16 January 2009

A Palpable Mass

Pointy note: This is a compilation of eight days worth of posts. I was waiting, with a combo of superstition and hope, for the right time to come out with it all.

Jan. 8

In the waiting room at Boston Ultrasound, I was squinting at my sonogram trying to see what the doctor had seen in the fuzzy black and white fog. From one angle, it looked like a b&w shot of a distant galaxy. From another, like an X-ray of the Grand Canyon. From another…

…I felt like someone was watching me. Sure enough, a woman sitting two seats over was grinning at me. I looked up. She was about my age and had Wellbutrin eyes -- glazed, but kind. She mouthed “congratulations” to me then went back to pretending to read a 2007 issue of Sports Illustrated.

Oh, the irony. I have to admit my darker side came within inches of flashing the sonogram in her face and saying, “Uh, actually, it’s a tumor.”

But I didn’t have the heart to deflate what was clearly a genuine gesture. I easily saw myself from her perspective: A (somewhat) young woman staring at an ultrasound must be in the early stages of zygote elation, not a life-threatening disease.

Indeed, I’ve been to Boston Ultrasound many times. The last time I sat in this waiting room, the doctors dispelled any fear of neural tube defects in Paulie. Today, the doctors pinpointed the sizable lump in my left boob.

I’ve had scares before. I know few women who haven’t. But it’s always turned out to be nothing to worry about. I was fully expecting to hear the same from this ultrasound doctor. Her calm, almost maternal demeanor was instantly reassuring but I knew something was amiss when she began moving the transducer in furious circles on my left one. Suddenly, she became a drill sargeant, barking at me in broken English: How old you?! You have family history?! When you find this?!

Flashback to Dec. 23: When I Find This
Caroline and I were on the couch flipping channels and came across the movie “The Sweetest Thing” with Cameron Diaz and Christina Applegate. If you're familiar with the movie, it was the beginning of the dressing room scene and I thought Caroline would enjoy a little movie montage. In the scene, Cameron Diaz’s character is in a bra, pushing her breasts up to where they were when she was 22 and then them letting them fall to where they are now at age 28. “22, 28, 22, 28.” For whatever reason, Caroline found this hysterical so I mimicked it.

Then felt a rock!

Aside: This strangely recalled the “Do you have a hummel in your bra” moment circa 1996 in NYC.

I decided I’d have it looked at after new year's because, you know, mammograms around the holidays. Meh.

Aside II: I’m now convinced that Christina Applegate, who had a double mastectomy at age 36, has had all of her movies re-edited with subliminal reminders to women to perform SBEs (self breast exams).

Jan. 6: Doctor's Office
My doctor feels me up and says, very soberly: “There is a palapable mass.”

“WHAT!”

I was like a cat hitting the ceiling. I think I jumped out of my body and hid behind the chair. What kind of scary terminology is that? Palpable mass.

Jan. 8: Back at Boston Ultrasound
The ultrasound doc finally concludes her examination of lefty and we have the following exchange:

DR. “This is solid mass. You need to have follow-up test immediately.”

Me: "You know, I really wish people would refrain from using the term 'mass.' It’s very unsettling."

Dr. “Well, it’s tumor.”

I think we can all agree that "mass" is the better of the two nouns.

Jan. 13, Mammogram: Google, MD
I was gawking at the mammogram results with my doctor. I sat back in my chair pointing (Never in my life have I desired a laser pointer more) to some tiny bright dots on the films. “Are those pleomorphic calcifications in the upper left quadrant? I can see they’re in a cluster, but are they also linear?”

My doctor, head in hands, promptly implored me to stay off the Internet, but not before admitting that they were indeed linear. Then insisting that it doesn't necessary translate into doom.

The only way I could stay offline was if I were sequestered in total sedation. While I will be tested for the breast cancer gene this week, I already know I have the journalism gene because the only (only!) way I can deal with a crisis is to gather as much information as possible. Thus, I've been dubbed "Google, MD."

From the Internets, I already have a full notebook of notes. I’ve ordered $200+ worth of immune system-boosting supplements. (Dr. Nic has already staged a B-vitamin intervention with some of said supplements and ordered a cease and desist until she thoroughly investigates for interactions.)

Drop and Roll
The past week and a half has had many “Drop and roll” moments (with apologies to PM)

When your doctor calls you at 11 p.m. offering unsolicited sedatives. Drop and roll.

When another doctor calls your mammogram “very worrisome.” Drop and roll.

When your surgeon tells you to prepare for cancer. Drop and roll.

Of course, I may be reading in to my own fears and anxieties.

Stages of Disbelief
Of denial: Obscure emails to my doctor: Seriously? Really? Could it be…really?

Of misdirected anger: I am the healthiest I've ever been in my life! I just had a full physical six months ago! Why have I been eating all these leafy greens and drinking all this green tea all these years?! All that fucking beta carotene! Why the I hell did I quit smoking?! This is complete bullshit!

Of message board science: Is it the result of estrogen dominance from an ill-fated tango with the Mirena IUD?

Is it bad luck? Family history? 

Karma for my sins?

I unraveled into this semi-coherent rant as Code Red and I were driving home from a yoga workshop last weekend. As we were going over the Zakim Bridge, CR said:

“Sometimes if you’re going to get something, you’re just going to get something.”

Then all was quiet except for the strangely soothing sound of the bridge cables humming past either side of the car. It was the most Zen moment/sentence I’d heard all week. Code Red is like that sometimes.

Jan. 14: Good Health Store
My favorite tattooed, pierced sales associate is carrying my basket for me while I dump all kinds of medicinal teas into it. He's talking to me about gluten-free waffles. My phone rings and I excuse myself and head into the parking lot.

It's my sister-in-law returning my call. Most know she's been battling ovarian cancer for more than a year now, and just recently, her husband, my brother-in-law, was diagnosed with throat cancer. So they had family fun time over the holidays going through chemo and radiation as a team. In short, they are going through something SO worse. My sister-in-law is a self-contained arsenal of information and positive energy and a take-no-prisoners approach to healing. In talking to me from her place of wisdom, from having been there, done that, she talked me into a better place.

All you really need to know:

Stay in the present at all times.

The waiting really is the hardest part. Not knowing is torture.

You will get through the dark times with the support of family and friends

(and perhaps that wee baggie of Xanax.)

Onward
All this and I still haven’t received the biopsy results! If it's cancer, we’ll deal, if it’s not, we’ll party.

If it is, here’s hoping it hasn’t spread beyond the teeeeet!

15 comments:

JNolan said...

Kate,

I am James friend Joe from the T and Hockey. I have also been a faithful if somwhat closeted PU reader since the get go. I always enjoy your take on things and admit no ill effects from the blog with the possible exception of the long term damage to my libido caused by the Hasslehoff puppy photo. While you and I have only met once or twice I consider jaime to be my only "real" work friend. I tend to keep to myself.

To intimate that I know how you feel would be BS, suffice it to say that we've had our own medical challenges and know that road. Day to day is right, and get the best docs. I am sincere that I and my family are available to help out any way we can if any need arises. Here's to hoping that all this is just a scary diversion, if not, I know from your writing that you have the strength to endure a trail and the supportive friends & family you need to get through.

Joe

Code Red said...

KJ….hoping to party rather than deal, but we’ll deal if necessary…together. You know you have a wonderful family and many, many friends to lean on, whatever happens.

I don’t even remember saying that while we were driving…clearly, Deepak Chopra has nothing to worry about…but if it provided you even a millisecond of peace then I’ll say it a thousand times over. Whatever we were talking about that led up to that comment, I think I just meant that you can do all of the “right” things in life…quit smoking, eat right, take your vitamins, get your checkups…but sometimes sh$t still happens and the “why” questions are simply left unanswered.

Hopefully, the only “palpable mass” you’ll feel going forward is your countless friends and family members supporting you and sending you positive thoughts.

Much love, my friend.
CR

Anonymous said...

F^@#, F^@#, F^@#. I am so mad at the f-in disease and that you are having to go through this. Not a unique point of view I know, I just had to get that out.

Kate, I'm keeping you in my prayers for a big "BENIGN" response. Regardless of the answer, try to stay strong and focused on what to do next. Not to sound all AA, but they've got a good thing going with their use of the serenity prayer. It works in good and bad times:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next. Amen.

Sorry about the profanity and prayer in the same message, I do hope that gets a laugh out of you though.

Pat Coffey

Roving Lemon said...

KJ - sometimes all you can do is just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

We're sending love & prayers from Australia.

Nxoxo

KT said...

oh miss kate....thank you for spilling your guts and sharing your wonderful wit about everything you've been going through. If anyone has the strength to get through something as crappy as this... it is you, my friend. Please know that your family and many, many friends are with you every step of the way. And please do not hesitate to call on us. Anytime.

To rephrase the above comments from Roving Lemon, repeat after me: "Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming swimming swimming".

This mantra has helped me through a few tough times. Big, big, big hugs from all the Taylors.

Michelle said...

Kate,

When Dawn directed me to your blog today, I read it in disbelief. I know we don't know each other well, but I said to Dawn, if anyone can get through something like this, it's Kate.

No matter what the news, know that there are many, many people out there thinking about you and wishing with all their might for your speedy recovery.

Michelle

Anonymous said...

Kate -
I am so MAD right now I could scream ! So sorry you have to go through this shite - really. I love you
Nic

Anonymous said...

For Christmas my girls gave me a sign which now hangs in the kitchen. It says, "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain." We will dance because we will not let cancer take our love of dancing away....or for that matter wine. We love you.
Paula

jal said...

Kate, I can't say any better what has already been said. You know we're all here for you and all hoping and praying in our own ways for partying, soon.

We love you, jal.

Anonymous said...

Kate,

I have never read or commented on your blog or any other for that matter but here I am laughing and crying all at the same time.

In the short time I have known you (and as i begin to know you better through your writing) I am convinced you will weather this storm and in fact dance through the rain as your friend mentioned before.

I am on board and what ever, where ever and when ever I can do anything to help I am a phone call, email, text, blog, facebook message or FB chat away.

You are in the best place and the best time in recent history to be sick. How comforting...right? But it is true! Once you have found "your person" you will have to put your faith in the professional (MD) and trust that your flowers will be placed perfectly at your reception! =)

I continue to think and pray for you as you move forward in this journey.

Love, Amy

Paula said...

KATE!!!!!

UGH... I am speechless... this has taken my breath away... You are in my thoughts and know that you have a group here sending you their good vibes and karma...

Love you girl!!!!

Paula

Bob said...

Me and my crew are here for you.

Battle through.

Bobby, BJ and the boys.

Rich said...

Kate -
Just wanted to let you know that Chrissy and I have you & your family in our thoughts.

All the best,
Rich & Chrissy

KJ said...

Thank you, thank you. Love u all large. xoxox

Anonymous said...

Kate,

Well, we met so many years ago- at the Mahoney's-I am Kate Cronin - on the Norton side.

A few years ago, at a family party- I was told of the PU, and have been a closet reader- ever since. Your posts make me smile, and sometimes I laugh outloud. Reading them helps me realize that we are all alike in so many ways-family crises, friends, kids.

So I decided to "come out of the closet" and write a little note to tell you that I am thinking of you- sending healing thoughts and prayers. One thing that comes through your blog is your strong and supportive group of friends and family. You will get through this with their support.

And you are right, your Nana Rie was one strong woman. I'm sure you will follow in her footsteps.

Katie Cronin