Sunday, October 17, 2010
My Sister Went to Italy & All I Got Was This Lousy Breast Cancer
My sister and I went to the post office about five years ago and got passports. We talked about going to Italy to break them in. We signed up for Italian language classes. I lasted about 3 hours; I couldn't understand the teacher, even in English, and having a class full of people repeating (incorrectly) the word or phrases made me want to leap out the finestra (window).
During most of this fantasy phase, I was on 24 hour call as the sole family member/advocate for my in-laws. My father in-law went from a grumpy man living alone, to an incoherent, sometimes violent nursing home resident, and my mother-in-law was a sweet, Southern gal, who was perfectly coherent until the moment she was wheeled into a hospital, when she turned into a totally different, hallucinating, crazy woman who sometimes cursed and threw things at me. (Luckily, she returned to her sweet self when returned to her assisted living facility).
About a year and half ago, my sister got a wild hair, and she decided she was going on a tour with a local group. I really couldn't wrap my mind around spending the money as I watched my investments evaporate like the Wicked Witch of the West under the bucket of water.
So after approximately a thousand conversations that had "when I go to Italy" somewhere in them, the time for her to go finally arrived a few weeks ago.
When my 8 year old car went on life support, and I pulled the plug and replaced it a few days before she left, I was thinking, glad I am not spending a boatload of cash going to Italy. Because I need the car more than memories of truffle hunting. (Lucky!)
I didn't have any clients scheduled that week, so I made a list of all of the things I'd put off during the very busy summer, and started knocking them off. Handyman scheduled to winterize stuff - check. Finalize labels and order bags for new product line - check. Schedule a mammogram and get an allergy shot - check, check. Get the carpet cleaned, check.
Rather than the usual 'see you in 3 months for our first appointment', the mammogram office got me right in. Where I once again marveled at the flowery pink wallpaper, and the general over-pinkness of everything there, the numerous signs admonishing the 'opens in the front' gown clad flock to 'NOT tear articles out or/or STEAL the magazines - they'd be happy to photocopy', and the tray of cookies, which are always proffered while waiting to see if the films were deemed acceptable. (Mine was not, and I was treated to a do-over on one side).
I was a (more than) a little surprised when I got a voicemail to call the main scheduling office a few days later. When I called, I was told I needed to schedule an ultrasound. Of course, the operator 'couldn't' tell me why and told me to call my doctor. Whom I am sure hadn't seen the damn film, so that seemed like an unnecessary route, thanks to government privacy regulations which cause more trouble than they help.
Fast forward, to ultrasound day, where the screen makes a centimeter mass look like the size of your head. So they helpfully bring a ruler to show you the real size. Verdict: needs a biopsy to determine.
First, a consultation at the AGMC Breast Center. Which in contrast to the grandma's parlor look of the mammo centers, is a beautiful, contemporary, Alice dropped through rabbit hole in the ambulatory care building that looks like a Starbucks/nice living room in a mansion/lobby of a South Beach hotel. And there were no signs about stealing the magazines. (I brought my own, and didn't steal any, for the record). And they have, no kidding, spa robes to put on over those gowns.
The biopsy was scheduled, as well as a follow-up appointment for results. The biopsy wasn't bad. They numbed me up, drilled a big needle in there and took 3 samples, inserted a tiny titanium chip, and gave me a mammogram to check the chip, and I was on my way in about an hour. The hard part is waiting the 50 or so hours until the results come back and are delivered in person.
So next up is an MRI, which should test my tolerance of confined spaces, but they scheduled it so early in the morning I am hoping to fall back asleep and wake up when it's over. Then surgery, which I will have after the Aetna Healthy Food Fight finals, and whatever else, depending on the pathology results after that.
So, I've got cancer, but cancer hasn't got me. It's more than a little surreal to use "I" and "cancer" in the same sentence, but honestly I am not as freaked out about it as you might think. If I had gone to Italy, who knows when I would have gotten the mammogram scheduled, so hey, lucky again!
And for the record, my sister did bring me some awesome Italian dried mushrooms, pesto, fig jam, truffles, and this awesome Italian handbag.