Like the Two Week Wait, but Bad

** I apologize in advance for this being one of the most long-winded stories to date**

When Mike and I were trying to conceive, I found the two-week wait- the time between when you ovulated and when you wait for your menstrual cycle to be an excruciating time. You analyze every out-of-the-ordinary feeling. We are very fortunate that it did not take us long to conceive, and my heart breaks for anyone who has to go through this process for an extended time. Recent experiences brought forth those memories.

I recently decided to follow up with genetic testing offered through my doctor and called the local Breast Health Center at the hospital. If I am honest, I had been keeping up with mammograms but have been sitting on this referral for two years. It was only my cousin’s diagnosis that made me take the time to call. The specialist explained that I am eligible for MRI screening, which I agreed to do, even though they often lead to suspicious findings.

I was able to schedule the MRI and a dentist appointment to get fitted for a crown on the same day and took the day off from work. I wasn’t nervous going into the appointment, and I felt like a champ for going face-first into the MRI machine and remaining there for the duration of the test. I left feeling fine and a little bad-ass.

That night, I registered for my first ultra-marathon, committing myself to get back into running and excited joining a friend on her goal to run fifty kilometers during the year she turns fifty. The following day, I went to school to prepare for my classroom to return to in-person learning. After a year of distance learning, I was excited to see my kids and wanted to be as ready as possible. That night, I joined our neighbors for pizza and a fire. We played kickball with the kids, kids versus adults. As they’re getting older, we actually have to try to win these days. I managed to run past Liam and get home, jumping on the plate. I felt something snap but didn’t think much of it. I’m in my mid-forties; things are always popping and snapping. The next morning, I could not put any weight on my foot. Once I realized something was wrong, I made an appointment at the local urgent care, where I realized I had no range of motion in my foot. An X-Ray confirmed I had chipped the heel and needed to follow up with my orthopedic Monday. Ortho confirmed the urgent care findings and told me no driving and minimum walking for two weeks. The best news was that it would heal without surgery.

The following Friday, while working from home, I received a letter informing me that my MRI findings required further viewings.  I’d been through this before and honestly didn’t worry at all. I’d make an appointment for additional views and be on my way. Me, the one who always worries, was not worried. During my prep, I left a message with the breast health center and went back to teaching. During lunch, the doctor called me back, letting me know that the MRI had found a lump, and she wanted me to schedule a biopsy. “Do not worry about this right now,” she assured me. “I just want to make sure everything is okay.” When I asked if the results could have been affected by my first Covid vaccine, which I had received four days prior, she assured me that only the second vaccine was affecting results and they were affecting readings in the lymph nodes, mine of which were clear- more good news for me.  

See what happened?! As an extreme worrier, the one time I didn’t worry about something, it was something I needed to worry about.  This is part of my worrying ritual- convincing myself that things will be okay simply because I put in the effort to worry. (Am I the only person who does this?)

Since I could not drive, Mike took me to my hair appointment. While my roots were cooking, I went to work searching through Dr. Google

First searches: 

“MRI false positive”

“MRI lump”

“MRI biopsy”

I wrote down some notes and, for what might be the first time in history, Dr. Google actually made me feel better.  According to my searches, while MRIs provide a false positive 10% of the time, my lump, if malignant, was small enough that it would be easily treated. An appointment a few days later with my OB confirmed that even my worst-case scenario was not a worst-case scenario. 

I dedicated a little bit of time each day, learning that I did not know a lot about breast cancer and hoping that I wouldn’t have to. I did learn that my lump was very small, too small to feel. I looked at the beads on the bracelet I wear daily. A quick search of the Tiffany website revealed them to be 10mm beads- a little less than half the size of my lump.

A Google search suggested I add “forum” after the searched terms, which lead me to lots of people sharing their own experiences and asking for advice. This catapulted my Googling to an entirely new level.

Through all of this worry, I kept waiting for a sign from my mom. Whenever there is trauma happening in my life, I usually get some sort of sign from my mom that things will be okay. My next-door neighbors, who are family to us, sent Liam home with a bag of my mom’s favorite Brach’s jellybeans. There was my sign!

Keeping my mind busy has been excruciating.  Worrying about everything what the “what ifs” to how much it will hurt laying face-down in the MRI tube while nursing a fractured foot.  

Mike and my sister both offered to drive me to the biopsy. Since they cannot come and would have to wait in the parking lot, I’ve declined the offer. I planned to ask where the lump is, partially because it never crossed my mind to ask but also so I know exactly where and how deep the biopsy will dig.  

When the date came, I tried my best to hold it together. I went through motions similar to my first MRI. Because I’d been told that the test would take between forty-five minutes and an hour and a half, I didn’t drink any water due to fear of needing to pee during the test. Because I didn’t drink water, it took four attempts to get the IV. The nurses felt terrible and offered me a pillow so that laying face down while sporting a fractured heel would be less excruciating. I accepted headphones, partly to drown the noise but mostly so I could count songs that passed and have some sense of time.  

After five songs, the nurses stopped the machine and let me out of the tube. 

“You’re all set. The lump didn’t show enhancement this time, which happens occasionally but not very often.”

I worried for two weeks that I might have breast cancer. While I tried my hardest not to go down the rabbit hole of “what ifs” and remind myself that my worst-case scenario offered a 99% ten-year survival rate, it was still an emotional stretch of time. 

As I wandered through life with this constantly on my mind, I was reminded that other people are going through similar situations. It was one more reminder of the importance of sympathy and kindness. 

We are all, to some extent, always in constant battle. We are all facing obstacles and worries. These concerns are not always front and center for everyone to see.

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