Tag Archives: human condition

“We Found Something. You Need More Follow Up Tests.”

As a Newlywed

Many years ago I had a health scare. A routine exam turned into, “go to a specialist to get this checked out.” Many phone calls and appointments were made and  many big scary words were uttered.

Between the onset of this foray and its resolution, I became a raving lunatic. I didn’t do well with living in suspension and fear. My greater fear is of the diagnostic procedures rather than the verdict, only because I can’t seem to get past the fear of procedures, not because I have no fear of the verdict.

During this time my new husband was patient with me as I pitbulled on my plight. After weeks of my hand-wringing and histrionics, he finally said in exasperation, “I can’t deal with all this drama! You’ve got to find a way to calm yourself down!”

Instead of taking it as a rebuke, I chose to take it as one of those interventions that only a loved one can offer. I chose to believe that he wanted me grow up and, not exactly to be a better person, but become a better version of myself. Was I up to reaching for that?

The needle aspiration revealed nothing alarming and all was well.

Freak Out, Take 2

Years later we relived a similar scenario. Though I didn’t score quite so high on the histrionics scale, I would say I was still past yellow, well into orange. I told dozens of people — family and close friends. And maybe the occasional dry cleaner or barista. It was important to me that everyone was thinking of me, rooting for me. At the time I had a strong victim mentality and thrived on such attention.

After a few weeks, this near-crisis resolved through a core needle biopsy that revealed no malignancy.

Dealing a Third Time

A few years after that, again I got to spend an entire summer chasing down knowledge of my own health as I visited doctors, specialists, radiology departments, and finally the surgeon who performed a two-part stereotactic biopsy. This time I had small children. I was a still a wreck, but I was able to keep more of the anxiety inside.

follow up mammogram© Nevit Dilmen [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons.
(Not my images.)

It was not only the diagnostic procedure that was causing me angst. It was also the scary thought of going through treatments while parenting and the even scarier thought of leaving my kids behind as one possible ending of this story arc. Though I kept the outer drama down for my kids’ sake, inside I was churning churning churning.

My coping mechanism this time was to make deals.

  • Dear God. If you make this OK, I’ll ____________.
  • Or I’ll give up ____________________ if I get to keep my health.
  • Or I promise I’ll never ________________ again if Benign is the word.

Benign WAS the word the surgeon delivered and I was flooded with relief. I can’t actually remember any of the deals I made so I don’t know if I fulfilled them.

Life went on.

Growing Up

Just this spring, I found out I needed a follow up mammogram, possibly with an ultrasound.

I’ve been through a lot since that last time. I’ve moved fully into the role of Mom, which caused me to grow up and stop being the child (not to say that people who don’t mother don’t grow up; just that it made a difference for me). Now I am the one calming others down, helping them face and release their fears. Plus, I’ve discovered yoga and meditation, and I’ve practiced for thousands of hours of bringing my mind back to the present moment, a moment in which all is well.

So when I got the news I’d need more tests, I was annoyed that I’d have to add phone calls and appointments to my ToDo list — but I didn’t feel  debilitating fear.  I knew I was healthy (well, I was pretty sure). I know my body; I live here.

And I wasn’t crazy about the hefty price tag for additional testing — several hundred dollars, funds that already had a line of claims on it. I saw this as money I’d have to pay to have someone outside me tell me what I already knew — that I was OK.

But  I wasn’t fearful.

Should I spend the time and money for certainty? I had to decide.

Without the fear, this time I had no need to tell everyone. Instead, I wanted to make a private decision. I knew what virtually every other person would tell me to do, implore me to do. But the decision needed to come from inside me, not outside me.

Without the fear, this time the specter of treatment and beyond did not overshadow my days. In fact, I rarely thought of it for several weeks.

Eventually I made a a decision with my wise mind, not just my emotional mind (to use DBT terms). Last week, I got squished again.

The waits  from check-in to radiology and from dressing gown to actual squishes were not too long. Neither was the wait to have the images read.

Without the fear, during these waits I did not make deals. I stayed present. I breathed. I didn’t anticipate all the possible futures I could be facing in mere moments when the verdict would be in. I remained drama-less. I remained alone and calm, knowing I’d have the resources to face whatever I’d need to.

“All right, Lori,” said the very kind squisher after about 15 minutes. “You’re all set. It’s just extra tissue. Go ahead and get dressed and I’ll show you out.”

I texted “all clear” to the few people I’d told on my way to the appointment. None of my loved ones were in suspense for very long, except for my husband.

When I told him the news, I flashed back to our first time at this rodeo and was astonished at how different I have become — thanks to him, thanks to becoming a mom, thanks to the passage of time, thanks to my own efforts.

No matter what the results might have ended up being, I can attest that the process is a lot more manageable without the fear.

What is Freedom?

Kid vs Adult

My tween and teen are eager to grow up. To them, like to teen me, being an adult means total freedom. No more parents telling you what to do at home! No more teachers telling you what to do at school! If I wanna eat Cap’n Crunch for breakfast, lunch, and dinner while watching R-rated movies round the clock, I will! I’ll talk on the phone to whomever and for however long I want! I’ll play video games until my eyeballs bleed! I can keep my room in whatever disarray I choose, and who cares if I never wash my undies and socks?

A life without limits is waiting for me just the other side of 18!

Those of us who have moved into adulthood know better.  Limits don’t magically evaporate when we turn 18. The secret kids don’t always know is that being a grown up means we just get used to having limits — financial limits, physical limits, time limits, and boundaries held by those around us.

Instead of a parent demanding things of me now, I have children. Instead of  a teacher holding expectations of me, I have a boss. I’m limited in what I can eat and drink by my body demanding that I make good choices — or else. The tyrants in my current life are ones I’ve invited in, and I cherish them.

I’ve been thinking back to when I was chomping at the bit to become an adult. I recall one of my Dad’s dad-isms, things he said over and over to my sisters and me while we naively sought a limitless life.

The other day I searched for the source of his quote on freedom, and I found obscure one by Robert Frost that was similar to my dad’s words. So to further immortalize my dad (and Robert Frost), here is what they have to say about freedom.

Fred Holden & Robert Frost on freedom

“Freedom is room to move in the harness.” — Fred Holden riffing on Robert Frost.

This perfectly summarizes adulthood to me.

What does freedom mean to you?

~~~~~

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