or the ones you are unwilling to look at, the universe hits you over the head with something very large (sometimes repeatedly) so as to make you stop and think.

I was so happy to hear your results came back benign. But 11 months is long time, especially considering the path you have already walked. It sucks you had to actually have surgery, but I am glad the procedure went well and you are healing nicely. And best of all, that you can finally put your mind at ease. Sending you warm healing thoughts...


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