Not Just Another Day

by Lisa Douglas

(Note: I’ve been hiding this in draft for over a month, afraid to share. But I feel like, the more I hide it, the more anger I feel. I’m struggling, friends, and I need help. I feel, maybe, perhaps I’ll struggle just a little bit less, perhaps I’ll feel a little less burdened if I share it. Perhaps maybe, just maybe, by sharing, maybe I can change the outcome? Alter this story’s course? Do you think that’s even possible? I hope so. I hope this isn’t written yet or anywhere near finished, so I hope it’s possible to change the ending.)

My head hurts today, and I don’t mean figuratively. The second I awoke this morning, it throbbed to me that today should be a couch-kind-of day. A day in which things would move slower than normal when, with six kids, slow is seemingly an impossible pace. Instead, I had to get up, get moving, hold my head and keep it together despite it feeling like it was being crushed in a blender.

I just kept thinking worrying to myself, “Is this what it’s going to be like?”

I can’t help but worry. I’m trying, I really am, but my mind is moving so fast I can’t seem to slow it down, and until I know for sure if we’re alright, it’s hard to think of much else.

You know, I’ve learned a lot this past year, about going for your dream and working hard to achieve it. By dieting and working out, and succeeding, I feel I did it, I won, and I’m still winning. However, I’m all-too-abruptly finding out that, it doesn’t seem to matter, “healthy” or not, you aren’t invincible, you aren’t suddenly immortal by your new-found health. Here I am, the healthiest I’ve most certainly been in over a decade or more, and I’m facing possible-illness. Irony at it’s finest, it seems.

I found a lump.

I found it in my neck back in December, a couple weeks before Christmas. I had it checked out immediately, and the physician’s assistant who saw me, in all his chain-smoking, single-guy, smiley-faced, very laid-back, lackadaisical ways kind-of schlepped it off as me fighting an infection of some sort, and prescribed antibiotics (which, at the time, I thought was a cop-out, but it is, in fact, the first course of treatment). And being the hopeful, positive-thinker I am, I followed his laid-back lead and happily went on my way, relieved it was something a twice-a-day-for-ten-days medicine could seemingly cure.

I celebrated Christmas, my oldest son’s birthday, our anniversary and the New Year as we always do, big-family style, together, attached at the hip. Heck, my husband and I even snuck out for a couple hours to go on an actual date, something we hadn’t had the pleasure of experiencing in quite some time. I felt elated to end the year on such a high, 2009 had been one of the best years yet, and I was looking forward to what more 2010 might bring.

Mid-January is when I noticed the lump was still there. Unchanged.

A fear gripped me like a tightly-wound fist over my chest, because I barely breathed when I picked up the phone to make the appointment, to repeat the words I said in December. Even typing it now makes me nauseous.

Unfortunately, my first appointment was with the “quick-care” clinic, because something else began to happen – Baby Dude and I developed a rash. And, as I said then, the physician’s assistant would not could not deal with that in thirteen minutes, and put me in for a call-back for a follow-up with an actual MD. Despite my concern, he blew it off, too. I began to feel as though maybe it really was just nothing, if none of the doctors would take it seriously.

Until the day the nurse called to make the appointment. She unnerved me more than I expected with her responses to my answers to her questions, expressing a deep concern about my weight loss that, until now, I had been so proud of (even though I told her I’d been dieting/working out, she sounded as though maybe it wasn’t all my doing). Gulp. She sounded so overly concerned, in fact, my stomach churned, my face grew hot, my legs began to give underneath me. My fears overcame me. I knew what she was implying, because it was the very thing I feared this was the most.

“Two weeks,” she said. Two weeks to wait to be seen by an actual doctor. Two weeks to wait to be seen by someone who will ultimately make the determination on where to go next. Two weeks later was my appointment. On a Thursday.

The words “biopsy” and “blood work” and “radiology” and “CT Scan” and I.V.” were thrown about the room while I tried to keep composed. He said he saw the lump from across the room. I wanted to jump from the exam table and run away, or something. I was put in for a surgical consult. They took vials of my blood. I filled out a form divulging medications and medical history at radiology, to await an appointment from them. Two weeks was their response as far as the “call back” time they gave for my CT Scan. Two more weeks of waiting, and worrying, and hoping this fuss is all for nothing. My scan is today – this morning.

In the meantime, I had my surgery consult, which went from scary to scarier. While he confirmed my blood work looked fine, he reaffirmed that it doesn’t mean I’m in the clear. He said he could biopsy the lymph nodes, but it would “anger” them, causing them to appear abnormal on my CT scan, by altering their composition to “angry” looking.

He also took note of my hardly problematic umbilical hernia, which he measured to be a mere one centimeter, but quickly made note to divulge to me a surprisingly bigger issue – I have what’s called diastasis recti – a separation of the stomach muscles from each other. Basically, despite all the crunches and core exercises I’ve been doing this past year, my insides are protruding against my non-existent-any-longer stomach wall, only further aggravating my hernia. I would need it to be sutured closed. He also chuckled that they could word it a certain way to garner me an abdominoplasty for good measure, because of the loose skin as a result of my weight loss. Bigger gulps. Suture. Surgery. Possibly worse than my c-section a decade ago. Yikes.

Things are happening in an all-too overwhelming fashion, yet at a snail’s pace because I feel like I’m in slow motion, things are blurry, I’m out-of-body looking in wondering to myself, this can’t be me, my life, can it? How can this be? I’m healthy, I take care of myself, we eat organics, I can’t be sick and require this much to be normal, can I?

But these thoughts infect my mind every day. And today, instead of doing my best to fight off a migraine, sinus headache or allergies, it’s the “C” word that automatically enters my thoughts, never mind all the other crazy surgery talk, to boot. And then there’s the irrational (yet, are they really irrational?) thoughts that, if my head hurts, it could be in my brain, too?

(I know, I’m totally diagnosing myself before I even know what the outcome is yet. But it’s hard not to “go there” when you’re this scared, isn’t it?)

I hear my children outside, playing in the sun, yelling a bit too loud for my head’s liking, and their clueless to the struggle within my mind. Sure, there is nothing conclusive yet, and it could be a gazillion things that are causing this, it could very well be nothing. But until I know, my stomach is tied (almost literally), wrapped, my mind is convoluted and I can’t stop feeling angry and hurt. And punished.

I feel like I was given so much more time by losing weight, I feel like I gained years back, to spend with my children and future grandchildren. I can’t even begin to imagine what this might mean, what news this scan might bring. I literally want to freeze time to now, before the scan, before life changes. I almost prefer the normalcy the not-knowing brings.

As I laid on the carpet last night, kids wrestling with legs and arms and giggles filling the air, my belly exposed, and fart-like, spitty-noises being blown on me by my boys in hysterical laughter, I almost cried in happiness. The day was a near-perfect in which each one of the kids got alone time, sunshine, so much activity and fun and ohsomuchlove throughout. But it feels like the shoe is about to drop, the game is about to change, and it is SO HARD to try to memorize every second, every expression, just in case life isn’t the same ever again.

Instead of cereal bowls, cuddles and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with my littles, I will spend the morning alone, stomach empty, injected with some crazy kind of dye and sit in a cold CT scan and hope and pray I don’t light up like a Christmas tree when they take my picture.

I don’t know how I’m going to sit there, in silence, and wait while my husband’s at home with the kids. I’ve been keeping myself so busy lately, so ridiculously busy so that my mind doesn’t stop to think about what this scan might mean for our future.

Would you mind keeping me and my family in your thoughts? We’ve had quite the number of doctor’s appointments recently, for myself and my son, and we’re not out of the woods yet. I am so freakishly scared and worried until we hear the all-clear, that is, IF we hear it. I don’t even know when to expect it, I just know that I have to sit. And wait. And hope. And pray that it’s good news for our family, and that it comes put me out of my miserable worrying sooner than later.

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