I've talked about life before Marty, life during infertility, and life after loss.
I confess: While I've been accused of being "perfect" with "your blog, your twins, and your Pinterest," my life is far from perfect. And I am okay with the imperfection. What's the saying?
Yeah, this blog is like giving my crazy a cold Bud Light Lime (my current drink of choice).
I confess: Writing is my outlet-- one of them. Drinking wine and cursing are some of the others. Writing is healthier, don't you agree? At a minimum, it's more socially acceptable to write alone than it is to drink alone and talk to yourself.
I confess: This blog is a record. It's also a conversation. From my most honest posts, I have reached people who are struggling with similar issues. With all of the divisive uses of the Internet, it feels good to do some good.
I confess: This confessional is about to two of the most private places ever-- my boobs. (Oh, no she didn't just says boobs! Yes, she did-- Boobs, breasts, boobies).
Here we go...
I confess: I've talked around the edges of my anxiety-- the anxiety that set in during my pregnancy. When I birthed 16+ pounds of baby, I also birthed 16 tons of worry. Insane worry.
Bone- chilling, panic attack anxiety.
I confess: Maybe my body was just beaten down from pregnancy, a delivery where I hemorrhaged and almost died, or the sleepless nights of newborn twins. Maybe it was the post- partum hormonal changes or the anxiety manifesting itself in physical ailments... Probably all of it. The result was clear-- I felt bad. Not just emotionally. Physically. Bad. Something had to be wrong...
I confess: I went to the doctor. I had blood tests, ultrasounds, a CAT scan... What was causing the pain in my stomach? My back ache? My abnormal pap? Was that level on my blood work elevated?
I was convinced I was dying.
I was going to die and leave my babies. The thought alone was enough to kill me if whatever dark force in my body didn't.
I googled and feed the anxiety beast.
I took medicine.
I saw a therapist.
I googled some more.
Something had to be wrong with me.
I confess: Something was wrong-- I had serious anxiety. Post- partum anxiety? Maybe. A tad of OCD? Probably. A crisis of faith? Sure.
I confess: In the throes of the worst of it, I knew it was crazy. But I couldn't stop. I was petrified.
I had these little babies who I loved so much it hurt-- more than any physical pain I was experiencing.
What if something happened to me? Who would love them like their mommy? Or, more selfishly, what if I didn't get to live to see them start school, graduate, go to college, get married, have kids, start their own blog...
And, the twisted part was the anxiety was keeping me from enjoying the very things I was scared of losing. I was alive and dead.
I confess: At some point, the anxiety found a place to settle and grow-- my boobs. I think the seeds of the fear were planted the summer before I got pregnant when I watched my best friend, Jeanine, get diagnosed with breast cancer at 39. Talk about a kick in the gut. Then I watched more friends-- too many too young-- get the same news. Suddenly, my monthly self- breast exam didn't seem so routine anymore. It became a matter of life and death.
I confess: The irony that my boobs became a source of anxiety is not lost on me. My breasts, a symbol of nourishment, were bad. Was my subconscious fear of being an inadequate mother manifesting itself in such obvious way? Was I centering my worry on tangible objects instead of facing more abstract fears? Oh, Freud would love me...
I confess: I was scared of my boobs. I was convinced every lump or bump was something bad. And, for someone with fibrocystic breasts? Well, that's a lot of bad. And a lot of self- groping.
I confess: I was somewhat reassured by numerous doctor examinations that found nothing serious enough to send me for my first mammogram. But, there was always a nagging fear-- deep in my chest--even on the good days, that maybe I should just
But I didn't. Because... (fear)
I confess: About a year ago, it was like the fever broke. The anxiety got better. No meds. No therapist. It was actually a moment of spiritual enlightenment that's probably a story for another blog post...
The anxiety subsided. The boob fear faded-- kind of.
I confess: I was still a diligent boob checker. So, this past Saturday, when I felt some new lumps, well-- I freaked. It was like my ticking time- boobs had finally exploded.
I confess: Freak doesn't seem like a strong enough word. (See beginning of post where I mention my predilection for other ways of venting and fill in the blanks with your four letter words of choice).
I confess: I called my doctor at 8:01 on Monday morning. She had me in her office by 8:45. By 9:15 she had felt me up, hugged me, and reassured me that, while I definitely have complicated boobies, everything felt like classic fibrocystic tissue. But-- a mammogram and ultrasound were warranted.
At 10:30 the next morning, with Jeanine by my side, I faced the demons I had been fighting for two years-- my boobs, my fears, and the mammogram machine.
By 11:00, I had been properly squeezed, while crying like a complete wuss. I would like to say I was strong. I wasn't. And, no, I wasn't crying because it hurt like hell because it really didn't. I was crying because I was scared-- like the biggest chicken you've ever met.
In the next hour, I received two ultrasound examinations (where I cried some more) from the technician and from the doctor who both concluded the same thing-- while my boobs feel like a mess, they scan clear. No cysts. No masses. No microcalcifications. Nothing to watch or biopsy. Just a boob complicated enough to need a map to chart all the "nodularity." (Oh, yes. I now have a boob map).
I confess: I felt somewhat vindicated when the doctor remarked that examining my breasts would challenge a doctor much less a 37 old woman who doesn't feel boobies for a living. She assured me that I was absolutely doing the right thing getting the mammogram and the ultrasound. And she walked me through my bumps, one at a time, helping me to feel the fear and conquer it.
So, what's left to confess?
I'd like to say I've learned my lessons and can sum it all up in a neat and tidy ending. I can't. Life, like my boobs, is complicated. Here's some of what I know today, in no particular order:
- Anxiety sucks.
- Cancer sucks.
- The fear of cancer sucks.
- Fear of anything is exhausting.
- I am tired of being scared and tired of being tired.
- I could learn so much about strength from my friends who actually have faced my fears and have come out stronger on the other end. They are my heroines.
- I love my friends who get it, hold my hand, watch me cry, offer encouraging words of hope, refrain from judging me, and never leave me.
- Being scared of my own body is not good.
- I should have trusted my instincts and gotten that mammogram sooner. There was a reason I was worried. When I didn't listen to my body, the fear only grew.
- I want women, including myself, to be diligent but not petrified, about their breast health. Mammograms don't hurt half as bad as you might fear. Even if the thing you fear is real, you can't deal with it by ignoring it.
- It will be okay. Regardless, it will be okay.
- My worry doesn't change the outcome.
- I want to say I am better. Today I am. But, I know that I must also be diligent about monitoring the subconscious lumps of anxiety while not being controlled by it.
- I am not guaranteed tomorrow on this earth-- none of us are. But I am going to let it all hang out and try to live every day like the blessing that it is.
One final confession...
I confess: You will not see me letting it all hang out-- literally. I've nursed twins, after all, and there are just some things people don't need or want to see ;-)